Those who don’t move …

Those who don’t move won’t notice the chains

That’s a quotation by Rosa Luxemburg. It gets really deep when it’s applied to spiritual issues. I thought about it from another point of view, though. Since I’m an expat, I read a lot of expat blogs. They’re all very different and that’s what makes them interesting — none of us has made an identical journey. What separates myself from all the others most of all, is that I was older when I moved, I don’t have children and I don’t work! The latter I think is the most important difference.

The feelings most similar are all the eye-openers plus the fact that we can never really ‘go home’ — what used to be ‘home’ isn’t the same anymore.

Today I turn sixty years old, and I’ve been away for eleven years. When I moved, people kept telling me how brave I was. I didn’t feel brave — I just did it because I wanted to. It took a long time before I fully realized what a leap of faith it really was. Another thing that took a long time to appear was ‘homesickness’ … probably a couple of years. I remember when it first happened. The King and Queen were visiting Quebec City, the Swedish flag was flying on the parliament building and then this strange little feeling kept popping up in my chest … a feeling I wasn’t familiar with — all of a sudden I felt very Swedish. Homesickness has become a word very hard to explain — it certainly isn’t just longing for some people or a special kind of sausage! It’s not something I suffer from, but every now and then it pops up. Usually triggered by music.

The eye-openers have mainly been on a kind of political level — not just the fact that washing machines work differently and that there’s only one sink in the kitchen 🙂 They’ve been more subtle than that. Not only differences between Sweden and Canada, but also differences between Canada and the US. The, perhaps, most interesting part, was I became aware of the fact I’d lived a very sheltered life. A tight-meshed social security net — a feeling there’s always someone there to take care of you, should things go wrong. Security from the cradle to the grave! There, you couldn’t lose your job from one day to the other, for example, unless you did something outright criminal. I won’t go into the particulars — I’ll just say you have to get out of the country to see all these things.

A huge difference for me was of course I spent the first five years in Quebec, where the language was French. I spoke English as my second language, thought I had a pretty good command of it. To find myself in a minority situation felt … strange, to say the least. Coming from Sweden, where speaking good English is almost an obsession, this was big! Of course I’d been forewarned, numerous times, but it never sank in. This is another example of how you have to get out of the country to see things … took me a long time before I’d penetrated the language issues there and understood not even the young people spoke English. You weren’t considered “cool“, like in Sweden, if you spoke English with an American accent!

As an expat you’ll always compare. Some things were better back home, others are better here. In a way I was lucky, moving from a culture with very few differences. They’re are easier to count than the similarities, although it can also be deceiving. On the surface all looks the same just because we all wear blue jeans and listen to rock music 🙂 It’s made me appreciative of all the refugees coming from entirely different cultures, their efforts trying to learn a new language and often even script … assimilate in a brand new society.

Were I to go back and live in Sweden now, I won’t be the same as when I left, and Sweden won’t be the same either. Life goes on, on both continents, nothing is static and that’s what I meant by ‘you can never go home’ because ‘home’ as such, isn’t there anymore. Thankfully, I’m aware of that and also … if or when I go back, I’ll miss Saint John like crazy. It’s a good thing knowing that, because it makes me more ‘aware of the present’ … I think of it often, in all kinds of Scan 4seemingly insignificant situations. Especially out in the shopping malls or downtown … smiling at strangers, saying hi to people you don’t know … the store clerk or bus driver calling me ‘hun’ … a man holding up the door for me and I don’t find it offensive. The list could be made much longer and I haven’t even mentioned the ocean. At least I’ve made a point of living in the present … to be alive here and now, to be steeped in the moment. Having said all that, the music above reminds me that I’ll always be Swedish … shackled to the ‘mood’ I have a hard time describing but which you can sense in that song.

27 Replies to “Those who don’t move …”

  1. I love that cartoon! That is normal speak here. You have left so much to think about and this is a beautifully written blog Rebekah! I remember when I first knew you online and you have changed. You have become more sure of yourself and seem to be able to adapt to life where ever you are. That is really admirable. I think we always have tugs of the heart strings and wanting to go home. I haven’t lived out of my country and I miss home sometimes. I think maybe mine is just missing the feeling of familiarity and a thoughtless warmth we felt when younger. Happy Birthday my friend. I hope it is a wonderful day.

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    1. I liked it too … especially as the character sitting at the table is a Hun … like Attila 🙂

      Thank you, Susan … Saint John has been good for me.

      That feeling about ‘home’, I believe is a concept we’re missing more than a physical location … I have the same feeling about Christmas at times.

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      1. Me too, I agree, like you said the songs do that to you. I just miss the fact that most of our elder family is gone and we don’t have the big get togethers we used to. Things change. Life goes on.

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  2. Wonderful blog post my friend!! And you’re so right about that those that don’t move won’t notice the chains! I can IMAGINE how it would feel to move away from Sweden, but I really don’t know how it actually would feel.

    And I agree with what Susan says too… I miss “home”, the way it used to be!

    I want to wish you a Happy Birthday!! Hope you’re having a fantastic day Rebekah!! Grattis kram!! ❤

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    1. In the beginning, when it’s all new it’s like a big adventure … after a while it gets to be business as usual. All the new wears off.

      Thank you for the birthday wishes … it’s a fine day! 🙂

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      1. That is so true! And that goes for everything really… I mean when I moved in here – soon to be 11 years! It was all fresh new and I were so excited. But of course after a while it is just an every day thing…

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        1. Even if we were to move to a place that we think’s really exotic … some Caribbean island or whatever … after a few weeks or months it’s business as usual.

          Same as with new apartments …

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  3. I agree that ‘you can never go home’ because things change. Sweden has definitely changed, the mass-immigration from third world countries there is totally out of control.
    I would have loved to move too, but it’s extremely difficult to rid yourself of the shackles when you have a kid and a job. If I only had the job, I could have quit and moved, but you can’t quit on your kid and my ex won’t let me move somewhere far away with him. So I’m pretty much stuck here.

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    1. I hear you, and nothing can ever change that. Whatever happens; you guys will always be his parents. However … you can enjoy trips like the one you just did, and that’s a wonderful thing, I wonder when Sweden’s gonna shape up about that …

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              1. Well, that’s exactly what’s happening … Why, oh why can’t they learn from the States? We don’t want their system, nobody does. But it’s all about money …

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  4. FAB post Rebby!!!! The song is very poignant….I think you are also proud to be Swedish! Again something you had to go away from to see clearly…..
    On a smaller scale I went thru changes when I left Hamilton to move back to Owen Sound. In Hamilton one had to always be dressed up with make-up. Life went at breakneck speed! One had to plan travel on buses down to the minute. There was more anonymity there too.
    Here life is slower & gentler (in some ways). There is little anonymity because somebody will know somebody who knows you, lol!
    Even Disability Pension people were different here from Hamilton! In Hamilton they were kind & helpful…the year after I moved up here & had been widowed my Worker cut me off my Pension & I had to go all the way to Toronto to see a Specialist who fought to get me re-instated…..
    So I think I can relate to what you are saying.
    I think Sweden is a splendid country!!!! The Reforms & system there is so Humane….unlike some Western countries….
    And I wonder how poor people survive in the USA?! It is a lovely country but the imbalance between the ‘have’s’ & ‘have not’s’ is HUGE!
    Thanks for such a great topic! 🙂

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    1. Oh I can so relate!!! On the smaller scale, between QC and SJ!!! Life is so much gentler here, so much more laid back! Nobody dresses up to go to the mall, nobody would raise an eyebrow whatever you wear! That wasn’t the case in QC … dress up and full make-up! LOL Life is so much simpler in the Maritimes …

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      1. 😉 My bestie & her hubby are in Stephenville, Newfoundland & I think they will stay there forever! They REALLY LOVE ‘the Rock’!!!
        So Quebec was a lot like Hamilton….kind of makes sense! The bigger places are so different from small quiet places. I think the Maritimes is one of the nicest parts of Canada (from what I have read & heard!)
        Owen Sound is like the backwoods of Kentucky (I HAVE been there, lol..) This place is beautiful but the people are weird…..lol…

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    2. The poor are well taken care of in the U.S. Don’t let what you see hear make you think different. In fact the haves have a large part of their salary taken to take care of the have nots. Always have and families step in if there is extra need most of the time.

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