Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Adjusting to Sweden

Most would probably agree that moving to another country is a pretty bold move. It's scary, and definitely not easy. I happened to move to a country where most people speak English, so I'm lucky in that regard, but it's still challenging for many reasons.

I've noticed that whenever a Swedish person recognises that I'm American, they immediately start speaking to me in English. Max claims that people here LOVE to exercise their English and that they find it fun to challenge themselves, and that makes sense. And also that just talking in english is easier for both of us, but I find it to be frustrating. I took two months of private Swedish lessons so that I would have a basic understanding of the language before settling in, and I definitely succeeded at that. But it makes things hard when I'm constantly being spoken to in English. So, I've been making more of an effort to let people know (such as cashiers at the grocery store and baristas at the cafes) that I would like to carry on a full conversation in Swedish since that is pretty much the only way I can ever learn, and it's been working. I'm proud of myself for at least being able to order coffee and a pastry and even pay for it without speaking a word of English! Ha. I am actually thinking of taking Rosetta Stone though - the more learning the better, I think. Has anyone reading this taken it? If so, what did you think?

Understanding food labels is something I'm having to get used to. There are many grocery items here that are not pre-made the way they are in the US, such as a chicken stock/broth. I recently made dinner for me and Max, buying two containers of chicken stock concentrate thinking it was the same as regular stock/broth, and boy was I wrong. It was totally inedible. So salty I thought I was going to pass out. It was definitely a good lesson to learn and one I know I won't screw up again because of how disappointed I was when I failed at it, but still. Things like that are harder to adapt to.

Being on a different time zone as everyone I know. Sweden is nine hours ahead of Los Angeles which means that by the time I wake up, my friends and family are all fast asleep. That can make things pretty lonely. Max works every day, and I'm still waiting to receive some important paperwork making it possible for me to be able to get paid, so I'm kind of on my own during the day, finding things to do. By the time everyone wakes up in LA, that's when Max gets home from work and it's time for us to spend our quality time together, which makes it harder for me to catch up with people back in LA. I don't like being on the phone when we're watching tv or eating dinner, but that's pretty much when people are trying to talk to me. I've been trying to find a balance for this but I'm not quite sure what it is yet.

Sticking out/finding my place. When I walk into a room, everyone stares at me. I know that it's because I wear bright colours which no one else really does here. I'm also pretty sure that since this is such a small town, most people probably wonder who I am since I am the new kid in town. It's been fun painting Strömstad pink (and every other colour of the rainbow) with my crazy colour palette, but I want more than that. I want to actually make a change here somehow, and I'm not sure how yet. This town is very traditional in regards to the colours of the houses and the culture, but I am going to do whatever I can to bring more tourism here because this is an amazing little place that deserves more credit besides from Norwegians who pour in every summer to take a spin in their boats. My ultimate dream (besides traveling and starting a family) is to work for the tourism board.  I want to bring in food trucks in the summertime, a boutique hip hotel (or maybe just re-construction of one in town that could use a good, modern face lift), colourful murals, pop up shops, and so much more. I'm not sure how that will all turn out, but I'm positive that something will happen. Only time will tell.

Social media. Ever since moving here, I've been feeling extremely inspired by everything around me. But there are also challenges that come with it. If you look at my Instagram, you will see a feed exploding with colour. I believe I was one of the first people to really showcase a world of colour before many other accounts came along, and somewhere along the way, my Instagram took a backseat and I was no longer moving at the speed as I once was. I was, instead, busy dealing with a deteriorating relationship, I was unhappy with my job choices, and during that time, the Instagram world blossomed with new accounts sharing similar aesthetics and I felt like I no longer stood out. I think it's amazing that I'm part of a community that really embraces being different and unique and I feel lucky to be a part of it, but I feel like it has become totally oversaturated (how many rainbow hued outfits in front of bright walls in LA do we really need?), so in that sense, I am very happy to have taken myself out of the equation. At the same time, it's been really hard bringing my aesthetic to this new place. There are no bright walls here, no pop up ice cream shops with artisanal ingredients, or trips to Disneyland with my dreamygirlgang to get that perfect shot with Minnie Mouse. The craft stores here don't offer many options for crafting supplies, and it's very expensive to ship things here. In fact, Amazon doesn't ship that much to Sweden at all. However, I'm making do, and I am feeling that, for once, I am truly proud of the work I'm producing. My go-to props and locations are no longer an option for me, so I'm sort of being forced to step backwards and just.. blog.. like I used to back in the old days. And I like the way it feels.


If you've moved overseas, what have been some of your experiences? How did you feel the first month? If you've been thinking of moving to another country, what's been stopping you from it? I'd love to know.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Happy Valentine's Day! (Alla Hjärtans Dag)

Wearing my new favourite dress from Unique Vintage
Heart bag from Monki

Life is so unpredictable. I never thought I'd be sitting at a cafe in Sweden writing a blog post about how I conquered getting through a year of being long distance from my boyfriend and that we are living together here now. We've gone through a lot to get to where we are. Going through the process of obtaining a residence permit to even be allowed to live here legally was a triumph in itself. I was told when starting the process that it could take up to a year and a half before I'd find out whether or not I could move here, and that was really, really hard. I hated not knowing when I'd get answers, and the uncertainty of it all made me feel uneasy all the time. I'm a natural worry wart, so that didn't help but Max stayed extremely positive which was a great balance for me. 

Every time I saw an e-mail from the Migration Agency (e-mail was how they kept in touch with us usually), my heart would beat a thousand miles an hour. Any little piece of news we would get, or not get, would almost drive our whole day. I had a feeling very early on that we would get our decision very quickly, though. I wasn't sure why but it was just a gut feeling. I think part of it had to do with luck; we were placed with a very efficient case officer who handled our case in a timely manner. I had heard horror stories of couples who were placed with handlers who were never even in their offices. But I also have a gift for being really good at being persistent, so I often checked in to see how things were going, and since our case was pretty easy and straight forward, they pushed us forward and we managed to get the permit exactly 5 months from the day that we applied for it. I cried very hard that day (happy tears of course!)

It really does take a special person to be able to handle long distance the way we did. I thought I'd take a moment to share what we did to strengthen and keep our relationship alive during those rough times. I do actually feel lucky that we never had to go TOO long apart (3 months at the most) but it was still rough.

This is basically how often we saw each other since meeting:

Even though we matched on Tinder in January, we didn't meet until...
Max: Visited me from March 29-April 9
Me: I visited Max between May 22-June 7
We applied for my residence permit on June 9th
Max: Visited me between August 30-September 13
Me: Visited Max between October 4-October 18
Went on my interview at the Swedish Consulate on October 25th
The decision was made on November 9!
Me: Visited Max between December 23-January 9
MOVED to Sweden on January 25th!

And this was what we did to combat the distance:

This should be an obvious one, but thank god for technology. We tried to FaceTime at least once a day. Sometimes I'd show him what I got in the mail, or he would show me the weather outside his office if it was still daytime for him. Not all of our Facetime conversations were that exciting and most of the time he would get too sleepy to keep talking because it would be so late his time, but it really did help to keep us connected.


Max once suggested that we sync movies and tv shows at the same time so that it could be almost like we were in person watching the same thing together, and it was a great idea. I think we watched the entire Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series on Netflix while being 5,000 miles apart! Haha. I do believe there'a a program to sync them so that you can also chat at the same time, but we did it the old fashioned way. One of us would count down and then we'd press Start at the same time, and it worked!

These are pretty obvious, but we said good morning and good night every single day. I would always wake up to a bunch of snaps from him that he sent throughout his day so that I could see what he had been up to while I was asleep. Then we'd talk throughout the day until it was time for him to go to bed. I would send him snaps while he was asleep, and he would get to wake up to those the next morning. Trust me, sometimes I just did not feel like snapping. I actually don't really use snapchat. But I found that this was very effective for us because it didn't take very long and it was easy to keep up with. I always loved sending him weird snapchats with funny filters and then waiting until he would wake up to laugh at them.

We always made sure to check in with each other about how we were feeling. We had days here and there where we would feel sad, and we would talk about it. We had days where we would just spend the whole conversation talking about our future plans and planning a future trip that we would take. I wouldn't say it's bad to have a Countdown Calendar. Some might say that it's a bad idea to have one because it will make time feel slower, but Max had one on his computer and it was cute. I always loved whenever we'd just be a few weeks out from seeing each other. Every day after that just felt slowwww and annoying, but every day that passed, we were just one day closer to being together again.

Since this will be our first Valentine's Day together in person, we have planned a fun night which includes champagne, tacos (our favourite meal), eating princess cake, and watching movies. If you're celebrating, what are your plans? I'd love to know! And if you're going through a long distance, what do you do to help with the distance?