Monday, November 18, 2013

reflections from the halfway mark

we're just about halfway through our swedish adventures, which seems like a good time to examine what we like about living in sweden, what we miss from the US, what we wish we would have done differently...things like that.  and by "we" i mean "i," as in the royal "we," commoners.

for the kids the answers were easy--gus likes the language, dislikes the dark, would have brought a bike.  the end.  for astrid she likes the zoo at skansen, dislikes the cold, would have brought more "magic tree house" books.  boom!  easy.  rich is in new orleans right now so i'm just going to answer for him...

what we like about stockholm:
-the public transportation
the transportation system is remarkable--not only does everything run on time but there is almost always enough space for everyone wanting to ride whatever at any given time.  you truly do not need to own a car in stockholm; you can rent one quite easily if you find you need one temporarily.  no matter where you need to go, a combination of train/bus/metro/walking will get you there readily.  this kind of convenience doesn't come for free: you do have to pay a healthy fee for your transport, unlike other european cities (ahem, *rome*), and the transport police are out in force every day checking to make sure that you have.  you've been warned.

-the attitude towards the weather
i love the swedish attitude towards the weather:  yes it's dark and yes it's crappy, but we're going outside anyway so you might as well just get on with it and enjoy it.  on sophie's first day of school i was told, "there is no bad weather, only bad clothes.  we are going outside EVERY DAY so your children must be prepared."  okay then!  and, if you stayed in and waited for it to be nice outside, you'd become a shut-in.  thank god i brought a decent coat for everyone, except rich who did have to buy his here...ouch.

-the water
oh. my. god.  the water straight out of the tap is the best-tasting water i've ever had from any source.  i don't know what they're putting in it to make it taste so good, but never has getting 8 glasses a day been so easy.

-second-hand shopping
fortunately for me, resale shopping is most definitely smiled-upon here.  you see people from every walk of life at the stadsmission, myrorna, emmaus...although admittedly there really aren't wide swings in the socio-economic status of the stockholmare.  in any event, it is super easy to get what you need used, which is a double blessing for us as i completely believe in buying used whenever possible in order to preserve our limited resources and we can barely afford to live here as it is.  vintage christmas is making an appearance in the shops right now...can't wait!

-the cleanliness!  and...
-the tidiness!  and...
-the organization!
this is the cleanest city i've ever visited in my life.  i like how the general public is willing to play by the rules and recycle/not litter for the communal good.  it seems like everything, too.  stockholm could use a good anti-graffiti policy, though (as could many cities).

what we miss about the US:
-the prices...of everything!
i never realized how incredibly cheap it is to live in the united states until i moved here.  when i lived in italy it wasn't expensive as much as it was inconvenient--you never really knew when or if the stores would be open in the neighborhood, or whether you'd be able to obtain whatever product you were looking for, and the like.  here i know they'll have what i'm looking for, i just have to be prepared to spend around $80-90 a day for all four of us to eat three meals and a fika (snack).  i don't think i'll ever complain about the price of food again.

-variety of food (sorry, sweden) 

-very minor moral lability
there is a greater willingness within the US to choose to attend to or ignore relatively minor rules/laws (such as walking across the street against the light when it is obvious there isn't a car for like a mile).  i'm having a hard time following so many rules/laws that i don't even know exist...but i have this complaint to some extent about iowa, too.  maybe this is a texan thing?  it feels a bit over-legislated for my comfort--i'd like to believe that common sense steps in at a point before rules/laws need to.

i do miss being able to communicate with strangers without prefacing every remark with "i'm sorry, i don't speak swedish."  i will not miss the ensuing i-feel-like-an-ass-for-moving-here-without-learning-your-language feeling, either.


what we would do differently:
we would NEVER have moved here without a personnummer knowing what we now know about how life functions in sweden.  we would have demanded one, each, before coming.  while i have truly loved my time here, the only serious challenges we've experienced have all been because we do not have a personnummer--and at times it has been an absolute nightmare without one--which'll be a post in the future (when we're closer to leaving).

-we might live elsewhere in the city
even though where we are is safe and convenient i would have opted to live in södermalm rather than kungsholmen--preferably around mariatorget, off of bellmansgatan near monteliusvägen, or up by södra theatre...or strandvägen on östermalm if we hit the lottery.  next time.

i would have packed a damn swiffer so i would not have had to spend $43 buying one from england and then another $12 buying 20-sheet refills for it!  seriously, this is the cleanest place on earth--how have they not discovered the swiffer yet?

i would have packed some toll house morsels so we could bake some chocolate chip cookies.  we're all missing them but i believe we'll soon have some baking in the oven...(thank you, jennie k. for getting some for us!)

i would have packed some bleach.  if i were into it i'm sure i'd find it easier to buy drugs in stockholm than bleach, but so it is.  i think this could be why the water tastes so good (but why our washer smells so funky).

other ex-pats--feel free to add your own remarks in the comments!

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