Fika- The Swedish coffee break

Before I had even decided to move to Sweden for my exchange semester abroad, I had some encounters with the Swedish culture (no, IKEA doesn‘t count). I had been listening to a podcast called “the mustards”, hosted by a Swedish couple in their 30ies now living in London. They introduced me to several important concepts of the Swedish culture, such as “lagom”. The word means “just the right amount” and is applied to many aspects in Swedish life. As an example, buying too many clothes or being too rich would be not considered being lagom. You can also say that a dress looks “lagom” on another person, which means that is the right fit for them. Swedes are even less likely to take risks or to be too extreme than people from other countries, because that wouldn‘t be “lagom”.

But for this blog entry I would like to focus on another concept that I have already been familiarized with through the podcast: fika, the Swedish version of a coffee break.

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Sautéed pizza or how Italians are going back in time and Finns stop shooting reindeer

Living in a world where climate change poses the greatest challenge for todays and future generations, animal product consumption is an important point of debate. From a rational perspective, it seems quite clear that people must consume fewer animal products, especially in countries where there is an abundant offer of other food available. But it is not so simple. Food and cooking are very deeply anchored into humankind’s imaginations of home and culture. In this text we will have a look at two examples of well-developed European countries: Italy and Finland. We will compare some of their data with Switzerland and discuss possible cultural reasons for the differences in meat and milk consumption. 

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Local vs. Erasmus

During an exchange semester you will not only get to know people who actually live there – the so-called locals – but also others who are staying there temporarily just because it is fun. You might reject it first (like I did) but at the end of the day you, as an Erasmus student, belong to the latter group. This text will be about the differences between the locals and the exchange students. Also, I will discuss the feeling of getting stuck in between those two groups. 

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To feel at home?!

Now, after five months, I am back. Back in my home country and every day since I have been back, I think about Finland, about my friends there, the daily routine I had and how I enjoyed my time there. Everything just seems like a dream and nothing here has changed. Everything seems the same as before. It seems as I had been away for only two weeks, but then I think about what I learned, how many people I met, how much I travelled and and and … I would never have been able to explore so much in just two weeks.

All my plans were made up to the day of my return to Switzerland. I hadn’t planned anything after my return and then suddenly I was back, and I had no idea where to start or what to do. From one hour to the other I was with my family, I knew the places I went to and everything felt familiar to me. But I recognized that I was not used to my living style in Switzerland. I cannot just come back to find everything is like before. I realized that I had lived another life, that I changed and that I had another daily routine for five months. 

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Yksi, kaksi, kolme …

In my first blog I already spoke about where Finnish people meet to talk, but how they talk is another topic. Finland belongs to the kind of country that has its own specific language. It is not like France, where the official language is French and in more than 25 other countries on our planet French is the official language too. Finland is the only country with the official language Finnish, but for example in Sweden, Russia, Norway, and Estonia some people speak or understand Finnish too.

In the beginning of my exchange, I was a bit worried about going to a country where I don’t know the official language and I knew that there were a lot of challenges waiting for me.

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The place to meet and talk

Before coming to Finland, I talked with several people, how my exchange in Finland could be and what kind of people and environment I should be expecting. One common point, which everybody always mentioned, was, that Finnish people are quiet. They do not like to speak, and they are shy. I thought that it will be a challenge for me because I am talkative and open minded. I start talking to a lot of people in every situation in my life. With this prejudgment I took my plane and was curious to meet these silent people in Finland.

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How an analysis of the size of beer can lead to a deeper understanding of culture

Since I was a child I was fascinated by the different cultures in the world, especially by the indigenous peoples and how those different societies work because it completely differs from what I am used to. That was one reason why I decided to take part in the MILSA Program. I wanted to get some more insights about what actually defines a culture. However, before my exchange I was not really aware about how difficult it might become to recognise the differences and to describe them.

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