Wednesday, February 23, 2011

When to be spontaneous and flexible -and when not

When not to be spontaneous and vague: Swedish weddings

Yesterday I met a Swedish girl who just got engaged, after her boyfriend proposed to her during the CNY. She was over the moon about everything: the romantic engagement (he proposed while they were scuba diving in Thailand and she almost drowned when she saw the ring, nodded “yes!” and forgot to breathe). They are planning to have the wedding this summer in Sweden and she told me that she was surprised by the lack of flexibility showed by her friends back home.

As they live in China, they obviously had to pick a date during their summer holiday, so let’s say mid July. All of their Chinese friends thought it was great and many of them are going to fly over just for the wedding. You would think that in Sweden, where 80-90% of the population is having a holiday around that time, it wouldn’t be any problems when it comes to attending a wedding, but think twice, because apparently it is:

-How can you pick a wedding date during the peak holiday season? A friend of her asked. I’ve already planned a trip to France at that time.

Oh, yes, the things you tend to forget while living over here. Swedes are masters when it comes to planning ahead. We plan our weeks and weekends well in advance, and each year in February, we fill the sheet for when we wish to have our summer holiday. Around June/July people decide if they want to celebrate Christmas at home that year, or take a trip to Thailand to get away from all the hysteria. Although I’ve gotten much better at being spontaneous and flexible since moving abroad, I still plan things like “when to call my family back home” at least one week in advance. It’s pretty simple: mom always knows what they are doing every weekend for at least the upcoming month, and can easily tell me if I should call home on Saturday or Sunday, and around what time.

In China, things change fast and people don’t really plan ahead. I think people over here are too scared of missing out on something better, and therefore it can sometimes be hard to get something written in the stones. I remember for instance when we arranged a house warming party. At leats 30 people RSVP:ed, saying they would come. But at the party night, it was freezing outside, rained heavily and felt like one of those nights where you’d just like to stay in and watch a DVD. All the invited foreigners still turned up for the party, while half of the Chinese part suddenly couldn’t make it because of various reasons.

I’m a planner by nature (I love making lists, planning holidays and organizing myself), but living abroad has made me a bit too keen on everything, and therefore my near and dear ones have learned not to take my planning too seriously. For each holiday season I have ambitious plans of going to Vienna, Italy and Spain, ON TOP of Finland and Sweden, and people just listen to me and nod, while they think: “Oh, here we go again.” I was the same when I planned to do my journalism degree abroad (something I had decided to do when I was about 10), I came home one day saying I was going to Singapore, the next I was going to New York, and when I finally decided on Australia, my mom didn't take me seriously until I asked her to come to the bank with me to pay the registration fee. "Oh, so you're really going?!" she asked. "Yeah, I TOLD YOU SO!" I said. Then she got a bit nervous.

Still, I like to keep things flexible and spontaneous, because those night outs that happen without being planned/random weekends spent in Inner Mongolia just because I needed a “quick getaway!” are normally the best ones.


黃愛玲 said...

I am also a planner by mature but only because my husband got me into that habit. He would say, "How come you don't know how to plan???" and then he family. xD Now he knows how I got my dreadful habit!

Congratulations to the couple!

Anna Davidson said...

I'm a real planner/list writer just like you Jonna. China made me so much more flexible and relaxed about things ... a little bit of both is good!

Anonymous said...

i'm totally in sync with anna's respnse :)

flyingfish said...

"How can you plan a wedding during the summer holiday?"

Umm . . .

After she learned about our engagement, one of my fiance's best friends from college said she hoped we'd have the wedding during school vacation so she could bring her kids. When she got her invitation (which named only her husband and herself because it's a fairly formal evening wedding and we weren't including kids) she wrote +two kids on the RSVP card. When my fiancé explained to her that kids weren't being included, she refused to come.

Gee, how dare we not invite kids? Don't we realize that some parents have apparently never heard of babysitting?

Whoa! I sound so irritable! Sorry! Congratulation and best wishes to the couple!

Jonna Wibelius said...

黃愛玲 -Hehe. Well I guess even planning must be done with some care. Otherwise life can get kind of boring.

Anna & Anonymous -Agree!! China has also made me think more like: "well, no point stressing... there will be another metro/train" if I'm running late.

Flyingfish -whoa.. that's pretty full on. Most weddings in Swe are kid-less. My sister even wrote "no kids" on the invitation because they tend to take over. I will def also have a kid-less wedding if I ever get married. I don't understand people that cannot take that -sure if it's so that u cannot get a babysitter etc, but how can u get offended because of someone else's wish on their very special day? It's a very self-centered way of thinking.