Are you a love refugee?

September 23, 2013

in Living abroad

Gamla Stan Old town Stockholm. Home sweet home. (No, that’s not our home pictured here. That’s Gamla Stan, or the old town, and it’s not far from where we live in Stockholm.)


“Are you married to a Swede?” It’s usually the first thing most people ask after meeting me. I’m obviously not Swedish, so if I am living in Stockholm, then I must be married to a Swede and thus a “love refugee.” Because otherwise, why would I, an American, live here? Because, by far, the most common reason people live in a different country is for love–that they married or are in a relationship with someone from that country.

Being married to an Aussie, I am definitely a bit of a curiosity in that regard. It doesn’t make sense to people that I live in Sweden.

For that matter, my living in Stockholm does not always make sense to me. When I first met Robert, I definitely dreamed of moving to Australia. Actually, I still dream of that. But for now, we are living in Sweden because we choose to do so. That’s my simple answer and of course, there’s a lot more to our being here than that.

Given that we’ve just celebrated our nine-year anniversary of living in Sweden, I’ve been thinking a lot about the journey we’ve had and yes, what we’re still doing here. (But more on that in another post.)

It’s funny to think back to when we first moved to Stockholm, I would actually get mad at Robert for not being Swedish. “It would be so much easier if you were Swedish,” was a regular whine. Because it would have been so much easier if one of us was from here and knew how to register with Skatteverket or the tax authority, could speak the language and understood all those cultural rules.

If Robert was Swedish, I would not have been the only woman at a fancy dinner who was in stockings because you are supposed to take your outside shoes off at the door of someone’s home and then put on your party shoes. (My party shoes were the ones I’d arrived in. I had no clue that I was supposed to bring others.)

I also would not have stood at the grocery store ready to cry in frustration because I did not know what the difference was between köttfärs, hästfärs, fläskfärs and lammfärs.(For the record, that’s minced meat, horse, pork and lamb. All I wanted was to get some ground beef. Instead, I cooked vegies for dinner that night and looked up the new words in the dictionary.

Looking back, it’s easy to see how far I’ve come, how far we’ve both come, in terms of figuring out how to live in Sweden. I guess you could say we muddled through how to live here together. And while it was not easy to figure out, there is a satisfaction that we did it.




1 Claire September 26, 2013 at 22:04

I know the feeling – I’m regularly asked if I moved here for a man, and have to explain that it was a weakness for tall blond men in general 😉

2 Miss Footloose | Life in the Expat Lane September 28, 2013 at 21:39

So, Sandra, why did you CHOOSE to live in Sweden? Work? Sweden is a great country, but how did you pick it if not for love?

I know all about the frustrations of not knowing what anything is in the grocery store. Especially difficult if you’re dealing with a different alphabet like Arabic or Armenian. Fortunately, we managed not to starve 😉

3 Sandra September 30, 2013 at 22:59

Ha, I love that version Claire. I wonder if my hubby would mind if I borrowed it…

4 Sandra September 30, 2013 at 23:00

Now THAT is a very good question Miss Footloose. I promise to tackle the answer in a post soon. Because I sure as heck did not move here for the winter sunlight.

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