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.


  1. I will write to you in swedish, so you can have a little practice (and I do not have the energy to think and write in english atm) ;)

    Det är väldigt modigt av dig att flytta så långt från alla. Jag flyttade bara från norra Sverige till Norge, men känner att det var märkligt nog.
    Strömstad är en fin stad, älskar att vara där om somrarna. Tycker det bara är kallt där om vintern.
    Har du någonsin vägarna förbi Oslo, säg ifrån så ska jag tipsa om de mest instagramvänliga ställena :)

  2. I moved from Switzerland to India back in 2003, and I still can relate to your post years later. The first year is the most challenging when you are a new expat.
    The best I can describe the experience is by telling people to imagine they are a baby learning everything about the world. It's exciting, fun, and incredibly frustrating at the same time.

    I still remember the time I was craving pasta like mad in my early days in India. It wasn't a common staples yet, and I remember spending a fortune on a pack of macaroni pasta, then I realised I wasn't ready to spend yet another fortune on a jar of imported pasta sauce so I went "local". Back then I had no freaking idea that in India the terms "Tomato sauce" and "Tomato ketchup" are interchangeable and mean the same thing. So I grabbed a bottle labelled "tomato sauce" thinking I was good. I went home, cooked my pasta, rejoicing at the taste of comfort food on a bad day, and happily doused my pasta with warmed up tomato sauce only to nearly gag and puke at the first bite, realising I had doused my very expensive pasta with tomato ketchup!!!!!!!!
    I cried that day, because all I wanted was one single meal that felt comforting and familiar on a bad day and I failed at that.