It is something that millions of us might aspire to – the adventure and romance of living abroad. And while for some, it is all of that, with travel to nearby foreign countries, new friends and new languages, there are ways in which living abroad can break your heart – no matter how effortlessly you have managed to fit in to your host country.
Being away means exactly that. So when there are funerals or weddings which take place in your home country and you can’t go, either due to work or financials, it can be a devastatingly lonely event. It might not even be something as traumatic as a death or as joyful as a marriage. It could simply be that one day you are walking down the street and are struck by a memory – an all consuming heart-wrenching knowledge that someone you love very dearly is 3,582 miles away.Read More»
I’m not sure what I expected.
That’s a lie.
I was expecting a metamorphosis – a transition similar to the changing of a butterfly or the Parisian sophistication of Sabrina.
“Come to Sweden and be with me, and I promise you, we will have a beautiful life,” he said.
It is only now, after four years of challenges, that I see the glimmer of that beautiful life. It didn’t happen in one week, as when the butterfly emerges from its chrysalis. Nor did it happen in one year as in Sabrina’s case.Read More»
Happy Memorial Day weekend to all my friends who celebrate.
On a particular day in June of 2014, I celebrated a two year anniversary. Two years of living in Sweden. It seems like forever and it seems like yesterday. It’s been a journey. Much of it extremely challenging. I’ve packed my bags many times. I’ve learned a great deal. I’ve adjusted and compromised. And I’ve stood firm.
There were days of sadness and loneliness to the point of where I thought my heart was breaking. There has also been surprise, contentment, confusion, anger, hope, and finally understanding and peace. A two year anniversary of life in a foreign country is a milestone deserving of reflection. So here we go …
I’m wondering if “two years” is a sort of ingratiation period. A magic leveling-off number, if you will. I think so because things seem much easier now and in speaking with other expats it seems this has been their experience as well.
I sit and write, I try recall a time over the last twenty four months when I have felt like my old self. I can’t recall … unless it’s been only most recently. Even so there have been changes. I am not the same person I was in the United States. I think I’d be safe in saying, it’s hard to feel the joyful and self confident emotions one had in their home country while trying so hard to adjust to a new one. Life in a foreign country alters you. No one ever tells you this because it’s assumed that moving to a new country is so very exciting and glamourous. Well, it is. But it’s a lot of hard work … sort of a deer-in-the-headlights type of mentality which an expat can experience almost on a daily basis.
I’m mostly over that now. Establishing yourself in a new country is a lot like peeling the layers of an onion. First you are enchanted by the newness of the place. Then you start to notice the smaller details. And then the differences. And then the integration. And then more learning about history, everyday life, and the people, places and philosophies which make a country full and rich. I feel myself settling in, recognizing the adjustments, the differences and similarities. I have begun to embrace many Swedish mores and integrate them into my own identity. I also realize the parts of my personality which I will not compromise, and the aspects of my culture and my own personal experiences which I wish to share with others.Read More»
My Swedish Valentine. Tonight, my man and I will be celebrating Valentine’s Day or Alla Hjärtans Dag. We are a multicultural couple; him a Finn born in Sweden, and me born and raised in the U.S. We enjoy embracing the celebration of each others holidays. This makes for a lot of celebrating, but that is just fine by us.
There are already quite a number of holidays celebrated in Sweden, so you wouldn’t think they would need to adopt another one. But that is just what they did. Much like the adoption of Halloween here in Sweden, Valentine’s Day is a relatively new holiday, albeit not an official one.
Alla hjärtans dag began here sometime during the 1960s by florists hoping to promote sales, but it wasn’t until the 80s when the holiday began to be popular. The notion of florists hoping to increase sales is surprising to me because I see flower vendors and floral boutiques on every street corner in Gothenburg. Ladies and gentlemen, often carry bouquets to and from the city and it doesn’t seem to matter if a holiday is involved or not. The purchase of flowers appears to be a beloved cultural past-time in Göteborg. I fully support this!
There are those among us who reject Valentine’s Day believing that is it over commercialized and simply another excuse for holiday spending. Commercialization of the holiday is quite true in the U.S., in fact, you just can’t avoid it there. But here in Sweden the holiday takes on a sweeter and more romantic feel. A quiet evening spent together, flowers, a bit of champagne, or maybe even an evening out for dinner. We are not hit over the head with the holiday … Just a few reminders in store front windows and the occasional newspaper advertisement. But make no mistake, it is a popular holiday indeed.
Of course, every day should be a day of appreciation for those we love. I’m not here to argue the ethics of Valentine’s Day. For me, I adore it. I also appreciate the awareness which the holiday brings to those who might sometimes forget to let their loved ones know how much they are appreciated. But for today, without analysis or complaint, let’s just celebrate Love.
Happy Valentine’s Day Everyone! – Glad alla hjärtans dag allihopa!
And a special shout out to my beloved, Jag älskar dig.