Welcome to the neighborhood!

My first encounter with Sweden came in Italy, when I was a student at the University for Foreigners in Perugia. I started dating a Swede within the first couple of months, and my Italian roommates had some cautionary words for me.

Svedessi sono freddi. Cold, like their country. Just a little frightening.

The man on the right (my roommate Giuseppe) was responsible for the pearls of wisdom about Swedish people, but clearly we're coming from a very different perspective in any case.

I kept dating the Swede, though, and then I went back to the United States for my last year of college. I got used to fielding questions about Sweden and Swedish people, a country I had still only spent five days in.

No, they don’t have Swedish fish (American gummy candy). Yes, they are really quite blond, generally speaking. No, they’re not all crazy socialists (it’s a parliamentary democracy, duh). Yes, they are really good-looking.

I also got to see my own culture through foreign eyes for the first time: to see how different it is to need a car for life in the suburbs, to appreciate how warm and welcoming Americans are, to experience the joy of actually receiving service with a smile and the delight of unlimited soda refills.

My first trip to Sweden, my first Midsummer in Stockholm, my first encounter with herring.

After I graduated, I went to Sweden for two and a half months during the summer, just short of the 90 days I was allowed to stay in the country without a visa.

I fell in love with the warm summer days, the easy-going lifestyle, the fact that the whole country seemed to be on vacation, and the bicycles. I learned that waffles are a dessert item, not a breakfast food, and that the best way to eat them is covered in jam made of cloudberries, a sought-after yellow berry that grows only in the far north of Sweden.

I also brought parts of America with me, in the form of a 4th of July barbeque party, Mexican food nights, and real American pancakes with maple syrup.

Swedish-style dessert waffles at Skansen, an open air museum and zoo in Stockholm. Note the gooey yellow stuff on the waffle: that's the cloudberry jam!

Another summer ended, and I returned yet again to the United States. I worked in Washington, D.C. first as a waitress and then as an English language teacher at an international language school while applying to other jobs throughout the world. I was aiming for a job just about anywhere in Europe so that I could take a step closer to Simon and to Sweden.

It took awhile for me to figure out that I could actually apply for what my family jokingly referred to as “a love visa” to Sweden just on the basis of my relationship with my Swede. It seemed ludicrous at first. I can get a legitimate visa to Sweden just on the basis of “planning to marry or cohabit with a Swedish citizen?” This is clearly a land both inhabited and legislated by starry-eyed lovers.

I filed the application, and in the meantime, I got a job in Vienna, Austria. I moved there in January 2010, and about a week after I accepted a year-long position there as a project manager, my visa application to Sweden was accepted. Of course.

In May, after a few more months of shuttling back and forth between Vienna and Lund, I gave notice at my job and filed my residency papers for Sweden. In July, Simon and I drove halfway across the continent with a trunk full of my things, headed for the land of Vikings and meatballs, crayfish and Aquavit, long winters and long summer days, Maypole dances and government-mandated coffee breaks.

Two friendly Swedes illustrating the finer points of mushroom picking.

For the last seven months, I’ve had the opportunity to be immersed in Swedish culture as an American abroad, and it feels like I have a foot in both cultures.

My friends are almost all Swedish, and they’ve included me as part of their group and done their best to humor my questions and explain what’s going on. (Now tell me again, why does Lucia wear candles on her head? And why are the boys dressed like wizards?) I’ve been enrolled in my free government “Swedish for Immigrant” classes, where I meet other immigrants and learn about Swedish culture from a pedagogical perspective.

At the same time, I’ve been able to introduce my own cultural traditions within my group of friends, with carving pumpkins for Halloween, hosting our very own Thanksgiving, and baking chocolate chip cookies.

Eating Swedish meatballs in Sweden used to be an exotic and photo-worthy happening. No more.

Welcome to my expat blog at Sweden.se! Skål!

  • Monica-USA

    Very amusing story. Thank you for sharing.

  • http://twitter.com/LolaAkinmade Lola Akinmade

    Welcome Kate! And looking forward to following your blog as well. Skål!

    • http://www.transatlanticsketches.com Kate

      Tack! And your photos are beautiful!! I’ve been following your photography blog for a long time.

      • http://twitter.com/LolaAkinmade Lola Akinmade

        Thanks Kate!

  • http://lizardek.livejournal.com Lizardek

    Fun! Can’t wait to

    • http://www.transatlanticsketches.com Kate

      Thanks for reading! And keep your eyes peeled for some American Women’s Club action…

      • Zoré Honkanen

        Hi Kate, great information about Sweden. how about winter in Sweden? Is it okay or depressing?
        My nephew wants to immigrate to Sweden and he would love to know more about this beautiful country.
        He’s been misled that it is very depressing and dark in winter. Is it true? I gather from your blog that Sweden is a livable and beautiful country., is it even in winter time?
        Thanks in advance for your help…

        • http://www.transatlanticsketches.com Kate

          Hi Zoré!

          Thanks so much for reading and thanks for your question! I’ll be honest with you, it is very dark and cold during the winter. I think the depressing part depends on your frame of mind and how affected you are by the weather. The duration of the winter weather also varies depending on how far north or south you are. Personally, winter is by far my least favorite part of Sweden. In the end, you just have to get through it. 

          As for the other part of your question, if Sweden is a livable and beautiful country, yes! Absolutely yes. 

          Let me know if I can help you with anything else!

          Best wishes,

  • Susie

    Hey Kate!
    My name is Susie. I was so excited to stumble upon your blog. Like you, I fell in love with a Swede and I’m trying to find any opportunity to justify a move to Sweden. I’ll be graduating college in May with a double major in International Relations and East Asian Studies and with my lack of Swedish skills I’m pretty pessimistic. Do you have any advice about job opportunities in Sweden or Europe for that matter? Where does one even begin to look? And any general advice for a soon to be graduate entering the less then welcoming job market would be greatly appreciated? Please feel free to email me dilauria@wisc.edu. Thanks so much and I look forward to hearing from you.

    • http://www.transatlanticsketches.com Kate

      Hey Susie! Good questions… I’ll email you this weekend. In the meantime, start looking up those visa options! You don’t have to get a job to come here, thanks to Sweden being awesome.

  • http://museconfuse.wordpress.com/ museconfuse

    Wow, what a wonderful love story, I just recently wrote about how I met my swede on my blog and I was just looking other’s experiences. Thanks for sharing :) I look forward to following your adventures through Sweden. I fell in love with a Swede too and he brought me to Sweden last Summer. I loved it! it’s really a beautiful country and since I’m such a foodie, I was so happy trying all the Swedish food and desserts that his mom and grandma made. I wouldn’t mind living in Sweden someday but that’ll take some convincing of my Swede to head home!

    • http://www.transatlanticsketches.com Kate

      Hi! Thanks so much for reading!

      I just checked out your site… Sweden is wonderful but I can understand why your Swede would prefer to spend his winters in Singapore! I was in Singapore once to visit my cousins and it was absolutely beautiful.

      I love how you describe meeting Danjel as “he was the cutest guy in the office” even though you could only see half your face! So typical :)

      Stay tuned for more expat adventures, and I’ll be sure to include some recipes for you soon!


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  • Stacey Burns

    hej kate,
    Im an Aussie expat who moved to Stockholm for my fiance… just saying hej.


    • http://www.transatlanticsketches.com Kate Reuterswärd

      Hello hello! Hope you’re doing well! Thanks for reading my blog :)

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