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 both 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 ‘the story/experience of being an immigrant‘. Don’t forget to read Christa’s post, Notes From an Immigrant.
I chatted with H’s parents yesterday after dinner about our life in Sweden, and his mom said, “Well, I think you both have done really well in just a little over a year.”
I remember how I felt when we arrived just like it was yesterday. We rented a small cottage in the outskirt of Gothenburg to stay while we looked for an apartment. We didn’t have personal numbers and bank accounts. I couldn’t do online transactions with my UK card and had to rely on my sister for topping up my phone credits or buying the tram/bus tickets. I didn’t understand a single word in Swedish, making things a lot harder and frustrating.
At that time, Sweden felt completely unwelcoming. It felt like the migration agency, the tax office, and even the Swedish school were in join forces to make life difficult for everybody, including me. I was at my lowest point and ready to call it quits if things didn’t get better after a year.
To be completely honest, I thought of going back to the UK. A lot.
But I fought hard to start a life here.
I sent a series of firm emails to the migration agency (which, I quickly learned, was the only way to deal with them). We argued with a tax office staff who gave us wrong information and insisted upon it. I sent god knows how many applications for apartments and jobs. I fought to get a place in the language course. Life was so full of uncertainties and insecurities at that time, and for the longest time, it felt hopeless. Sweden felt tough and unwelcoming.
“Take it one day at a time, you’ll get there,” H’s mom told me every time, always encouraging.
I wrote this a year ago:
While I’m still trying to find my feet, navigating life and learning how things work here, I sometimes need an assurance that it’s gonna be okay. That I’m welcome and I will make it here.
I’ve learned how things work here (more or less). I feel a lot more welcome, and I’m a lot more hopeful that I will make it here. I speak a lot more Swedish now (even with the language barrier). I’m settling, and Sweden finally feels like home.
“You got there in the end,” she said.
We did. I’m happy about that, but mostly, I’m proud of myself for hanging on and striving when I felt like giving up.