Going to college in Wisconsin was pretty great for me because my grades weren’t high enough in Sweden to be able to study computer science but I’ve always enjoyed the technology aspect and wanted to learn more programming so I had a wonderful opportunity here. I really enjoyed college because a lot of people were really interested in different cultures and they were very interested in hearing about my life in Sweden because most of the people I met had no idea I wasn’t American. A lot of other people would always ask me to say this or say that in Swedish. They were usually the same people who also asked me the stereotypical questions like whether or not Swedish people lived in caves or drove on roads, if we ate moose or reindeer all the time. I had to fight back a lot of those stereotypes quite a bit, but it wasn’t so bad. It was awesome for me to be a student athlete and also involved in Greek life. I also had a pretty easy time in school so I didn’t spend too much time studying. But if it hadn’t been for Greek life, I never would have met my wife, Holly; we met at a party at a fraternity house.
I think the migratory situation would have been much different if my sister had come over rather than me. Swedish women are much more self confident than American women and there’s a lot more equality over there than here so I think there would have been a lot of clashes in cultures if it had been her instead of me. I’ve noticed that Americans are very much more outgoing than Swedish people, however. Swedish people in general are told from a very early stage in their life that you’re not supposed to brag about yourself or your accomplishments. It’s referred to as Jante-Lagen. It literally means, “don’t toot your own horn”, it made it kind of difficult for me after college when I was interviewing for jobs. It’s really difficult to break that habit when you come to a different country. I mean I would go into interviews and I wouldn’t be interested in interviewing and they would expect me to talk myself up and all I could think for the longest time was just like, “Well look at my resume.” It was crazy.
One of the biggest differences I had noticed between the United States and Sweden was how expensive everything in Sweden was compared to the United States. We would rarely, if ever, go out and eat in Sweden. Instead we’d cook more things at home from scratch. There aren’t like prepackaged boxed dinners or even baking mixes in Sweden. I mean, it’s not like I was doing a whole lot of baking in college, but it was still a whole new aspect of life.
Right after I graduated, I didn’t find a job right away in computer science so I ended up working for the Linden cheese factory where we made Blue Cheese. It was a very stereotypical “Wisconsin” thing to do, I think. It’s funny because I got married not long after I graduated and I ended up fulfilling my mother’s worst fear. I really felt like the United States was my true home after I had graduated, got married, and landed my first permanent job. It was nice because I had a student Visa while I was in college and then after I got married I got my green card. I mean I obviously didn’t get married just for my green card, but it was a pretty straightforward process for me.