Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Sweden, etc.
I am a writer and photographer from Connecticut USA. I just celebrated my second year in Sweden and am presently residing in Göteborg with my fiancé and two little Swedish cats.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
As a writer, I’ve always maintained a blog. I think I started my first blog back when blogging was the cool “new” thing. 2sweden4love is my third blog and I still maintain a business blog at lisamikulski.com. I began 2sweden4love back when I lived in the US. Many of my friends and clients were interested in how I was making preparations to move to a new country. They wanted to read about the process and later about how I was adjusting to a new life, what my observations were … politics, culture, lifestyle. It has also served as a great platform for showcasing my writing style and photography for potential work. 2S4L has evolved as I have. It’s been quite a journey.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
Yes, I do. I think one of my most recent posts which speaks to my first two years here in Sweden is a favorite. It served to clarify my thoughts and notes a real turning point in my adjustment to life in Sweden.
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?
Oh gosh … I wish I could say the transition was easy. I did experience culture shock, big time, and was completely shocked to find that I was culture shocked. I never saw that coming! I think some of the biggest differences was that back home I had many friends, two fantastic sons, and a successful business. I also worked seven days a week, loved what I did for a living, and embraced being a workaholic. It was hard, to near impossible, to fill in those blanks and reinvent some semblance of those circumstances in Sweden. In Sweden, you don’t live to work. I’ve now come to understand that here I can move toward being a fully actualized person. There is the time and space for me to pursue other personal goals … meditation, yoga, health, walks in the park … to enjoy life. Moving to Göteborg was to be a new start for me with my fella, so I knew I was going to have to reinvent myself. I just never anticipated the “every man for himself” type of attitude. Reflecting on these challenges now, I see that they helped me to grow in ways I never expected. I learned a lot about Sweden, her people, and myself.
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Sweden? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
I really thought I was prepared. I had been to Sweden several times before moving here. I traveled in Europe and because of the long term relationship with my fiancé I believed that I knew quite a bit about Scandinavian culture. I also read and studied Swedish politics, folklore, and history … but when faced with reality I found the culture hard to adjust to. The first dark winter was extremely challenging. If I were to change anything, I would wish I had spent the first year devoted to learning the language. Instead I focused on reinventing my business. I needed to be able to make a living as soon as possible. It was challenging to adjust to living with a man, in a new country, adjust to a new culture, re-start a business, learn a language and seek out new friends. It can be quite overwhelming. But building a new life from scratch takes time … I find that now my pace and my goals seem much more realistic and obtainable.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
Oh yes! That would have to be the day when my fiancé’s mom came to visit me for fika. She speaks no English. I spoke no Finnish or Swedish. In my confusion, I totally forgot to provide the coffee and snacks. I gave her water instead!! Good lord. I wrote about that experience here.
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Sweden?
- First, learn the language. Start before you even move here.
- Second, don’t give up. You will experience challenges, no doubt, but every day is an education and that is a very good thing. It gets better.
- Third, find your local InterNations expat community. Seriously! Your first several months as a expat can be very isolating and lonely. Meeting and making new friends will turn your whole expat experience around.
How is the expat community in Sweden? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
The expat community in Göteborg is wonderful. I hooked up with InterNations and the members I met there were friendly, supportive, experienced, and came from all over the world. They made a huge difference in my life here, provided insights and answers to questions and resources that would have taken me months to discover on my own. Many have become some of my best friends now.
How would you summarize your expat life in Sweden in a single, catchy sentence?
Make the best of every day, your experience depends on your good attitude.