Goodbye for now

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.

Springtime in Lund. Photo: Kate Reuterswärd

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. 

It’s hard to know your limits with something as delicious as a cinnamon bun if you don’t test them. Photo: Kate Reuterswärd

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

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.

An important part of my Swedish family. Photo: Kate Reuterswärd

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.

My new gig with the Swedish Embassy… a chance to continue my relationship with Sweden. Photo: Kate Reuterswärd

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! 

  • Carys Egan-Wyer

    This is beautifully written (as always) Kate and really touched a nerve. You made me cry!
    It’s so sad that you won’t be blogging here any more. I’ll really miss reading about your Swedish adventures (and sometimes being part of them in real life). But I look forward to reading about Kristin’s adventures and being part of yours when you visit again :-)

  • B. Hemborg

    Good luck in your new adventure!

  • Kristin Follis

    Many people have this romantic picture of living abroad, but the reality is that it is very difficult. It’s not always the adventure people imagine it to be. It has been really nice to read about life as an expat from your point of view and of course to know that the trying emotional times of job hunting and outsider disconnect don’t last forever. You give the rest of us expats hope! Thanks for sharing your wisdom! Good luck in DC!

  • Janerowena

    That was a surprise! But I think your new job sounds perfect for you.

  • @swedishroots

    Wow, Kate! Congratulations on your new adventure! Thank you for your expat posts over the years; they have truly been fantastic. I’ll be heading to DC & the Swedish Embassy in a year or two to renew my passport – maybe I’ll bump into you then! :)

  • Alice In Actionland

    I have really, really enjoyed your blog! You’ve given those of us from afar a great insight into every day life in Sweden! I will miss hearing about your Swedish adventures… but I just added your personal blog to my Reading List. Good luck with everything! :-)

  • Guest

    ooh you hit the expat feelings right on the head. Glad you managed to get your self connected, and hope you manage the expat reversal emotions just as gracefully.

  • Julianavcurcio

    aww Kate I love this. You should be so proud of yourself. I’ve never had a friend like you. I’m so happy for you and to have you in my life. Congratulations!

  • Adamzarouk

    We miss you so much!

  • Lizardek

    Congrats on the awesome job, Kate!! We miss you around here!

  • Cecile Pham

    Kate I am so proud of everything you’ve accomplished and all your growth, career, personal, character. You are such an amazing individual and someone I’m so touched to have known. I”m so excited for your new adventure… and i must plan a trip over to the east coast to visit you! Stor Kram!!

  • Marian Schembari

    So so bittersweet! I am incredibly happy for your new gig and new adventure and sad for you to be leaving Sweden. May this new chapter in your life be filled will all sorts of new goodies and memories!

  • Linus Andersson

    So now you’re an ex-expat? (sorry, terrible joke)

    • Kate Reuterswärd

      Haha, niiice! :)

  • Survivinginsweden

    Will miss your insights! Always enjoyed reading. Looking forward to getting to know the new ex-pat.

  • Monica-USA

    Well Kate I want to wish you and Simon a wonderful experience in D.C.! It was wonderful getting to read and see Sweden through your eyes and hear about all of your trials and tribulations. So good luck and congratulations on your new job. :o )

  • Sophia Reyes

    Good luck with your adventures in the States! Thank you for your blog. I am now in Sweden, but I enjoyed reading your insights as I prepared to move. I am looking forward to reading Kristin’s insights, but I am going to miss your thoughts here. Best of luck and thank you!

  • Pol – Croatia

    First Sara, now you Kate also. Your blog was always pretty livefull
    and i read it from time to time, as well as that from Kristin that tackled compatible work and moving in problematic, also pretty originally and from human perspective.
    Something that i have yet not well developed sufficiently in my life …

    This morning i have just accompanied my uncle to the airport,
    heading home to Washington D.C., although i never been there,
    but who knows ? There is a chance soon i become an expat, too,
    although staying on the same continent.

    I wish you good luck and new interesting experiences. Bye, Kate.

    • Kate Reuterswärd

      Thank you, Pol! I really appreciate it. Good luck to you as well.

  • Drsnezana

    Your blog was fun! Good luck!

  • Anna F

    I will really miss reading about your adventures in Sweden! I have been reading your blog for a while and it always put a smile of recognision on my face. I have to say that I envy you a bit for having the opportunity to live i DC. I studied there for 9 months when I was younger and I have wonderful memories from “over there”.

    • Kate Reuterswärd

      Thank you so much, Anna! I appreciate it. :)