Värmland and Östmark: A Rural Sweden

Last weekend, I went with my host family to visit Sara’s father in Värmland, a rural part of Sweden in the west, fairly close to Norway.

We stayed in the guest house that Sara’s father built himself, and the whole weekend was extremely beautiful weather. It was the first real feeling of spring (which interestingly enough coincided with a snowstorm at home). We had a very eventful two days, starting with a flea market where I found an amazing jacket and met a really nice cat. Then we played ping pong at the local rec center, which is a regular weekly event there, and I got a chance to learn some wood-turning.

We also took a trip out to Östmark, about a 30 minute drive away, and also the town where my grandmother’s family emigrated from in 1881. The scenery was beautiful, with massive forests and hills and lakes. It almost felt like home (minus the hills). The town itself was not very big, but the church was still standing from 1765, which means that it’s the same church my family went to over a hundred years ago. There was also a monument set up next to the Emigration center in memory of the people who moved to “the big land in the west.” It was extremely powerful for me to see this place and understand where I really came from.

This was also a great opportunity because it showed me what rural life in Sweden is like. I come from a rural area, and I’ve always found a big cultural difference between cities and small towns. Sweden has many of the same differences. All of the stereotypes about how Swedes won’t talk to strangers or that they don’t like small talk or even saying hello to their neighbors are often true in Stockholm, but not in rural Värmland. It’s definitely valuable to experience variations in a country’s culture before making entire assumptions based on the stereotypes of one city, and I wish more study abroad students got the chance to experience the rural areas of Sweden.

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