Yes, once again I have changed the format of my blog. Shortly, I will be moving my blog soon over to our new site, but I’ll let you know when that happens (if anyone is even still reading).
I can’t believe it is August already. I love summer. Many Swedes think summer here is so beautiful, but it many ways, it only makes me long for summer in San Diego. The weather in southern Sweden, although mild in temperature, is irregular. One day of bright sunshine and blue skies could be followed by torrential rainfall and wind. People often ask me if I like living in Sweden, and other then because of love and we thought it would be easier to get a visa, it has proven to be a difficult transition.
However, I am now in a balancing act with everything that is happening. My days are filled. School, my internship and job are equally absorbing my time and energy, leaving little time for my yoga practice and/or fun with my boyfriend. However, we manage to do the best we can with the time we have each day. (If you are interested in what I’m doing for my internship, go to this link and scroll for the articles with my name, I have been writing there on a weekly basis since April).
One of the greatest things this summer is that I finally got a job. Being an ashtanga practitioner, we often don’t often intermingle with other yoga forms. However, in a moment of desperation, I contacted yoga studios within the city to see if there was any need for a receptionist. Low and behold, I am doing reception work at a hot yoga studio. I have taken a few classes so far and I have actually really enjoyed it. Reception work is not my dream job, but it is something for now.
One thing I have to say is that the life of an immigrant is not easy in Sweden. If you didn’t move to Sweden to be a student, moving here for love or asylum makes life challenging. Most SAMBO’s (cohabitation with partner) who are foreigners struggle to find their niche.
Here are some tips I have learned as an immigrant in Sweden:
1. Learn the Language
Unfortunately, there is a waiting time for SFI, Swedish for Immigrants, but once you are able to start taking classes, the pace of life will become more interesting. Since most people find it difficult to secure a job immediately (or within the first year) after arriving, attending language classes is a great way to meet other people in similar situations and begin integration. While I haven’t studied for so long, just learning a little has helped tremendously for simple things when I’m out and about. Additionally, the language is NOT easy. The grammar is all a big mess to me, but I am hoping that things will start to smoothen out soon enough.
If you can’t take classes or master the language, just learning a little of the local language, will make your transition into Swedish culture much easier!
2. Speak English
When all else fails, if you can, speak in English! Unfortunately, English is a big reason why I probably have it loads easier than a lot of immigrants from non-English speaking countries. My internship is in English and my job does not require Swedish. Depending on the country, going around speaking in English might be a disservice. However, in most of the major European cities, English is helpful though. Keep in mind, some of the older Swedes are afraid to speak in English. This is not always the case though, but do not be surprised if some seem unwilling to help or respond to you in Swedish. Just look for someone else to ask if necessary.
3. Put yourself out there
This is something I would recommend anywhere. I know it is so scary, but you have to be friendly. Similarly, be sensitive. Swedes are not typically outwardly, friendly people. If you see a Swede on the street, do not be surprised or disappointed by the lack of warmth you may receive. However, if you can manage to break the ice, I have found a great majority of them to be really kind. A good way to break the ice is to host a get together with people you have met that you’re interested in cultivating a friendship. Swedes stick together with friends they have known since childhood, so you will find that once you’re apart of a group, some of them have known each other for a long time.
4. Apply, Apply, Apply
Other students I have met from all over (albeit, a mass majority from the Middle East) often ask me how I got a job here, especially so quickly. While, I do not think it was that quick, I realize that I secured an internship 1 1/2 months after getting my residency and a paying job within 4 1/2 months. I did this by relentlessly applying. I have no tricks up my sleeve and quite frankly, very little experience with what I was applying for, but I persevered. Send out your resume and CV to everyone! Look to LinkedIn for companies within the area that might be of interest to you and just send them a mail. You might not get a response, most likely not, but Rome wasn’t built in a day.
5. The system
There is a tricky thing about moving to a new country and that is that you have to abide by the laws. In Sweden they have something called the personal number *personnumer* which is similar to the U.S. social security number. You must get this number if you ever expect to get a job, a bank account, go to school, or just be apart of life.
6. The bank account
You cannot open a bank account without a personal number. You cannot get online banking, which basically means, you won’t have access to an ATM card or online banking, until you have a salary. Handelsbanken apparently does not have this requirement though and I have heard they have remarkable customer service. I made the mistake of opening an account with Swedbank. Swedbank, perhaps all the others as well, will charge you for using their online banking and getting a bank card. I have been frustrated by their lack of customer support and general timeliness. Farewell, free easy banking and amazing customer service, I have been spoiled in the states.
7. Be patience, but not stagnant!
Don’t sit at home waiting for something to happen. Well, if you sit at home, do something! If you’re lonely, accept this is the way things are for now. Find something to occupy your time, create ways to not sink into despair. It is not easy moving to a new place. Even if you have a Swedish partner, they probably will have to go to work at a certain point. Friends will come, but it takes time! Join a gym, pick up a new hobby, or just start reading!
If at all costs, do not only stick within your own. You’re no longer in your home country, stop trying to recreate everything that you once had there. Perhaps, it will make you feel less homesick, but to a new home, you have to immerse yourself in the culture. Sometimes this might only mean going for a walk in the neighborhood or visiting a new restaurant every so often, you will eventually have to meet some of the locals.
Hopefully these tips for new immigrants to Sweden, or anywhere else will come in handy. I find that the mass majority of them could have been applied when I lived in South Korea.