Thursday, May 19, 2011

Culture Share: Scandinavia - Travelers in Scandinavia, and no, I don't mean backpackers

This post is part of The Writer's International Culture Share, in which writers discuss their personal experience with world cultures: Therese Lindberg discusses Travelers in Scandinavia

Travelers in Scandinavia, and no, I don't mean backpackers
by Therese Lindberg

Being a Traveler in Scandinavia involves a lot of things.
I could tell you about all the families who get bullied for who they are, about kids beaten in school and people chased from their land. Yes it happens even today.
But those are the rare occasions; usually we just blend in.
My family, my parents and my three siblings, have always had a house to live in. In fact from I was born till present day (twenty six) my family as a whole only moved three times, and only between two locations.

During the winter months of any given year, we live as any other family. We have a house, we have jobs, we go to church and we go to school. But when the snow starts melting and the birds return, that's when we “wake up.” The movie Chocolat with Johnny Depp portraits this well - when Vianne Rocher stands on the pier and feels the north wind calling her name.
The spring does the same for my kind. It's as if the essence of who we are goes into a state of hibernation during the winter months, and awakens to the song of the returned birds. The essence makes itself known, we become restless and the need for traveling will in the end win.

My Family has always owned a caravan, and my parents still do. This is not something limited to my family. Every spring the cellphones would start ringing and we would always laugh as we'd hear Father say “Feeling restless yet?” To the other person. We'd get more agitated as we stayed at home, and this was the same for almost every family.

They would take us out of school in the beginning of May and so we would travel. Usually accompanied by other families, and that's when you would, if a bystander, see four to five and even six caravans accompanied by a few cars traveling down the endless welcoming road.

We would travel to places where there were work to be found. I would say ninety percent of all male Travelers have carpenter or a painter as their occupation. I don't know why that is - they are simply good at it. And they would go knocking on doors and tell people they could fix their roof, paint their house, build a barn maybe. All in all a very old-fashioned hands on way of doing it.

The women however, would stay at the camp-site. The children would be free to play and if one became hungry there was always food to be found in one of the caravans. The women would see all the children as theirs, and make sure nothing happened to any of them.

If there were no jobs to be found in a town, or a city, we would move on. Usually we only stayed for a job, maybe two which took mostly one to three weeks. We would then pack up the caravan and head on to the next place, and we'd always feel excited, because who knew what waited in the next town?

Quite often would we cross the border into Sweden, and we had no problems driving through the night and perhaps let Father get a few hours sleep as we stopped at the side of the road. We all enjoyed it, as finally we were free.

Our language is called Rotipa and it is unfortunately a dying language. There aren't many people left who speak it, although most families use some of the words in their daily life. A dictionary was designed not long ago, and so we try to re-instate the language. It's a slow process but we're getting there.

We're an old race, with an outdated culture, and surviving in a modern society is difficult. And so we have adapted in order to survive, but during the summer months we are pretty much the same as we've always been. We've traded out the horse and carriage for a car and caravan, and the paintbrush has been replaced by modern equipment. But the women still stay on the campsite guarding the children and the men still go knocking on doors offering their services. At night we still light up a campfire and we all listen as the men tell stories about their day, and their ancestors.

Therese Lindberg
lives in Fredrikstad, Norway, except when she is on the road.


  1. I've visited Scandinavia, but only very briefly. 3 days in Norway, 3 days in Sweden.

  2. I hear that Norway is a really amazing place to live, and somebody as creative and interesting as this author - who also happens to have a second culture as a Traveler - must be a wonderful person.

  3. I've never been to Scandinavia, Trisha, but I'd love to go someday.

    Indeed, Anonymous, I have only the best impression of this author.

    Thanks for the comments!

  4. Hi, I am one of these people called "romanipeople", romanisel or sinti/sintirom.. (Traveler) And it`s all true what Therese Lindberg tell`s us :o)( I know this great lady ) Now a days we have a good life, but there are still shadows from the past... The main difference today, is education, we do the same things we've always done, as painters and craftmanship/sales, but now a days the government demands education and paper's in order for us to continue.I.e: My brother is a sought after horseman, he will identify and treat all problems a horse can have, including hooves,health and well being, this is an old cultural occupation amongst our people. My son is an educated tinsmith and has his own company, he's one of the "newer" generation of well educated Romani. I stand behind everything Therese has written, and she is also one of the newer generations, she studied Journalism in England. Having been used for lyrics by artists, translations in different languages, and is currently awaiting to be published as an Author in diffrerent countries.

  5. Thanks for commenting, Anonymous! I really appreciate you adding to what Therese has told us.

  6. Hello and thank you for commenting! I have a strong feeling I know you, anonymous! And thank you Juliette for letting me participate. All the best.