It can be hard to live in a foreign country. Between the new environment, cultural differences, language barrier and missing family and friends, it can be a difficult transition to make Stockholm your new home. But with time, effort and these tips, we hope you’ll be feeling settled soon.
When you decided to move to Stockholm, you were probably filled with excitement and apprehension. Thrilled by the opportunity to live in an amazing city and nervous about how you’d get settled into life in a foreign country. Maybe it was a new job assignment that brought you here, maybe it was a Swedish spouse, or maybe you were just attracted by all that Stockholm has to offer. Even if you were happy to move here, it is possible that it has been harder than you expected and you are feeling homesick, lonely, or bored. There are a number of things you can do to help yourself get settled and integrated into life in Sweden.
One of the best things you can do for yourself is build relationships with people in Stockholm. Yes, you will still miss your loved ones at home but you can start to develop a social network here that will help you create a sense of home. There are many social groups in the Stockholm area where you can find new friends that share your interests – from sports, food and after work drinks to kids’ playdates. Try just attending a handful of events and you will likely start some new friendships quickly. If you have children, öppna förskolor (open preschools) are places where parents and children meet to play for free. They provide a wonderful opportunity to create social ties in your neighbourhood. You can find information about schools in your area on your municipality page. Of course there are always your colleagues at work. However, if you are in a job-setting with mostly Swedish workers, you should know that many Swedes prefer to have a separation between home life and work life and may not be as eager as their foreign counterparts to start friendships that extend outside the office walls. Do take part in fika at your office and get to know your co-workers. It will help to have good positive relationships with the people around you all day.
Even the best friends here can’t replace the people you miss from home. Be sure to find ways to stay connected to important people in your life. You can bridge the gap with video chat options such as Skype, Facetime, and GoogleChat. It can make such a difference to be able to see your family and friends as you talk. And fortunately, these options are free to use which beats the high cost of international telephone calls. Try planning your next visit now. Even if it won’t be for a year, just knowing when the next time you will see your loved ones again can help you feel better by focusing on a specific date.
Seasonal Affect Disorder (SAD) is a real disorder affecting many people each winter season. SAD is characterized by depressed feelings, lethargy, and lack of interest in usual activities as seasons change. With the few daylight hours during winter in Stockholm, it is very normal to develop a depressed mood and possibly SAD. You can combat the winter blues by getting plenty of Vitamin D, enjoying the sunshine mid-day, taking a vacation to a warmer brighter location, and making an extra effort to stay involved with your social network and hobbies during the winter months. However, if you are concerned you are experiencing more than just winter blues with the seasons’ shift and are concerned about SAD, make sure you talk to your doctor get some help. If you are really unhappy with your decision to move to Stockholm or you just aren’t finding ways to get connected, consider talking to someone about what is going on. Whether that person is your spouse, family from home, a new friend here or a counsellor in Stockholm, you will likely benefit from talking about your frustrations and sadness. Evaluate what specifically you are missing and find ways both to connect to those things at home and create enjoyable substitutes here.
Once you have finally gotten all your t’s crossed and i’s dotted and have your residency permit, ID card, and set up your Swedish bank account, it is time to settle into old routines in new places. Connect with your hobbies you loved at home and bring them to your Swedish life with a new twist. If you used to go to the gym, find one here; better yet, take advantage of living in a city that is a third composed of water and go swimming or skating, depending on the weather. If you used to enjoy photography, check out Stockholm’s lovely landmarks and sight-seeing attractions. If you used to volunteer, join The English Volunteering Project and find a cause that interests you. As a bonus, you’ll probably find some new friends this way too. Just because you are in a new environment, it doesn’t mean you can’t continue your old activities. Find ways to integrate your interests into your life here – it will keep you happy doing what you love while helping you become familiar with Sweden.
Embrace the new
You are in a new city and possibly even on a new continent. Take advantage of all the new experiences waiting for you. Celebrate Swedish holidays, sample the Nordic cuisine, practice a new winter sport, wander through different parts of the city, and discover all that Stockholm has to offer. If you aren’t from Europe, you can use Stockholm as your base as you travel to other parts of Scandinavia and Europe to explore a new part of the world. You just might find new interests that you never had before that make living in Sweden rewarding.
Learn the language
While many foreigners certainly get by only speaking English during their time in Sweden, you may want to consider learning Swedish. Not only will you feel more integrated into the culture, you will be able to understand so much more of what is going on in the world around you. A person can miss so much by not being able to read the headlines on the newspaper in the line at the grocery store or not able to understand the announcement on the overhead speakers on the train. The Swedish government provides free Swedish lessons to foreigners. You can find these SFI courses through your municipality’s website. You can also take private classes or even hire a private one-on-one tutor. It will take a lot of time and effort, but if you are planning to be in Sweden longer than a year, the rewards will be worth it.
Hopefully your homesickness will pass by trying some things on this list. Try to give yourself at least 6 months of experimenting with your new home and making an effort to transition. If you are still homesick at the end of 6 months and you have really given a lot of effort to become settled, evaluate if you want to stay or if changes need to be made. However, if your homesickness does subside and you are starting to take pleasure in your time in Sweden more, keep making the same efforts and enjoy getting settled into your new life in Stockholm. Before you realize it, you might be calling Sweden “Home Sweet Home.”
This article is sponsored by Turning Point, the only international counselling centre in Stockholm