Written by Sara Costa
Could this be the beginning of a new era? Five years have passed since I first landed in Sweden with all my belongings. A mix of excitement and nervous energy filled my body and a million questions filled my brain.
I loved Sweden already then, but would I fit in? What mistakes was I going to make? Would I find a job? Would I make friends? Would I become an Oldbie? These and many other questions have certainly crossed your mind when moving to Sweden (or any other country).
(By the way, the answer was yes to all questions above and although mistakes were made, I survived and learned from all of them!)
Five years later, I find myself in some kind of limbo state. I’m not a Newbie anymore, but I’m not quite an Oldbie yet either. I have now embraced most Swedish habits, but I still get surprised and find new quirks of this lovely society now and then.
During my time in Sweden, a lot has changed and I have indeed become Swedishized. I also wrote about Sweden’s side effects here. That’s not so surprising as human beings tend to evolve and adapt to new environments, but I did get surprised by some of the changes. The best part is that most of the changes have actually happened effortlessly. Are you curious? Below are some of the changes I went through. There are also some buts that show that I still have some more path to go.
My daily routines have changed and things like leaving the shoes at the entrance, eating early dinners and making my own repairs at home became a habit.
New eating habits
Fika breaks are certainly a part of life for many foreigners in Sweden. It’s an easy habit to adopt, it’s social and we get to eat delicious Swedish pastries or cakes. I’m no exception, but apart from the regular fika breaks at work (only virtual nowadays), I noticed that I bake bread, cakes and buns much more often than before I moved here.
Another new habit is eating a vegetarian-based diet. This is quite a natural step when surrounded by delicious vegan and vegetarian options in cafes and restaurants. To take the next step and start cooking vegetarian food at home was also trouble-free. Swedish food magazines and websites are full of creative plant-based recipes and nowadays I have my own favourite recipes, like no-meat-hazelnut-balls and pulled-oumph wraps (recipe here).
I am proud to announce that I became a nature freak! The Swedes unmeasurable respect and love for nature is well-known to everyone living in Sweden. When I moved here I thought I too loved nature, but soon I realised that going for a run in the large path around the lake was only the beginners level of a nature freak.
I slowly started exploring the small trails, to listen to the sounds of the forest instead of podcasts and taking in the smell of the trees. I can spend a whole day walking around, exploring new trails, and enjoying a warm cup of tea by a different stream every time. However, I haven’t yet reached the next level of nature freakiness, which for me is to get a tent and sleep literally in the middle of nowhere. Maybe in the future?
New “not as cold” feeling
Winter was not a new concept for me when I moved here, but I can’t really say that I enjoyed it either. Winter was that part of the year where I avoided being outdoors as much as possible. Fortunately, a lot has changed and nowadays I’m able to enjoy the snow, embrace the cold and spend time outside in all seasons. Part of the change happened because my body adapted and I don’t feel the cold as much. Ice, however, is still not my friend and I look like Bambi walking on icy roads. That must be the next level.
This includes Swedish friends, which was not as impossible as I heard when I first arrived. Swedes can be quiet, private and reserved but they are also very nice people.
I learned Swedish first in school and then in real life. Both played an important roll in my adaptation to Sweden! The first gives you good bases while the second trains your brain into thinking faster and more fluently in Swedish. Be sure as well that your Swedish journey will never end… After five years I can discuss almost anything in Swedish but I still struggle with some words and sounds sometimes.
I’m a Swedish citizen, yay! I know a lot of you are waiting for a decision on this, but hang in there, it will come! I had told myself that I would only apply for Swedish citizenship when I felt at least partly Swedish. It didn’t take as long as I thought and I do feel my heart is now half blue and yellow.
All in all, adapting to Sweden and becoming an Oldbie has been relatively easy for me. This easiness comes partly because I naturally fit in (sometimes I joke that I was Swedish in another life 🙂 ). I am aware though that not everyone goes through the process as easily. The adaptation process does take some effort, especially in the beginning, but everything will eventually become more natural, especially if you are planning on staying in Sweden.
BUT please don’t get me wrong, by no means am I saying that you should change who you are (unless you want to)! As I said, most of the changes that happened to me were natural. I’m still the same old Sara, but now I take off my shoes when I come indoors and I don’t panic in the winter.
Every journey is unique and I wish each and every one of you a nice Swedish journey, short or long, and especially in the darkest moments!
About the Author
Hej! I’m a Portuguese Newbie in Sweden. I have also lived in Brazil, Poland and the Czech Republic. It’s been fun to be a foreigner in so many different countries and I enjoy learning about other cultures. I’m a fan of sports, some to watch and some to practise, my favourite being running. I also love food, reading and blogging. I hope you enjoy my posts!