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 ‘finding/making home‘. Don’t forget to read Christa’s story, Home Away from Home.
It’s been almost a year since we packed our life in Southampton to move to Gothenburg.
Eleven months ago, we boarded an early flight at Heathrow, and walked out to a biting cold in Gothenburg’s Landvetter airport. Tiny mounds of snow lined the streets, while snowdrops started to make an appearance. Winter wasn’t really gone, but spring was well underway. I couldn’t wait to roll and start a life here.
The excitement for our new adventure only lasted for a short time, right until we arrived at our temporary place. It was an old cottage in the middle of nowhere with no internet, and the (only) bus stop was an 8-minute walk away. The closest stores were a 10-minute ride from the said bus stop. It wasn’t the best place to live in, much less in the transition time, but we found a better place and moved out 6 weeks after that.
Despite finding a far more comfortable and homey place to live, Gothenburg didn’t feel like home for a long time. Paperwork problems, uncertainties, and insecurities filled my first few months in Sweden.
I’ve come a long way since then, and recently, I started to realize the things I could do effortlessly because I’m used to it.
I can easily interact with people in the shops and understand what they say. I can book a table on the phone in Swedish, without panicking.
I have my favorite places to go: restaurants, pubs, parks, and shops.
I can navigate my way around the city without relying on Google Maps completely. I know which buses and trams to take without having to check it on the app. I know the precise timetable of the bus I take to work, and which times to avoid (too many rowdy school kids in the morning is not good for my sanity).
I use the Swedish keyboard now without glancing down, and get confused when I switch back to a standard keyboard.
I can sit in a room and understand what’s going on, feeling like I belong. Not an outsider, not an alien.
It feels good.
Home is a feeling, people say. I felt that with all the places I’ve lived in: Soroako, Batu Hijau, Bandung, and Southampton. With Gothenburg, I wasn’t sure if I would feel the same way. But I finally did, slowly and quietly.
The moment of clarity happened just over a week ago when I came back from a business trip in Stockholm. I let out a sigh of relief when the LED sign showed ‘Göteborg C’ as the next station. It won’t be long until home, I thought. And then I realized, I was longing for Gothenburg. For our tiny apartment and our comfy bed, and the familiar view from our kitchen window that I’ve grown to love.
The sight of Gothenburg’s central station after a trip will always make me relaxed, because that’s when I know that I’m home. And it’s something I always look forward to.
It finally feels like home here.
Happy for you Dixie!March 3, 2019 at 2:51 pm
Thank you Mbak Wati 🙂March 3, 2019 at 8:46 pm
Same here Dixie, this is also my favorite post in the series so far! for me, the moment of clarity happened when I was taking my friend (he’s visiting from Jakarta) around downtown LA and he told me that I could navigate my way around like a local. That’s when I realized, wait, I am. There’s still a lot of things here I am yet to be fully accustomed to, but I am local now 🙂March 3, 2019 at 5:55 pm
I think we just love personal posts 😉
I noticed when I started to go around the city without Google Maps, but wasn’t really aware that Gothenburg was slowly becoming home by then. When you can navigate around your city effortlessly, then you know you’re not an outsider anymore, and the place has become home, even if it doesn’t feel 100% like the one you left behind 🙂March 3, 2019 at 9:48 pm
Lovely city and beautiful narration. I can relate with the feeling..March 5, 2019 at 2:09 pm
Thank you 🙂March 8, 2019 at 9:41 pm