I’m not sure what I actually expected when I moved over. Snowy mountain tops with freezy temperatures? People walking around in fur? Constantly surrounded by pale tall blondes? Sweden was universally known for being really, really cold in the states. That’s pretty much all I got from people when I told them I was moving over to Stockholm: “Hope you packed your igloo wear!” Needless to say I was prepared for a dreary and cold place and that’s exactly what I came into, at first…
I moved to Stockholm with my boyfriend in a windy blizzard. It was the beginning of February and we decided we would take the economical option of public transportation. We dragged 4 suitcases and 2 bags of our lives (mostly mine) through many inches of snow. I could hardly do it, so he did most of the work of course. We gave in at the end – got off the train and called a taxi. At that point I was thinking “what the hell have I got myself into?!” We had about two more months of dreadful winter. People said this is one of longest winters Stockholm has seen in a while. How cute, I thought. Longest and whitest winter in years the exact same time we decide to move over.
Things got better even in the cold and snow. The city was actually really beautiful with buildings and streets covered in this white blanket. Although my shoes were still cursing the wintry mix, my outlook on things started to change. There was something really serene about the atmosphere. Wrapping up and walking through this winter wonderland and then heading into all these gorgeous coffee shops that were lined everywhere was an unexpected romantic pastime. And speaking of coffee… one of Stockholm’s best attributes! I’ve officially been deprived for the last 8 years of coffee drinking in New York. Stockholm’s coffee has spoiled me rotten over the past 6 months. People laughed in the beginning when I tried to stick up for NY when they said our coffee was weak (big mistake to put down NY to a New Yorker). I didn’t realize that what they were saying had some truth to it. The Swedes had really mastered the art of coffee.
One of the main things that I missed when I came over was having friends and family around. Now at first I had no idea the type of people Swedes were. I was realistic though. I knew making friends wasn’t going to be the easiest thing at the age of 23. People already have their groups and at that point don’t really need to look for more friends elsewhere. Marley had family living in Stockholm so thankfully we had them but they warned us that people in Sweden are used to keeping to themselves. They form their friends in early years and stay with those people for the many years to come. It’s hard breaking into those tight knit groups. They couldn’t have been more right! We felt it hard to break into any of these groups and after a few weeks I didn’t think we’d have much more than each other to hang out with, which really isn’t the best thing for a relationship!
Soon enough we found a welcoming group, but it took one of the biggest drinking holidays of the year to find them! On St. Patrick’s Day in March we set out to one of the Irish bars in Gamla Stan and asked to share a table with a bunch of drinking Swedes. We started chatting immediately and they seemed pretty interested in getting to know and include us. It was a welcomed change! We had a great rest of the day with the group and gained some really great friends that we still hang out with on a regular basis. So are Swedes reserved, shy and hard to break the ice with? Yes… but is it impossible? Nope. Am I saying Swedes need drinks to open up? Not quite. But does it help? It does for everyone!
Now summer has hit the city and the atmosphere has done a 180 from dark and dreary to sunny, warm, and alive. Midsommar celebrations came and past and they were an amazing experience I was able to enjoy in the Swedish countryside. The sun has gone from setting at 16:00 to now setting at 22:00 on a daily basis. It’s July and the summer is still vibrant but the city is quiet while everyone has slipped away to various vacation spots across Sweden and the world. Walking along the watersides on Stockholm’s islands reminds me what a surprise Stockholm has turned out to be in its entirety. Who knew a city composed of small islands existed within the depths of Scandinavia and it could be so beautiful. Head over to Östermalm and find hundreds of boats lining the docks and ports or go onto the islands of Skeppsholmen or Djurgården to see green grass with people picnicking everywhere. Find the vintage shops and food trucks lining the streets of Södermalm or experience the yummy restaurants and quiet residential area of Vasastan. Stockholm has really surprised me in this way – so many different areas that bring so many different things to the table. It has gone from a winter arcadia of snow to a summer with endless sunlight exposing the city’s hidden gems.
I couldn’t be more pleased with the surprises and challenges this city has faced me with. I am in the middle of learning the language (which is pretty hard to learn might I add) and realizing just how impressive it is that most of the people here can speak both Swedish and English fluently with such ease. Even many TV channels suit to English-speakers, whereas I thought moving over here would be the end of my TV-watching as I knew it! How wrong I was. Stockholm has allowed me to assimilate into the Swedish culture easily and left me with an amazing impression of Sweden, Swedish people, and Scandinavia. What do I miss? My family and friends foremost, but that’s a given for anyone who leaves their home. But I also miss the ability to grab a cheap bottle of wine at the local supermarket or gas station… now that’s something Sweden has to work on. 🙂