It’s been very difficult for me to write this last post on the Expat Blog. A lot has happened in the past six weeks, and I am happy to share that I have moved back to the United States with my husband to start a new adventure together – one in which we will switch roles so that I will be the knowing native and he will be the hapless expat (or something like that).
To be honest, over the last year and half of blogging for the Swedish Institute, this blog has become a little like my baby. I love it. I agonize over it. I try not to brag about it but find myself subtly working it into conversations. You know, very normal behavior. And now it’s time to say goodbye.
When I started this blog in February 2011, I was pretty sure that Sweden and I were headed for a breakup. It wasn’t so much what was happening in my life than what was not happening – having a difficult time finding fulfilling work, missing the excitement and energy of a big city, becoming increasingly convinced that winter is, in fact, interminable.
Expat life isn’t all fine wine and cheese plates
The main problem was that I didn’t feel like the self-sufficient, purposeful, growing person I was before coming to Sweden, and I hated that. What I didn’t know then is that those feelings are incredibly normal, especially when you move to a new place without a job offer or a place in grad school to give you a structure for your everyday life. After living for two years in Sweden, I can’t even tell you how many conversations I’ve had with newer expats going through the exact same experience I went through, feeling many of the same emotions as I was feeling then.
That’s normal. More importantly: those feelings fade as time goes by, although I can’t say they were ever completely gone in my two year’s sojourn.
It’s hard being an expat. Not “I’m starving and oppressed” hard, but there are significant emotional challenges that expats face on a daily basis that are difficult to understand without going through it yourself. These challenges include feeling disconnected from local culture and customs, not having enough to do, being lonely, and even physical discomfort. It’s not just your heart and your brain that gets displaced – your digestive tract can experience culture shock, too, and then you’re really in trouble.
The path to feeling purposeful again
Writing this blog was a big part of turning my life around in Sweden, so I am profoundly grateful to the Swedish Institute and to all of my readers for giving me this opportunity. Being responsible for talking about what goes on in everyday life in Sweden made me want to be far more knowledgeable about Swedish culture and supercharged my curiosity. Having the chance to write on this major platform put me in a position where I felt like I was actually giving out useful, interesting information.
Most of all, I felt purposeful again, and that confidence spilled over into the rest of the areas of my life and gave me back my pride in myself.
A highlights reel of my two years in Sweden would include
- picking mushrooms in Österlen
- getting a job in Malmö
- deciding to venture out from the job and start my own business
- surviving two Swedish winters
- pickling herring with my friend, Steve
- dancing around the Majstång on Midsummer, and
- gradually switching to speaking only Swedish at home and at work.
There are many days that I had in Sweden that I will never forget, but most important among them would be my wedding day, when I finally tied the knot with my Swedish husband at the courthouse in Lund, surrounded by the friends and family I had acquired since arriving in July 2010.
Long before I left Sweden, I had started to love it again. Work sorted itself out, my friendships got stronger, and continuing to improve my Swedish made me feel more confident and more connected to the world I was living in. In the last year, Sweden became a home to me.
Swedish adventures in the United States
Fortunately for me, my work with Sweden isn’t done yet, either. I just got a job with the Swedish Embassy, and I will be working as a tour guide at the House of Sweden! If you are ever in DC on the weekend, you will find me there – please come on by and say hello.
If you want to keep up with me in the United States from afar, I will continue blogging on my personal blog, transatlantic sketches, and I’m on Twitter under @kwise321.
I want to say thanks one more time to everyone who has commented, responded, written me emails, or let me know how they really think – without you, this blog wouldn’t have been nearly as much fun as it was. I leave you in good hands with the new expat blogger, Kristin Lund!