O is for Omgivning
In my Swedish-English dictionary the word ‘omgivning’ has different meanings. It can be translated as surroundings, environs, neighbourhood, district, environment, those closest to someone, those around someone, entourage, immediate entourage. It is a very useful word. It is a very encompassing word. It is a very challenging word.
My immediate surroundings are a mixture of the urban with the rural. We live a stones-throw away from a lake with a popular beach and are close to the woods. Opposite us is the former cigarette factory – now a health centre and home to many small businesses. At the end of our road is the former Windsor chair factory, which since its closure has served a number of functions. The mainline railway from Stockholm to Malmö (and Copenhagen) runs through the town. If we talk about class – which is not as common here as it is in England – my immediate neighbourhood could be regarded as working class aspiring towards middle class.
Those closest to me are my immediate family – husband and dog – with whom I live. Extended family includes those relative-based circles to which I belong. Those around me include the people with whom I worship (Quakers and Attenders in the Småland Worship Group and in Sweden Yearly Meeting as a whole), friends and comrades with whom I share a political interest, dog owners that I meet on the regular rounds, the neighbours.
All this means that I am connected: to my surroundings and to other people. They are also connected to me. There is a responsibility to care and to share. As Håkan Juholt said in his Labour Day (1st May) speech here in Nässjö, we need to change from being individualistic, being suspicious of our neighbours, being careless with the environment. Rather, we need to think community, help each other to build a worthwhile future, share what we have, care for each other, care for our environment.
We cannot buy omgivning – although in many respects the prevailing system has led us to believe that we are customers; customers who pay up and shut up. Omgivning is bigger and beyond that, and worth building up. Omgivning is indeed a word to ponder over.