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

Norrland Newbie – I have never felt so free

Tisha Cox recalls a momentous summer, when she finally realized how safe she feels in Sweden compared with her own country, the United States.

During the summer, I had the opportunity to take a few solo driving trips to different areas of the country. I spent time in a larger city, time driving through the countryside, and even got to go up north to the Arctic Circle – which felt like a really special treat! Everywhere I went, I enjoyed the natural beauty Sweden has to offer. So many pretty views, rivers, lakes, hills, and forests.

As a newbie, I was very thankful for the accuracy of Google maps and the reliability of my cell phone service – even in remote areas. But the thing that struck me most was not the places themselves, it was the feeling of safety and freedom I had during my trips.

As a woman, I’ve never felt more free than I have since living in Sweden.

I remember a very profound moment when I had been here for about four months. I was walking down the street and realized I felt as carefree as a child. When I was living in the US, I had become accustomed to being on my guard, even in small towns. Not to over dramatize things, but there was always a consistent level of harassment that had taught me to be on constant alert. It’s been one of the most pleasant surprises of moving here – to learn that type of behavior does not seem to be a part of Swedish culture. Of course, there is the need for general common sense, but not an oppressive feeling of needing to be on your guard all the time.

Norrland Newbie - I have never felt so free
I have to admit, I’ve also come to understand the fear of moose. Photograph by Silvan Schuppisser.

When I first arrived in Sweden, people kept telling me how safe it was, but I was skeptical. I remember a teacher looking at me like I was crazy when I seemed concerned about sending my oldest son on a bus into the city on his own. And I thought they were equally as crazy for acting like it was no big deal!

Then I had a fika with another American woman who had been living in Sweden for many years. I asked her about her experiences living here and if she felt like things were really that different.

She laughed as she remembered having feelings similar to mine when she had first arrived. Hearing from her helped me immensely, because I knew she understood the culture I was coming from.

When I learned that a woman walking in the forest in Sweden, feared encountering a moose more than meeting a man, I was completely shocked! But even after talking with my friend, it took time for me to accept that things were different here. I had to experience it for myself.

It was at that moment, four months in, while I was walking down the street after dropping my youngest son off at school, that I really understood the significant difference I was experiencing. I felt generally safe, and with that feeling an unnecessary load was lifted. Just one less thing in life to be burdened with. And I felt lighter and happier because of it.

Seeing how things are here in Sweden, makes me want my own country to do better in this regard. It tells me that better is possible. And I wish everyone in the world could experience this same sense of freedom and safety.

I have to admit, I’ve also come to understand the fear of moose. I haven’t had any real encounters, other than passing a few on early morning drives, but I’ve seen videos of how fast and powerful they can be and I’m legitimately intimidated. They look like such friendly doofuses, but it seems looks can be deceiving.


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