Home is where the oats are

Despite having travelled to faraway lands to either escape the old or to embrace the new, the urge for comfort is always there. It can be found by sharing a common language, visiting IKEA or through opening a bar of Marabou Daim chocolate. Whatever home is to you, it will follow you wherever you go.

Having travelled extensively for the past couple of years has led me to believe that I’m immune to home sickness. Why should I miss a country where the weather is predominantly bad, the food is mostly bland and where the people are so hostile towards one another that striking up conversation with a stranger pretty much makes you a psychopath? However, after having spent the past ten days in Singapore and Hong Kong with my friends from Campus Helsingborg has made me miss Sweden more than ever. I’ve been on a constant hunt for everything Swedish which has resulted in visits to IKEA, a bakery selling both ”semlor” and ”kanelbullar” as well as a Scandinavian interior design store where I stayed for nearly half an hour just drooling over white furniture, minimalistic art and unnecessary home decor statues of animals. I even went so far as contemplating purchasing an extremely overpriced packet of Wasa knäckebröd just so I could feel like I was back home.

So far on my trip I have not met any Swedish people so I think that speaking in my mother tongue again has made me feel like I have discovered part of my identity that had long been forgotten. Although my friends in Singapore and Hong Kong have embraced their new temporary homes and the culture that comes with living in a foreign country, it was very noticeable that they were tightly holding on to their heritage in more ways than one. From what I gathered, the locals attending the universities in Singapore and Hong Kong weren’t very open and welcoming to exchange students. My friends often described their time in class being quite lonesome. Finding classmates to do group projects with was a task per say and getting to know the local students required a lot of effort. Because of this my friends often hung out with other Swedish people who also found themselves in the same situation. Sharing similar values, liking the same kind of food and speaking the same language made hanging out effortless, especially in comparison to the perceived effort of having to cross both cultural and linguistic barriers.

In time of writing, as I sit here in my friend’s dorm room, I notice a packet of ”AXA havregryn” hiding on my friend’s pantry shelf. I ask her if she prioritised bringing oats, a staple food that exists in practically every corner of the earth, to her temporary home in Hong Kong. It’s only been a month since she left Sweden for Hong Kong but apparently a visit to the ”Scandinavian Store” has already taken place. At first I was teasing her about buying Swedish oats but after a while I reflected on the behaviour that I’ve exhibited for the past few days. I’ve been a sponge soaking in everything that reminded me of Scandinavian culture, but then again, I think it’s justifiable since I’ve been away for more than half a year. My friend on the other hand has just been away for a couple of weeks but I guess we all miss home in different ways and at different times. And who am I to judge anyway, maybe Swedish oats really do taste better?

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