4) Drinking more coffee than ever before: To say coffee is big in Sweden is an understatement. I’d say it’s one of the irreplaceable threads in the social fabric there. Two folks can discuss anything, so long as coffee’s been offered and accepted If you have a day full of meetings, my thought is to select the espresso shot from the machine. The smaller volume of liquid will save you from repeated bathroom trips.
5) Meaningful relaxation: Interestingly, when you go to a coffee shop over there, you don’t see people studying. No laptops. (Working all afternoon in a cafe while hunched over that single coffee you grudgingly paid for – a most American phenomenon!) I was never a study-in-cafe type in the U.S. but being over there certainly nurtured my love for going into places that serve cake and pie along with their coffee… in the company of friends… to have actual conversations.
6) Identifying ways to create value: I was extremely fortunate to complement my research work with a program on how to commercialize new technologies originating in research. During the program, I got to actually develop some new partnerships along the way of testing one of my ideas on graphene dispersions. (I won’t go into the details here; I did give a presentation about it in Stockholm last month – watch it if you’re interested.) The great thing about doing this program was (a) the new thought processes I absorbed and can implement for future ideas, and (b) discovering that I find this new area of work – related to technology transfer, not the same as basic research – super interesting, challenging, and worth pursuing further. And of course, (c) getting introduced to a fantastic mentor who wasn’t hesitant to share wisdom from his broad life and business experiences. Thanks, Sten.
I’m going to end here. This is by no means an all-inclusive list. For example, I learned plenty of other good and useful things from my colleagues at Uppsala University. But those are for only me to savor, right now.
The first part of my list is here.
[Picture: This cat lived at our house. She came to me for all her head-scratching needs. Yes, even in the bathroom sink.]
This is a list, in no particular order… of some things I learned and skills I cultivated during my 14 months living and working in Sweden.
1) Playing acoustic guitar. A winter with 4 hours of daylight means you need to have a good indoor hobby. Glad I picked up the guitar in October last year. Thanks for the tips, Josef and Gunnar. And Raili, thanks for letting my guitar accompany your ukelele at xmas.
2) Cooking without recipes. Having a properly stocked kitchen means you can experiment and not fear mistakes. Also, doing more chemistry at my job somehow led me to think about various cooking techniques in terms of heat and water distribution, for example, and a better understanding of what exactly was happening inside the pot or pan. And, thanks, Farid, for keeping such a lagom kitchen.
3) The Swedish language. My first month in Uppsala, my pronunciation was so bad, I would ask for something in Swedish at the store, to have the clerk reply to me in English. Thanks, Daniel, for all the useful social phrases; Henrik, for all the stuff I’ve asked for help with translating at work and over gchat (cumin, coriander, what?); and, the municipal gov’t, for covering the cost of the Sfi language course. What a difference it makes when a trained teacher explains the nuances of pronunciation to you. I felt I turned a corner in the winter, when I called a restaurant and booked a table, entirely in Swedish. And then again this summer, in Copenhagen, having an extensive conversation with a Swedish-speaking Dane in a noisy bar. So I try to keep up with the language. And thus, thanks go to each one of you who continues to tolerate my suboptimal listening comprehension during our Skype calls. Vad sa du? Igen?
… It’s getting late, so I will write the rest of my list in a second post, sometime soon, while the thoughts are still fresh and interesting!
[Photograph: I took it in Smögen, on the west coast of Sweden, when I was there for a workshop last summer]