When we first started dating and considering how this long distance would pan out in the end, I would never have expected to be the one to WANT to move. We were at opposite ends of the globe, and couldn’t get too much further apart if we tried. Johan had said he would like to move to an English-speaking country, and his family was more spread out over the country than mine was, so I’d always just expected for him to make the move, otherwise I wasn’t sure how long our relationship was going to last. At least, that was my thinking for the first year of our relationship.
Then we had our first meeting, and it was love at first sight with that country (and the boyfriend, of course). I could no longer imagine us living in Australia. Which is a bit crazy, considering the number of things I consider the negative effects on the “Things to Know Before Moving to Sweden” lists. Here’s why:
No, don’t shoot me down for this one! Fika is Swedish for a coffee break that’s more about socialising than drinking coffee. It is more than just a coffee break – it’s a lifelong tradition and social phenomenon – but that first part still makes me hesitate. Coffee break. I don’t drink coffee. Or tea, for that matter. I’m much more a water & occasional soft drinks (soda) kind of girl, with the odd hot chocolate maybe three times a year. I fear turning down the cups of coffee that the Swedes may offer me, to the point where maybe I will start drinking this hot beverage to avoid the awkwardness. Who knows, maybe I’ll start liking it? But for now, I’ll stick with my coffee-free lifestyle. Besides, there’s the other half of fika – all the sweets and cakes and buns and cookies and delicious sugary goodness to look forward to. Mm-mmm!
I am not a seafood person. I do not like the smell; I do not like the taste, especially not REAL seafood – like caught from the ocean, shells, eyes and bones kind of thing. I have no problem eating baby prawns (frozen & prepacked), smoked oysters/mussels (in an aluminum can) or seafood extender (the red stuff, also bought frozen). I’ll also eat crumbed calamari rings, and fish fingers – only if they don’t taste too fishy. But proper fish? I steer well clear. And Sweden is like the fish capital. They have it on their National Day, Midsummer Day, Easter, Christmas… And they have the real stuff. Salmon, pickled herring, crayfish (boiled alive) and of course, surströmming *shudders*. They even have fish CAKES. CAKES. For birthdays. Not sweet, fattening sponge cakes and cheesecakes and chocolate cakes, but FISH CAKES (which actually, if I’m perfectly honest, doesn’t look too bad. Something I would eat. Much less horrifying than the thought of trying to pull apart a crayfish). I don’t know if I’ll be able to handle so much seafood. But it will be a learning curve. After all, Kalles kaviar wasn’t so bad.
For my whole life, my Mum has told me to stay single and free and travel the world, because she didn’t. For my whole life (…before I met Johan) I told her I didn’t care about travel. And I didn’t. I cared about going to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and the Studio Tour, but apart from that… no interest. Then I went to Sweden. Not for the travel, but for my boyfriend (okay, okay, and the snow). And I loved every minute of it. Finding out about the history of his hometown, the history of the capital city, the Vikings. Australia seemed so new and has so much to learn, and yet here, this place had a history hundreds of years old, and buildings made before Australia was even put on the map. It was fascinating. And suddenly, my interest in travel peaked just a little. I wanted to explore the rest of his country, up and down the entire stretch of land. Then you start thinking, well, it’s so close to so many other countries and it’s so cheap to visit. And Australia is so isolated and takes a small fortune to get outside of those boundaries and further than just interstate. You know what? I might have to bite my tongue and take back my word. Maybe I DO want to travel.
Oh, and then there’s the things other people consider the negative effects, that I consider positive:
Ever since I’ve started saying I want to make the move, my Nan has said that the novelty of the cold air and snow as far as the eye can see will wear off. I don’t believe that. I’m a child at heart – always have been, always will be. I’ll make snowmen and snow angels every year, enjoy the late morning sunrises and rugging up in about a dozen layers before stepping outside. And when it seems dark, I’ll have someone to keep me company; a fireplace to tend to and fleece blankets all over the house. I’ll get to the point where I’ll consider a Swedish summer hot and an Aussie summer hell (because of course an Australian winter only gets as cold as a Swedish summer). I’m more worried about the midnight sun! My Mum is absolutely right when she says Australia is the same all year round, at least in Brisbane where there is no snow. No autumn leaves and trees losing their leaves, only to sprout fresh new ones in the spring, splashing the world in an abundance of colour once more. The yard looks the same today, as it will next season, and the season after that and the season after that. I mean, where’s the inspiration in that? The excitement of the first snowflake, jumping in a pile of crunchy, autumn leaves… yep, I’ll have some of that please.
One of the things I’ve always admired about Johan is how fluent he is in English. I didn’t have to teach him a thing (well, except for the Aussie slang). That said, I also enjoy listening to him speak Swedish with his family even if I can barely understand a word. The Swedish language sounds so pleasant to the ear, especially when softly-spoken. Even before I wanted to move to Sweden, I wanted to at least learn the language to better communicate with his family – who for the most part speak fairly good English anyway, apart from his youngest sisters who will eventually learn it in school. How hard could it be? I mean, when I learnt Indonesian in school I was pretty good… not that I remember any of it now… Whilst I am learning bits and pieces of Swedish, it is harder than I perhaps expected, but I hope to one day be as fluent in Swedish as Johan is in English, and be able to sing the beautiful national anthem, loud and proud.
Almost all the articles rattle off quotes about how Sweden is a very expensive country to live, particularly in Stockholm. I mean, of course it’s going to be expensive in Stockholm, it’s the city! Every city center is expensive. Now if these articles are all being written by Americans who pay $10 for three course meals, then I understand. But when comparing prices with Australia, it really wasn’t that much more expensive. In fact, in some instances, Sweden was cheaper! I regularly look at Swedish real estate sites with prices of approx. 1200000 – 2000000 kr ($183000 – $304000) – up and down the whole country mind, so some of those houses might be in the middle of nowhere, I haven’t worked out the geography of it all yet – but there’s some beautiful old homes that are drool-worthy. Whilst many have been built in the mid-1900s – some earlier, some later – so many have had renovations inside to make the house modern, refreshing and new. There are fewer new houses and housing estates being built, meaning more countryside. Not to mention a much better (and cheaper) public transport system, meaning fewer cars on the road (and more expensive fuel), but more bicycles. It may or may not have been my imagination, but the air smelt so crisp and clean outside. Of course, then there’s avgift which confuses me beyond belief, but…
Overall, I think the biggest worry will be maintaining employment (specifically for a non-Swede) to be able to keep up with the cost of living. I really want us to be able to move into a home sooner rather than later, but from what I’ve heard it can be harder to get loans over there – although there’s not supposed to be any restrictions for expats – but then, it’s also very hard to get into the renting market, at least in the city areas, unless you’ve been on a wait-list for years. Hence we’re trying to save every cent and kronor we can now. As long as I can job search before moving over there, and work on learning the language – the unemployment rates can’t be that bad. I mean, it can’t be that different from Australia, and I was unemployed for almost two years, hunting down that first job. I’ve been down that road, conquered it, and I’ll conquer it again.
Regardless, it makes more sense for me to move to him
(we won’t even mention the ludicrous cost difference for a Swedish Residence Permit – which can be obtained without being married aka “sambo” – vs. an Australian Partner Visa). His family is younger; he has younger siblings closer to my age who are yet to marry. My family is older and slightly better off money-wise if ever they want to come for visits (and will surely love the novelty of snow as much as I do). I want our kids to grow up in a multilingual country where education is free (and gender equality great) and they can speak with both our families from the time they can talk. I want to change my lifestyle to a happier, healthier one, which I want to do outside of my home country and my creature comforts, in one of the greenest nations on Earth.