Dwelling Lagom in Sweden: An Interview With Lola Akerstrom

travel photographer and writer Lola A. Akerstrom
Again in 2006, throughout my first journey around the globe, I met a Swedish woman. We traveled collectively for a bit and the next 12 months I went to go to her in Sweden. Although that relationship didn’t final, my love for Sweden did and, in subsequent years, I discovered Swedish and even tried to maneuver to Sweden. I like all the pieces Swedish. And so does my good friend Lola. Lola and I met again in 2008 when journey running a blog was in its infancy. Not like me, she’s had success in making a life in Sweden, the place she now lives along with her husband and son. She’s one of many favourite individuals within the trade and I like the imagery in her writing and the sweetness in her images.

In her new e-book, Lagom, she discusses life in Sweden and Swedish tradition. Immediately, I jealously interview her about life there.

Nomadic Matt: Inform everybody a bit about your self.
Lola: I’m a Nigerian-born, US-educated, Sweden-based author and photographer focusing totally on exploring tradition by means of meals, custom, and life. My images is represented by Nationwide Geographic Artistic, and I used to be just lately awarded the celebrated 2018 Journey Photographer of the Yr Invoice Muster Award from the Society of American Journey Writers (SATW).

I truly took a nontraditional path to this new life, as I labored as an internet programmer and GIS system architect for 12+ years earlier than the total profession shift into the journey media trade.

I’ve at all times been fascinated by the nuances of tradition: what makes us totally different and what our similarities are. And so this curiosity and acknowledgement actually underpins just about all my work as a journey author and photographer.

Lola Akerstrom and a snowy winter scene in Sweden

How did you find yourself in Sweden?
I met my husband in 2006 whereas residing within the US. After logging 1000’s upon 1000’s of air miles, in addition to short-term stints in Stockholm, I formally moved over in 2009. It actually was an intercultural, interracial, and intercontinental union in some ways. We now have two youngsters, so Sweden will likely be dwelling for some time for a lot of causes, the prime one being that it’s fairly darn excellent for households.

How do you discover life in Sweden? Good? Unhealthy?
Life in Sweden is what you make of it, and that’s why I additionally wrote this e-book — as a useful cultural information that may make it easier to combine and deeply perceive Swedish tradition and its nuances. Having lived in each Nigeria and the US for prolonged durations of time, I respect residing right here with a younger household. Total, the standard of life is improbable when it comes to stress ranges. There’s sufficient time to dedicate to the household, in addition to beneficiant advantages, which all of us contribute to by means of our taxes.

What’s your least favourite half about residing in Sweden?
I typically say Sweden is probably the most open society run by probably the most non-public individuals, and I clarify why within the e-book. Sweden does have its darkish sides, and I at all times say the principle distinction is that this: I could be like Oprah Winfrey if I need to as a black girl within the US, regardless of all of the racial tensions. In Sweden, when you’ll be left in a small nook to dwell your completely happy life, making an attempt to be a CEO or magnate like Oprah is a gargantuan process. There are individuals who nonetheless don’t get referred to as for job interviews due to the names on their résumés. So total, whereas I like residing right here, no society is ideal, and Sweden has a number of integration points it must work out.

Why did you write this e-book?
So, the Swedish phrase lagom has just lately emerged as the approach to life development of 2017 and naturally, publishers are leaping on it with totally different way of life books — from recipes to inside decor.

People hanging out near blossoming trees in Stockholm

However I wanted to place a e-book on the market that was past cinnamon bun recipes, as a result of lagom just isn’t a phrase that’s warmly embraced and even preferred by many Swedes themselves for numerous causes, together with the very fact the ethos has over time morphed to indicate common, boring, and middle-of-the-road. I element all this within the e-book, in addition to clarify why lagom itself is inherently an excellent ideally suited versus jante, which is the unfavourable parasitic ethos that attaches itself to lagom and brings the negativity. However it’s the key to understanding the Swedish mindset.

I’ve been residing in Sweden for eight years, and writing in regards to the nation and its tradition for even longer. I’m additionally married to a Swede and have a novel vantage level of observing the tradition each objectively and subjectively. So I clarify lagom in a method foreigner absolutely will get it, in addition to holding up a mirror to Swedes in order that they see how lagom is expressed in interactions with different individuals. It may be very tough to jot down about one thing that’s very intrinsic to you in a method that others can absolutely perceive with out coming off as patronizing and condescending.

It actually governs the Swedish psyche, and particular person bubbles of lagom are positively altering and morphing with every passing technology.

I wanted to jot down a well-balanced cultural e-book that would nonetheless stand as soon as the Scandi-trends wave washed over.

What does lagom imply and why is it vital?
On the floor, lagom is usually described as “not too little, not an excessive amount of, excellent,” but it surely’s much more nuanced than that and lies nearer to “optimum.” It’s the key to unlocking the Swedish psyche and governs virtually all elements of life and tradition within the nation.

It additionally transforms its that means in numerous contexts — from “much less is extra” when it comes to décor and “moderation” when it comes to meals to “concord and stability” when it comes to society and “mindfulness” when it comes to well-being.

If one had been to boil down the true essence of lagom to its very core, it means striving for the final word stability in life that, when utilized to all elements of 1’s existence, may help information you towards working at your most pure, easy state.

The state and measurement of lagom imply various things to totally different people. My satisfaction could range from yours, however we will each be glad. Lagom represents the final word candy spot or golden imply in your individual life, and extra importantly, it encourages you to completely function inside that candy spot that’s simply best for you.

a typical Swedish cottage with a Swedish flag

For vacationers to Sweden, how can they detect lagom at work or play?
Many individuals typically describe Swedes (in Sweden, not exterior of Sweden) as reserved, inaccessible, and possibly even chilly and flippant, but it surely’s typically simply lagom’s mindfulness at play. Locals will provide you with your area and make sure you’re not inconvenienced by their presence. So, Swedes naturally maintain their distance from a spot of mindfulness, not as a result of they don’t need to be round you. (Outdoors of Sweden, they’re fast to ditch lagom in social settings.)

At work, lagom is at all times on the lookout for one of the best resolution, so there’s a number of planning, a number of conferences, a number of consensus, a number of teamwork, you get the gist… to verify they arrive on the optimum, lagom resolution to all issues.

For instance: Many foreigners working or doing enterprise in Sweden typically lament the period of time Swedes put into upfront planning and preparation. Agendas are triple-checked, and a number of other conferences are referred to as to plan each single merchandise on stated agendas. Plans can take months to place in place earlier than transferring to the following step of implementing every merchandise on these plans.

For a tradition that prides itself on effectivity, it may appear these inherent acts of zealous planning are counterproductive, and they are often seen as losing time and sources. Nevertheless, as a result of lagom craves stability by trimming extra round its edges, it requires satisfactory planning. “Sufficient” is measured by no matter it takes to prune irrelevance, no matter how lengthy it takes.

To be environment friendly means to carry out and performance in probably the most optimum method doable with the least waste of time, sources, and power. This very definition of effectivity mirrors the core of lagom.

So lagom says it’s completely OK to spend as a lot time as wanted to arrange ourselves and strongly develop our plans, as a result of that’s the one method we will assure effectivity.

an aerial view over stockholm

For vacationers who want to date a Swede, how can understanding lagom assist them?
Swedes don’t naturally disclose data or overshare, so typically it may be exhausting to even gauge or assess what’s happening in a relationship. And it’s not a tradition that overly gesticulates with arms or makes use of flattering phrases, so understanding if a Swede is keen on you could be denoted by their unusually extended eye contact.

So, when out on a date, at all times have follow-up inquiries to maintain the dialog going and to keep away from your date awkwardly ending at “sure or no” solutions. As a result of they’ll accomplish that, in an effort to not overshare with out being requested.

For somebody happening a date anticipating to be lavishly wined and dined, Swedes are typically conditioned to separate their payments, to at all times repay favors, and to not be duty-bound to anybody, particularly financially, by protecting that scale balanced. So this will come as a nasty shock on the finish of the night time if you happen to haven’t mentioned it earlier than the waiter brings out the menu.

And if you happen to’re in relationship with a Swede and have points or questions, simply ask straight out as a result of Swedes are very direct. And be ready for these direct solutions!

Why are individuals so fascinated with Sweden?
I feel a number of the fascination comes from the standard of life and simply how progressive the society is. One other extra superficial angle has to do with physicality — from individuals and landscapes to inside décor and structure. I imply, town of Stockholm itself is completely beautiful, and it spreads throughout 14 islands, which you’ll view from some good vantage factors on the town. Sweden constantly ranks within the high 10 happiest nations, so there are clearly issues Sweden is getting proper.

What’s the one factor you need individuals to remove out of your e-book?
Lagom is a mindset that essentially battles stress. Having an excessive amount of or too little causes stress, so lagom tries to seek out its stability between each with the optimum resolution by decreasing extra. Not perfection, however one of the best resolution.

Consider it as a scale that at all times must be balanced. An excessive amount of or too little ideas the size sharply to at least one aspect or the opposite, so lagom balances itself (“excellent”) by trimming extra and eliminating all sources of stress inside our management — from materials issues to relationships that drain us.

Lola A. Åkerström is an award-winning author, speaker, and photographer with Nationwide Geographic Artistic. She commonly contributes to excessive profile publications corresponding to AFAR, the BBC, The Guardian, Lonely Planet, Journey + Leisure, and Nationwide Geographic Traveler. Lola can be the editor of Gradual Journey Stockholm, a web-based journal devoted to exploring Sweden’s capital metropolis in depth. She lives in Stockholm and blogs at Geotraveler’s Area of interest.

You may choose up a duplicate of her e-book on Amazon.
(It’s actually fascinating and I extremely suggest it!)