Monday, February 23, 2009

Four years. Oy.

So Friday marked the four-year anniversary of my life here in Sweden. 


That's a toddler. An Olympic cycle, a presidential term. That's high school, or a college education. And most disturbing, that's as long as I lived in New York City after college. Technically, I'm more of a Stockholmer than I am a New Yorker. 

Completely coincidentally (and randomly), I'm going to be giving a presentation this week for a relocation company to American clients about the challenges of moving to Sweden. So, naturally, I've been thinking a lot about my experience here. When I moved here, I didn't have a clue what to expect. 

Like, not even a mental picture of what it would look like. 

At the airport, the passport control guy kept flipping through my passport, wondering when I had previously visited. After all, I did have a residency visa. "Never!" I cheerfully replied. "Hope I like it!"

I didn't know anyone in Sweden except Jan and his family, I didn't speak Swedish, and I didn't know where to begin creating a life. I had just quit my supersocial job as an editor, I had left my supersocial life in New York City, and I was now working for myself at home, in a country known (I now realize) for its lack of sociability. 

The change was a shock, to say the least. In many ways, Stockholm does seem a lot like New York, and it's easy to believe that my transition should have been an easy one. But Stockholm is really, really not like New York--in good ways and in bad. The differences are often hard to identify, and they're just as hard to articulate after you've absorbed them. 

In another weird coincidence, this week also marks the end of my time at the ÖÖS studio space I've been renting for more than two years. 

Jan and his dad helped me move my stuff back to our apartment yesterday, where I'll be working now that we have a spare room. So it's hard not to feel that today I'm back to where I was four years ago: sitting in my apartment, looking out the window at a courtyard, thinking about my life as I work. 

But it doesn't take long to realize that I'm in a completely different place today.

This journey hasn't been an easy one, that's for sure. (Here's a vital tip: never think about where you've ended up in life on an empty stomach.) And I'm definitely not done with the trip. But at least now I can understand the world around me and navigate it, and I have more of the tools I need for building a life and enjoying it. It's gratifying to know that I can pass on some of the wisdom I've earned the hard way, wisdom that I wish I had four years ago. 

And as much as I don't always feel like one, I am a Swede now.


  1. It's selfish, I suppose, but I can't imagine what my life would be like if you hadn't moved here - you've become such an important element in my existence. Every moment is enjoyable when we're hanging out, you and me. You've become the dearest of friends, you have.

  2. *reddens*
    Awww, shucks!
    Right back atcha, Fran.