It’s been just over a year since I moved to Sweden from New Zealand and I’m loving it. I admit my social media accounts (such as Instagram and Facebook) is more of a highlight reel, but overall – I’m happy here.
When I first moved here, I wasn’t sure which challenges would lay ahead and how I’d adjust. After all, I figured Sweden is another Western country – can’t be too different. And it’s not. The differences don’t stare me right in the face but are somewhat more subtle.
Below are my experiences and thoughts in adjusting to a few aspects of Swedish life (from the perspective of a New Zealander)
I read lots about Swedish culture before I moved here and I remember reading that Swedish people are shy and that it can be hard for foreigners to make friends with Swedes. I’m not sure if I agree. My friends here mainly consist of other expats, people I work with and a few people I met on exchange in Freiburg 7 years ago.
I’m under the impression that people here stay in the same friends group for years (after meeting at high school or university). So maybe that can be hard to break? I’m not sure. I could be completely wrong here.
Sweden is world-renowned for its stance on gender equality – especially when it comes to parental leave
. 90 of those days are reserved for men. In New Zealand, I remember working with men who’d generally take off 2-4 weeks to be with their child – here it seems that anywhere from 3 months to 9 months is considered normal. Sweden has a very generous parental leave policy compared to New Zealand (and even more so compared to a lot of other countries).
In terms of day to day life – the difference I see is men pushing prams. I just didn’t see that in NZ. I also see pairs of men go for a walk pushing prams and hanging out, or being in the park with their kids (without the mother being there). Didn’t see that in New Zealand either. When it comes to family time in New Zealand, I noticed that the mother was almost always there. It seems to me that here, in general, fathers have a more hands-on role in raising kids.
I rode a bike a few times when I was in New Zealand (never got very good at controlling it to be honest). But I never had much incentive to actually get good at it. After all, there are hardly any cycle lanes in Auckland and I would never have felt safe cycling in Auckland even if I was confident on a bike.
In Stockholm, there are heaps of cycle paths – it’s a popular way to get around. Even more so in Malmö (Plus Malmö is very flat so no hills… yay!). It seems that almost everyone here has a bike.
When my boyfriend and I went to meet up with his friend in Västerås, my cycling skills were not too good as I didn’t have great control over the bike. The need to weave through people (shared pedestrian/cycle path) meant that I had to walk my bike to the meeting spot and we ended up being 45min late (it was supposed to be a 28min bike ride). Since then I have improved. I believe I could’ve weaved through those people and not hit them (haven’t tested those skills yet though so we shall see).
I’m still getting there. Wouldn’t say I’m fluent but I can get by in most situations in Swedish (knowing German really helps as they are from the same language family). At first I found it hard to motivate myself to practice as it seems everyone here speaks English anyway and when I tried to speak Swedish sometimes people would answer back in English. But time has really helped here. I would also really like to conquer the language as it sounds beautiful (and I hate the thought of butchering it which I’m worried I’m currently doing).
To practice my Swedish I do/did the following:
Edit: I’ve started a blog that documents my Swedish learning journey
Edit: Here are some photos of my time in Sweden
Malmö Lilla Torg.
Gröna Lund, theme park in Stockholm
Before the Blodomloppet, a 10km run in Stockholm around the Archipelago.
View over Stockholm