Jamie: Expat Tales From Stockholm
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Stockholm, etc.
Hello! My name is Jamie and I grew up just north of Boston in the city of Haverhill, MA. I graduated from the University of Massachusetts with a bachelors in political science in 2012 and the next year, my husband completed a PhD. Things were pretty open-ended for us, so when he was applying for jobs over the 2012/2013 winter, I suggested he do so anywhere and everywhere. One of those applications was sent to Stockholm, Sweden. I thought it was a huge long shot, but told him to go for it anyhow – I’d always loved Sweden and respected their politics, so why not? In February of 2013, we flew to Stockholm for his interview. Two weeks later, he got an offer that expired within a week. With much stress and after very fast deliberations, we decided to go for it! And so, three months later, we packed up and moved to Stockholm, arriving on May 27, 2013.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
I’d always wanted to write a decent blog, but previously felt my life was too boring and would lose inspiration quickly. After moving here, I had some renewed interest, but was still unsure. Then, at a gathering with some other expats, after talking with one of the partygoers who’d been in Sweden the longest, he was very adamant that I write it all down. He said he’d give anything to have a written record of his early years and that if I was thinking about it at all, I really should just go for it. So, here I am!
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
I love a whole bunch of different ones for all different reasons. I’d say that I really love the ‘Moving Abroad 101’ post, where I’ve put together a list of all the knowledge I’ve gained from our move to Sweden most of all because it seems the most helpful.
I also really love the ‘From Estonia: Kadriorg & Lauluväljak’ post, because it features some really hilarious pictures of three of my favorite friends and was from a particularly great day.
Tell us about the ways your new life in Stockholm differs from that back home. Did you have trouble getting used to the new circumstances? Did you experience culture shock?
The first days were, of course, pretty overwhelming. I’d traveled a bunch in Europe previously though, so it wasn’t a huge shock. I think the most frustrating aspect early on was grocery shopping. It was pretty hard not being able to recognize brands and foods at a glance. Having to use my phone to translate the words on each item, hoping I was looking at what I wanted, was difficult. At this point though, I have a really good working vocabulary for daily activities and actually enjoy grocery shopping to see what kinds of new things I can find. I love using Swedish ingredients and things to whip up whatever kind of meal I can dream up for my husband and I. Surprising even to myself, I’ve especially enjoyed that we cook at home a lot more here than in Boston because eating out in Stockholm is way overpriced. Overall though, I’d say there’s been very minimal culture shock. Sure, Swedes are strange sometimes and I don’t understand their choices, but at the same time, I definitely had those same feelings in the US, so it’s hardly unique to Sweden.
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Stockholm? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
Yes, I would say we were pretty prepared. For things I’d change, we wouldn’t have used the pet moving company we did – petrelocation.com. They were horrendous on so many levels. It was stupid of me to doubt that I could have done it all myself, and so we totally overpaid. If we move internationally again, I will certainly go a different route on that one, as it’s really my only regret from the move.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
I’d say that some of our funniest experiences have come from misreading Swedish words. My husband accidentally bought and poured some type of cured fish milk into his coffee one day, thinking it was cream. That was unfortunate, but hilarious (at least for me). On my end, while I was embarrassed at the time, I can now laugh at how, while in a post office, I accidentally tossed out my handful of trash into a mailbox, not a paper-recycling bin, as I thought it was.
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Stockholm?
- Prepare to stop eating out
- Prepare to have to be on constant alert and guard your belongings. Pickpocketing is a MAJOR issue in Stockholm and I’ve been directly involved with it twice already in three months.
- Prepare to be somewhat frustrated at the complete lack of decent customer service in almost every aspect of business, both in the public and private sectors.
How is the expat community in Stockholm? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
I think it’s pretty good. It certainly seems very large, though I haven’t participated much in it as of yet. My best friend here is an Austrian who I was introduced to by another friend, and we’re basically the same with regards to our love of TV, Mexican food, and a bunch of other things. However, it does seem that making friends with the locals is a bit difficult, so like me, others will probably have more international friends than anything else.
How would you summarize your expat life in Stockholm in a single, catchy sentence?
Expat life in Stockholm is fun, chilly, convenient, and exciting.