Surprisingly Similar Slices of Life: Sweden and Indonesia

Five of us—two Swedes, and three Indonesians (including me)🤗—were sitting together in a modest student apartment in Jönköping. It was a hazy autumn morning, our dining table neighbored a window framing the autumn trees with their orange and red hues. As we chomped and chatted, we began mind-traveling with some stories from our own countries. And, who’d have guessed that swapping nasi goreng with tubed Kalles Kaviar for breakfast would unravel numerous similarities of both lands?

  🥙Starting with grub –the universal tie that binds souls.💞

Swedes and Indonesians are seemingly foodie opposites, but dig a little deeper, and you’ll find some remarkable parallels. We both value communal dining. A meal is not merely a meal, it’s a gateway to heartwarming conversations and friendships, a social event filled with stories and shared experiences.

🍲Food-related again, this time it’s about: MEATBALLS!!🧆

We both have a big thing for meatballs, as one of our beloved national dishes, bakso, is also a form of beefy spherical delights. The difference is we have it with soup-style with warm beef broth, accompanied by rice vermicelli, noodles, bok coy, bean sprouts, fried shallots. Whether they are called bakso or köttbullar, these meatballs reveal a common love that cuts across culinary boundaries.

A side-by-side image compares the traditional dishes of Indonesia and Sweden, with Bakso, on the left, and Swedish meatballs, on the right.
Bakso and köttbullar side by side~ //Photo: Left: Nana, Right: Miriam Preis/

🌳🌷Nature calls, and both nations answer. 💫

Our mutual love for mother earth transcends borders. Exploring hidden waterfalls or jungle treks in Indonesia to hiking around scenic wonders in Sweden, it’s like reuniting with long-lost cousins. Fun fact: Indonesia has the most volcanoes of any country in the world, counting at 76! While scaling Indonesian peaks purifies the soul; I bet Swedes also experience similar feeling when going deep into nature, roaming around fjords or just behind their houses (nature is everywhere and soooo accessible here yesss).

👱🏻‍♂️Kim, our Swede explorer friend, raises an eyebrow, “Indonesians and mountains? I thought it was all about beaches and coconuts!”

A side-by-side image showcases the diverse natural beauty of Indonesia and Sweden.
Notice the differences?!? //Photo: Nana

Fika? 👭🏼🧑🏼‍🤝‍🧑🏼 Indonesians have our own too.

Indonesians are famously hospitable, just like Swedes are so well-known with their fika. We call our version of fika with ‘nongkrong,’ where it’s less about sweet treats and more about munching on savoury stuff like fries or chicken wings. We hang out in homes and coffee shops to catch up on life. Both social event is how you grow closer to each other, the heartwarming rituals that keep me going each day!

🧑🏻Dio, an Indonesian with two Swedish years under his belt, grins, “Fika is one of the ways that helped me befriend Swedes. The key is don’t love-bomb!”

Two friends laughing happily on a sofa after breakfast.
Happy tummy, happy life! //Photo: Nana

Swapping tropical weather 🌞for icy winds ❄️might sound wild, but turns out, Indo-Swedish life is a cocktail of shared tastes, nature’s wonders, and friendships.

So here’s to proving that oceans apart mean nothing when cultures are so irresistibly intertwined. Just like Maya Angelou said, ‘We are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike.’ Amid a world obsessed with divisions, in the end, we’re all human. That thought alone warms my heart even though I am thousand miles away from home.🧚🏻


Written by Nana

20 Oct 2023