One year in Sweden: five amazing things

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?

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10 thoughts on “One year in Sweden: five amazing things

  1. Thank you for making this blog. It is such a help for what I am about to do. I am an American who had met a Swedish girl and she cast a spell on me. I will be planning to move in with her in the next 12 months or less. I asked her if she would move to America, but she declined and wants me to move in with her. My next trip will be in September when I will propose. She has no idea because I had told her that I will never get married again. ( True soul mates) I love the country and the people. Please keep us up to date with how things are going. So much great info.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Interesting article and with a positive sense of seeing life in Sweden. I am an Albanian planning on moving on January but I am in doubt if it is the right time. Maybe I should wait till April since the winter is so cold and dark. Thanks for the article. Wish you all the best!

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  3. Wonderful blogging about living in Sweden. I know everyone has high and low points about living abroad. BUT you would have to admit that you are brave to move to another country to live and work in a different culture and language & mindset. I think you did very well for yourself. Glad you survive another year–I would like to think your second year would be even better. 🙂

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  4. I wanted to say thanks for the Info and the insight. I live in NJ,USA. I have been to Sweden twice and loved it. I am married and have 4 children. My wife is a teacher and I am in sales for renewables firm. We would like to have our children expericence living and going to school in another country. what would be the hurdles for enrolling the kids in a school system.

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  5. Hello Helen, We are possibly moving to Sweden (Linkoping) soon. Am i understanding correctly that you only took the SLI course for 6 months and you can communicate? Is it an adults only thing? We are bringing two little ones with (7 and 3) and i`m not sure how they will take the new language. We are coming from South Africa 🙂

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    • Hi Jade! Yes, I was enrolled in SFI for about five months and managed to achieve a reasonable language level. However I should mention that I had some basic knowledge before I started and my SFI class was particularly good. People have very varied experiences at different schools, with different teachers etc. It’s worth starting with something like Duolingo (mobile app) as soon as possible to get some of the basics.

      SFI is only for adults but your children will likely have some kind of help in school when it comes to the language barrier. Children also pick up languages much more quickly and easily than adults so it’s probably you and your partner who will struggle more!

      Good luck with your move!

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      • Thank you for your response. We are deciding to wait until the year end as i write my last exams for my degree in November. Instead of flying down again it would be easier to just wait it out as the position is specifically for my husband so its not going anywhere 🙂 If i could just ask, is it necessary to get the driving license there or can a family get by without a car?

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        • Hi Jade,
          In Linköping I imagine it would be an advantage to have a car but I haven’t been there so I can’t really give any concrete advice 🙂 My partner is from a small town in the same region and I know that you more or less need a car there, but public transport may be better in the city. In Uppsala we got by perfectly well without a car for a year or so.
          Sorry not to be able to help more!
          Helen

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