I felt really dissatisfied when I published my last blog post marking one year living in Sweden. The post had taken a negative turn that I didn’t like; I wanted to celebrate my achievements, not wallow in the difficulties I’ve experienced. It didn’t feel like me – or at least, not the person I want to be. (I published it anyway, because it was 11:30 pm, and I refused to let the occasion pass unblogged.)
Sometimes I have trouble seeing the light and skipping over the darkness. I hold myself to high standards, I’m fast to criticise myself, and I don’t like to gloss things over.
So here’s my second attempt at marking that anniversary – no negativity allowed. Here are five amazing things about living in Sweden over the last year.
1. I basically learned a language
I’m by no means fluent, but I can understand most conversations in Swedish and I can usually communicate what I need to say, even if it’s a little clumsily. GO ME. There are plenty of English speaking people who move to Sweden and don’t learn the language because they figure they don’t need it – actually, in the beginning I only planned to keep actively learning until I got a job, because I figured that’s the only area where it would make a big difference. But in the end I’m really glad I got to invest so much time in working on my Swedish. If everything around you is foreign you can never really feel at home or included in society – and while I may not be there yet, I’ve made huge strides.
2. My Uppsala friends
I totally lucked out when it came to my Swedish class comrades – twice.
I have an awesome bunch of friends from SFI, a group so multicultural we belong in a Maths textbook (home countries include among others Latvia, Poland, Japan, Afghanistan, Austria…). We gravitated towards one another in class, being mostly women and mostly around the same age, and we started to practice our broken Swedish on one another outside of class too. It turned out we all got on really well as friends, not just as fellow-travellers on the same metaphorical road. Six months after I moved on from SFI we are still meeting up regularly.
What I moved onto was Korta Vägen, where I got to know so many wonderful people from all sorts of walks of life. By the nature of the course we had a few things in common: we were foreign, university educated, and struggling to find a job in Sweden. A bunch of participants on the course travelled in every day from Stockholm, including lots of those who I became friends with, so although we’re not seeing each other as often we still keep in touch. And while we’ve all been vying for praktik places and jobs, whenever one of us succeeds there’s only ever celebration and support from the rest of us. I love that.
Add in the friends we’ve made through Andreas’s work, who can always be relied upon to come round for a boardgames night, the new friends I’m making at Salgado, and a few extra odd bods, and you’ve got a proper social network there.
3. Fika life
Before I moved to Sweden one of my good friends asked me if I thought I would lose weight, just, you know, automatically, because everyone is so healthy in Sweden.
Hah! No, I ate at least one cinnamon bun literally every day for at least the first month I lived here, so weirdly, that didn’t happen.
Fika is a well-documented Swedish phenomenon that involves taking a break, drinking coffee, and having a little something sweet – a bun, a piece of cake, a pastry. It’s basically elevenses, but more institutionalised. And I am 100% here for it.
At work it can be a nice moment away from the grindstone to chat; at home it can be a way of making a normal cuppa more special. Basically everyone needs to get on this. All fika all the time.
4. The summer
OK, let’s not beat around the bush, the winter sucks balls, but Sweden does summer spectacularly well. It wasn’t even a good summer this year and it was still great. Plenty of days of sunbathing by the lake/river, drinking a lunch beer (the low-ish alcohol variety you can buy in the supermarket), taking “look how good my life in Sweden is” selfies… I couldn’t take much time off this summer, so I became determined to fill up as many weekends as possible with activities and trips. Things that involve a long cycle ride or demand a long, light evening. Oh, the long, light evenings!
Let’s not think about how winter is coming right now. I just need to hold tight and survive it to get to the next summer.
5. Our flat
I still find it extraordinary that we got to buy a flat here, something that, living in London, I had filed under “impossible dreams”. If you know me you will be thoroughly unsurprised that ten months after moving in we still have plenty of decorating and DIY to do, but that feeling of a permanent home – something that’s ours – is incredibly special regardless of the decor.
The fact that it’s an ongoing project (and probably will be for the whole time we live here) is okay, because it’s not a project that we’ll have to abandon in six months or a year or when the landlord says so or puts the rent up. It’s an investment into our home. It’s worth it.
So there you go – five amazing things, and I could have come up with more. So many people have helped to make this year a great one in so many ways. Thank you all ❤
And hey – I’ve lived in a foreign country for a year. That’s an achievement in itself, right?