A Day in My Expat Life: Sweden#2

I’ve already featured Sweden in my Day in My Expat Life series but as someone who has lots of Swedish friends and has Sweden high on my list of places to visit soon I say we can never have too much Sweden! So here we go – please welcome Sara!

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I’m Sara. I was born in Portugal but I left ten years ago. In the meantime I have lived 3 years in Poland, 3 in Brazil and 2 in the Czech Republic. Now I live in Sweden. I live with my boyfriend. He is Swedish. He has also lived in different countries, including Brazil and the Czech Republic with me.

You can find my blog at http://asvoltasnomundo.blogspot.se/

1- window

1. My window 7.30 I get up and usually I stare out of the window for a couple of minutes. I check how the weather is, go through my to do list mentally and judge how awake I am. I’m a morning person, so I am usually fully awake after a few minutes. This is one of the good things of being unemployed… I have time to stare out the window.

2- breakfast

2. Breakfast 8.00 I have breakfast in the kitchen. Most mornings I eat porridge with cinnamon. Occasionally, I add a spoon of jam or apple puree. And black tea in my favourite cup. I love black tea in the morning! I read or check social networks in my phone while a eat.

3- my corner

3. My corner 8.30 After doing this and that (make the bed, clean here and there, you know what I mean) I sit in my favourite corner. It almost looks like a small office but it’s a corner of my living room. It is from here that I blog. The colourful post its have notes about what I want to blog about. From here I write, edit photographs, I read other blogs, I search and apply for jobs, etc. Note my favourite cup again with my second cup of tea. Usually, I turn on the radio for company. Portuguese radio. I can hear the news from my country and most importantly, I can hear my own language!

4- run

4. Run 10.00 I love running and I do it almost everyday. If I want a fast run I just go on the streets and in the pedestrian path along the road, because it’s flat. If I’m looking for a challenge I go up to the forest near my flat, where I find many hills. Of course the surroundings are nicer in the forest and the sound of the birds encourages me to keep going. Afterwards, I stretch for a few minutes at the entrance of my building and I go home and have shower.

5- cookbooks

5. Cookbooks 11.30 Since I had a few minutes to spare I went through some of my cookbooks to get ideas for dinner. I started collecting cookbooks when I started travelling more. I have always been interested in food and I really enjoy trying different dishes and new ingredients. I started buying a cookbook in every new country I visited and now I have a nice collection. I have more than one cookbook from certain countries. From Italy, for instance, I have 5! You guessed right… I love Italian food.

6- lunch

6. Lunch 11.45 After running I’m hungry so I need to eat some lunch. I either heat up some leftovers from the day before or eat a sandwich with salad. One of my favourite combinations is sill in lemon sauce with boiled egg. Sill is herring (a fish) and in Sweden you can buy it marinated in different sauces. Sill is always present in different Swedish festivities celebrated all over the year. I actually enjoy it quite a lot and as it makes an easy and fast meal I eat it for lunch sometimes

7- school

7. School 12.30 I moved to Sweden in the beginning of the year and I spend roughly 3h a day learning Swedish in school. It is called SFI (Swedish for immigrants) and it is a free course for foreigners. Foreigners who do have a job can also take the course, but it is usually only once a week. Our teacher is great and full of energy, which is very motivating. It’s fun and I really enjoy sharing that part of my day with people from all over the world.

8- library

8. Library 15.45 After dropping the school books at home, I take my bicycle and cycle to the library to return a book. I love the library! It’s huge and has a large selection of books in english, and a lot in many different languages! I finished Be careful what you wish for, from the Clifton series of Jeffrey Archer and I took Sushi for beginners, from Marian Keyes. I have 3 weeks to read each book, but the time can be extended through my online account. Usually I don’t have to extend it.

9- supermarket

9. Supermarket 16.10 Afterwards, I also went to the supermarket. I always have a list because my memory is not the best. The supermarket is huge and it only takes me 5 minutes to get there from home by bicycle. I am a member of their club and I can use the self-scanning machines. I scan my own groceries and I pay on my own at the end. It makes it so much faster! One can get a random check and be penalised if not all products are scanned. I have never failed… yet. Today is a bit later than normal, so my boyfriend Johan meets me at the supermarket and we go home together.

10- sofa

10. Sofa 17.00 Johan is usually tired after a long day at work and he enjoys laying down a bit in the sofa, reading or surfing the web in his tablet. Usually, I’m back in my corner to do my homework and study Swedish on the internet. Once he suggested me to read children’s books in Swedish to practise my reading. We brought his collection of books from his parents house and now and then I read for him. The interesting fact is that he often does fall asleep! The brain reaction is still there… 30 years later.

11- dinner

11. Dinner 18.00 – 20.00 We usually have a lot of fun cooking together and one of the things we make often is fresh pasta. Today, I found a pasta recipe that uses one of my favourite combinations: gorgonzola and walnuts. We have tried it in pizza, together with pear, but never in pasta. Since we really liked the recipe, we will repeat it and I will take better photographs of the dish, so I can post it on my recipe’s blog, the Swedish and the Chef (link: http://the-swedishchef.blogspot.se/)

12- bedtime

12. Reading 20.00 – 00.00 After dinner, I go back to studying Swedish because I have a test in two days. Sometimes I blog instead, or chat on the internet with family or friends. When I get tired I join Johan in the sofa and watch a bit of TV or read. Around 23.00 we go to bed and I keep reading as much as my eyes allow me. It varies from a couple of pages to an hour straight.

Thanks Sara, I really enjoyed reading about your life and seeing your photos. That pasta looks great! Remember to check out my other posts in this series – and please let me know if you would like your expat life featured on this blog.

A Day in My Expat Life -Sweden

Welcome to the latest look at a normal day in an expat life and today we move to Europe and Sweden where we meet Lisa Ferland and her family. Lisa is a U.S. citizen who has lived in Sweden since 2012. Together with her husband, they have embraced the Swedish lifestyle and according to Lida are currently “raising a five-year-old Lego-lover and a two-year-old Pippi Longstocking fanatic”. Lisa also recently published the anthology about birth and parenting as an expat called Knocked Up Abroad featuring a chapter by yours truely and can be reached on Facebook and Twitter@knockdupabroad.

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7:45 am—8:00 am Our morning began with a deer sighting in our backyard. The kids did their best to scare it away but this deer was experienced in the ways of shouty children and stayed to munch on our grass.

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The golf course behind our house has a herd of sheep grazing in a fenced-off section of grass. We decided to go check them out before school.

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No fish are in that pond. My son checked it out—all clear.

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I’m not sure if the kids were impressed or bored with the sheep. Things got fun when the kids started shaking their rumpas at them. The sheep were a bit nervous with the display.

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Very nervous sheep.

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8:15 am – 8:30 am Time to head to school

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Every bridge must be inspected for trolls. Troll-checking is a time-consuming activity but it’s for our safety, so it must be done.

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Nope. No trolls here. No snakes either, despite a sign clearly depicting the presences of snakes. The kids were a bit disappointed.

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Finally, we are on the way to school. A moped drove by and we stopped to wave hello.

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Finally! After a long walk of touching every slug in sight, we make it to school relatively on time.

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With the kids at school, I need to run some errands. First up—filling up the gas tank with diesel fuel. This is always a costly errand but we only use the car once or twice a week.

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Total cost: 720.90 SEK for 55 liters (equivalent to $6.04/gallon—much cheaper than the $8.50/gallon we saw when we first moved to Sweden.)

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Acquiring a Swedish driver’s license is incredibly difficult and expensive (for non-Swedes and Swedes alike). This sign says that you can park for 3 hours M-F 7 am-11:30 pm, Saturdays 7 am– 7 pm, and Sundays and holidays, 7 am – 7 pm. You must display a P-skiva on your window shield.

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The P-Skiva

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I received this notice that I had a package arrive and I can only retrieve it at the local post office, which is near the grocery store in town. Unless the package can fit within the dimensions of your mailbox, every package is kept at the central post office regardless if you live in a house or apartment.

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The outdoor center of the shopping mall.

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Inside the shopping mall—stores don’t open until 10 am, except for the grocery store and post office.

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Ah, this box was larger than I anticipated. I had to carry it awkwardly through the grocery store while I did my shopping. Oh well.

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I always check out the pastry section when I’m in the grocery store. I can’t help myself.

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Delicious fikabröd or pastries for coffee breaks/fika

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Due to my one arm being full of awkward box, I left with a pastry, a Swedish table top maypole flag (midsummer is coming up), and fun bandaids for my kids who like to use them as body art instead of covering cuts.

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Swedes remove their shoes in the entryway. Sock fashion is very important in the winter.

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9:30 am – 3 pm Sitting at my desk in my home office with a little treat and some coffee and I’m ready to work on my writing.

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3:00 pm – 5:30 pm I picked up the kids from school at 3 pm and we are ready to go off in search of new playgrounds.

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We pause at a construction site because they are dynamiting the granite rocks and the kids love the big booms

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A new-to-us playground is nearby in a newly constructed neighborhood. This one made excellent use of the local rocks and they are perfect for climbing.

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To reach the swing at the top, kids must climb up the hill.

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A fun little hut that housed many spiders so the kids opted out.

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Banana break in a shelter at the next playground

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The last stop on our afternoon adventure was an outdoor exercise space that is the epitome of Swedish training. It is situated among the woods with a horse riding school nearby and people train by lifting logs on a fulcrum system.

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The climbing wall was still under construction but we tried it out anyway

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This exercise made me a bit dizzy as the logs went quite high.

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Hey there, horsey. The local horses are always fun to watch.

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More climbing

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And dancing on rocks

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On the way home, we saw a cat sitting in the woods. Cats are given free range in our neighborhood and we see them all over.

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5:30 pm – 6:00 pm So, what was in that large box that I picked up earlier? A wireless keyboard courtesy of my mother. Now I can get to typing up my second book!

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6:00 pm – 8:00 pm For dinner, we had stir fried rice with eggs from our neighbor’s chickens. The entire day was spent outside playing in the beautiful weather. The kids were exhausted and collapsed into bed around 8 pm. Tomorrow begins another day of more of the same.

Thank you to LIsa for that glimpse into her life – those pastries in particlar look delicious. I am loving the fact that so many of these Days in an Expat Life have so much in common eg walking to school, yummy food and working at a lap top – even though they are all in very different places! If you want to see more posts in this series please click here, and if you would like your own day to feature then please comment below or email me [email protected]

Guest post: First impressions of a new Expat life.

Those last few weeks before you move somewhere new can be full of anxieties. Will I like it? Will I be bored? How will I fill my day? What will those first few weeks be like? Everyone tells you something different and it’s hard to know who to believe. So for today’s Summer of Guesting post, Jessica from This Trailing Spouse describes just what it was like for her, arriving in Stockholm at the start of her first overseas posting.
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When I left my home in San Francisco last January, I’d already spent fifteen years building a nonprofit fundraising career, a deep bench of friends and neighbors, and an all-around gorgeous, jasmine-scented life for myself in the fresh-produce-capital-of-the-world. Water restrictions aside, living in California was pretty easy, and my life seemed well defined into the distant future. And then, as happens in the best stories, love walked in.

It was a surprise, and it wasn’t. My husband and I actually met on the first day of classes, freshman year of college. We reconnected later in life thanks to the wondrous glory of FaceBook, and married a mere 17 years after we first shared an early-morning class back in the mid-90s.

By the time we reconnected, he’d built a career with the government overseas, but ultimately gave me the call on where and how we would live. He offered to leave it all behind if I wanted to stay in San Francisco, where he’d join me and create a life for himself, or I could give up my digs and follow him abroad. It wasn’t much of a choice, to be honest. A life full of adventure and travel in far-flung places full of mystery and intrigue? Uhh… Where do I sign?

After years working in less-than-plum locales, he was finally due a reprieve

I am still pinching myself.

This city is effing magical. It’s castles and cobblestone sidewalks and kannelbullar (Swedish cinnamon buns) kind of magical. It smells good here. Nearly every day I am ambushed by unexpected beauty; some assault on the senses that leaves me gobsmacked by my good fortune. You should see the city parks here. It’s so green, and gorgeous, and European in the most beautiful way. I have never felt so lucky.

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Now, I know, I know…this is all fleeting. Not only will we have to leave here in a few years, but reliable sources suggest I should temper my expectations for six months from now when there are four hours of sunlight on a good day. And I know that the shine of a new city (if it shines at all to begin with) loses some luster after time passes and daily irritants take their toll. Don’t even get me started on how hard it is to get internet in our home. I’m writing this post from a ferry in a Swedish archipelago outside Stockholm, where it’s easier to access wireless internet than it is in the middle of the city, where to have internet in our apartment, we first need a personnummer (the Swedish version of a U.S. Social Security number, which is required for everything, and to procure takes approximately 3-6 weeks). Then we must open a Swedish bank account, because no business here accepts online payment without a EU-based credit card, and then finally we might be trusted with internet in our apartment. It is 2015, for goodness sake. Why is this not a basic utility!? (Amirite? Anybody else struggle with this one?)

But minor frustrations aside, the last few weeks have been tremendously happy ones. I know how lucky I am, and I am determined to enjoy every minute, and live in the now. I have a terrible habit of leaning forward to a point in time, and often waste precious moments thinking/worrying about something that may never be real. Until the U.S. government sends us on to our next assignment, I intend to suck the marrow out of this good Swedish life I’ve been given, herring bones and all.

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Thank you Jessica – I hope you continue to enjoy beautiful Stockholm and the whole of Sweden (it does sound amazing – being a big fan of cinnamon buns I might just come visit…)

If you are a new(ish) expat, what have been your first impressions of your new home? Did they live up to – or even surpass – expectations? Can you give any advice to Jessica and others like her making their first overseas move?