Life in Sweden, Stories from the West

My First Winter in Sweden

This post is a part of the writing project called Stories from the West that I started with Christa. We’re both currently living on the west coasts (Christa in the US, me in Sweden), hence the name of the project. We want to share our experiences living as immigrants, and every month we’ll write a post each with the same topic. The topic for this month is ‘first experience(s)’. Don’t forget to read Christa’s story, What to Expect In Your First Year Abroad.

I’ve been dreading the Scandinavian winter since the first time I arrived here. As a tropical kid, I’m known for being such a wimp when it comes to low temperature. Sure, I had the taste below zero temperature in my first visit to Gothenburg, and again in the following February. But it was snowing then, and the novelty of experiencing snow beat the inconvenience of living in the cold weather.

“How do you survive the winter in Sweden?”

I’ve been asking this question to everyone I know who have been living here for years. The answers are nothing short of amusing (and sometimes, not too helpful).

“Cuddling, that’s the best way,” said one friend.

“You just get on with it,” said a colleague.

But like most people, what I’m struggling the most is not the cold, but the short daylight (okay, the cold as well). I get in at work when it’s still dark outside, and come home when the sun has long gone. I feel sluggish all the time, and it’s incredibly hard to stay active when the wind is biting and the rain is pouring.

And while I know we’ve passed the shortest day and the day is going to gradually get longer, I’m bracing myself for the worst of winter in the next few months, when the festive mood has gone while the weather still gets colder and perhaps more unbearable.

I’ve prepared myself by having my own survival kit and ways of coping. It keeps me going for now, and let’s hope it will get me through this season.

Vitamin D tablets

Prior to moving here, I’d never seen these in my life, let alone have them. But apparently, it’s a winter essential when you live in Scandinavia. Personally, I haven’t felt the effects, but I keep taking them anyway.

A ridiculous amount of coffee

Fun fact: did you know that Sweden is listed as the top 10 countries with the highest coffee consumption, among with the other Nordic countries? There’s even a specific word which means ‘coffee break’: fika. ‘Ska vi ta en fika?’ (‘Should we have a coffee break?’) is probably the phrase I hear most often here.

All I can say is, I get it. When the lethargic feeling strikes in the middle of the day, this magic potion is the simple fix. I surprised myself when I found out I drank more than 4 cups of coffee per day.

Lots of fairy lights

All those string lights and candles are not there for the pretty factor only, but it helps to make it cozy inside. The perfect setting to curl up with a book and a cup of tea/coffee (or a glass of wine. Your choice).

SAD lamp

The seasonal affective disorder (SAD) lamp is designed to emulate the natural light, and it’s used as a light therapy to combat the SAD. I’ve been mulling over the idea to buy one, but I’m feeling fine so far (knock on wood). If the winter blues hit me, I know I won’t hesitate to buy a good SAD lamp.

Taking a walk during lunchtime

It’s the only chance to be outside and get some sun during the weekdays. But living in Gothenburg when it’s mostly raining (or at least gloomy), this proves to be challenging.


Exercise is a necessity all year round, but I’d argue that winter is the time when it’s needed the most. With the body’s natural tendency to just slump and sleep when the temperature plummets, you really have to battle yourself to do it. I admit, I fell off the wagon during the Christmas holiday, but I’m taking up running and gym classes again.

And finally… sleeping

I know what you think: well, duh! I usually feel guilty when I sleep too much, but this season, I let my body dictates me. If it needs sleep, I won’t fight it, and nor will I feel guilty about it as well. So what if I sleep longer? Winter is hibernation time for mammals anyway, and by now I’ve known better than to fight sleep deprivation.

I’ll report back in 3 months after I’ve survived my first winter in Sweden! 😉

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  • Reply Christa

    I can only imagine how your winter is, compared to mine! I love that you manage to squeeze some walking during your lunch break, it’s always good to be out and get a little bit of fresh air despite the cold. Stay warm Dixie!

    January 6, 2019 at 6:12 pm
    • Reply Dixiezetha

      Thank you Christa! After this I think I prefer your winter :p

      January 6, 2019 at 6:19 pm
  • Reply denaldd

    Makan yang hangat2 mungkin membantu juga Dixie, macam bakso gitu hahaha lha dipikir di sana ada tukang bakso lewat depan rumah. Kalau kami di rumah, senang bikin sup labu. Bikin hangat badan dan aroma jahe nya juga menyamankan. Stay warm ya. Belanda musim dingin ini tidak sedingin tahun lalu. Malah cenderung hangat.

    January 8, 2019 at 10:24 pm
    • Reply Dixiezetha

      Duh iya Mbak, kangen banget sama bakso & soto, tapi krn di rumah cuma aku yg makan daging, jadi males masaknya. Tapi sup labu bisa dicoba tuh. Di sini musim dinginnya juga lebih mending dari tahun lalu, tapi yaa mari kita lihat 2 bulan ke depan hehe.

      January 11, 2019 at 6:01 pm
  • Reply aggy87

    Aku baru dengar tentang SAD lamp ini, ternyata kalau di musim dingin yang seperti di Sweden ini ada “survival kit”-nya ya Dixie. Btw, aku suka banget dengan fairy light, kalau lihat selalu merasa cosy. I love this writing project you are doing with Christa, I can’t wait to read more!

    January 9, 2019 at 5:12 am
    • Reply Dixiezetha

      Aku juga baru denger kira2 setahun yang lalu Gy. Bahkan katanya di rumah sakit di sini ada ruangan2 khusus buat light therapy pas musim dingin begini. Survival kitnya buatanku aja sih Gy, soalnya baru pertama kali tinggal di sini pas winter, ternyata banyak hal2 yg aku ga tau hehe.

      Thank you for reding the stories from our writing project, so glad you enjoyed it 🙂

      January 11, 2019 at 6:03 pm
  • Reply Bama

    This is such a cool collaboration project, Dixie! The closest thing to snow I’ve ever experienced was the snow flurries that I saw in Istanbul back in January 2013. It’s been a dream for me to see and touch the real snow, and a good friend of mine said Japan is one of the best places for that since its snow is powdery. I think this time you’ll embrace spring wholeheartedly when winter is over! 🙂

    January 13, 2019 at 1:17 am
    • Reply Dixiezetha

      How was your first experience with snow? I can imagine it must have been fascinating (it was for me). Snowy Japan seems dreamy and beautiful, hope you’ll get that experience someday!

      And yes, I’m enjoying winter (so far) but I’ll welcome spring like a long lost child :p

      January 21, 2019 at 11:02 am

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