Going Swedish or how I found my balance

November 10, 2015

in Cultural differences,Living abroad

“I see you’ve gone Swedish,” said a fellow American who I had just met.

As I looked at her quizzically, she explained further: “You’re dressed all in black, just like the Swedes.”

While I was dressed in a black dress, black tights and black boots, I was surprised by her comment.  I’ve always worn a lot of black, probably too much, to be honest. (Here lately, I’ve made an effort to not wear so much black.)

But that said, when you move to a new country, you do spend a lot of your time figuring out how to fit in. When I first arrived in Sweden, I had to learn about so many new things, from the basic take your shoes off  as soon as you walk in the door of someone’s  home, to the more behavioral not making small talk with strangers  and even about the quirky traditions like the fact that kids dress up like witches for Easter.

I’ve learned to like most of the food and eat salmonknäckebröd and kanelbullar, as well as fika with the best of them. And I’ve even survived the communal laundry. OK, perhaps these are some cheeky examples, but they have all been part of my transition process in some way or another.

But perhaps the key to being at home in my adopted homeland has been figuring out my balance. Discovering what new things to take on and enjoy both behaviorally and culturally, while still holding on to the things that make me, me. It’s about adapting to the culture, but not going too far. It’s about wearing the black because I like to, not just because it’s what everyone else does.

Living here an an expat, there is a set of questions that you are always asked: why are you here, do you speak Swedish, do you like it here and are you Swedish yet? It’s that last question that still gets me after all these years. I just don’t know what the answer is supposed to be. So I typically take the middle ground and say something like: I love where I come from and I love where I live now. And I suppose that’s my balance.


Stockholm A little summer yoga on kayaks moment. Click on the photo to see the image in full. (Photo copyright Sandra Carpenter 2015.)



1 Dita November 11, 2015 at 09:30

Dear Sandra,
Thank you for yet another wonderful article. I totally agree. I finally landed with both feet here, appreciating even the smallest of things, stopped complaining about the weather (which is gorgeous the last few months anyway 🙂 ), etc. and just enjoying the ride while missing my family and New York, Philadelphia, Rome… 🙂
Home is there you make it home. I guess I finally mastered this and stop just being irritated hearing someone saying it. 🙂 Big hug, hope to see you soon. xo Dita

2 Sandra November 11, 2015 at 22:16

Thanks for your lovely comment Dita. Home is indeed where you make it. It would definitely be good to see you again soon!

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