This summer I packed my bags and moved to Sweden. The country that gave us Swedish House Mafia and Ikea. Aside from catchy dance songs and providing decent furniture for college students everywhere, Sweden is also homeland to my boyfriend, Robin.
Making the decision to move wasn’t a very difficult one. If I wanted my relationship to continue, I had to take the chance. When I tell people I moved for love, people either assume I’m a stage-five clinger or I’m engaged. The answer is no, I’m not engaged.
Robin and I have faced a whole new set of challenges now that I’m living abroad. Sometimes, I feel like a helpless child. And if you’ve ever overheard me attempting to speak Swedish, you would assume I am one. In order to create a life abroad, you have to get out of your comfort zone. If you don’t trust me, trust Albert Einstein: “The only source of knowledge is experience.”
Here are 5 challenges you’ll eventually overcome when living abroad:
1. Language barriers.
Everyone in Sweden can speak English, so you could probably live here without learning Swedish. But, in order to immerse yourself in the community with a stable job, you’ll need to be somewhat fluent. Sign up for some classes and study for at least an hour on a daily basis. It’ll be a painful journey but I think we can all agree people who are bilingual are worldly AF.
2. I’m not proud of this, but I will basically eat anything.
So it’s no surprise I’ve had some questionable meals here in Sweden. For example, a liverwurst and cucumber sandwich. Yes it is exactly what it sounds like. Liverwurst is a commonly used spread containing pig or calve liver.
3. Work culture.
It’s Sunday morning, I’m hungover and want to get some food. Here in Örebro, most shops close at noon on Sundays. For your typical hungover American, this is fucking tragic. Am I really expected to complete all my shopping during the week? Who has time for that? Let this be known that in Sweden, business hours are from 7am-4pm and most stores will close earlier during the weekends.
4. Seasonal change.
I may be over exaggerating, but Sweden’s weather shifts drastically. June, July and August are a Swedes favourite time of year because its the one time a year you can wear shorts and tank tops. Plus everyone is constantly drinking rosé to celebrate the short embrace of sunshine.
5. Shift in perspective.
Sweden is about the same size as California, however, instead of 39 million residents there are about 9.6 million. 97% of Sweden is uninhabited. This is a country that consciously makes an effort to preserve nature. I used to consider myself, “outdoorsy” because I owned a Patagonia jacket but that is nothing compared to your average Swede.
It’ll take time to get out of your comfort zone. The first month I moved here, I seriously asked myself, “Wtf is happening?” on a daily basis. But the more you get out there, the more you’ll learn.
Good luck out there!
Photos: Rebekah Black
What are some of YOUR challenges living abroad? Share with us in the comments.