This is the third time I have moved to Sweden and the third time I have fallen in love with Sweden. Yes the grey nordic winter is hard for a sunbaked Aussie. But there is also so much to LOVE. There are also quirky moments and realisations when you move somewhere else. Things you notice about your new country while you are still a newbie – before it all becomes the new normal. I love any sense of hilarity so I was paying attention to the quirky aspects of my new life.
In the first month my brain got tired from something very unexpected: the garbage sorting regime! In Sweden sorting your garbage is very serious indeed. There are way more categories than in my homeland Australia. And all these bags and collections need to head to different destinations. The council empties the food waste bin and the general (non recyclable) rubbish bin each week from the street. You may be interested to know that food waste (peelings etc) is collected from all over Sweden to be made into a gas to fuel cars!
Then there are the plastics, the metals, the paper, the clear glass, and the coloured glass which we must keep separate and take to a recycling station. And lastly are the empty drink cans and bottles that we can take to the supermarket for putting into the machine there which then spits out a voucher to be used at the supermarket (you get 1 or 2 kronor per can/bottle)! Normally I would never notice how many times a day I put stuff in the garbage or recycling bin but when I got to Sweden my brain was working hard. There are endless bins and bags to choose form every time you want to discard something! And some items elude categorisation for a newbie. Like a milk carton which is paper but feels plastic like due to a covering.
This was an example of many previously automatic moments of life, which suddenly became a hard thinking process!
Winter is not the winter I used to endure in Sweden 20 years ago. I know you will think I am imagining it but my friends who live here attest to it. The climate has changed considerably. When we lived here when our kids were small, a -20c day was NOT unusual. Even -25 occasionally. This January and February was well warmer than that. Most days were -10c give or take 5 degrees. Whether global warming is true or not, I certainly know why Europeans are freaking OUT about rising temperatures.
Summer is even greener than I remembered. It is totally mind boggling. Or is is that my eyes spent the last 6 years in Perth?
My wallet feels neglected and empty. I did not use or see Swedish cash until a couple of weeks ago. It took almost half a year! No one wants to receive cash here anymore, not even when you buy one bread roll at a bakery! If you need to give another person money (family member, or if you buy something second hand) you transfer funds to them via your Swish app (using their mobile number).
One of our friends got out some cash to be a bit rebellious. When he went to pay for something and pulled out 2000kr (roughly one day’s income) he was met with suspicion. ‘Where did you get that cash from?’ he was asked! Like he was getting it through suspicious dealings!
The Aussies might be in koala mode. One knows they are here somewhere but you do not see them. I have only met one Aussie so far in six months! That was when I heard a woman in a shop speaking on the phone with an Aussie accent. We ended up chatting quite a while!
I have only one lonely sock, so far… Not related to Sweden specifically, but when you move countries you naturally throw out all the lonely socks (the ones whose partners went to the Bahamas via a portal in the washing machine). I was actually curious how long it would take before I had lonely socks again. I can announce that at the six month mark I only have one! Clearly socks stick together more tightly in Sweden.
Speed limits are optional. In June I drove from one side of Sweden to the other (almost). Don’t worry it did not take 3 1/2 days like in Australia. Only 4 1/2 hours! Exhilarating!!
Anyway, on my long east to west traverse I was a polite Aussie and stuck to the speed limit. Ok, I admit that in fact great fear is trained and ingrained into me due to speed cameras everywhere in West Australia. So while on the Swedish country roads I stuck to the 110km limit like glue. However I frequently had cars behind me flashing their lights and then overtaking me like I was being ridiculous only going 110! They sailed past at 120 to 130km an hour! Eventually I had to speed up to almost 120 to avoid being constantly overtaken and feeling like a traffic hazard!
You all have a double in Sweden. My daughter and I noticed that we keep seeing doubles of friends back in Australia! It happened to me again yesterday. I was walking in the underground train station and saw Maddy (a friend from Australia) down the platform. I was excited to see her…for a fraction of a second!! Then I realised: ‘No, impossible, I am on another continent’. As I got closer, I saw that it was not of course not Maddy but her carbon copy! The Swedish version of her. This happens to me every week. My daughter says it too. WEIRD phenomenon!
No-one works in summer. The whole country is in relaxed mode and apparently either at the beach or away in the countryside! This photo is below is when I was at the shops on Saturday! In the middle of the day! It is July, the very middle of summer, in a supermarket not too far from Stockholm. At first I was literally pondering if there was an Alien invasion and I failed to notice. Then I asked a shop worker where the customers were and he said everyone is away on holidays! The supermarkets in the countryside must be busier!
Now here comes a few photos from the countryside and Stockholm from different times in the last months.
I hope you have a lovely day wherever you are. Hugs to you, from Siobhan.