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»
Home is where the heart is? “When I was back home …” Back home. “I need to go home for a visit.” These are terms which expats use all the time. Even while setting up a new home in a new country, we are strongly attached to the place of our origin.
“Where is your home?” he asks me with a look of such sadness it would break your heart. I know what he wants me to say.
Despite the amount of despair conversations such as these cause my fiancé, I just can’t – yet – seem to come to terms with exactly where my home is. Where is it that I feel most comfortable – and especially now that I’ve lived in Sweden for over two years – would my US home still feel like home? Am I a woman without a home? A woman with two homes?Read More»
Scandinavians are well known for their excellent design sensibilities and their more-than-awesome Nordic history. They are pretty talented at devising ways to keep the dark at bay as well. As we approach the winter season, here in Gothenburg our skies are cloud covered. It’s been raining for a week and most likely it isn’t going to stop anytime soon – November is, without a doubt, the most dismal month of the year. Soon it will be upon us.
Taking a clue from the Swedes, I learned to not only deal with the darkness and the rain, but I’ve come to embrace it. I thought I’d share a few tips that helped me chase away the winter blues – Scandinavian style.
- Get some Vitamin D: You can’t rely on getting enough Vitamin D when you only have five precious hours of daylight a day. Invest in a good Vitamin D supplement. While you’re at it, some omega-3 wouldn’t hurt either. This stuff saved my life.
- Candle light: Create a romantic atmosphere … even if it’s just for yourself. Fire light is a natural source of lighting. Its flame not only enhances your state of mind but will keep you company on many a long winter night. Even better – scented candles. There’s a reason candles are so popular in Sweden. I use them everyday.
- Decorate your place: Adding some color around your home or apartment will greatly lift your mood. Flower sellers are abundant in Gothenburg and bringing home a bouquet has always brightened my spirits. Additionally, adding some colorful objects to a coffee table or bookshelf gives your eye a new place to rest. Blankets in green, yellow, or orange will provide double duty not only keeping you warm and cozy, but they also add a splash of color to your home. If you’re feeling really motivated, try painting a room in a new shade or reorganizing some space.
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»