InterNations Featured Blog
Meg: Something Swedish
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Sweden, etc.
I moved to Sweden 8 months ago, from New York City. I’ve always had a passion for other cultures and places through reading literature from around the world, but I’ve never traveled before. I love to create and inspire via writing and art.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
When I moved to Sweden I felt a little lost and not like myself. I was too busy adjusting and wasn’t doing the things I loved, like writing and reading. My husband recommended that I start writing a blog about being here to feel better. I’ve never really blogged before, and to be honest I wasn’t a fan of it until I started - then I was hooked! It has helped my find my footing in an unknown environment, reconnect with myself, stay connected with people back home, and meet new people. It started a tremendous cycle of wanting to experience more so I can share Sweden with everyone. Aside from getting me back into the habit of writing stories again, blogging has also reignited my love of photography.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
Some blog entries do stick out more than others! Like when I first started adjusting to Swedish life - putting ketchup on my pasta, my first fika (Swedish coffee break), celebrating new holidays, eating and cooking new foods.
I love keeping my blog informative and helpful to people who are new to Sweden or are interested in learning about the day-to-day living, celebrations, history, traditions, and holidays.
- About Swedish Weddings
- Shopping in Swedish Supermarkets
- Celebrating Midsummer
- Delicious Semla
- Saying "Cheers!" in Swedish - "Skål"
Some of my favorites are about the Swedish language, grammar, the funny mistakes that are easy to make, and how important it is to keep trying!
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?
Thankfully, I’ve visited Sweden a handful of times before I moved here, so I knew what I was getting myself into - mostly. When I moved here during the winter many people were worried for me, because the winters are harsh with 6 hours of daylight and freezing temperatures, but I have experienced all of that Swedish weather years before. There are things that I had to adjust to, like remembering to take my shoes off when we visited people’s homes, to always cross at the crosswalk, eating smörgås (Open-faced hard bread sandwiches) for breakfast, taking a number to wait on queue, and of course the language. Sometimes things make me think twice or confuse me, but I’ve never experienced pure culture shock - just a perpetual learning environment!
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 as ready as I could have been. The only thing I could have done differently is saved up more money and studied the language more, which would have opened more doors quicker. No matter how much you prepare and research it is never the same as experiencing, even if that means struggling a little. I would have liked to not get discouraged or overwhelmed, but that is not something that I could have changed, some things are part of moving to a completely different country.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
It took me a few months to realize that it’s not common to kiss your friends on the cheek when you greet them in Sweden. Usually just a light hug with little contact is expected. For a long time I was kissing all my friends and in-laws on the cheek, not noticing it wasn’t reciprocated! I try to restrain myself now and save my kisses for my New York trips.
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Sweden?
- Don’t be shy: Swedes are known for having a hard social shell to crack; it often takes time to become friends with many Swedish people. Start with fika and go from there!
- Just talk: Most know Swedes know English, and many want to practice it; don’t feel like an outsider because you don’t know Swedish. Similarly, do try to learn and use Swedish, it will open up a whole new experience of Sweden and your Swedish friends!
- Explore: Sweden is a huge country with so much rich history and culture! Take advantage of being here and visit different areas, they are all very different.
How is the expat community in Sweden? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
Sweden has a wonderful program called SFI (Swedish for immigrants), where new comers can learn the language for free. I’ve met people from all around the world, and made some good friends. I’ve also met some people through my blog who coincidently live in my neighborhood, and connected with people online via the blog with people who have moved to other parts Sweden.
How would you summarize your expat life in Sweden in a single, catchy sentence?
Moving to Sweden has been an unforgettable experience, filled with culture and traditions that have opened my eyes to a new way of life, and given me the opportunity to meet people I would have never met.