Is less more when it comes to contentment? Stockholm-based Lola Akinmade Åkerström compares the Swedish art of restraint—or lagom—to her more chaotic Nigerian upbringing.

The first time I heard that sucking sound—a swift and sharp intake of air—I was chatting away on an icy lake during the darkest throes of winter in Swedish Lapland. That unfamiliar noise came from Mikael, a Swedish acquaintance-turned-extended-family-member.

He was taking me racing in a beat-up Ford across a frozen lake in Norrbotten, in Sweden’s far north; this impromptu rally had attracted equally banged-up Volvos, racing each other along makeshift tracks. As I vented my fears (and said my last prayers), Mikael offered no nods of acknowledgement or “Yup!” just that curious sucking sound.

And even when his foot hit the accelerator, taking us to 100 kilometers per hour across the lake, my screams of terror were met with his low chuckles of excitement. And after the friendly racing was over, no piercing screams of victory from anyone. Just a fist bump into the air here, a pat on the shoulder there—emotions seemed controlled even out in the middle of the woods.