I can be sometimes slow about catching up with all the blogs in my reader. Luckily though, a fellow expat, Giorgio Paoletti, from Italy, sent me an email about a movie on foreigners in Sweden.
You might be wondering, oh dear some boring moving about sad refugees. Far from it. Giorgio and his friend made a movie based on their lives (melded with others too) about work, academics, bar visits, parties, and Swedish girls. Oh, and how to make Swedish friends.
For us “immigrants” and Swedes, this is a must see. The movie is raw and emotionally satisfying. We can all relate. To how to talk to someone at a party to dealing with the winter misery, there is a little of bit of everyone of us in the main character, Alex.
Here is the video. Be sure to click on the button twice because it will turn from red to green.
Giorgio has also been kind enough to give a one on one interview (and the first official interview) with me by email. I asked a lot of tough questions of course.
Sapphire: Where are you from?
Giorgio: I am Italian, from Rome
I won a scholarship to be an Erasmus student in Stockholm; besides, my dad had lived in Stockholm in the early 60s so I was curious to go there because he had told me a lot about this place.
How long were you here?
More or less 5 years, 1 year as an exchange student in Stockholm, 1 year in Göteborg, and then other 3 years in Stockholm.
A long time in Sweden. What did you do?
During my first year I was an exchange student in Political Science; the year I spent in Göteborg I studied Swedish full time. In Stockholm over the last years I worked in different companies and fields, many jobs, none particularly pleasant aside from teaching Italian in schools.
Why did you leave?
I got a bit bored of Sweden, especially my last 2 years seemed to be the replay of the previous years, nothing particularly new and cool. Moreover, I needed chaos, to feel alive; peace and cleanliness around
started to create some anxiety in me.
What do you like doing?
I like writing, no matter if it’s a short story, a novel, a screenplay or even an article for my blog. It helps me point out concepts which are in my head but not completely clear yet.
At the university, was it easy to learn Swedish? Was it necessary and did it help make more friends?
Swedish is a language that is easy and hard to learn at the same time: easy because there are very few rules and after 6 months you can speak it. Swedish is hard because after 4 years it’s rare to speak much better than 3 and half years earlier; the risk is to reach a low–medium level and then stick to it, without improving.
I don’t think speaking Swedish helps make more friends but it allows foreigners to understand the society a bit better.
So, what inspired you to come up with this documentary? Why make one?
After a couple of year I was living in Sweden there were things about that society which were clear and others unclear. I decided to investigate, analyze and understand Sweden from my perspective. I started attending seminaries about subjects related to the Swedish culture and when I thought I had the answers I was looking for, I wrote an article about Sweden in my blog, which analyzed the main cultural aspects of this country.
I knew many other foreigners had similar thoughts and questions so I thought I could try summarizing my “guide” throughout a movie, which was partly a normal film and partly a documentary.
I was also curious to see if I could involve some Swedes in the project, to see how they would react to something critical towards their society. Those who have participated showed me to be much more open minded than I had thought, I was expecting reactions like “who the fuck you think you are to come to our country, judge us and be so critical?”; on the contrary, they have been very interested and professional.
Making friends in Sweden is something appalling, frankly speaking. People are respectful and polite but when it comes to personal relationships it’s hard to find someone that let you get close. It’s easy to make acquaintances (I know loads of Swedes) but I have very few friends in the way I intend a friendship, without barriers and distances. Usually my Swedish friends have lived abroad and learned to live also (but not only) in a non-Swedish way: there’s no difference between boys and girls in that.
Swedish girls are usually very attractive, not my favourite in terms of beauty but almost my favourite; they can be the best or the worst as far as meeting is concerned: I love the emancipation they’ve reached which allows them to pick you up openly if they fancy you.
I never saw in any other country this freedom for women, which is great; on the other end they are quite narrow minded when it comes to knowing a person in a non standard way (parties or common friendships): I like to meet people in the streets, to talk to complete unknowns; this way I met the main Swedish female character of the movie we made. It means there are exceptions to the usual “Swedish rules”.
Who is Alex?
Alex is the typical foreigner who moves to Sweden without knowing what Sweden is.
Why do we never see Alex’s face?
Because it doesn’t matter what he looks like or what country he is from; what does matter is his thoughts and his feeling which are the thoughts and feelings of many foreigners who live in Sweden.
You moved now to Ireland, what do you miss about Sweden?
The beauty and efficiency of many things.
What do you not miss?
That in Stockholm I could talk to loads of people in a week but I was often feeling lonely; in Ireland I can been on my own most of the time but I never feel alone.
Don’t feel like a freak or a Martian; if you feel strange it’s not your fault. Furthermore, whenever you have a chance to enjoy Sweden, do it: it won’t happen again, at least for a long time.
Most importantly, what’s your thought on fika as an Italian?
I really like the fika concept, it something that we paradoxically don’t have in Italy.
And really how is the coffee in Sweden?
Usually the coffee you can drink in Sweden is not good, but it is not worse than the one you can find anywhere else in Northern Europe!
For more information about the movie and who is Alex check out: Who is Alex.
Fellow Americans and Brits and all my lovely readers. What did you think of the movie? Love it, hate it, laughed my ass hilarious, winter does sucks too.
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