The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

At last

We arrived…over a month ago! 

I wrote a post within the first couple of weeks here but it just felt very forced and rambling, not great at all. I’ve then not had the motivation to write anything, it doesn’t help that I’ve become obsessed with ‘Jane The Virgin’ and have been job hunting.

So here’s a TL;DR of my other post – We had a lot of issues with shipping our boxes, right up to the day before they were collected. 3 days before we were due to set off we had to come up with a travelling plan B as my dad (who was driving us to Germany) was getting cold feet due to COVID. There were cat issues throughout the journey as well as issues with my parents motorhome. The exciting sauna and pool on the ferry were closed due to COVID (how did we not foresee this??) and an electric scooter accident on our 2nd day in Sweden resulted in me having a ginormous bruise and swelling on my chin and a very banged up knee that still hurts now! 

So, I rambled about all of those things for a while as they were very fresh, but in retrospect, not very interesting to read about. We got here in one piece and everything pretty much went smoothly. 

What I would like to talk about now are the pros and cons I’ve found to living in Stockholm and things that surprised me about it here. 

Let’s start with the positives

The laundry rooms. Off to an exciting start, I know. Seriously, they’re very cool. In the UK I’m used to just having my washing machine and then an airer or our JML DriBuddi to dry my clothes. The only time I’ve used communal laundry rooms is during our first year at uni and when we lived in France for one summer, so they’re fairly novel for me.

There’s a room with multiple washing machines, there are multiple tumble dryers, and a drying cabinet, this is where the fun begins! I have never seen a drying cabinet before and they’re so awesome, Google it if you, like me, have never heard of them before. Even better, in our new apartment building, there is an ENTIRE room where you can hang your clothes to dry. There are ropes across the ceiling and an industrial heater and fan, it’s great for drying bedsheets, etc. 

Queuing systems. Everywhere has a special queuing system that requires a little paper ticket, we used to have them in the UK at butchers. They use them for everything here; the bank, the tax office, even the customer service desk in the supermarket. My reason for loving this is twofold; you don’t have to stand in line, you can just sit anywhere and wait for your number to be called. This is great for Mr SavingNinja as he hates queuing! The second reason is that I find people here to be rude sometimes, I will talk about this more later but I think the queuing system prevents more rudeness.

Nature. I’m sure you’ve heard that there’s a lot of nature here and there is but maybe not in the way I thought. I was thinking there would be more vast woodland closer to the city but there isn’t (as far as I’ve seen) but there are parks everywhere. There are nice big parks on the outskirts of the city but also small ones in really unexpected places in the city; it’s lovely. I imagine that if you’re working in an office you could just pop outside for 20 minutes and sit in some greenery to have a coffee or some lunch, very refreshing.

Fika. This basically means a coffee/cake break. What’s not to like? I don’t drink coffee so I’m sure once I go back to work I might get some funny looks for not enjoying fika as I should, but then I had that issue back in the UK too; I was one of the only teachers I knew who didn’t consume coffee like it was my life-source throughout the day. But I am 100% onboard with consuming cinnamon rolls like they’re my life-source. Double thumbs up from me.

System Bolaget. I was led to believe that we were going to have to become a lot more sober moving here, we read and were told that all of the alcohol was extortionate. I am going to discuss this more below but for now, I love the government-run alcohol shop; it’s clean, organised, and strangely fun.

Recycling. This point is double-edged. You may know from my previous post that I try to be as eco-friendly as I can, which is great here as Sweden’s recycling situations is one of the best in the world, I suggest you research this if you’re interested. We pretty much recycle everything other than kitchen waste. However, there is a catch, read on for the negative side of this.

The not so positives

The beds. In every apartment we have looked at the beds have been two single box type beds pushed together with a mattress topper. Coming from a super king-sized Simba mattress means that I’m used to an extremely comfortable night’s sleep, I’m not getting that here. The topper slides down frequently and just isn’t comfortable, I know we could buy a new comfier topper but nothing beats a proper mattress…especially a Simba one!

The postal service. Back home I would often moan about deliveries being left on our doorstep on a fairly busy road, I miss that. Packages very rarely get delivered to your door here; you will get a text or sometimes a note through your door telling you to go to the nearest service point (ours is a 20-minute walk away) to collect your package. I realise this is because all postmen/women/people are on bikes but it doesn’t make it any less annoying. We had to carry a very long and awkward 15kg parcel between us for 20 minutes…in the rain! I know this isn’t the end of the world but it is a bit inconvenient. 

Recycling situation, again. You’ve read the positives regarding this point but there is a negative although it does make me seem lazy and a little entitled. We have to take all of our recycling to recycling points, which can be 10 minutes walk away and are often overflowing. I know I know, it’s not that bad but it grates on us simply because we are paying so much tax that we feel we should be able to recycle in our building and have it collected with the rubbish like we did back in the UK. 

Lack of Amazon and general ability to compare things online. So this may get better over time once we’re used to everything but we really miss having Amazon and knowing all the places online to look for cheaper products. Any time I would want to buy something back in the UK I would always check Amazon first then have a general Google to ensure I’m getting the best price. 

We have the option to order from the German or UK Amazon and pay extra for delivery and customs charges, but that defeats the point of a good price. As I said, I’m sure we will get used to the Swedish online shops but right now I just really want Amazon back, especially as it’s Prime Day right now. And don’t even get me started on the fact that there’s no Costco here! 

Surprises

So there’s my itemised pros and cons list, some things seem petty but a lot of it is just mildly inconvenient. There are also a fair few things that surprised me due to established expectations being wrong, some were a happy surprise, others, not so much. 

Happy Surprises

Facemasks. The beauty kind, not the COVID kind. My favourite Garnier face mask can cost about £4 in certain shops in the UK, it’s only £2 here, sometimes less. Not a necessity but good for if I feel like treating myself. 

Alcohol. As I said, we were thinking we would move here and become very sober as everyone told us it was so expensive to buy booze. It is not. You can get a box of wine that’s equivalent to 4 bottles and it works out as about £4 per bottle, and it’s a great wine, we regularly buy the Casillero Del Diablo. Happy days. 

Everyone speaks English amazingly well. We have travelled to many different countries and most people can speak English at least a little, but here they are fantastic at it and actually love to speak English, whereas in some countries we have found people do it begrudgingly. I always try to learn at least some of the language for wherever I go as I hate feeling rude and just assuming everyone can speak English, but here it’s hard for me to speak Swedish because everyone wants to switch to English as soon as I talk. 

This is neither a positive or negative – the fashion here is great; not necessarily in the way you might think though. I feel as though I’ve gone back to the late 90s or early 00s. There are flared everything, neon boob tubes, and platform trainers. It’s just a delight to look at.

Not so happy surprises 

Broccoli. OMG the broccoli is so expensive and it’s my absolute favourite vegetable, we used to cook with it all of the time. Broccoli in the UK is about £1.39 per kilo, in Sweden it works out as £5.19 per kilo. There isn’t much else to say about this, I just really miss broccoli. 

Rice. Again, really expensive. In the UK – £1 per kilo, in Sweden – £3 per kilo. I think this can be solved if I find a cheap Asian supermarket or keep trawling the web.

Flights. We were lucky that we were so close to Gatwick and Heathrow airports as flights from there were much cheaper than elsewhere. Flying from Stockholm is pretty expensive in comparison, even flying to northern Sweden…the same country!! I miss seeing the £50 flights from London to Amsterdam or Germany or wherever. I wish we had made the most of it when we lived there.

I’m not cold. I was expecting to be wearing thermals in October and looking forward to lots of snow in December – February. Apparently there had been barely any snow in Stockholm last year and none that settled. I’m not saying this was the only reason I came to Stockholm, but it was a huge positive for me. I love the cold and the snow but it’s currently colder in the UK. Fingers crossed for a big temperature drop and for some snow this season. 

Rudeness. I find people here as a whole to be kind of rude, not in your face rude but ‘standing in the middle of the walkway on your phone’ rude. I’ve found myself getting so annoyed at this so many times, but Mr SavingNinja doesn’t get as annoyed as he’s an ‘abandon my trolley in the middle of the aisle’ person. It just bugs me when people don’t take their surroundings and other people into consideration, and I’m sure this happens all over the world, I’ve just experienced it a lot more here. People in the Swedish expat groups I’ve joined agree with me and regularly make jokes about it, so it’s not just me. 

Difficult processes. All processes here seem to be so much more complicated. You need a special person number before you can get a bank account, this can take months (ours was quick thanks to Mr SavingNinja’s company,) you can’t get a bank account until you have this number but you can’t get a job until you have a bank account. Some banks won’t give you an account until you have a job, see, difficult! You also need something called Bank ID to access most things online, you can’t get this until you finally have a bank account (I’m just getting mine now, in October!) Swish is something that is widely used here, especially if buying something from Facebook etc. Can’t have that without Bank ID.  

Mo’ Kids Mo’ Money

When I started writing this post I googled the best things about living in Sweden, just for inspiration. On paper it all sounds great; amazing maternity/paternity leave, heavily subsidised childcare, lots of holidays and free education. These are great benefits but don’t affect us at the moment. We don’t have kids, we both had a great holiday allowance in the UK and most of the masters/bachelor degrees are in Swedish…obviously! If we were to stay here long-term then I guess we would see the benefit of paying such high tax if we had kids but at the moment we are just paying high taxes for, seemingly, nothing. 

There are other things such as clean water, equality, affordable health care and good internet that are always touted as great things in Sweden, but we experienced all of that in the UK too. 

Displaced

This post seems very negative, which it kind of is, but we haven’t been here for that long and are feeling displaced without seeing much gain. It will take us a while to get used to everything here and to see the positives of moving to Stockholm; we had settled into our comfy life at home and now everything is different. 

Always Look on The Bright Side of Life

Things are actually starting to look up already, I start my new job in 3 days! It was hard work job hunting here and really demotivating, I’ve never really been out of work since I was 16 so I felt useless and lost. Hopefully going back into teaching and getting stuck into life here will make me look on the bright side of things. The education system in the international schools here seems amazing, I can’t wait to not have to do feckless paperwork and teach for an exam. Here I just have to teach the skills, not to the constraints of an exam board, and it’s freeing and purposeful. 

Hopefully, my next post will be filled with joy and I will have discovered great money saving tips to living a little more cheaply in Stockholm. 

To anyone living in the UK, go and have a battered sausage and chips for me, I miss them enormously.

OddsMonkey

9 thoughts on “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

  1. The first six months in any new place are often brutal. Culture shock. Language barriers. Not understanding how anything works. Etc. You’ll grind through it, but it can be tough going initially.

    It feels isolating. Lonely. Leads to a loss of self confidence. Second guessing decisions made.

    The locals don’t understand it. To them everything is normal and as it should be (for the most part), they’ve been raised with it. I remember that Catch-22 of tax identifier / bank account / job / lease spiral well from when I moved to the United Kingdom.

    Home sickness kicks in. Ex-pat groups can be a trap that magnify these feelings. Lots of people collectively missing “the old country” and complaining about all the differences in the new one. A support network initially, but if you’re in a place for the long haul these can start to hold you back as they are often populated by short timers only in the location for a limited time. Secondments. Overseas diplomatic postings. Military spouses. Creating a insular bubble, the members transient but the complaints eternal.

    Friends and relatives back home, that you left behind, will often have little sympathy for your plight. You chose to leave. To turn your back on they way that they lead their lives. They hear the complaints, and can’t help wondering why you left in the first place if happiness is the things you already had back home.

    At different times you’re on top of the world about some new discovery or a different way of doing things. The people back home mostly don’t care about this either. They are still going to all the same places and doing all the same things that they used to do back when you lived there too. This gets frustrating after a while, you’re growing so much but they seem to just be standing still.

    You start censoring what you talk about. Not wanting to come off as entitled, privileged, or a whiner. Knowing they can’t understand and don’t really care about the day-to-day minutiae of how another culture lives, nor how much better at a given thing the new place may be.

    As time passes, the new way of life starts to feel more normal, less frustrating. You assimilate and settle in. Make local friends. Establish a routine.

    Your visits “home” become less frequent. Start to feel frustrating, even boring after the first couple of days. The people haven’t changed at all, but you certainly have. A genie that can’t put back in the bottle.

    Migrating is a grand adventure full of the unexpected. Rarely easy. My one survival tip is to not try and recreate your old life in the new place, but rather embrace the new. Easier said than done.

    Good luck with it, it will get easier with time.

    1. This.

      You hate your first 6 months.
      Then you love the following ~5 years.
      Then you’ll get a second shock wave, usually after 5-7 years. It’s not just me, it’s documented 🙂

      Good luck with your expat life!

    2. I think as time goes on we will definitely adjust more and it will feel a lot more like home rather than an extended holiday.

      The Facebook expat groups I’m a part of are mainly just arguing over COVID and Brexit, so I’m steering clear at the moment. They’re good to go to for tips on how things work and where to find certain things. But they can definitely be a hotbed of negativity.

      MY support network back home was Mr SavingNinja and work friends, so I’m hoping that I get just as close to my new work colleagues. I find that it’s really easy making friends as a teacher as we all like to collectively moan, rant and celebrate our annoying teenagers.

      My mum does keep asking if I’m homesick as she moved 4 hours across the country when she was 19 and suffered with being homesick a lot. But I already lived far way from my family so it’s not really a huge difference for me, the only things I feel homesick for at the moment are the food and the bargain shops!

      I am excited for our first visit home, mainly to get a Greggs sausage roll, steak bake and sausage, bean and cheese bake.

      You said about not recreating your old life, but I’ve already requested a British food care package from my mum 🙂 I’m sure over time though I will stop missing those old foods and will have favourites here.

  2. Hi Mrs SN – congratulations and good luck with your new job!

    You’re obviously still missing home comforts (battered sausage and chips!) but in time this will (mostly) pass or you will find alternatives which you will be happy with.

    I’ve never been an ex pat but speaking to family, the first 12 months can be brutal and requires real adjustment. It’ll get easier now that both you and Mr SN are working as you’ll both develop some sort of routine in your lives.

    I know what you mean about some Swedish people’s ‘rudeness’ but I saw it more as ‘aloofness’ rather than rudeness – rude to me is quite deliberate, whereas aloof to means they’re just not interested or aware.

    Yes, with everyone speaking pretty much perfect English, it won’t be easy to practise your Swedish. I ended up just learning the Swedish vowels (particularly the ones with the funny accents) so that I was able to pronounce people’s surnames properly and they were well impressed! 🙂

    1. Aloof! Yes, that is a much better way to describe it.

      Even over the past few weeks I have felt a real difference in how I feel here. I think it’s because we’re settled more in this apartment and it is definitely better now that I have a job, a purpose.

      One of the classes I teach is all Swedish kids, so they’re teaching me how to pronounce the funny vowels in exchange for English slang. They also think it’s so posh when I say ‘crisps!’

  3. Came here after following a comment on the indeedably blog, and had a double-take after seeing the drying cabinet! I am from the US and spend several months on a temp assignment in Stockholm, so this was fun to read. All true points!

    One weird thing I remember was the complete absence of any cash, at all, anywhere. The only time I ever saw a kroner was in one of the shops in Vasastan – it was in a frame, “the shopkeepers’ first profit” kind of thing. No cash makes for some weird situations, like when I went to an outdoor flea market and couldn’t buy anything since no one took cash. Instead they all use Swish, for which you need the personnummer (which I didn’t have since I wasn’t there long enough). Also saw a street performer in Norrmalm that displayed a QR code so people could Swish him money. Makes sense, but just weird when you first look at it.

    Overall though, I liked my time there and would love to get the family out there to visit once we’re all able to travel again. Lots of stuff to see and do downtown, and public transport is widely available and reasonably priced. I liked the people there – all very friendly, and like you said they all seem to be eager to switch to English and want to help you once you open your mouth. The work ethic there can be….different from what I’m used to, but not sure if that’s just the culture of just the 0.0001% of Swedish people I worked with while there. Best of luck to you as you adjust to the new country!

  4. I made it halfway through this post before I realized it was written by Mrs. Ninja!
    Was very puzzled and confused up until that point! Haha 🙂

    I think moving to ANY new country would require some adjustments in the beginning. Sounds like you’re already adjusting pretty well 😉

    Good luck in your new job, and I look forward to hearing more about your new posh Scandinavian lifestyle 😛

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