Life in Sweden, Stories from the West

5 Things Living in Sweden Have Taught Me

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 ‘lessons from the adopted country‘. Don’t forget to read Christa’s post, In America, I….

It’s hard to think I’ve only been living in Sweden for 1.5 years, as it feels like a long time and I can feel myself changing. Some of these changes are due to the way of life here, and I didn’t realize how much it influenced me until recently. Living in Sweden has taught me a lot, and here are some of the things that have changed me for the better.

1. Appreciation and love for nature

One of the luxuries of living in Sweden is allemansrätten (literal translation: everyman’s right), or the freedom to roam. It’s not that I didn’t appreciate or love nature before, but here, it’s amplified. Since living here, I always look forward to going out and exploring. The accessibility has made it the best kind of entertainment for people. Recently I chatted with someone about this, and he expressed his gratitude for having various lakes, islands, and forests he could visit with his kids, all for free. And really, when you have these options, you don’t need anything else.

2. Exercise is a part of life

If you wonder why almost all Swedes look fit, this is why. Exercise has become a part of life, not something you squeeze when you have time. And the beautiful nature around certainly helps with being active — suddenly running, kayaking, and swimming in the lake don’t feel all that tedious anymore. Lots of companies also support their employees to exercise regularly, including mine. I can use 1 working hour per week for exercise, something I really appreciate.

3. Surviving bad weather

Gothenburg is notorious for the bad weather (it’s a joke that the rain here is horizontal, because it’s rainy and windy). As annoying as it is, the saying ‘There’s no bad weather, only bad clothes’ is true. After 1.5 years, I’ve finally mastered the art of dressing properly, and I’ve learned that when it comes to winter gear, never compromise. Buy high-quality stuff, even if it costs twice or even ten times the cheap alternatives.

4. Making the most of the winter

Yes, it’s long, dark and depressing. But Swedes are very good at making their space cozy. Light the candles, put on fairy lights (lots of it), and arm yourself with thick, comfy blankets. I honestly think that houses here (and restaurants as well) are coziest in the winter, and that makes winter a lot less depressing.

Winter is also a good time to be really productive since there’s not much you can do outdoors anyway. People are usually geared up at work during winter, and slow down or stop working entirely in the summer so they can enjoy the glorious sun.

5. Being more organized

If there’s one defining characteristic for Swedes, it must be this. Swedes are well-organized and efficient, and they plan everything months in advance. Vacation, dentist appointment, party, the list goes on. As someone who often does things last minute, I struggle with this, but I’m getting better. Swedes value their time, and they expect people to do the same.

If you live away from your home country, are there new things you’ve learned from your adopted country? I’d love to read your stories 🙂

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