I’ve lived for 3 months in Sweden, and it’s starting to feel like home. Moving to a new country can be intimidating and scary. However, it is also an exciting opportunity to stretch one’s comfort zone, meet new people and develop new perspectives.
Written by Bonnie Thornington
To ensure a smooth transition to a new country, my motto is: Get out, Get Involved, Get Cozy.
When I think back to what my family and I have done over the last 3 months, the people we have met and the places we have seen, I can say that trying to balance new things and keeping a routine at home has been the secret to our steady integration.
We live in Lund in Skåne and there are endless activities and destinations for a fun-filled day trip. Look at the map, pick a place and just go! Don’t have too many expectations and you will be rewarded with some long-lasting memories and amusing stories by the end of the day.
Remember, you don’t need a car; we spent the first 3 months in Sweden using public transportation and biking around. It will actually make you more aware of all the transport links and fantastic bike paths. Plus there is more opportunity to meet more people and strike up a conversation!
Some fun day trips from Lund
- Explore the island of Ven by bike. Just a short ferry ride from Landskrona, you can bring your own bike or rent one on the island. Swim at the beaches, play mini-golf, visit the Tycho Brahe museum, sample whiskey at the Spirit of Hven Backafallsbyn, learn about alpacas at Hven Alpacka, ride the horse-drawn wagon or simply rent a kayak and enjoy discovering the little coves along the coast.
- Step back in time and visit the Foteviken Museum. Stroll through the open-air Viking village where 23 buildings have been reconstructed using materials and techniques of that time. Get up close to a Viking ship and dress up as a Viking soldier preparing to go to battle. The place is a living museum where you encounter animals and community Viking villagers, volunteers who bring the village to life.
- If you’re looking for something wild and majestic, look no further than Kullaberg Nature Reserve. With incredible views, ragged cliffs, and endless hiking paths, there is something for everyone’s tastes. Climb to the top of Kullen Västra Lighthouse, clamber up the rocks or jump into the refreshing sea. Bring a picnic or use one of the many BBQ pits.
- If you’ve ever wanted to ride a bike on a disused railroad track, then dresscykling is a must. It is fantastic for the entire family or with a group of friends. You can take turns pedaling the old inspection trolleys as you take in the scenic views. Bring a picnic or fika as there are many picnic tables along the way. There are several dresscykling routes you can try out in Skåne.
- Learn about sea life and ocean conservation at Naturum Öresund in Malmö. Free to the public, the centre provides a hands-on opportunity to engage in local nature experiences. You can snorkel, explore the shoreline and identify sea animals with the help of enthusiastic staff members. Come with your questions and curiosity, leave as an expert on marine life!
After 3 months in Sweden – get involved!
Swedes have a reputation of being a bit reserved and difficult to get to know. From my experience so far, I feel that they are actually quite warm and open but you have to be the one to initiate.
I’ll be the first to admit it isn’t easy to take the first step, but you never know what doors may open because of it.
Take a deep breath and strike up a conversation with your neighbour. Take a few extra seconds and try your Swedish with the cashier or café waiter. Forget Google Maps, ask someone for directions instead.
For me, being involved in my community is very important to become integrated. But what can you do if you don’t speak Swedish? Lots actually!
- If you want one-on-one-Swedish practice, sign up to Nya Kompisbyrån and get matched with a local volunteer. The aim is to meet up, online or in-person, and get to know one another and practice Swedish. Basically it’s like a matchmaking service for making local friends. I got matched with someone my age who happens to live 3 minutes away and who also has two children! We decide when we meet and what we do based on our interests and availability.
- Choose a hobby or activity that you want to do, and find a class or event in Swedish. For me, I love yoga and need a good stretch at least once per week. I found a local yoga studio that teaches in Swedish. Not only do I come out of a class feeling super relaxed, but I’m also learning the parts of my body and how to count in Swedish!
- What are you passionate about? Find an organization and see if they need volunteers. Volunteering allows you to understand the local culture a bit more, plus you get to meet some locals who are also passionate about the same cause and who will likely become your new friends.
I didn’t think the process and manner of how Swedes work was very different to what I was used to but since I started volunteering, I’m beginning to see little nuances on how they think, how meetings are conducted, and how decisions are made.
- Involve the whole family. Everyone needs to feel like they have something to belong and look forward to.
Besides several extra-curricular activities, we put our children into the local Scouts group because we liked the philosophy of the Scout movement but we also wanted them to be immersed in Swedish with local neighbourhood children. We know it will take a while for them to feel completely comfortable in a new environment in a foreign language, but so far the fun activities and outings are keeping their interest and enthusiasm high.
Feeling integrated and comfortable in a new country means making the place you live in now a home.
What makes a home warm and inviting to you? What aspects about your home screams comfort and relaxation? It could be a pair of slippers, a favourite coffee mug, or just some scented bath salts.
Get busy cozy-ing your house/flat and you will start to feel that this is the home you have always wanted and that this new country is the one that was intended for you.
One thing I have embraced here is the collection of house plants that are now proudly displayed on every window sill. It makes me happy and calm to see healthy, thriving plants every direction I turn.
Recently, I bought a small bottle of Canadian maple syrup at our local ICA. Even though the cost caused me to have a mini heart attack, the moment I had a bite of fluffy pancakes drenched in the syrup, it was all worth it.
It’s only small things. But the small things make up the big picture.
Home means different things to different people. It can mean the place where you were born. It may be the place where you grew up. It may be where you have citizenship.
For me, home is where I am today with my family. Home is what you make of it, and the more you put into exploring your new surroundings, making new connections and creating a cozy abode, the more it will become the home that you have always dreamed of.
Bring on the next 3 months in Sweden – and more!
About the author
Hej! My name is Bonnie and I’m a Chinese-Canadian who has lived/visited over 60 countries, most recently travelling with my family on our 42-foot sailboat for the past year from Canada down to the Bahamas. I love music, yoga, swimming in oceans and lakes and will try anything at least once. I am excited to be moving to Lund and look forward to immersing myself in Swedish culture – especially fika and lagom! Hope you enjoy my posts as I recount my experiences of relocating and settling into Swedish life during a pandemic!