Why does family matter so much?
I live in a very individualistic society. Sweden is off the charts when it comes to personal freedom and how little we actually take care of our own family (by that I mean relatives like parents, cousins, old folks…) We have built a welfare state, that makes us superflouos when it comes to taking care of each other. For those without families or contacts, that is of course a vital and very positive part of this country. But for those with families, the incentive to stay close is not obvious. Families take a lot of effort and energy, and you do need time to get together.
Perhaps that’s why it tends to be harder to hang out with family here – time always seems to be scarce. We spend more time working than with family and friends (or at least, that’s my reality).
My mother-in-law is from Peru, and when we spent three months with my husbands’ cousins in Lima, I was welcomed into the family like a “prima” (cousin) and it wasn’t just a word, it was for real. In Sweden I think it would take longer to earn that position. Our peruvian relatives had a different concept of family. And it sat really well with me. They took care of each other, hung out together and took turns caring for their retired father.
In Sweden, society takes care of retired people, which makes your own contribution to your relatives’ well-being less important in terms of housing, food and hygiene matters. It sure has it’s pros and cons.
Interesting enough, there is a growing fascination for family geneaology in Sweden. Lots of Swedes search the abundant records held in our different national archives, to find long lost relatives – dead or alive.
I have also been putting together a family tree, and it’s surprisingly easy with all the help you can get online and from others who are doing the same thing. In another post I wrote a little bit about my Finnish-Swedish family, with roots way back to the late 1600:s in Sideby, Finland. If interested, have a look at “It continues inside.”
Looking at my fathers’ side of the family, I have made another interesting discovery. My fathers’ grandmother was from Norway, as was his grandfather. But his grannys’ mother was German. Her family immigrated to Norway from a small place outside Leipzig.
That was such fun to discover. Because, even though, the German side started a few generations back, I suddenly felt something click within me. It would have been so great to have known this when I decided to study and live in Germany. Apparantely their name was Däberitz and they came from Mutzschen. Maybe, it’s just nonsense, but I have felt very much “at home” in Germany, and I love the fact that I speak my ancestors’ mother tongue fluently as well,
Why does this matter to me today? Why should family roots matter to you? Well, knowing where you come from seems to be a vital part of the human experience. I was really impressed when I learned that the Sami people put pride in knowing their whole family history – and they pass it on generation to generation. My family never did that. Like typical, individualistic Swedes, nobody talked much about family. My father had no contact with his cousins, and just barely with his siblings. I don’t think he was very interested in family history. But I am, and I am thrilled to have found out that I at least have Norweigan, German, Finnish-Swedish and Swedish roots.
But then again, like my kids say:
Mum, we are all relatives. All humans are. If you look far enough, you will be related to everybody on Earth.
I love that thought. Because family matters and we, as humans, are of course a very big family, no matter what we look like or where we live. And we should matter to each other – that’s the only way we can all keep living on this planet.
So, like my peruvian cousins would say – welcome to your family! 😉