Barbara is from Italy and has been in Sweden since April 2016. Her favourite Swedish words are “passa på” (sort of like carpe diem in latin) and of course “lagom”. When we asked what brought her to Sweden, we were happy to hear that it was in fact – friendship and love.
During my university studies in Italy, I met two Swedish girls who studied psychology with me. They became my roommates and one of them, Sara, became my best friend. I learnt a lot about Sweden from them, but I didn’t quite understand couldn’t quite figure such a different life style and society until I came to Linköping to visit Sara´s family. It was February 2011 and it was freezing cold but I fell in love with everything. I felt at home. Long story short: during that trip, Sara introduced me to her friends, and one of them, Erik, became my partner and after I finished my studies in Italy – I moved here.
What did you find the hardest with Sweden?
I’ve lived here over a year and the toughest thing was definitely the darkness. I have probably experienced seasonal depression since it was so hard for me to get out of bed for two months (from November to January) and I got really moody and upset when I couldn’t see the sun for days or we just had light for 6 hours a day. I think it hit me hard because I didn’t have a job, even if I went to SFI (Svenska För Invandrare) every day from 1 PM to 4 PM, it has been hard to find the motivation and a purpose to get out and take advantage of the few hours of light the winter had to offer.
I think I was very lucky because I had been here many times before I moved, so I already knew many people, but even though I have friends I feel like meeting them is not that easy or spontaneous. Most of them work full-time and in the evening they want to take it slow. In Italy is pretty common to take a drink (aperitivo) after work, so it’s a bit easier to socialize and get to meet people often, even if it’s for a quick coffee!
What do you like the most about Sweden?
It’s hard to pick only one thing. I obviously worship the welfare and how tolerant and polite Swedes are. I absolutely love Swedish summer and the Midsommar celebration. Also, Swedish nature is so breathtaking that it actually makes me consider the idea of living på landet for the first time in my life. But the thing I like the most is how peaceful and calm Sweden makes me feel.
What do you find strange about Swedes?
I don’t really like the word “strange”but it fascinates me how Swedes are kind of introverted but at the same time they seem quite confident when it comes to nudity! Also, it might seem a contradiction that they exchange hugs when they greet each other, but they feel really uncomfortable if you kiss them on the cheek as we do in Italy! Also in my experience Swedes do not like drama, they avoid conflicts and they try to be as chill and cool as they can. I like it. Coming from a place like Italy where problems are a big part of your daily life, being in contact with people that don’t want troubles is a relief!
What do you miss from Italy?
I miss small things like having breakfast at the bar with a good espresso and a freshly made cream croissant for 2,50€. I miss the sea from my island (Sardinia) and of course I miss my friends and my family, even if we keep contacts and I feel they are still a big part of my life.
What do you find odd about Swedish culture?
I think it’s a pity that many Swedes need help (alcohol) to let themselves go and have fun in social situations. I’ve also noticed that it’s difficult to be a non-drinker among Swedes! On a daily basis I find it unusual that napkins and tablecloths aren’t a ‘must’ and in the beginning I felt that it was strange not to wear shoes inside… Now it would feel weird to keep them on!
Is there anyone you want to mention that helped making you feel at home here?
There are so many people I’m thankful to! First of all my boyfriend’s family, who has always been there for me, and of course, all of my wonderful friends who have shared with me their lives, experiences and laughs!
Why did you and your partner decided on settling in Sweden?
Living in Italy or somewhere else was never an option, because Sweden seemed like the best choice to us. It is a place where both of us feel like home and want to live in.
What is difficult and positive in a culturally mixed relationship?
Every couple has problems and I have often wondered which problems in our particular relationship are attributable to cultural differences – and I still haven’t figured it out! I guess not speaking the same language could lead to a loss of communication and to difficulties on expressing our needs and desires.
What typically Swedish trait do you find strange in your partner?
A small example: he doesn’t care about food as much as we Italians do, so I felt really bad when it happened that he didn’t wait for me so we could have dinner together!