Claire: The Grass is Dancing
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Sweden, etc.
I am originally from Scotland, but have been a serial expat since I was seven, growing up in France, the US, and England, and I’ve lived in Canada. I moved to Sweden for no particular reason: I was bored, can work from my laptop, and couldn’t see why not!
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
I’m a fiction writer, and actually started a fictional blog about an American expat who moves to Stockholm, which turned into my first novel Life is Swede. While I was writing that, I realised there were some things I wanted to say about my own expat experience that wouldn’t work in Regan’s blog, so I started a second blog as me!
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
The memory of driving from Boston to Halifax in a car that kept calling 911 cracks me up, so I love that entry, and my post about turning 35 is another favourite. One of my more popular posts, and another favourite, is Top Ten Things You Need to Know About Sweden and the Swedes.
Tell us about the ways your new life in Sweden differs from that back home. Did you have trouble getting used to the new circumstances? Did you experience culture shock?
One of my favourite things about Stockholm is that it’s such a small city compared to London, so I can easily bike around it rather being stuffed into a smelly underground train. I definitely spend a lot more time outdoors, both in the summer on the water and in the winter on skis. It always takes a bit of time to adjust to a new culture of course, but as a serial ex pat I was fairly well prepared. I find a lot of similarities to British culture if you scratch the surface here - those Vikings had a lot to answer for!
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Sweden? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
The most difficult aspect of moving to Stockholm was in fact finding somewhere to live (which I blogged about just recently!) I moved on a whim and pretty much packed a case, bought a one way ticket, and was off - I would definitely do a bit more research if I did it again.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
I had a rotten bout of strep throat recently, and when I went to the doctor found that he couldn’t really speak English, leaving me to come over all caveman, pointing to my head and throat and croaking “ont” (pain). Then I remembered - or at least thought I did - the word for cough and thought I could at least tell him that properly… except that instead, I told him that I had a horse.
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Sweden?
- Learn a bit of Swedish. It’s easy to be lazy about it as so many Swedes speak fluent English, but it really does help and people appreciate even a little effort to speak Swedish.
- Research the rental situation (particularly in Stockholm, though I believe it’s similar elsewhere). If you’re planning to stay more than a year and you possibly can, I recommend buying.
- Get on the next plane! It’s a fantastic place to live and though there are ups and downs to settle in anywhere, it’s well worth the effort!
How is the expat community in Sweden? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
It’s smaller than in some countries, which is actually kind of nice because everyone knows everyone. There are a few thriving expat meetup groups which are a great place to meet both fellow expats and Swedes looking to meet new people. I particularly recommend the Stockholm Sporty People kayak club, which is run by yours truly!
How would you summarize your expat life in Sweden in a single, catchy sentence?
It’s a little bit like riding a runaway horse: overwhelming, scary, and completely exhilarating.