One Year Post-Sweden
I can’t believe that it’s been a full year since we moved out of Sweden. Absolutely nothing has gone as expected, hoped for, or planned – unless you take into account that going into jobs/situations like this you really can’t expect things to. It’s all good, though. Sometimes, dare I say, that’s part of the fun.
I think I’ve mentioned it before, but we were ready to leave Sweden. Well…we were ready to leave many aspects of Sweden, but of course there will always be things we strongly miss, as well as a desire to go back. The last few weeks before we left (on Dec. 6th) were rough. It got dark early, it was cold, our stuff was packed, and there was an insane “unknown” looming. It’s not everyday you decide to move from Scandinavia to the Middle East, for one, not to mention the logistics of everything could get overwhelming if you really thought about it.
Other than our own scheduling and moving concerns, there was also the sometimes-less-than-pleasant Swedish attitude that seemed to be out in full force at every turn.
Do you know the one I’m talking about? Swedes are not (generally speaking) charismatic people who smile and make small talk. They don’t naturally set a stranger at ease in their presence. Most of the time, this is just fine with me, I’m an introvert and likely behave in many of the same ways, but sometimes you just want to shoot the shit with the grocery store check out lady, or get a knowing smile from a fellow mom when your toddler is being difficult and won’t eat lunch. Small human interactions feeds the soul. Sometimes you also want people to acknowledge that they see you and, you know, not run into you or try to run you off the sidewalk or something. Maybe it was just in Linkoping, or maybe it was just in downtown Linkoping, but the general feeling of being out in public got exhausting fast. The anticipation of leaving that particular cultural difference behind grew fast and furious at the end.
We left Linkoping for Stockholm the night before our flight back to the USA, and waiting for the airport shuttle the next morning outside the hotel (in the snow) with all of our bags and our baby and stroller, we were literally pushed aside by three other, more capable families who showed up and bypassed us only as the bus pulled up. We were left to wait for the next shuttle bus because we couldn’t get on fast enough and the bus driver just left. Not that I would ever expect it, but no one was courteous, no one helped us load up (this generally would be the bus driver – as it always was in the States) or make sure our entire party was on, etc. We don’t need help, we don’t expect help, but certainly no one needs rudeness, either. This, coupled with the pushiness in lines at the airport, and bitchy staring, I felt what I could only name “The Final F*ck You” from Sweden. Pardon my language. I am fully aware this is simply a cultural difference (Americans like lines, and personal space, and actually can be friendly and helpful…), but it was a relief to be leaving.
Since that day one year ago, we have (somehow) been to 7 other countries. We have traveled on many airlines, on many budgets, and to extreme ends of the Earth – some places familiar and others as foreign as you could get. With the exception of ONE person, I cannot recall any more rude behavior than that of the Swedes. Which is a shame because, as is well documented on this blog, I am such a Swedish fangirl. I want to love Sweden, but there is an arrogance and/or awkwardness that is too strong in my memory to look back on it too fondly at the moment. I joke, but it’s actually true, moving to the Middle East has warmed my naturally pessimistic heart.
I don’t want to dog on Sweden, so I’ll stop there. There were many, many more rewarding moments and friendships that came out of the three-year experience that I would rather talk about, and I have plans (always plans) for more posts that I have meant to get up over the years about our experiences. We do dream of going back someday, and how different things can be now that we know better. We talk about how much we miss this or that. One thing is for sure, we look forward to visiting again. It was the longest place I’ve lived at a time in the past 13 years, and it was the longest place Matt and I lived together. For what it’s worth, Linkoping/Sweden became “home”.
Then we had to make a very quick decision on whether or not to take another big blind jump, as Abu Dhabi was offered. There was absolutely nothing we found holding us back from saying yes, and my biggest fear was that we’d regret not capitalizing on this opportunity, so we did. Thank God we did. The UAE is an amazing place.
Making a home in Abu Dhabi and navigating the expat-living waters a little “easier” this second time around – as in we know more of what to expect or ask for. On one level it was good that it took so long for us to be able to look for a place because it gave us time to get to know the city a bit before deciding what kind of location would (hopefully) be best for our family. We got lucky with the house we rented: it’s got a nice view and lots of room for the dogs to run around, and we have wonderful neighbors. We know it’ll take about a year or two to really figure a lot of things out, so we truck along and manage as we go. It took 11 months total, but we all now have residency, health insurance, driver’s licenses, and IKEA member cards; we’re “official” and have things to keep us happily busy enough each day. We’ve got a groove going.
Which…will be disrupted quite soon as we’re adding another member to the family!
Thankfully, we did a good bit of traveling this past year to hopefully hold us over if traveling with two young kids is one giant NOPE. And Abu Dhabi is very family friendly; there are places we can venture out to as a family without going crazy and becoming hermits for the next 3 years due to being exhausted dealing with tiny kids in public and/or the fear of offending the general public with our children.
Look, I don’t know if it’s the sunshine, or the general attitude and diversity of the country (answer: all of the above), but people are kind here. Kids are kids here. Folks are just generally happier. It’s so nice, and so refreshing. Not everything is, like totally perfect, but nowhere is perfect. People smile here! After 3 years in Sweden, that’s enough.
Also it’s December and in the 70’s. There is sunshine, palm trees, beaches and a cool breeze, and the days are long enough so that one doesn’t develop SAD. Hooray! I could actually go on gushing, but I won’t…
We left our home in Sweden a year ago for a completely new adventure. There have been high highs, and low lows, and countless in-between moments of confusion or boredom or just the sweet bliss of down time. There are still more changes (happy changes!) to come that we are so looking forward to, but it’s really taken a year’s worth of time to re-settle into a somewhat normal life. I can’t recall where I’d thought we’d be in one year, but I’m happy it’s working out. I’m happy that we could leave Sweden without sadness or regrets. Never in a million years would we expect to have moved to Abu Dhabi, but I’m glad we did.