Sunday, October 28, 2012

Ten Revelations -- Courtesy of Sweden

Assimilation is a process. It happens slowly but I have noticed a few changes in myself that I believe I can directly attribute to moving to Sweden.

Here are my top ten revelations since we moved here about how life has changed:

1. I need to clean...all of the time
I'm not just talking about cleaning because I'm home more often and have more time to clean. No.  My floors are hardwood and white tile.  Dirt and leaves stand out so clearly.  Also, Bessie is no longer licking the floor obsessively, so I actually have to sweep after Calvin's meals. Whenever we go to someone's house for a playdate, I can't help but notice how super clean their houses are.  It might be the Ikea furnishings or stark white walls, but everyone's house is near sterile clean.  Jon and I are not the most fastidious cleaners, but my obsession with sweeping is nearing a compulsive disorder.

2. Metric rules!
I opened a skeleton garland to decorate for our Halloween party and the package said the garland was 60 inches long.  My mind had NO CONCEPT as to how long that was. Was that 5 feet? 2 feet? I don't know!  When did my head stop computing English measurements and switch to metric? My brain doesn't comprehend inches anymore.  What's next? Dollars?

3. I don't convert money
Unlike converting temperatures constantly from Celsius into Fahrenheit, I try my best not to convert SEK to USD.  It's just better for everyone for me not to truly understand how much my sandwich at lunch really cost me.  When I'm in the grocery store, I basically just pick out whatever I want and I don't price compare.  Hey, I'm in this store and I need diapers. I'm not going to walk 10 minutes to the next store to buy their diapers. We limit our purchases only to what we need since we know that everything is expensive.  We end up with a pantry full of essentials and nothing goes to waste. 

4.  Calvin is an introvert
Imagine this: the room is full of children and parents. The kids are running around and playing -- making tons of noise and laughing.  There is one kid who is standing by the wall -- observing everything and taking it all in.  That is Calvin.
He is the quiet one when he is outnumbered.  He doesn't walk up to others to initiate play. He slowly watches what is going on and then asks to be picked up.  I'm sure we would have discovered his introvert-edness in Atlanta but since we're here, this was a revelation thanks to Sweden.  Sorry kid ... you truly are my kid.

5. Swedish maternity leave is a luxury
My Swedish neighbor (an elderly lady) saw me picking up Calvin from dagis.  She asked me how old he was and I said, 16 months.  She gasped and exclaimed, "Oh so young!"  She then proceeded to tell me how tough it is for my generation to put their kids in dagis at such a young age.  If she was exclaiming that Calvin was 16 months and going to dagis 2 days a week, I wonder what she would say if she knew that I left Calvin when he was 3 months old to go to work back in Atlanta.  This is ROUND 2 for me lady. I got to have unexpected extra time with him and I'm loving it but I can't ever take it for granted.  However, since it's the norm here to be at home with your children while they are small, it becomes very easy to forget that this isn't how our lives used to be. I remind myself everyday that we live here for this.  Spending time with Calvin is the reason why we are here.  We became a stronger family unit the day we moved.

6.  We need to learn Swedish
Calvin is babbling in his own language but he fully comprehends English and Swedish.  He is already showing signs of bilingualism.  I told Calvin to say "hej då" and he said, "bye bye" in reply.  He knows that they mean the same thing.  We need to learn Swedish so that we can at least keep pace with his vocabulary.  I don't like picking him up from dagis and being forced to find the few teachers who speak English for me to figure out how his day went.  I don't like standing there like a dope while my Zumba teacher makes jokes and everyone is laughing.  Not knowing the language is like constantly being on the outside and having to wait until someone is nice enough to switch to English to "bring you in." Jon and I are signed up to start Swedish lessons in a few weeks so we are working on it!

7.  What I truly miss from the US
I think that people thought we would miss certain things from the US.  Like peanut butter, Chik-fil-A, driving a car, etc.  And I thought I might too.  Instead I miss the people. I miss our friends and family. I miss the experiences of going to the Halloween-themed Atlanta Botanical Gardens in the fall.  I miss the spring festivals at Piedmont Park.  I don't miss the things so much as I miss the people and experiences.  Those are irreplaceable.

8. I don't have much in common with US expats
Recently I joined the American Women's Club as a means for more networking and to make more friends.  I thought that getting together with fellow Americans would make me feel like I could go to a sphere of familiarity for a brief moment.  I'm sure there are a few who are happy in Sweden but the majority of the women spent their energy complaining about their situations and claiming to be "love refugees."  They all had Swedish boyfriends/husbands tying them here.  They looked at me like an anomaly when I explained that Jon and I were both American.  Their faces all read like, "Well, why are you here then if  you don't have to be?"  Really??  Sadly, all I have in common with these ladies is our nationality.

9. Moving to Sweden has been great for my career
When I left my job for a big question mark in Stockholm, I was pretty sure that I had knowingly imploded my own career aspirations.  I was just coming to grips with putting everything on hold for a few years when my consulting gig became a reality.  Now, I not only have a super flexible work schedule that lets me be with Calvin during the day and work in the afternoons/night, but I am also working with big time global clients.  My boss just told me that he'll be recruiting me for more projects in the near future and my big contract just got extended from our Stockholm client, so the future looks bright!

10. We love living near nature
We have lived in the heart of a city for the past 8-12 years.  Jon lived in Rochester, so I'm not really counting his years, but I moved from Tampa to Atlanta to Stockholm.  When us city-folk moved to the great outdoors (not by choice), we didn't expect to enjoy it half as much as we do now.  We take daily walks in the woods and take pride in picking our own berries and mushrooms.  Who are we?  Now when I go into the city to run errands, I feel a sense of chaos and hurriedness.  Everyone is rushing around and the crowds are just too much to handle sometimes.  Jon and I had to return my gloves to NK (an upscale department store) on a Saturday and the shopping crowds were overwhelming.  Jon came back from the store all out of breath and just said, "let's get out of here."  Now we aren't city slickers anymore but honest to goodness country-folk!

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