Expat Magazine

Gothenburg, The City of Perpetual Precipitation and a Hundred Languages

By Elisecd @elise_cd

It is a dreary Wednesday afternoon in Gothenburg.  As ever, it is raining.  I honestly do not remember the last time that a day was completely free of rain.  At the very least there has been a daily shower for at least the past three weeks, I would say, perhaps longer.  Today, however, it is not merely showering and for the second time this week a violent burst of thunder has made my window panes shudder.  I was about to venture to the supermarket when the heavens opened but the thought of donning my rain coat again is less than appealing – it even came on a night out last Saturday, a new low? – so here I am.
I’ve perhaps neglected this blog slightly lately, due to having been concentrating on other things.  One of these is a project that has come about after a slight ‘what am I going to do with my life?’ crisis which I may share in due course.  However, I must admit that mostly I have been working my way through a frankly quite impressive amount of episodes of Sex and the City.  Sigh.  I have not been completely idle though; since I last wrote I attended the first meeting of Druty and a dinner party, finally started running again and dabbled with veganism.  Oh, and I spent another Saturday at Sticky Fingers – didn’t I say it would become a habit?
Firstly, perhaps, I shall explain what Druty means.  It is, or so I am told, a Polish term which translates as knitting needles, which may give you an indication of what the group involves.  It is a Swedish handicrafts group, involving mostly knitting and crocheting, but can really included any textile based craft I assume.  When joining this group, I did wonder if my old lady tendencies were perhaps getting a little out of hand, and if I should maybe say farewell to the inner seventy year old once and for all.  However, after a delightful Saturday morning exploring flea markets around Redbergsplatsen, having a very cheap but lovely fika and discovering a box of ‘gratis böcker’ (i.e. free books, which are, as anybody will tell you, my absolute favorite thing, even if they are in Swedish) with five other students, I admit that my concerns were unfounded.
A highlight of the morning, although perhaps less so for myself than for my Grandma, was when a lady on the craft stall in one flea market produced a lace pillow (to clarify, I am referring to the pillow on which lace is made, rather than one crafted from lace) on which she was in the process of creating a piece of traditional Swedish lace.  Before I came to Sweden, my Grandma got rather excited about Swedish lace, producing all sorts of books and patterns for us to pore over.  In a typically grandmotherly fashion, I showed interest in one head dress and she has already begun its creation to be worn at my wedding, apparently.  I couldn’t quite bring myself to fill her in on my current very firm singledom as she seems to believe this wedding might be occurring in the near future, but it was a lovely thought nonetheless and I know how thrilled she would have been about the encounter.  It’s slightly disappointing, however, that the owner of the lace pillow didn’t speak a word of English and vice versa.  Hopefully that will be changing quite soon though as I have my first Swedish exam on Monday and all I know so far is my name, princess and king – useful components of any conversation!  At one of the flea markets we visited I purchased a Famous Five book which I hope to be able to read before I leave here, and hopefully to return to its origins to continue the lace conversation as well.  Fingers crossed.
As I mentioned, I have also started running again and been trying out a (mostly) vegan diet.  These decisions mostly came from me deciding once and for all to stop being such a big chub after looking at some old pictures of myself, good lord.  Despite many people’s assumptions, I have found veganism alarmingly easy to adapt to and am actually cooking nicer, not to mention healthier, food than I have ever before.  Also, in search of vegan food in Haga on my Thursday lecture-gap-cum-lunch-break, I discovered my favorite eatery in the city so far.  This wonderful venue goes by the name of ‘En Deli Haga’ and, as it says on the tin really, is a vegan deli.  You can choose from a selection of items on a cold buffet, such as houmous, stuffed vine leaves and spicy lentil falafels alongside various salads, which are then either put into a delicious wrap or served on a mixed plate.  There is also the option of soup, with unlimited amounts of delicious bread and oil/vinegar dips, and I spied some baklava for desert but I was simply too full to even contemplate it.  It was truly delicious though, exactly my cup of tea, and I will be taking all future visitors there, including the carnivorous ones.
I must point out that the veganism is a purely health motivated choice, rather than being anything to do with animal welfare (don’t worry, the Chickens in Need days are not making a comeback), and I therefore haven’t felt too guilty on occasions when I have strayed.  This has only happened twice (or three times if you include the drunk McDonald’s on Saturday but we aren’t), today taking advantage of my Dagens lunch voucher from ABF Vux and last Tuesday at a dinner party.  The dinner party took place at Birger Jarl, another set of student housing across the city, and coincided with our month anniversary in Gothenburg.  There were around twenty students of various nationalities and we all took a different dish to share.  The name cards had been distributed randomly around the table to give everybody chance to mingle with new people.  It was a great idea and I had a lot of fun, not to mention some delicious food, however once again the language barrier proved to be quite an obstacle and by the end of the evening it seemed that everybody had drifted back to fellow speakers of their mother tongue.
I really do feel that it is about time that I got to grips with at least one other language as I’m quite ashamed of how ignorant and just plain lazy native English speakers are.  As a literature student, it perhaps goes without saying that I really do love the English language and all that it has created and accomplished, but I don’t really feel that that is a valid excuse to simply ignore the importance of every other language.  In day to day interactions with other Erasmus students and whilst volunteering at ABF Vux language school, I hear so many other languages that it would be quite possible to just close your ears to if you desired.  Yet, every now and again, when straying from the well-trodden, tourist-friendly paths of Gothenburg's main streets, you find somebody who doesn't speak English and realize that you can't properly understand a society if you are still hearing about it through your native ears and describing it in your native tongue.  With that in mind, I bid you farewell now with the intention of learning some Swedish.  Did I mention that I have an exam on Monday?  Oh… yeah.(It's still raining, by the way.)

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