Fellow blogger Nkosazana Johansson speaks with us about family, marriage, and living well in Sweden in the very first edition of Black Women in the Global Village.
Early Years in Sweden
I studied chemistry for the most part with some biology thrown in as well. I kept to myself the first month or so and I was looking for a job, so I was a bit shy at first. After I was set on having a good time studying here, I went out looking for friends. I went out on student union parties and they were generally social. But I never let that take president over my school work. I made friends and studied hard. It was hard work but rewarding and it felt good. I worked at a company that rented out cleaning crews for American fast food restaurants, So I cleaned McDonald’s and Burger King during the nights and studied during the days. It was hard but necessary since I had to pay my bills and food. I couldn’t ask my mom for money since she had none.
Meeting your Husband
The first time I met my husband, was at a student party. He told me later that he noticed my hair sticking up across the room, so he went over in a very un-Swedish forward way and introduced himself. I thought he looked like a thug/skinhead with his shaved head and big body. So what was this skinny black girl to do but to turn him down. But he did not give up and continued to try to talk to me whenever we met and in the end I gave in and went on a date or *fika* as they call it here in Sweden.
Race, Ethnicity, Culture & Dating
I never really thought about white men before as romantic beings. Never mind that we are from totally different cultures. He did not totally understand everything I was talking about and the same thing with me. I have to say on my way to our first date I was very nervous. I did not tell my mother or anyone back home that I’ve met a white man except my brother. Cowardly? Yep. But I did not want to bring down the hammer until we were getting serious; stuff like this really affects how people see you.
But I have to say, both him and his family have been very open and curious about my culture. And I have embraced his as well. But I’ve made compromises. In my culture, a man normally pays for his wife. I told my family to skip that and they did. It would have been confusing for poor hubby I think lol. Besides we set my mother up with a nice house later so you could call that payment. It all ended well I think. The only one in my life who had a problem was my dad. He did not come to the wedding and he did not approve of my ‘coloured'(mixed) children, but he’s out of my life. My brothers took a liking to him and so did my mom and even my grandmother who is like 100 now and saw apartheid rise and fall had no problem with him.
I got offered a job here in Sweden right after I got my degree. I worked with a company that was affiliated with my varsity (university) that did all kinds of research and stuff like that. But it did not last long because it moved abroad for some reason. After that I got a job at another varsity doing all kinds of stuff. Right now I’m helping to manage the economic parts of a program at a varsity. It’s fun, but stressful. I also sometimes help out with some classes and I have substituted as a chemistry teacher at high schools.
Right now I’m enjoying my LOOOOONG paid parental leave so I’m not working. It’s great I get to take care of my children, go shop and just hang with my friends all day.
Oh we have a generally good marriage; we got ups and downs. The best thing about marriage is that you have you best friend with you, who you can share anything with you fears and hopes as corny as that sounds. We did not rush into marriage, but took time, had a lot of fun and found out that we were really compatible. He proposed to me and I said yes and we kind of just kept having fun. It wasn’t until two years ago that we decided to really get our roots in the ground. We bought a big house and decided to have children. We still have fun but we have responsibilities now.
I guess when you are with a person so long you can pick up on his annoying habits, but really that’s something you expect. I think it’s mostly the little things that get to you sometimes and it’s never fun to have a fight with your husband. I’m the one with the temper in our family it can be like screaming at a wall sometimes, because he always tries to calm me down. Really other than that, I love married life. I think I’m a very family oriented person.
I think the key to a successful marriage is to take time for just you and him. Copenhagen is not so far away and we can take the train or a taxi over and have a dinner at a good restaurant. We usually have a date night every other week. My In-laws are very happy to take care of our kids while we are out tearing stuff up lol.
Sweden & South Africa
In Sweden people generally leave you be. There is discrimination no doubt about it, but nothing that you can’t overcome. I don’t let stuff like this get in my way to be honest, as long as they aren’t hitting me with a sjambok, I can brush it off. I don’t get harassed on the streets and I really like it in the summer. The country gets very beautiful. The country is very child-friendly and the cities are so clean.
I guess people should be a bit more open; everything is so quiet. I’m used to people talking all the time, but not here. For example when I first came here I sat next to an older woman on a bus and started to talk to her and she looked very uncomfortable. You mind your own here.
When I lived in South Africa I did not really think of it as overcoming. I just tried to do my best in life and generally stay positive. I know doing your best is not always enough for people to get themselves out of poverty, but it’s the only thing you can do.
Don’t be negative and dwell on things that you can’t change. You can’t change how that teacher is looking at you as if you were dirt. You can’t change that police officer you had to bribe or you would have gone to jail that night. Stuff like that happens. It’s a matter of making the best of it.
Your Family In 10 Years
I hope to have 5-6 kids by then. That is our aim. And hopefully hubby got himself up to near the top of the corporate ladder by then. I don’t know, maybe I will work part-time to take care of the kids. We will see.
Thoughts on Living Well
Living well means that you don’t limit yourself to what some people think, whether it be cultural or what is expected of you in society. Work hard and expect the highest quality in life and you will get it. I hope that black women start to realize that they should put themselves first and put their own happiness before so-called communities or groups that are only really there to hold you back.
Follow Nkosazana’s adventures in Sweden and around the world: South African Girl In Sweden.
If you have questions or comments for Nkosazana, leave them in the comment section.
Thank you Nkosazana for sharing your story with us 🙂