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Finding Tolerance in the Cold North

Updated on May 1, 2015
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Michael is an English Ex Pat living the good life in Sweden. Self help and clean air can only be a good thing.

With growing class and religious divides in many countries, and continual clashes of ideologies, I had begun to find myself a little despondent with modern life.

Sometimes it seems like society is starting to consume itself, and with no sense of community together with greedier and more selfish people every generation, I wonder where it will all end.

I am a Brit, although by admitting I am British I feel that I am condoning foreign and domestic policies that I disagree with.So when I introduce myself, I prefer to say that I am an Englishman, which I hope gives me some kind of distance from the government and there views of what a United Kingdom should be achieving in the world.

Me and my Girl Living the Good Life in Sweden

Time to Up Sticks

So, after 34 years I decided to up sticks so to speak, and relocate to Sweden. Of course, as is the case with many European countries, on arrival I was greeted by not only the most spectacular landscapes I had ever seen, but also by a beautiful people with an amazing grasp of the English language. My Swedish was, to say the least, poor.

But, that was not the handicap I thought it was going to be. You see, the Swedes have this crazy idea that when a traveller, be it voluntary relocation as in my case, or asylum seekers arrive, they should learn the Swedish language, and also the culture of this great land. And to top it all off, they do this as a free courtesy. Damned cheek I say! Fancy expecting me to learn, and then not charge me for the privilege. Everyone in a capitalist society knows something costing nothing can only be awful and no use to anyone.

So joking aside it would appear that the current government at least on the surface have really got the best interests of immigrants at heart, but furthermore, they are playing the integration, not alienation game. Allow me to give you some brief examples.

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Arriving In Sweden

1.I arrive in Sweden as an asylum seeker. I am given help with the language. I am given help in finding work. I am expected to learn about Swedish beliefs, customs and traditions, about food, drink and social occasions & celebrations. All this must I learn, but at no point am I told to change my beliefs, my customs or my traditions.

2.I arrive in Sweden as a person from within the European Union. I am given help with the language. I am given help in finding work. I am expected to learn about Swedish beliefs, customs and traditions, about food, drink and social occasions & celebrations. All this must I learn, but at no point am I told to change my beliefs, my customs or my traditions.

See the difference. Exactly. There isn't one. Its the same for everyone coming here. The course is called S.F.I. Svenska för invandare, or Swedish for immigrants in English. And in my opinion, is the best hope for anyone coming here to "fit in".

Breeding Tolerance

Imagine if you will a school class of adults. In this class are Iraqis, Palestinians, Jordanians, Eritreans, Chechens and Americans. People from Thailand, China, and of course many other parts of Europe.

They cover every colour, race, religious belief, and political ideology. And add to this that many do not share a common language, or have a completely different alphabet.

But slowly and surely, with help, support and education these strangers begin to form bonds & friendships. Over the months, a shared experience and an increasing ability to communicate brings them together. All of them. Now I am not saying the Swedes have everything perfect, no one could get everything right, and there is still a long way to go, but they are certainly on the right track.

In this author's humble opinion, and of course I am talking only from my own experiences here, there can be no better way of integrating into a society. Only here have we had frank discussions between Muslims & Catholics and Americans & Iraqis. The overwhelming opinion of these people that I found myself with, fighting a common enemy of a language that we did not fully understand, was that we were all completely and utterly ignorant of each others beliefs, hopes, dreams and desires of a new life.

The Hate Cycle

  • Ignorance breeds misunderstanding
  • Misunderstanding breeds intolerance
  • Misunderstanding breeds violence
  • Violence breeds ignorance, misunderstanding and intolerance

In Closing

The only way to break the cycle of violence is with dialogue, understanding and locking people in a room together until they figure out that the only reason they hated each other in the first place, was that they didn't, or didn't want to understand each other.

Revisiting this after having been in country for 6 years now, it isn't all rosy tinted glasses I will admit. For some reason there are groups, religious and geographically based, that simply will not try. Women are restricted by their husbands to learn the local language and children are taught old biases and hatred. Violence has erupted in the cities of Stockholm and Malmö.

Guess you can help some of the people some of the time, but not all of the people all of the time, especially if they don't want to be helped.

I am Interested...

to hear what you have to say, so feel free to leave a comment, rate me up or down, and share on whatever social network you choose to use!


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