In Ingmar Bergman's films, the leading actors often behave as if they’ve got cramp, they are/seem/appear completely paralysed and unable to express their feelings. They fight within themselves and do not show much of their inner struggle to the rest of the world. Usually they walk alone, and the only friend they have is nature and their inner thoughts which give them nightmares. Whenever I saw his films I thought he used a very innovative style to convey a sense of loneliness and anxiety to the audience.
However, soon after spending some time here, I understood he did not invent anything new. He simply used a part of Swedish reality and skilfully mixed it with the other film methods to produce and communicate his message. If one gets the chance to stay in this country for some months /for any length of time one will soon understand that the lack of communication between people is one of the main characteristics of this society.
If one meets an immigrant who has been living here for many years one gets a strange feeling that he talks too much and very fast. He would probably ask himself what has happened to him, not knowing that the poor stranger lives such an isolated life here, that he has no chance to speak with people in a natural way. The majority of the immigrants I know have never visited a Swedish home, and probably will die without establishing friendship with a Swede. The Swedes are not the kind of people who will hug you and give you a welcome without any preparation.
On those occasions when I visited a Swedish home I felt as if I had been making a state visit to a foreign country. Usually, my host would call me two weeks beforehand and ask me what kind of food I absolutely cannot eat? Did I drink wine -white, red? Did I drink beer, coffee or tea? Did I drink water from the tap or bottled? Was I allergic to cats or dogs, or both? Did I drink coffee with sugar and milk, with sugar but without milk or with milk but without sugar? So many questions - I got completely confused and I did not know what I was saying any more and simply answered, "Yes! Yes! Yes! I drink and eat everything!" which of course left my host puzzled. He must have believed we in Bosnia eat human beings, and probably warned his wife never to leave him alone with me.
So after half an hour of questioning, they would tell you the time that you would be expected to arrive, absolutely punctually, because as you are an immigrant, a delay of a minute of two could have been interpreted as further proof that immigrants only bring problems to their beautiful country. The meal might be a little piece of fish and one or two boiled potatoes, and if the host asked you if you wanted more potatoes, as an immigrant one should always say, "No more for me, thank you, I am full up." As I always returned from such meals still hungry, I learnt that before I went into a Swedish home the best thing was to eat first in my own home and never have great expectations.
After the meal was eaten and the husband went into kitchen to wash the dishes his wife and I would stay in the living room chatting and drinking coffee. Soon, one would understand that in Sweden it seems that the males have female hormones, and females, male hormones and that means it is very often the women who have good self-confidence while their men act as their humble and obedient servants! When the husband had finished doing the dishes and the vacuum-cleaning, he would join us and we would usually end up discussing the war in Bosnia and how people can behave so barbarically.
If you want to make the best impression on the Swedes, my advice is to criticize your own country as much as possible. You can say for example that food in your own country is terrible, or that the men smell of sweat; but you cannot criticise Sweden because almost all the Swedes like to believe their country is the best in the world. If you show any sign of criticism you risk that the next time when you visit your host, you will be served only one boiled potato. To be on the safe side try to give them some compliments like "The fish was wonderful!" The Swedes are usually shy people and your host is going to blush and answer," Actually, I bought it two days ago. It was 50% discounted."
When I came here I was as naive as a virgin in a brothel. Once, a Swedish man and his wife or rather, his wife, because he had nothing to say but obey her commands, invited me to lunch in their home. They served me roasted reindeer which is the most expensive meat in Sweden. There was also an expensive French wine. I became suspicious of what they wanted from me. I had read somewhere that the Swedes are sexually outspoken people. This is one of the few countries where sex with animals is not banned. (I always thought that Swedish sheep behaved strangely!) "Are these people swingers?" I thought chewing pieces of a delicious meat. "Do they like group sex?"
Soon the man told me he wanted to show me around his home. We went from one room to another and I expected him finally to tell me the reason why he had invited me and had bought such expensive meat for our meal. We went into a large room which was still under construction and he told me he needed a worker who would help him. I really did not want to help someone who had enough money to find a manual worker and pay him, but instead was so stingy he believed he could buy me with a piece of reindeer meat.
I told him I did not know anything about construction work and could not help him, but he did not want to accept my excuses and tried to persuade me, telling me it was an easy job. Some while later I left and never returned. Although I saw him many times he always pretended he did not recognise me, probably cursing me and thinking of the money and the investment he had made but which had proved unnecessary.
To be continued...
As always, very good and very interesting!!
- For Teachers