love and culture shocks

In the last post I lamented the shock of coming to Copenhagen airport and being met by tightly packed crowds of non-mask-wearing people. Going from Copenhagen airport to Sweden by train, I could not see anyone else wearing a mask. Having been living with masks every day for two and a half years, not actually having seen faces other than those of my family, I felt as if I had come to an alien world where unrecognizable beings were crowding the train (and a week later I still do). And I found myself quite unable to join them in undressing my face.

Stepping off the train and being met by my parents, getting into their car, the first thing that hit me apart from the joy of seeing them was that they were driving on the wrong side of the road! Three and a half years in Japan had really reprogrammed my driving brain and I found myself several times wanting to warn them about the choice of lanes (and a week later, I still do this too).

A forty minute drive before arriving at my old childhood home, and I could finally go to the toilet. Which chocked me greatly – I felt like I was sitting down on a ring of ice in the middle of summer (oh how I missed the Japanese toilet I have come to adore). We unpacked and then all tired sat down to eat together with my parents for the first time in my son’s life. The selection of bread and cheese that my mom had prepared made me wonder if I was already asleep, dreaming of culinary delights not yet invented – I had almost forgotten the existence of proper bread. Of course we were jet lagged, but the Swedish tastes together with the bright summer night played games (delightful ones – I can really miss Swedish summer) with my sense of time, and before I knew it it was very late and watching the sunset from my old bedroom window we fell asleep in a heap on the floor.

Our son however, did not seem to experience any culture shocks (only culinary ones – he was quite unimpressed with the Swedish palate and wanted rice and fish and seaweed). As soon as he came into my parents house he ran straight to the cupboard where they keep the old ride-on-car that I used as a kid and that he has seen so many times while we have been doing video calls. It was wonderfully delightful to watch him from day one act like this is the house he has always been living in and to experience his love for his grandparents. There was no shyness when he first met them, no hiding behind his mum or dad – to our son it did not at all seem like this was the first time he met his Swedish grandparents in real life.

I am so happy and grateful for our son’s ability to connect to people, and it is so easy to see my wife in him (much more than I can see myself, meaning it is quite the charmingly cute, adorable and strong willed son we have). My mother was also struck by my son’s strong will and determination and I was struck by his strong affection for my parents; he treated them with complete trust and confidence. How lovely we have a few weeks together to enjoy and for my son to really get to know his Swedish grandparents in real life.

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