Day 5: Welcome to Sweden

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The last day of the exchange began with watching an episode from a movie, called Welcome to Sweden – actually, this is a Swedish series following the journey of  an American guy into Sweden and the culture clashes he encounters as he meets his future in-laws. The episode was mostly in Swedish so after each scene, we stopped the movie for Swedish students to explain to their foreign counterparts what was going on. This was a useful activity because we were able to analyse the scenes and spot differences.

The movie gave us all an additional insight into Swedish culture – e.g. the importance of living in nature; the rituals of family gatherings to celebrate Midsummer; sauna experiences; the stereotypes we have – e.g. the Swedish mother had assumptions about men being of certain height – her future American son-in-law seemed too short, unlike most Swedish men, or at least unlike her perception of what men should be like. This is why she puts all the dishes on the lower shelf so that Bruce could reach them.

Another thing that came out from this episode was the importance Swedish people place on doing a solid job before deciding to settle down and have a family – Bruce, for example,  being interrogated by his girlfriend’s parents about the reasons why he left his job as an accountant in NYC given the solid career he had – to his response that he wants to follow his girlfriend in Sweden and spend a year finding himself, i.e. thinking what he could do as a living, the mother is dismayed saying “Have you been lost?”. The movie abounds in such funny exchanges caused by the different expectations of the people involved in the interactions.

At the customs, for example, when the American is asked what he does for a living, he casually  explains how he has been working as an accountant for 10 years and other such details  –  to which the customs office responds by putting “unemployed” in the form. Also, when the American is asked if he carries anything illegal into the country, he says No but casually adds that he will   smoke weed from time to time. While Bruce’s intention is to be chatty and informal, the officer  remains serious. This results in a thorough check of Bruce’s  luggage including ripping off his beautifully wrapped present for his girfriend’s parents.

This activity shows how movies can be used as intercultural resources. Once a teacher selects a suitable movie for screening, the students can be given pre-reading questions so that they have a focus when they watch it OR the different scenes could be used as starting points for discussions where the main focus could be on what, how and why people behave in certain ways. In the case of the customs officer scene, for example, the explanation for what happened with the Bruce’s luggage points to the much  stricter laws Sweden has on alcohol, cigarettes and drugs.

You can watch the episode in the link below.

Welcome to Sweden

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