I have now been in Boulder, Colorado for almost two weeks... my children and I have noticed a lot of differences between here and our home city of Stockholm - and not just the heat and sunshine but the BIG thing that stands out is the friendliness and the helpfulness of everyone around us. People have just been so thoughtful, and my children have been quick to notice that.
It is one of the things that I noticed when I first moved to Stockholm was how isolated it made me feel. I was used to greeting people on the street, at the bus stop in my home-city of York, UK - in Stockholm people would not greet me, in fact on one occasion (my last time of greeting someone on the street) - the person actually crossed the road to avoid me, or to avoid saying something, or considered me totally bonkers...
I remember in Swedish lessons how everyone else in the class (from a great many different countries from around the world) would all complain about the same things... that no-one ever said excuse me or sorry if the bumped into you, hardly anyone helped with doors, or people with limited mobility or with prams onto a bus... and of course the talking, the lack of small talk on buses, trains, bus stops etc etc etc
I have always put it down to the size of Stockholm - big cities are less friendly... but my time in Denver this last few days has shaken my theory... here is a town that is roughly the same size as Stockholm, and yet the people were friendly here too. On public transport the people who I see are avoided in Stockholm were spoken to with kindness and respect here in Denver (and Boulder).
Is it because Stockholm is a capital city? Well Denver is the capital of Colorado... and I mean the states here are HUGE they are like countries...
I can't make sense of it. Why is there such a difference? Is it because the state does such a good job of taking care of its citizens in Sweden that they don't need to take care of each other?
Is there a fundamental difference in our preschools? That we teach our children different priorities in life?
I am by no means saying one country is better than another... but more saying, what can we learn from each other? Having lived in Sweden for almost 20 years I have gone through the years of noticing the differences as negatives and now try to unite the benefits of both my cultures to create the best I can for the children i work with (and my own children at home). I think, even after almost 20 years,I am not feeling Swedish, but I am not feeling particularly British anymore either... I have become a citizen of the world. I have become much more open to everything being different and that it is perfectly fine. I hope that our 4 week stay in Boulder gives a similar opportunity for my children to learn about cultural differences.
Being a new mother, in 2001, and moving to Australia for 6 months with infants was a challenge... but it also allowed me to see the cultural differences in raising children... for the first six months I was in Sweden and I was reading parenting magazines from UK, Sweden and USA - those were what I could find... when I got to Australia I had access to magazines from Australia and New Zealand too... and each one had totally different advice... from what foods infants should have from what age etc etc - there were a few constants... but what it taught me was that by reading widely I could find the rhythm that that suited me and my children.
In a way, travelling is such an amazing way to learn. Not just new ideas, but about the journey you want to take yourself and the learning journey you want to take with others.
So where am I going with this post... I have absolutely no idea... only observations right now...