15 lessons my life in Sweden has taught me

15 lessons my life in Sweden has taught me
Divya Sharma. Photo: Private
Divya Sharma moved from India to Sweden in 2013. She reflects on the 15 lessons she has learned from her years in Sweden.

It seems strange now that I was so against moving here in the first place. Now I can't remember a life other than this. Of course I miss India terribly, but the thought of leaving this life sends shivers down my spine. I feel I grew up in India but learned to be a real adult here in Sweden.

It is remarkable what and how much a new country can teach you. People complain about life in Sweden, weather, lack of jobs, hurdles with the language and the European way of life, but that's what makes the ride so worthwhile. Here are 15 lessons that life in Sweden taught me in my first years here, hoping there are many more lessons to follow.

1. Patience

I used to get angry, impatient and irritated at the drop of a hat back home. Traffic, standing in a queue, people staring, made me lose my cool. Maybe it has to do with the lifestyle, but since everybody here maintains patience while standing in a queue, crossing the road, at the tax office, almost everywhere that one goes, I am much more tolerant. Seeing all of this taught me a lesson or two and made me much calmer.

2. Compassion

Opening the doors for strangers, throwing litter in the dustbin, understanding the plight of others. Again a trend that is already there in the Swedish way of living, compassion is built within the society.

3. Solitude

As much as I hated solitude back in India, I am getting to love it right now. Alone time has now made me invest more time in reading books, writing articles, doing yoga and spending time in the nature. Scarce back home, time is now found in abundance here and the solitude has made me find time for myself and doing new things.

4. Honesty

Now I am not saying that there is no honesty in India. But ever since I encountered the Swedish way of life, honesty and 'going by the word' is the way things work here. The shopkeeper doesn't count the change when you return the money, the salesman advises you not to buy certain things even though he stands in danger of being in a loss, employers don't 'check' your offer letter when you join a new job and so on.

5. Travelling

Nothing opens your eyes to the world other than travelling. Seeing a different landscape, hearing a different language may sound alien but curiosity gets the better off you and you become adamant to decipher the culture. Living in Sweden and visiting different countries has given me ample opportunity to learn so much about different cultural norms.

6. Value to time

Unlike the Indian standard time that is well known for all the wrong reasons, everything happens on time here. A party at 7pm begins at 7pm and an official meeting at 8am works the same way. Coming and being on time seems to be the way of life here, irrespective of the weather or any other circumstance.

7. Good weather doesn't last long

Sweden is famous for its unpredictable dark, rainy and gloomy weather. Good weather days are few and far between and so is the sun. Weekend or not, if the weather is good, you'll spy more smiles than ever. Since good weather is a blessing, I have learned to value its importance more than ever and relish it while it is around. When it is not, I stay indoors and keep myself engaged.

8. Leaving your comfort zone

Before we leave our respective countries, we never see the life beyond it. Coming to Sweden made me see the vastness of the globe and the difference in the way of living. There are people like us out there who see the world from a different perspective. The culture, thought process and lifestyle is varied and you don't realize it until you pack your bags and experience it for yourself.

9. Value of working

A vital one. I was a happy career-oriented girl back in India and I didn't realize the necessity of a career so badly until I moved to Sweden without a job. Finding a job grew more difficult owing to the necessity of knowing the local language. I toiled hard and it took me a year both to master the language and to bag a job. Now that I have a job I cherish it.

10. House work

Like anyone else back home in India, I had the luxuries of a cleaning lady, ironing wala and dry cleaning wala. There was a pick-up and drop-off facility for anything and everything. Amid all the grumbling, tearing my hair out and wailing for the comforts back home, I learned the housework the hard way after living in Sweden. Ranging from fixing a bulb, picking up the groceries and driving. In fact, even when I go back to India for holidays, I insist on doing my own laundry, dishes and other necessities that I once yearned for. Strange, but the need to have a helper now makes me feel handicapped.

11. Fewer the friends, the better

I was used to being surrounded by a bevy of 'friends' in India. Going to the pubs, discos, movies with an acquaintance just for the company was very common. Moving to Sweden not knowing many people, one learns to pick the ones that you gel with and not just anyone to hang out with. Spending quality time is more important than just being with random people you can't connect with.

12. A new language, fresh wave in life

Learning Swedish in the beginning felt like something imposed on me as a means to get a job. It was tough. Slowly, my confidence reached a new high as I grasped it more and more. So much so that I actually started enjoying it and didn't care whether or not I would get a job. And that was the exact moment that I got one.

13. Walk or cycle your way to good health

People in Sweden prefer to walk or bike their way to work. You definitely can't make out a person's age as they exercise regularly, mostly by cycling or walking. People here walk briskly and for longer distances, unlike in India where we are not used to walking. Of course India has the perils of not-so-developed roads. I easily walk two to three kilometres per day and that is the best form of exercise to start with.

14. Plan everything in advance

Summer trip? Book it in the winter. Organizing an event or party? Send the invites a week or two before. Doctor's appointment? Not so urgent? Book a month before. Last-minute schedules don't work in Sweden. People value your time and expect you to value theirs.

15. Indian-ness

India and its news and festivals have never been as important as it is now. The connection to the motherland has become stronger with me writing and talking more about India, its food, festivals and 'problems'. However much we bicker about India and its problems among ourselves, we become defensive when a foreigner does the same. There are instances in which I learn more about my own country and its culture through the experiences of the Swedes living here.

As a parting note, life has its lessons to teach you anywhere you go. Living in Sweden has made me realize the tiny gems that I underestimated back home. It is vital to spread these gems wherever we go so that we in our turn make the world gleaming and worth living!

Divya Sharma is an HR professional from India, working in Denmark, living in Sweden. Globe-trotter, blogger, reader, runner, dreamer and living life on both sides of the Öresund Bridge every day. The original version of this guest blog was originally published on her own blog Wiseberries.