How to take on Sweden 101

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Have you ever had a random person start talking to you in a grocery line, at the bus stop, or just in passing? Situations like this used to happen very often, especially when I was living in the United States. Before coming to Sweden, I had known that Swedes like their personal space; however, I’ve noticed that this culture shock has been more surprising than I expected, and it has also affected the way I navigate life in Sweden. It can be extremely daunting to move across the world, even if it isn’t permanent.

My first days in Sweden were a bit of a challenge. I was afraid to ask for help when I felt lost because I knew that talking to strangers was not the norm for Swedes. I’m not sure if it was my preconceived notions or what seemed like social distance at the train station that made me fear approaching the locals, but this created a large gap between myself and the locals and it was affecting my overall experience.

With that being said, here are some tips and tricks that have helped me in navigating through Stockholm through the major and slight differences I’ve encountered.

Public transportation:

Through small orientation events and activities, the DIS program prepared me for my journey the best they could, but when classes finally started, it was up to me to use the tools I was given and make the best of this experience. My commute to school is about 35-45 minutes, and this consists of two metros and a bit of walking. I did not have too much trouble getting used to the transportation but, as expected, I got lost quite a few times. Google maps has been my best friend throughout the spontaneous journeys I take, because I love to explore new places and get food with my friends. Overall, the transportation system in Stockholm is great and reliable when it comes to daily commutes or spontaneous adventures.

FUN FACT: Most metro stations in Stockholm are have majestic murals or have beautiful sculptures. The city is filled with art.

The weather:

Although I go to school in Maine, I hate the cold, and I don’t know if my body will ever adjust to the snowy season because I lived in Arizona for most of my life. Stockholm is very similar to Maine in the sense that the winter season is dark, cold, and unbearably long. I knew about these conditions before coming to Sweden; however, this was not a deal-breaker for me. I’ve gained a lot of experience with dressing warm and living in freezing temperatures. As mentioned, the first tip that I would suggest is dressing warm by wearing multiple layers. A nice pair of boots is suggested to tackle the snowy/slippery weather of Stockholm. In addition to wearing a nice warm coat, some accessories that I suggest are gloves, thick socks, ear muffs, hats, large scarfs, or anything that can cover the ears. I may be the only one, but I’ve found that when my ears, hands, and feet are warm, my overall body temperature is warmer. Although this weather has been brutal at times, learning to adapt to Scandinavian style/fashion has been a lot of fun.

FUN FACT: The sun sets at 2:55 pm in Sweden during some winter months.

Before I close this blog, I hope that this read was beneficial and gave you a glimpse of my journey throughout the Swedish winter. I’d also like to clarify that although one can be extremely prepared, there are some culture shocks and experiences that will still catch you by surprise, and that you will learn to navigate through lived experience. I have been enjoying my time abroad, and I’m excited to share so much more about my travels outside of Sweden, class material/ tours, and numerous other experiences.

P.S. Most people in Sweden speak English, and they are extremely nice and willing to assist you if they can do so. Do not be afraid to ask like I was. :)

See you soon,

Belize