I haven’t blogged recently because I haven’t been doing anything new at the museum lately. So far, all I have done for the past two weeks or so is nothing but transcribing. Since a big theme in this blog is the process of oral history I thought I would show another step which is the final product. Below is a sample of the work i have done so far which is an interview of a woman named Karin. (I’ve mentioned her earlier) In this interview she talks about her immigration to America and her thoughts on Andersonville and America.
Note: You might notice in the interview that there are some tiny gaps when she mentions a Swedish term or phrase. Some of there are missing because i did not know how to spell them.
Interviewed by Andrea Marshall
Alright, so first things first. Let’s start off with, what is your name?
Karin Anner in Swedish
OK and can you spell that please?
OK and what is your date of birth?
July 18 1974
OK. And where were you born?
In Gottenburg, Sweden
OK. Thank you. Um, OK, so when did you immigrate?
In 2009. That was five years ago.
OK and what was your first impression when you first came to America? What sort of differences did you notice?
Well, um, it was everything was a lot bigger and everything was extremely loud. It looked kind of worn down a little bit and so many people, so many cars, huge highways, freeways. And yeah…it was huge and large and a little bit scary.
That does sound very overwhelming.
So did you come alone or with friends or family?
I came with my husband
OK so you were married before you came?
Yeah. Um, married in 2003 in Sweden in Swedish.
OK. And you mentioned this in you email briefly but just for the record, what was the cause of your immigration?
It was his work, he’s an engineer who worked at the Swedish office for an Italian company then they asked if we wanted to move to Australia, so we moved to Australia and in Australia, they asked if we wanted to move to Chicago, so we moved to Chicago
So, what parts of Sweden did you immigrate from?
From Gottenbutg, from the East coast.
OK and that’s an urban area
Yeah it is.
OK and um does that city have any characteristics or traits that are unique to the rest of the country? A lot like how Chicago, it’s known for…deep dish pizza, stuff like that…
Yeah it is actually. Gottenburg is the second largest city in Sweden and we always have, like, a little banter going on with people from Stockholm, we don’t like each other, so that’s one thing. And it’s known for a term which in Sweden is ??? which in translated might be funny ? or something like that, and it’s kind of known as a nice friendly city with a lot of people making jokes and just being in a down to earth city and we’re also famous for amazing seafood and because it’s right on the West coast it’s a lot of fishing going on and um, yeah…I think that’s it. Pretty much, I think, yeah.
OK. So when you first came here what was the hardest part? What did you struggle with?
When we first came? We struggled with, I mean, with the size of everything. I struggled a lot with the sound, the noise levels. I didn’t feel safe at the beginning because, you know, you read a lot and you watch TV and everything and I was kind of freaked out at first by the news because I thought, oh maybe people are walking around with guns, now .I don’t think that anymore but I struggled a lot with those kinds of things. Then we also had the big bureaucracy in this country is crazy. So trying to get a drivers license and to…getting a phone was pretty easy because I have a prepaid card I couldn’t get a real one because I don’t have a social security number since I don’t work everything, kind of…so the bureaucracy was really hard, I had to get a drivers license, I had to go to the social security office to get a paper that said that, oh this woman she can’t have a social security number, so I had to have that, then I had to go to the DMV and then present this paper that, oh, you can see here, I’m not allowed to have a social security number. Oh, OK, well, how do we deal with this? You know, everything was kind of a mess at the start.
Yeah sounds very, uh, very confusing.
Yes it was. Also, um, to get bank accounts, credit cards, it took us, I think, two years before we could have a credit card. We could have a debit card but not a credit card since we don’t have a credit history. So things like that are really annoying and confusing.
So, how did you pay for things?
Well, we got our debit card…I mean, the first time we used our Swedish bank accounts and Australian…since we lived there for a while. So yeah, it was really hard at the beginning
So, since you moved from Sweden to Australia, and then from Australia to America, um, I mean , in comparison from America to Sweden, what do you think Australia is like compared to the other two countries?
Australia is…I mean it’s…I wouldn’t say it’s like Sweden…it’s very easy to live in Australia. I mean, there’s bureaucracy there too but it’s not as bad as here
Is it just a more laid back country?
Yeah it is. And …yeah. It kind of feels like this…people are friendly, everyone’s laid back. It’s just like, well it doesn’t matter, it’s OK, we’ll fix it some other time. It’s calm and relaxed I guess.
Do you think that America is more uptight?
Yeah, a little bit. Especially with all these people who have, like, a little bit of power and have a uniform and have a little hat and they have all the power to tell you , oh, you have to stand behind that line or you have to go there and it’s just…if you don’t do as they say they get so angry with you…it’s like, OK OK. You didn’t see that in Australia and you didn’t see that in Sweden as well…not as much, I should say.
Uh, so you said that you live close to the museum, do you live in Andersonville?
OK. And how long have you lived in Andersonville?
For a year.
OK. And do you think, um, when you’re walking around Andersonville and you see the museum and the bakery and Ebenezer Lutheran Church, do you think that this neighborhood, uh, has the essence of Sweden at all?
Not at all?
Not at all, actually. No, it feels very American. The thing is that there’s a lot of Swedish flags more than any street in Sweden, but, no, it doesn’t feel like home. I mean, the houses are different, the streets are different, all these restaurants and pubs all around here, we don’t have that many in Sweden I guess, not the same place anyway. No…
Does it feel like just another extension of Chicago basically?
But with a nice little twists, I mean, I feel more at home here than before we lived over down in Old Towne Lincoln Park and I feel more at home here because it’s a little bit slower, I guess, it’s people are nice and friendly and it’s kinda quiet and relaxed sort of environment . And, yeah, I feel more comfortable than I did here than in Old Towne Chicago.
OK. So, how do you find a balance between, at first between Swedish culture and American lifestyle?
Well, I think it’s not that different. I mean the Swedish lifestyle is so influenced by the American lifestyle. I mean, it’s not hard to live here for a Swedish person but, I mean I try to…I need to have some Swedish stuff, like some Swedish foods and things like that, but they’re kind of easy to find here so I can’t find everything, but I can find the essential things and that’s good. So, and otherwise we embrace parts of the American culture, and we love eating brunch or going out to dinner, it’s so expensive in Sweden so here we go out to eat more. I mean, it’s not a problem at all, we kind of adapt.
Yeah. So, what did you do for a living in Sweden?
I was an engineer. I worked as a product developer for SKF, it’s the world’s largest manufacturer of bowler bearings which I worked for five years
OK. And I know that’s very interesting because I know that in America it’s a very male dominated career, is it the same way in Sweden?
Yes it is.
I thought it was very interesting because Sweden is supposed to be very gender egalitarian.
But it isn’t.
It really isn’t?
No, it isn’t. I mean we try, and I think we make progress all the time, but it’s still there, the differences. Yes, I studied at university, I studied mechanical engineering, we were 250 people in my year and we were twelve girls.
Wow. That’s a big difference.
Yes it is. And when I started at SKF, they actually tried to get more women. They really try hard and they try to recruit young women with engineering experience. So, when I was hired I was kind of, like, in a little network. We were eight people, then we were four women and four men because they always tried, it looked good in their papers if they hired equal amounts of men and women. But then, when I didn’t belong to that network anymore and we kind of bog out into reality, it’s usually maybe ten percent, fifteen percent women.
OK. And when were you in engineering school?
Uh, kind of a long run there. Between 1994 and 2002.
2002. So, do you think that things have changed at all?
Yeah, a little bit. I think it’s also about how the education has adapted. So, of course, mechanical engineering is the most male but you can think about it pretty much. But, those who study chemical engineering and they had chemical engineering with biology, that’s more fifty percent women. So the schools adapted as well. But, I think, yeah, they work all the time in the universities as well to attract more women to engineering. So they adapt the courses, the classes you can take.
Interesting. So, have you gone back to Sweden?
And do you have family or relatives still there?
OK. Who still lives there?
Everyone pretty much. My mom and dad, brother, who doesn’t live in Sweden anymore he lives in England, my in-laws, my sister-in-law and her family…yeah and then cousins and aunts and uncles.
So, when you go back to your family, have they noticed anything different about you since you’ve come back?
Yeah a little bit. I think they don’t say much but, for example, when my mom and dad when they were here visiting us, they’ve visited three times I think, we always go together with them and they always say, oh, you have to come down or you have to wait for us because you’re so used to traveling now and we’re not, so please wait for us. So that’s one thing, it’s not such a huge deal for us anymore to travel the world, but it still is for them. So that’s one thing my mom said, and she also, something stupid, it’s, I was going to buy my parents lunch in Gottenburg a couple years ago and I was thinking of where to go, of what restaurant to choose and I started to say aloud some restaurants and my mom said, now I hear you now that you live abroad, and I’m just like why, because you only say the expensive restaurants, and I’m like, yeah, that’s the ones I know that are still there because all of the cheaper ones closed down, so that’s one thing, because you’re not up to date on everything that happens. So that’s one things that’s noticeable when you come home and people talk about an artist or a song or something and you’re just like, OK, what is this?
Interesting. So are you a member or volunteer of any sort of Swedish networks or groups?
Yeah, I’m a volunteer here at the museum and I’m also in SVEA which is the Swedish Women for Education Association
OK. And you mentioned, I think, in your e-mail that you are part of the choir?
OK. And the choir is it hosted here?
Yeah, I mean, my husband and I we met at church, he’s the musical director, more like administrator I guess, but we rehearse here.
Where do they rehearse?
Downstairs in the gallery, Monday evenings.
Interesting. So, is the choir filled with lots of other Swedish immigrants?
Yes, lots and lots, no. We’re actually growing right now, we’re at fifteen or sixteen people and I would say ninety percent are Swedish and all of us, or the ones who are American have a strong connection to Sweden. And they speak a little bit of Swedish, so they have taken classes here at the museum or have a Swedish parent. One girl went to Sweden to study and met her husband and stayed for ten years and actually just came back
Oh, OK. So has interacting with other cultures in Chicago, has that changed the way you see yourself , or your immigration process or America?
I guess it has a little bit. Um, you start to notice differences between the cultures I guess when you hang out around Americans because you haven’t got a common base to stand on. When I talk to my husband, we watched the same TV shows when we were kids and things like that. You don’t have that in common with an American. So, things like that and some smaller things I guess. And you try to see yourself, I try to look at myself through another person’s eyes, and it’s OK I’m probably very Swedish because of the things I say and the things I think and things that are important to me. So I guess yeah, it’s changed me a little bit.
OK. And about your citizenship process? Are a citizen now?
Not at all? OK. So are you living on a green card or…
Just a visa
OK. And would you be interested in that or not at all?
Uh, I’m not interested in becoming a citizen. We are now just in the process of thinking, should we get a green card? Because our visa expires in two years and we have to make a decision.
OK and you talked about how the bureaucracy in America, it’s very difficult. Has that also affected your decision?
Yeah, a little bit, but the thing is that the company my husband works for they handle all this stuff with the visa. We had to provide a lot of papers, a lot of information but they do a lot of the dirty work, which is good for us because otherwise I would definitely think not. And I hear friends who are applying for green cards, they just go crazy. There’s so much to do, everyone just has to have a lawyer to help them
So do you think you’ll be living in America for a much longer time?
I’m not sure actually.
I mean, as I said some things are good and easy to embrace, some are not as good and it’s hard to see them get older and. And I really…I think we’ll move back actually ‘cause it’s hard also to be that far away from family, my parents are getting older and I can’t afford to see them that much and not being to help.
OK. And you mentioned that a lot of Sweden, it’s very influenced by American culture…
Do you think that, uh, the Swedish language and culture, do you think it’s dying out or slowly going away?
I don’t think it is, but sometimes, yeah, sometimes I’m a little concerned actually because they have so much, like, American TV shows and American movies and music and sometimes, I mean, we get a lot of English and American expressions that people start to use in their daily language and I’m not sure that just positive sometimes I think, can’t it be Swedish? And sometimes I get really, I’m kind of stupid that way I guess, I get really irritating, irritated sometimes in Sweden, like, in the city just walking along in the mall or something and there’s commercials, and they’re Swedish commercials for Swedish companies but they are in English and that just annoys me ‘cause I’m just like, well, we have the words in Swedish, why don’t you use them? But it’s cooler.
Interesting. It’s cooler to use English?
Yeah it is. Somehow it is. I guess it shows that you’re more an international person and you’ve broadened your views and belong more in the world and just in little Sweden. Yeah it’s cool, I mean, a lot of people that we meet in Sweden that we don’t know that much they ask us, oh, it must be so cool to live in Chicago! How is it? And we’re just like, well, it’s home there too, we live kind of a similar life in Chicago, but yeah, it’s different, but they think it’s so cool to live in America and I’m just like, eh, it’s not that great. At the beginning I thought it was cool, we were just like, oh, I’m in Chicago, I live in Chicago and now I’m just like, it’s not that cool.
So, you were talking about how Swedish commercials would be in English, do you think that it’s important to pass on the Swedish language to the next generation?
Yeah, I think so actually or I’m talking about if we had kids I would definitely teach them Swedish because it’s good to something else.
I mean, it’s good to know that there are other cultures that do things another way and have a different mind set a little bit and it’s good to know that. It makes you more of an accepting person I guess. So yeah I think it’s important.
So, you said that you’ve brought some items with you today?
Yeah, I did. I just brought three photographs just because I wanted to show you how I felt when we moved here. And how I feel every time we usually go back to Sweden in the summer because that’s when Sweden is the best. So, and it’s always kind of hard for me to come back. This is what I left this summer. This is our summer home, our family summer home and this is on one of the islands outside my husband and I were kayaking. This is what we left, it’s quiet, it’s beautiful and then we came back to this…
So that’s kind of the contrast I was talking about. It’s just loud and a lot of cars, a lot of stuff just going on and it’s like OK, woah.
OK. So this picture here, where is this?
It’s on the west coast. It’s a place called ????, this place it’s a little island called ??? and it’s in the province, or what do you say, of ????, it’s maybe two hours north of Gottenburg where I used to live. You, know half of Sweden goes there for their summer vacations, but we were there at the end of August and it was so quiet and there was no one there and just beautiful.
Yeah, I definitely think this represents the chaotic transition. So, what is Gottenburg like? Is it like this (points to picture of Sweden) or like this? (points to picture of Chicago)
It’s like this (points to Chicago). It’s not as loud.
It’s not as bad .It’s not as loud, you can sit on the sideboard, on the café and talk to each other and here it’s too loud. Gottenburg, it’s a large city, it’s probably 500,000 people and it still has a small town feel to it.
Yeah, so that’s very interesting. So, I was talking to a person who I previously interviewed on Sunday and so when I asked her to bring an item she brought a potato peeler. And she said that, um, the potato peeler represented the Swedish people because this particular model she had with her was very simple, you know, it didn’t even have a rubber handle, it was just a simple metal tool, when you put it in your drawer it doesn’t matter if it looks nice in your kitchen and she said that it’s very practical and that the Swedish people are, they’re very practical. Do you agree with that?
Yeah, I do. One comment, most of the people.
Most of the people? OK
There are some people who try to be a bit more a little more flashy and they get a lot of attention in the media at the same time as you can hear in the tone of my voice we kind of look like, OK, we just want you to be someone. It’s a little bit like, frowned upon.
To be flashy?
Yeah, and to try to be better than another person. Very much like everything and everyone is alike and that’s how we grew up. You don’t want to be seen, you don’t want to stand out in the crowd, you just want to be the crowd.
Do you think that people in America are like that? They just want to blend in?
No. They try really hard to stand out more?
Yeah, to get noticed, yeah.
That’s very interesting.
I mean, Sweden…it’s probably different generations as well. I grew up in the 70s and 80s and it was, Sweden was very socialist, it was so, almost communist really, but it was more like this, we’re all together and we care for each other. Now, people that are a little bit younger are taught a little bit more to stand out. And I think that’s a little bit, like we talked about before, about the American culture because it kind of feels like the American culture is more egocentric and the Swedish culture we’re all together. Yeah, it was something we talked about this summer, it was something going in Sweden, it was about cancer treatment, it was in the news and that cancer patients in Gottenburg did not have as many cancer doctors as they do in Stockholm so the reporters on the news said, “well, that’ s not fair, everyone should have, like, equal amounts of doctors to see.” And we just talked about that would never happen in America. No one would ever say that’s not fair, I mean, the doctors would say OK, I have a better market in Gottenburg, I’ll move there, that’s where the money is. That would never happen in Sweden, everybody just complains “it’s not fair, it’s not fair. It’s very important for Sweden, for Swedish people that everything should be fair when you can buy yourself out of stuff.
Um, I can’t remember where I heard this, maybe it was the Olympics, is it true that when people in Sweden, when they get some sort of ticket they are charged according to their income? Is that true?
I don’t know actually. It wouldn’t surprise me that much, but I don’t know actually.
But, why not?
Yeah, I mean, it definitely goes with this concept of being fair, being equal, everybody is on the same level.
That’s one thing that is totally different here in America, that if you have money everything is fine, if you don’t everything is horrible. In Sweden, well, some people who have a horrible life, but it’s not that bad. It doesn’t have to be that bad because you have a basic security that we don’t have here in America. Especially with the American shut down.
Oh gosh, the American shut down…do you think that would ever happen in Sweden?
Actually in the previous interview, Beata talked about how she feels that the Swedish politics, that it’s more honest than American politics, that they truly believe in what they’re advocating for and it’s not just about being reelected, obviously they want to represent their party well, but, um, you think that Swedish government is better?
Uh, , I mean yeah, obviously there are some rougher things in Swedish politics as well, I think that I trust them more because I usually know that they’re not bored. There’s not much money involved. I mean, here, I don’t trust the senators because I know, oh, he has a lot of stock in that company or I mean, the people pay senators to vote for them or a company votes so they get something good out of it and that doesn’t happen in Sweden, so in that case, yeah, I trust them more I would say so.
Yeah, that’s very interesting.
It’s different, it’s all about money. Here, in America, it’s all about money. I mean, it’s not as much in Sweden.
Yeah, I mean, because it’s a capitalist government so it would be run by whoever has the most money. So, that’ a very big difference
Yeah, it’s huge and it’s kinda hard to adapt because I still think like a Swede and I’m not sure what to thing. The right wing in Sweden they’re more liberal than the democrats here, so it’s, even the right wing in Sweden they’re, like, socialists.
So, yeah, is there anything else you would like to add? Anything you fell I missed?
Hmmm…no I don’t think so.
Hope you had what you wanted
Yeah, so thank you for coming and if you feel you remember anything as soon as you walk out the door feel free to give me an e-mail anytime.