How I came to live in the land of Vikings, ABBA & IKEA

October 3, 2013

in An American in Europe,Living abroad

Stockholm Looking out over the Baltic Sea from Fotografiska, the photography museum. That’s me on the right. Photo by Robert Corkery.


Sweden wasn’t my first choice for where to move. In fact, it wasn’t even on my bucket list of places to see before I died. So the fact that I have lived in Stockholm for NINE years now does not make a lot of sense. But I can give you the simple version of how I got here.

If you’re going to make that leap to international living – leaving behind family and friends, a successful career, home – you want it to be for somewhere amazing. Tuscany, Paris, Sydney, the Greek Islands. These are locations to throw away your life for.

But when you move to Sweden without a Swedish husband or Swedish ancestry, it sounds like a plan you hatch after drinking too many shots of Absolut Vodka and singing along to Dancing Queen as loud as you can. But without the excuses of alcohol, a Swedish spouse or even an obsession with IKEA, I left behind my comfortable Midwestern life and moved to Stockholm with my Australian husband.

It didn’t make a lot of sense. Except for the fact that when I first met Robert in Cincinnati, he had just finished a post doc in Lund, a university town in southern Sweden. And one of the very first things he told me was how much he loved Sweden and wanted to live there again. In turn, I told him how much I loved to travel and that I dreamed of living in England or Spain.

Later, he let me know he was only going to be in town for three months, then would be taking a permanent job in Berlin. But to make our relationship work, he ended up taking a job in Cincinnati instead. Jokingly, and thinking about his homeland, I told him I would be willing to move somewhere for him later. Well, we were married in Australia and then spent a few years traveling, talking and plotting about where we would like to live in the world.

So when the job offer came for Robert in Stockholm and he jokingly reminded me of my promise, I was willing to think about it. Because he loved Sweden and had told me so many wonderful things about it, I figured I would love it too. After visiting Stockholm for the first time, it was easy to see how beautiful the city is. And since Stockholm is in Europe after all, I figured that living here would get me a lot closer me to all the places I wanted to explore.

OK, I suppose all this sounds a bit flip. That’s because, like anything in life, there’s a lot more to the story than this. I had spent decades wanting to live outside the US, wanting to live in a new culture, wanting new adventures, wanting to travel. So when I am asked to explain why I made the move, I often say it was a perfect storm of events.

But at the heart of it all, I now live in Sweden because I choose to do so. Because we chose to do so together. Sure Stockholm drives me crazy at times, but it’s home.

(Note: This post is excerpted from my book proposal for Going Viking, my in-progress memoir.)


1 Rog October 3, 2013 at 11:11

If someone is not publishing your book Soon, i will !!!

2 Sandra October 4, 2013 at 13:54

Thanks for being my biggest fan Roger!

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