InterNations Featured Blog
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Sweden, etc.
My name is Elizabeth, known as Liz, to everyone except my parents. I’m an American, married to an amazing Swedish woman, living in Sweden since 2010. We’ve got a cat, named Zola, who will climb up in your lap as soon as she meets you and your heart will most definitely melt. The three of us live in a cozy downtown apartment on the east coast - about 2 hours from Stockholm. I am from the east coast of the USA – North Carolina, and made the move to Sweden almost 2 years ago. Why? Well, to begin with, it has been a dream of mine to live in Europe; but also, in 2010 when I moved, it was more practical to live in Sweden since my marriage to my wife is recognized here and not in the United States. So, the move was inspired by my head and my heart.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
I started blogging off and on in 2008, when I made the decision to make major changes in my life, but that’s a whole other story that I have just begin recording and posting on my blog, in the hopes of publishing a memoir one day. You can read that story if you click on the “from death to peace” link at the top of my blog.
My wife and I blogged together for a little while after I moved to Sweden, but then I felt I needed a place of my own. So, I started this blog in April 2011 in order to record all of the changes, experiences, feelings, and images that were part of my life now that I was living as an ex-pat. It has been a way of communicating to family & friends back in the US, and has grown into a way to connect with people around the world as well…. fellow ex-pats, fellow lesbians, fellow writers, fellow adventurers, fellow peace-seekers. Writing my blog, sharing my life, has been such a humbling and wonderful experience filling me with inspiration and pushing me to follow my dream of becoming a full-time writer.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours? Please add the URL as well.
Here’s a little slice of my life, my love, & my travels:
- In the beginning.
- I got a job!!
- Christmas – Swedish style
- Everyday life with my love.
- Be you.
- The beauty of a woman.
- Just because I live in Sweden, doesn’t mean that I have lost touch with what’s happening in the US. Perhaps I’ve become more involved since I’ve been here.
- Major steps!
- There’s nothing like going home.
- Traveling is easier from Europe!
Tell us about the ways your new life in Sweden differs from that back home. Did you have trouble getting used to the new circumstances? Did you experience culture shock?
Life in Sweden is very different and not so different from life in the US. The things that I find that I love about living here also have become reminders of things that I miss in the US. For example, I have the joy of walking everywhere now, or using public transportation. I love accessing the city and the country on foot, on my bike, on a bus, or on a train. It is a completely different way of living for me, the little American who was so dependent on her little car to get her everywhere. At the same time, I miss having the freedom and spontaneity that comes with having a car. I cannot access the woods or the ocean as quickly as I want now that I am here in Sweden. Everything requires much more planning. And, again, on the other side, I love the simplicity of life in Sweden. Things seem less complicated. But, sometimes I ache for the convenience of the US. See what I mean? It’s always double feelings.
I had visited Sweden many, many times before I moved here, so there was not so much culture shock… only the pressure of learning the language and all the nuances that go with speaking in Swedish. For a while, I felt as if I lost my identity… I couldn’t communicate my personality when I spoke because I was speaking like a 3 year old. However, immersing myself in society, through an internship and a job, helped me tackle that barrier.
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Sweden? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
I think I was quite prepared, as prepared as I could have been… and I have had so much support from my wife, her family, and our friends. I’m not sure that there is anything that would have made it easier. Moving to another country is all about jumping in, taking a risk, being vulnerable, and being open to experiences and feelings for which you could never imagine or prepare. The best preparation is to be aware that you are stepping out into the unknown and ready to learn how to live life in the moment.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Sweden?
- Your personnummer (personal number/social security number) is your key to life. Without it, you cannot do anything. Be prepared to wait a little bit when you first move here to get your number & to be officially a resident of Sweden. It’s frustrating, but so worth it!
- Swedes are highly individualistic, (kind of) closed people. They don’t chit chat so much. Strangers remain strangers. The bus, standing in a line, walking down the street… all of these things are very lonely activities if you are used to making small talk and chatting it up with the person standing beside you. However, don’t give up! Once you get to know some Swedes, you’ll see that they have a great sense of humor, laugh a lot, and are all about enjoying life.
- Fika, fika, fika! Not only is the tradition of fika a staple in everyday life in Sweden, but it is the heart of society in some ways, I believe. Fika is a noun & a verb. It is to have coffee with someone, whether you meet a friend at a coffeeshop, invite family members to your home, or sit together with co-workers. It is a daily social occurrence, usually multiple times a day filled with conversation, coffee, and sweets (cake, cookies, buns, etc.). I love this aspect of Swedish life… it’s all about enjoying time together.
- One more extra tip - mix traditions! Since our home is half Swedish, half American, we have decided to incorporate traditions from both countries throughout the year. It’s so important to bring a sense of “home” into your new life & your new situation. Just because you live in a new country does not mean you have to forget where you came from. Yes, it’s important to soak up the new culture, but why not add some traditions as well? My wife & I celebrate Thanksgiving in Sweden. I prepare a traditional Thanksgiving dinner and invite our Swedish family… they love it! We’ve done it 2 years now, and I know that there are people looking forward to it next year. We also celebrate Christmas on Christmas Eve (the Swedish way) and on Christmas Day (the American way). It’s so easy to feel sad and homesick on certain days, so it important to bring a sense of your self, your traditions, your life into your new one. It’s a great balance!
How is the expat community in Sweden? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
To be honest, I have not really gotten in contact with people through the internet. In my city I have happened to meet some fellow American ex-pats. Every now and then we meet for lunch, fika, or work together on some activity. However, I meet them all separately, they do not know each other. There is an American-Swedish group that I have just connected with through Facebook, but I have not met any of them yet. I look forward to that!
I have a hard time finding ex-pats, but once I do, it’s been such a great experience!
How would you summarize your expat life in Sweden in a single, catchy sentence?
The life, love, and travels of an ever-wandering American nomad following her bliss as an ex-pat in Sweden.