It was three years ago that we left the safety and comfort of the familiar and ventured into the unknown, then frozen landscape, that was Sweden. In those three years, this country no longer feels foreign but feels like home. We have explored other countries but return each time to feel at ease in our adopted land. As the newness has worn off over the years, we have slipped comfortably into every day life and admittedly have begun to take things for granted that this situation is our daily reality. It is tough for it not to.
Though much has changed, much remains the same.
Here is what has changed:
- We have an extra family member since we moved here - lovely and sweet Lucy
- Calvin is bilingual and switches seamlessly between both languages without pausing
- We speak English at home but I've found myself slipping more and more into Swedish phrases because "they feel right" - like, "sitta på rumpan, tack" just feels nicer than "sit on your butt, please"
- Every day feels like every day and less like a sparkly new adventure
- We have traveled to many other European countries since moving here. Now we need to explore more of Sweden
- We aren't afraid to ice skate on lakes/the sea anymore
- My default "other" language is Swedish. When traveling to foreign countries, I always respond with "ja, tack" even though I know they don't speak Swedish. To me, non-English=Swedish.
- Jon took 6 months off work to be a full time dad and he loved every second of it
- I've made friends here and have successfully maintained friendships over time - big win!
Here is what remains the same:
- We still miss our friends and family in the States. The distance is very difficult for us too.
- Bessie still barks at everyone coming and going
- As a family, we are still very happy. We were happy in Atlanta and we are happy here - they are just different lifestyles
I've learned a lot about myself as a person since moving here. Every day, it's just us and that builds a sense of confidence and strength. Jon and I have both grown within our marriage. His parental leave was immensely valuable time with the family and we support each other before in ways I had never thought possible.
We've also discovered that there is no utopia - no place is perfect and no situation is perfect. Living abroad comes with its fair share of tradeoffs. We don't make any decision without weighing all of the consequences and giving everything careful consideration. Though we haven't fully integrated into Swedish society, we are doing our best. It comes with time and a considerable amount of effort. Integrating while still retaining a sense of self is more difficult than I originally thought.
More and more of our friends are moving abroad and we see that as an inevitable transformation of the American workforce. Companies have global needs and will relocate their talent accordingly. Technology allows us to be ever increasingly mobile and maintain professional and personal relationships.
Currently, there is a record number of expatriates living abroad. The "Global Expatriates: Size, Segmentation and Forecast for the Worldwide Market" report stated that there are roughly 50.5 million expats worldwide and is expected to reach 56.8 million by 2017. That is 0.7 percent of the total global population and the fastest growing population in the world.
But for us, it is wonderful that more of our friends get to experience the life changes that come after living in a foreign country for an extended period of time. We feel extremely privileged to live this life and I thank Jon every day for being my partner in it all. There isn't anyone I'd rather have by my side.