Blue skies, swings hanging beneath leafy trees, blooming flowers, and a bright sun with a slight breeze—the setting was perfect for a typical Swedish holiday. The temperature was lagom—not too hot, not too cold—and the sun felt just right against our sunscreened, sunglassed faces.

All of the doors to the house were open allowing all seven children and the breeze to freely circulate. Adults chatted in the white sunlit spacious kitchen as they prepared the food. A Swedish pop music Spotify playlist played in the background. Outside, the grill was fired up with cheeseburgers and hot dogs sizzling.

 

Photo courtesy of Nina Berthold

 

This year, Swedish National Day had extra special meaning for us as newly minted Swedish citizens. In comparison to US citizenship, Swedish citizenship had been very easy to acquire.

I’d say, given our limited time (five years isn’t that long), we deserve a B-B+ in integration. There’s still room for improvement, but we’re doing a good job. But we know that some things we can only learn with time and experience, and we recognize that we still have a long way to go.

We have embraced the a la carte approach of holidays and we pick and choose which American and Swedish holidays we want to celebrate.

So far, we have adopted the Swedish holidays with fervor—Swedish celebrations are so closely tied with the seasons that it feels incredibly wrong not to mark the day with a bonfire, barbecue, or song and dance. After months of darkness, you feel entitled to eat, drink, and be merry in the sunshine. We celebrate Swedish midsommar with the bittersweetness of experience. Despite being the longest day of the year it also means that the days will only get shorter.

 

 

My girlfriend lives about an hour and a half’s drive away from us in a beautiful +100-year-old house with plum, pear, and apple trees crouched over her front garden. Their rough boughs hang low as if they are tired from holding fruit so many seasons in a row.

 

Kaja = jackdaw, a member of the crow family

The kids gathered around a kaja bird—a western jackdaw—whose wing was damaged after a tumble down a neighbor’s chimney. The kids spent the rest of the day caring for the bird and chasing the cat who relentlessly stalked the injured animal hoping for a snack. Our elderly dog also did her best to chase the cat around the garden, but age and arthritis were not on her side.

 

Photo courtesy of Nina Berthold

 

And so, it was with delicious food, sweet desserts, and strong coffee that a group of international families with blended cultures, histories, and languages—gathered together to celebrate living in Sweden and all of the benefits that go along with this lagom life.

How lucky we are.

 

Strawberry cake made by my Swedish friend, Emilie

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5 Comments

      • It’s by marriage, so identity documents, proof of marriage, and certificates of good conduct from everywhere I’ve live. All with Apostilles and translations and Apostilles on the translations.

        It’s less complex than my husband’s which was for citizenship by descent. We had to give them birth and marriage certificates for his Italian family line going back to his great-great grandfather.

        I’ll be happy when the whole thing is done!

        • Ugh, the paperwork is a pain in the neck. To prove that my daughter was a US citizen born abroad, we had to prove that we lived in the US for a period of time. We brought in college transcripts, mortgage statements, and other documents. They said that some people only have sports participation ribbons and the like. I’m sure your paperwork was more than satisfactory but it’s a pain to track it all down and have it legitimized. Good luck!

          • Thank you!

            I complain about other countries, but U.S. immigration is legitimately the worst. I worked for an immigration attorney just after uni, and the complexity of the laws and regulations combined with the sometimes vast scope for bureaucratic arbitrariness can be just a nightmare. People who think it’s easy to immigrate to the U.S. should read some Kafka and watch Tom Hanks in The Terminal.

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