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A YEAR IN THE LIFE, ON THE ANNIVERSARY OF
I moved to Sweden twelve years ago today. In total I've lived 18 years of my life abroad, all of it in Europe. Strangely enough, however, I don't feel European. But, nor do I feel totally American. I seem to be sitting somewhere on the great expat divide, neither fish nor fowl. Maybe that is how global citizens should feel. It would be nice, I think, to be considered a citizen of Earth, rather than having to adhere to one particular nationality or country.

Twelve years! The first year was so strange, like a little mini adventure. We were newly married, and only 2 months after we arrived I was pregnant, so for most of that first year I was also with child. I still sometimes miss the apartment we lived in during that first year in Malmö. It was quite large (95m²) and quite new, and before we moved in it had been fully renovated and re-wallpapered with our choices for each room. There were 2 bedrooms, but we used one for a library and the computer, which I was learning how to use email on, so that I could keep in touch with my family and friends back home. I'd never really used e-mail, we hadn't used it at my former job...in fact, we still used a fax machine: imagine! Not everyone HAD email!

Our living room was huge and thankfully, though we were on the 2nd floor, we were over a bakery, so we didn't need to worry about disturbing the downstairs neighbors, and I don't remember ever being disturbed by those upstairs. It was a quiet building. We never met any of our neighbors, though we knew the big black rottweiler next door was named Odin, since we'd heard his owner calling his name. We had a nice big balcony that fit a small table and 2 chairs, but we didn't use it all that much. It faced out over a green area with a playground and beyond that was the canal that rings the center of the city. We were on the short side of the L-shaped building and the long side sloped away from us on the left.

At Christmas time every single window in the building sported a triangular advent candelabra. I had been to Sweden during the holiday season before, after Anders and I met, so I knew that the white lights in all the windows were ubiquitous but it was a revelation to see an entire building lit up with one in every window, including ours. Some of the balconies and windows were also decorated with light garlands, but with only a few exceptions, these were all white as well. It's only in the past couple of years that colored lights, and *gasp* BLINKING lights, have become more popular. One or two of the advent lights were the kind that went evenly across in a straight line instead of being the typical triangular shape that is most common, and I laughed at those, sure they also belonged to immigrants, because who else would deviate from the Swedish tradition?

We lived in that apartment for just over a year. I walked to and from Swedish classes, learned how to navigate the unfamiliar aisles and products of Swedish grocery stores, figured out my way around the center of town. I ate my first semla there, adopted 2 kittens (subsequently adopted away a year later, sadly) and put together a lot of IKEA furniture. We celebrated our first wedding anniversary and our first Swedish midsummer and the birth of our first child there. When we drive down that street now, I point out the windows to the kids with fondness. The bakery is still in business beneath our living room windows, though most of the restaurants on the street have changed names and ownerships, some more than once, in the intervening years.

It was a good year, in a good place, and a great way to start my life in Sweden. So much has happened in the past 12 years, but I think my life just keeps getting better. Even if I'm not a Swedish citizen, this is my home as much as America was, or the other European countries I once resided in, and I love it here.
 nostalgic
mood: nostalgic
music: Soundtrack from The Golden Compass, on DVD in the living room; Anders cooking dinner


Comments

Your writing is so vivid I can just about see it all... I'm wondering if you have any pictures of those candles in the windows? I see a lot of single electric candles in windows here, particularly in Colonial style houses, but I can't picture triangular Advent candles. Are there 24 of them?

If you click on the link in the entry, you'll see a photo of one :)

Pretty! Do all the candles light up at the same time or do you do a certain configuration for each day of Advent?

These electric ones all light up at once. Otherwise, most people also use a candle set to light one candle each Sunday of Advent. :)

A lovely entry. Maybe you will treat us to the story of how you met your husband?

You can read that story here

Awww...I loved that.

Beautifully written, Liz. Wow, twelve years. Happy anniversary!

I arrived in Sweden in early December, so the adventsljusstake were something that really struck me as well. The whole place looked like fairyland and so exotic. I still love all of the Christmas lights.

I'm a little like you as well in wondering where "home" is. I always say home is where your heart is, but for me that is both here and in Australia. I love both countries for different reasons, but for now, I am very happy to be here in Sweden. And really happy that you live here too. I just wish you'd move closer - we have moose AND mousse...

Twelve years, I know! Time flies. :) Anders was at the zoo today with the kids and took a super photo of a moose. I'm hoping he'll upload it so I can link to it :)

A bit curios, why haven't you applied to become Swedish too?

Basically, because I'm lazy, and I keep finding better uses for the 1500 kronor application fee. :)

(Anonymous)

I was just about to ask the same question. C'mon, you should get it! :-)

-Russell G.

Yeah, yeah, I'll get it someday.

lovely post

thank you

Re: lovely post

You're welcome :)

What a great snap shot of your first year! Now tell us about your second ;o)

Har! I can't do a year-by-year after that...it's all blurred together since! Hee. Well, we'll see. :)

An interesting slice. Too bad the coloured lights have worked their insiduous wonder right around the globe. Bad coloured lights, bad! (But pretty, too.)

I love the colored lights, actually. I know lots of people who bemoan their insidious invasion, but I think they really liven things up :)

(Anonymous)

Sweden year by year, a good idea! Isn't it amazing how each year there still is something new to learn?

julia@kolo

It's all a BLURRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR after the first year! :D

(Anonymous)

Hey there! I can relate. I feel somewhere in the middle too. Not quite European or German, but not all American either. I guess we're Euro-American mutts :O)
I also fondly recall all of the apts we lived in before having children. All so wonderful for their own unique qualities. And I too, point them out to the kids now when we're in the area. In fact our very first place is just one street away from where I now work. Weird, huh?

Anyway, happy 12 anniversary to you! This Summer will be my 8th year here in Germany. Crazy! I never thought I'd live outside of the US, but now I can't imagine ever moving back!

XOXO,
Kathryn

Isn't that funny how it works? I hate to disappoint my family and friends back in the States every time they ask if we ever consider moving back, but honestly...I just don't think so.

How did you ever pull yourself away from repeated trips to the bakery? How tempting! My first apartment was above a sewing and vacuum center. Not many treats there. I saw these candles in a shop while on vacation and almost bought them. I talked myself out of it because I was already clutching garlands and ornaments. Maybe next year I'll buy them. A charming and beautiful story. It reminded me of my own first years with my husband and son. Sweet times.

Actually, we didn't hit the bakery all the often. It wasn't the best one...there was a much better one about 2 blocks away :) Plus, during the first year here I hadn't yet learned all the Swedish pastries, so didn't know what was what or which ones I liked. It's much worse now!

Wow, 12 years! Congratulations, Liz.

Happy-moving-to-Sweden anniversary. I always remember the date of my arrival as a permanent resident. While I think we all have vaguely similar first experiences, it's the lovely details that you included in this entry that make them unique and so vivid.

The weirdest thing about being "American" is moving back here and realizing you're not. Perhaps we should invent our own flag, national anthem, etc. ;-)

That's a great idea! Repatriats and expats and third culture kids, unite! :D

Why does that sentence remind me of the opening to a Donahue Show episode, "Bipolar neo Nazi midgets and the women who love them, next on Donahue."

But yes, we should!

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