I had always said that if we were to move back to Sweden it must not be during the dark and cold season. To me the climate was one of the best things about having expatriated from Sweden. I knew it would be tough moving back, and I had also not forgotten the long, dark winters in Scandinavia – they wouldn’t exactly be helpful. Hence repatriating in the late spring sounded like a plan. Now my dear readers, do you think it worked out? Nope. Mid-December we left to resettle on the Swedish west coast. Yes, you heard me – December. As far as I could possibly get from late spring. December was pretty exciting though – the novelty of being in a “new” place, Christmas with family, old friends. Swedish food, shops. Lights and comfort, no need to spend much time outdoors. But after that … re-entry shock set in, largely due to the worst winter weather I can recall. Ever.
A visual reminder to embrace living in a different climate – it´s a lot easier if you dress accordingly! “There´s no bad weather, only bad clothing” is one of the proverbs we grow up with in Sweden. I know expats who hate this saying, but truth is I guess we need it to survive! 🙂 Swedes are usually outdoorsy people; we need good and proper clothes for snowy, cold, rainy, windy, wet days. The first winter I spent back in Sweden after several years abroad I was constantly freezing. I had a winter jacket, right? The following winter I bought a new winter jacket – a Swedish one! Thick, fluffy and a fake fur lined hood. What a difference it made! I had failed to see the climate from the right cultural perspective.
One of the ladies in my expat network told me it is so easy to spot Swedish people in the alps – it´s the ones with the most appropriate winter wear! And not only in the slopes.
So we´re here; right in the middle of it. I´m talking about the cold and dark time of the year. Tiredness, low mood and not being as social as you usually are – not uncommon at all. Not surprising at all. Personally I feel as if the days were shorter which of course gives less room for being social; it is not likely that I would say “hey, let´s meet up in the park after work “. The day is already over.
Luckily we have the tradition of fika in Sweden. Always works. Ask someone over for coffee and a chat. The smell of freshly baked (works with the cinnamon rolls from the gas station too) goodies is sure to lift your mood. Yes, I think cocooning is trending winter time.
Lack of daylight might contribute to a chemical imbalance in the brain, affecting us negatively; some more than others. There is even such a thing as winter depression – SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). Apparently it is not even heard of around the equatorial line. Go figure.
What can we do about it? GET DAYLIGHT. Preferably real, but there are also artificial lights. There are day light lamps, wake up lamps and even facilities with beaches, sun chairs and bright light. I have to try that. Wonder if you can get a colorful cocktail with a straw too?
In Umeå, 600 km north of Stockholm, the energy company decided to treat bus commuters to some benevolent bright light. Bus stops were lit up by ultra-violet light therapy for a few weeks last fall. Bus drivers complained; they were blinded by the light … But all in all I´m sure it was a success, not at least PR wise.
Try to get some daylight every day, even if it´s overcast. If you can squeeze in at least the shortest of walks you will most probably benefit from it. If you can´t – open the curtains, position yourself by a window. I did exactly this writing this text. May I suggest you drink some water too, avoiding headache. Just saying.
Turn the lights on; candle lights are nice for the soul and mind too, but won´t fill your need for light. Alternate!
It´s cold. Yes. Dress accordingly, go out and enjoy the weather and landscape on a nice day. Try ice skating, skiing or tobogganing. Or just fika in the snow; watching the others. Nothing beats hot cocoa and an energy bar. Don´t forget the lambskin to sit on. Or fake fur.
Go for light colors. You might not want to redecorate your home (admit it´s a good reason though ;)), but accessorize with pillows, blankets as well as curtains in pale, pastel shades, or whites.
Buy flowers, tulips are great and affordable – buy every week! Spring flowers like crocuses and snow drops look pretty on the windowsill and make me happy too. At least when I remember to water them.
Perhaps you could even consider dressing differently? Skip the black for a week; dare to try something new – lemon, pistachio, baby pink? These are not my colors at all, so I´ll go with beige. Again, accessories might do (half) the trick. People must have been happier in the 80´s right?
Needless to say, if you suffer deep from winter blues and are depressed you should contact your doctor/vårdcentral.
Tulips are my favorite flowers. The first sign of spring during our long dark winters; the first pastel colors after the intense reds and greens of Christmas. I love them! But I´m not alone – tulips are popular in Sweden. Swedes buy most tulips per person in the world, adding up to one million per day. US is still the largest market but the buying pattern of the Swedes- often a bunch per week – is far from matched. So even buying flowers can be culturally different, as well as the value of the flower. We happily buy them for ourselves when we do our weekly grocery shopping, whereas in other countries they might be considered more exclusive. Today– Jan 15 – is the Day of the Tulip in Sweden – “Tulpanens dag”. And yes, I bought some today! In spite of my admiration for tulips I haven’t grown many of them in my garden over the years. You see, it is not only Swedish people that can’t resist them; they seem to be favorite food for part of our wildlife. Last fall though I planted quite a few which I will guard vigorously when the time comes. Actually, due to the mild winter, one or two are peaking up already. As an expat I was lucky to enjoy smaller, botanical tulips in one of my rented gardens.
Read more about tulips here, Tulpanguiden in Swedish, or just enjoy the pictures!
Small Swedish lesson:
en tulpan – a tulip
tulpaner – tulips
en blomma – a flower
blommor – flowers
en bukett – a bouquet
att slå ut – to bloom/to enter the flowering state
en utslagen tulpan – a blooming tulip
att sloka – to wilt, to flag
vissna – to wither, to shrivel
vissen – shrivelled
en rabatt – a flower bed
en dag – a day
Tulpanens dag – the Day of the Tulip
Moving is your big chance to declutter. Sure, you might be fortunate enough to enjoy a moving company packing service, but still there is often the need to go through things. Sometimes you already know where you will be living, and that space might be less. Climate can impact too; there was no reason to keep all our humidifiers when relocating to Sweden. However leaving our garden furniture behind was not a climate-related decision, even though one might think so – especially after this rainy summer.
I usually say that moving once in a while is good for closets and attics. And also for basements, not to mention garages! You can sell things, give them away to friends, or donate them to charities. Ask friends, at the club/work or the neighbors for ideas. In the village where I lived a few years ago, you simply put your no-longer-wanted items out in the street, at the garbage collection area. Whoever walked by finding an interest in the object could simply take it. If it was still there at garbage-day, it was removed. My pasta-maker, still in the box, found a new home that way.
Another system seemed to work well in the village nearby. A couple of days per year villagers could bring the bits and pieces they wanted to clear out to a selected open area. Items were then free to any other resident who wanted them. In the afternoon the remaining things were donated to charity or found their way to the dump. A friend of mine, a trailing spouse adapting well to the local life, left two chairs and came home with a table. I would like to see more of these environmentally friendly solutions!
In Sweden you can try www.bjussa.se . Here you can advertise items to give away.
One of the best things with living in different countries, and being exposed to various cultures, is that you get a bunch of new traditions to take on. You can choose freely – adopt the ones that appeal to you and fit your regular schedule of celebrations. It can be big; it can be small. As an expat; try to celebrate with locals if you can. If you moved already, keep the traditions – sometimes they prove to grow even stronger!
In my case there seems to be a strong connection between traditions and food. Anyone else? This year, with a bunch of friends from different parts of the world, we decided to celebrate Cinco de Mayo; because of the Mexican food. But we also looked up some information about the tradition, and background, so we all learnt something new. We had a wonderful evening and will most likely do it again.
Thanksgiving is coming up, closely followed by 1st of Advent. Again; food involved. But we must not forget the most important ingredients – people and the opportunities/excuses to get together!
What are your traditions? Have you started any new ones? What happens when you move – do the traditions grow in importance or do they tend to fade away? Would love to hear your comments!
You don´t know what you´ve got until it is gone. Sometimes things are not even important to you until you can´t actually get it anymore. This happens when you relocate. All of a sudden those salty liquorice fish are to die for. You celebrate holidays like never before and order lucia-gowns in adult sizes. Frozen liver pâté and long johns from Polarn O. Pyret fill up the suitcases. And even though you hate queuing, you know it´s a rather blissful invention.
If you live abroad; besides family and friends – what do you miss from Sweden? Leave a comment! Click the bubble on the top right of the blog post to see what fellow expats – or “guest-Swedes” – miss!
If you are an expat living in Sweden; find out what people miss from Sweden – believe it or not? Will you miss the same? Not likely. Not all of it.
I have yet to miss the winter weather of Gothenburg though.
“Turn your family adventure into an enriching experience” – series of seminars/workshop for expatriates starting again in May. Sign up is open, e-mail for further details firstname.lastname@example.org.
Seminarierserie som även passar dig som återflyttat till Sverige efter en tid utomlands. Se under flikenWorkshops.
This week´s workshop covered the trailing spouse and identity loss.We focused on identity GAINS, and created our own personal mood improvers! Just working on it made us all smile, and even LOL!