Tisha Cox column byline photograph - Norrland Newbie
Tisha Cox column byline photograph - Norrland Newbie

Norrland Newbie – “The locals are friendly”

Our newbie, Tisha Cox, is missing the familiarity of home but is enjoying finding out that one stereotype of northern Swedes is totally unjustified.

As the one year anniversary of our arrival to Sweden approaches, we find ourselves navigating a few bumps in the road, as well as confronting some pre-conceived notions about life in Sweden, and, starting to take part in more social activities.

One of the bumps in the road, was quite literally that. An incident getting a car stuck in the snow caused the need for a major repair and thus, a lot of shuffling of schedules to make sure everyone gets where they need to be on time. Living about an hour outside the city has lots of benefits, but when something like this happens, it can be difficult. The other snag we’ve recently encountered is discovering more problems with our roof. How we will solve that issue is yet to be determined. Confronting these types of obstacles while still settling into a new country has added an extra layer of difficulty to life. Each time, it seems we have to learn how things are taken care of here. Who do we call? Where are the available resources? In your home country, you just know what to do. It’s simple. There is that inherent familiarity. Familiarity… that’s the thing I miss most about home. I don’t think I will ever take familiarity for granted again. And, of course, we lack that here. As we spend more time in this new place we’re living in, it’s apparent that we’ll have a lot of learning to do for a very long time.

Norrland Newbie - "The locals are friendly"
A traditional Swedish ‘fika’ consisting of a hot cup of coffee and freshly baked cinnamon buns. The concept of ‘fika’ is a natural part of Swedish everyday life. It means that you take a break for a coffee and a bite to eat, either with your co-workers, family, friends or by yourself. Photograph by Tina Stafrén/imagebank.sweden.se

A year ago, before we embarked on our trip over, we had done a good bit of reading and YouTube-watching to get an idea of what life was like in Sweden. We are those crazy people who moved to another country without ever having first visited it. (Not something I ever thought I would do.) After gleaning online information from Swedish citizens and other expats who had moved to Sweden, there were a few things that stood out. 1. Fika is important. 2. Swedes tend to be reserved and difficult to get to know. And, 3. winter is hard.

After living here for these past months, I can agree that the first is true. And, I really like the addition of having fika in my life! But to the second point, I don’t know that I agree. Maybe it’s because I’m a reserved introvert myself, but I have felt that the locals are quite engaging and seem to really enjoy being social. It feels, to me, like there is a big emphasis put on social time here in Sweden. We’ve been dipping our toes into a bit more socializing with the new people we are meeting. We hosted our first fika recently at our home. I think it went pretty well, although I must admit, I’m not a natural hostess. However, I am getting the feeling I will need to become accustomed to opening our home up to visitors more often than I’m used to.

Our children have also participated in social outings and a recent birthday party. I know it’s all perception, but I’m not sure why so many of the resources we read warned of this “highly reserved society.” I’m not seeing it. Lastly, we had some big preconceptions about winter. We had prepared ourselves for a difficult winter, knowing how far north we were going to be and hearing about all of the snow. Maybe preparing for the worst made it seem easier, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised. I’ve enjoyed winter in Sweden a lot! Coming from the perspective of a Midwesterner from the US, it didn’t feel all that different – except MORE SNOW!

I can only imagine what a shock it must be for those who come from a place that doesn’t experience this type of winter weather at all. I think the snow, a few sightings of herds of reindeer, and some appearances of the Northern Lights made the season feel magical, rather than difficult, to my newbie heart. Step by step we are getting to know this place a little more, building what I hope, in time, may become a bit of the familiarity I’m missing at the moment.


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