The 29-Day Blogging Challenge: S is for Stockholm
One of the more exciting aspects of the expat life is moving into a new city, new country, new language, new culture, new everything. It’s an energizing challenge to re-learn everything in an effort to live effortlessly – mastering the language and cultural peculiarities, figuring out the streets and neighbourhoods and transportation routes, understanding societal expectations and codes of conduct, wrangling with governmental bureaucracy and guidelines… For some, it can be a daunting task, and thus they shy away from it. A friend of mine did a 4-month educational exchange in Norway some years back, and hated it. He hated not knowing which streets to take, where a particular store was located, how much the bus cost, how to order a coffee or a pack of smokes, or even the general etiquette rules for queuing at a grocery store. He felt more comfortable in the familiar and shunned anything that pulled him outside his comfort zone.
While these and the thousand other aspects to expat living can be intimidating, that’s what I like most about living in a new city. Perhaps it’s the adrenaline rush to my ADHD-addled brain that finds excitement and thrill in stepping out of the known into the unknown, to wander foreign streets for the first time and get horribly lost, but not at all concerned about finding my way back home. My first night in Amsterdam years back was like that – I went out on my own, no map, no previous experience with navigating the serpentine streets and alleyways, and wandered aimlessly through the damp night without a care in the world. Of course I made my way back to the hotel eventually, after miles of wrong turns and dead ends and “oooh! Let’s see what’s down this heretofore unseen passage!”… Similarly, the first several months of living in Stockholm have provided many opportunities for the same sort of aimless meandering, discovery-by-happenstance, the thrill of rounding a corner and having no idea where I’ve ended up, but eager to press on and see more.
I’ve written before about the beauty of Stockholm; I still have moments of stunned realization that I do, in fact, live here. Having only been exposed to the city through tales and movies and random pictures, I find myself often staring at the city, its architecture, its urban art, its juxtaposition of buildings and parkland and asphalt and cobblestone and forests and waterways and Beemers and bikes and people and dogs and malls and boutiques and think, “Holy shit… I live here.” This place is not a temporary stop on my vacation itinerary, it is fast becoming home.
Of course expat living often comes with an expiration date; at some point you accept a new job in a new city, a new country, you pack your bags, say final good-byes, and jet off for a new set of experiences. We have no idea what that date is for us – maybe a year or two down the road, maybe more. Our jobs are secure, and we’re both feeling ‘at home’ in this city quite rapidly. (And Sweden obviously wants me to stay – in what must be a record turn-around, I applied for and received my personnummer – basically a Swedish social security number – in 2 days. I have friends that have been struggling with the immigration board’s bureaucracy for over a year, with little success.) Whatever the remainder of our time here, Jill and I continue to discover little treasures of this city – be it a quaint neighbourhood or a jazz bar or a waterfront café or a stunning bit of architecture – and will be genuinely sad when the time comes to say goodbye. But with every goodbye comes a new challenge, a new city to explore, new rules and expectations and a myriad of unknowns that will undoubtedly surprise, delight, and frustrate us all over again. Such is the live we live, and we love it.
Previous posts: Introducing the 29-Day Blogging Challenge; A is for Anonymity; B is for Busses; C is for Canada; D is for Dogs;E is for Expatriate; F is for Failure;G is for Google; H is for Hedgehog; I is for Indian food; J is for Jill, obviously; K is for Kurt Cobain; L is for Listerine; M is for Mac&Cheez; N is for Night; O if for Olfactory Dysfunction; P is for Photography; Q if for Quest For Fire; R is for Religion