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).
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! 😉