Transitions

Posted in: Life in Sweden, Personal on 15 December, 2017 by Keely

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Hello hello!

It’s been a while since my last post because my boyfriend and I have both been extremely stressed and preoccupied with the apartment search in Stockholm. I can honestly say looking for a place to live in Sweden’s capital has been one of the most difficult tasks of my life. It was three weeks of high highs and very low lows; considering all of our options and realizing those options are limited because we are young and poor. During this time we actually drove back and forth from Stockholm four times! But I can now officially report that we found somewhere to live! Finally! It’s a small sublease, which is obviously the most temporary solution, but it’s right smack dab in the middle of the city! The neighborhood is called Vasastan, and it’s perfect for my first time living in Stockholm: right next to beautiful green parks to walk Auggie, surrounded by cute little restaurants and cafes, and only a 25 minute walk to Ted’s new job (located on the campus of KTH). The rent is low enough that we will be saving more than we are now, and I’m just really excited to be living in the city! Most of the places we considered were quite far out in suburbs, so having this place for roughly half a year will give me time to get to know the city intimately before we inevitably move to suburbia.

I feel a big sense of relief at having finally found a place to live, but I must admit I’m nervous about this transitional period. I’ve lived in my lovely little apartment in Linköping for almost two years and it feels so much like home. I’m nervous about leaving this quiet, peaceful town for the hustle and bustle of a big city. I’m worried about making friends, and sad to leave mine here behind. I’m also totally freaked out about starting my Masters thesis in January! I’m pretty much settled on my topic and just need to be assigned a supervisor, but I can’t imagine what next semester will be like. I’m worried I’ll start procrastinating or get distracted with living in a big city. After all, the paper won’t write itself! However, I know from past experience that I was actually pretty efficient and worked hard on my bachelor’s thesis so hopefully I’ll maintain the same level of work ethic on this thesis.

Clearly, I’ve got a lot on my mind and a lot of changes in the near future. I just have to remind myself to take it one step at a time and to breathe.

Source: tumblr


 

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A change of address

Posted in: Life in Sweden, Personal on 27 November, 2017 by Keely

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Busy, busy, busy!

The past couple weeks have been insanely busy and stressful! There are a lot of major life changes on the horizon, which means my normal routine is about to be completely uprooted.

The first big change? We are moving to Stockholm! My boyfriend, Ted, just got a new job in Stockholm that he will start in January. We had been considering a move to the big city for a while, especially as my graduation draws nearer, because I probably have the best chance of finding an internationally-oriented job in the country’s capital. That’s also where Ted’s friends and family live, so he will enjoy being closer to home. I am definitely excited to move to a bigger city where there is so much to do and see! I will miss Linköping, of course, but I’ll miss my friends here most of all. This was my first home in Sweden, and will always have a special place in my heart. But it’s time for a change!

Of course, moving to a new city comes with a lot of stress! The biggest one is definitely finding some sort of shelter (you can tell I’m not being picky!) Most people know that the housing market in Sweden, and Stockholm in particular, is an absolute nightmare. It’s nearly impossible to get a first-hand lease unless you’ve been on some arbitrary waiting list for at least 10 years (don’t get me started on the waitlist, I think it’s incredibly stupid), second-hand contracts are unstable and often a total scam, and buying an apartment requires taking out a hefty loan if you don’t have 2 million kroner laying around.

We drove up to Stockholm this weekend to check out an apartment offered on a second-hand contract. It looked pretty good on Blocket, the website in Sweden where you can buy or sell almost anything. They were asking about 12,000 kr/month, which is quite high but you tend to pay more with second-hand contracts because they tend to ask more than what they pay. Anyway, the website was misleading–this place was TINY! Our bed literally would not have fit in the bedroom, which looked like a walk-in closet. It was newly build so the appliances were nice, but it was clearly meant for one person, not a couple and their energetic dog.

We had hoped that we would be able to snag a first-hand contract because we thought we could use Ted’s mom’s waitlist time (about 11 years), but that fell through at the last minute. Ted’s been on the Stockholm waitlist for about 7 years, which can get you an apartment in a nearby town but probably not in Stockholm area.

Now we are considering BUYING an apartment *gasp*! I never imagined doing this, certainly not before I have my own job, but we are desperate. Actually, the loan payments should be about equal to our rent budget and we’re ultimately paying into an investment so economically buying might be smarter than renting. It’s definitely safer than a second-hand contract. If you want to buy an apartment in Sweden, you need to already have 15% of the asking price before they will loan you the remaining 85% (or whatever you need). We definitely don’t have that kind of money, which requires Ted’s dad to take out a second mortgage on his home. It’s not ideal, but it’s a common way for young people who have very little money to get into the housing market. Most of Ted’s friends who own their apartment had generous parents who took out a loan for them.

Now, we are waiting to see if Ted will be able to take out the remaining amount himself. We’ve found a few cute apartments in our budget (if we get the loan, of course), and are driving up this weekend to see at least one of them. It’s hard because I know I shouldn’t get my hopes up, but I’m already in love with one apartment in particular. It’s perfect. Plus, I heard this is a good time to buy in Stockholm so… keeping my fingers crossed.

On top of all of this, I have an approaching deadline to submit my thesis topic so yes I’m quite stressed. On the bright side, by the end of this ordeal I’ll be an expert in finding a place to live in Stockholm which is a major level-up on my adulting scale. Wish me luck!


 

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How to beat the November blues

Posted in: Life in Sweden, Personal, Weekend on 15 November, 2017 by Keely

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November has always been my favorite month.

Until I moved to Sweden, I always looked forward to the month of November. It’s the first month in Texas when the weather finally cools down enough to wear long sleeves or even a light sweater. While the days are a bit shorter (the sun sets around 17:30), it’s usually sunny and the perfect weather for long walks in nature or indulging in a pumpkin spice latte al fresco. There are also two important holidays in November: Thanksgiving and my birthday. It’s a time for family and friends, for being outside, and for eating as much as you possibly can. It’s the best.

Now, I dread November. I’ve traded in my hotter-than-hell Texas summer for the perfectly magical Swedish summer. That also means I’ve traded in my sparkly Texas November for the dreary Swedish version. Life is all about trade-offs, right? Most everyone agrees that this is the worst month in Sweden. The trees are bare, the ground is wet and not yet snow-covered, the sky is grey, and the temperatures are dipping below freezing. There’s also no holiday to celebrate until Christmas. I seriously think the Swedish government should come up with some kind of festive holiday to celebrate in November to break up such a mundane month. It would give people something to get excited for!

Until then, I’ve found some ways to cheer myself up while waiting for the holidays. There are lots of articles like this one, describing ways to survive this month. It’s nice knowing I’m not the only one suffering! Here are the tips I’ve tried:

  1. Stock up on vitamin D. Honestly, it might be the placebo effect but I truly feel better when I take vitamin D supplements. A Swedish friend urged me to start taking them back in September to build it up in my system before the darkness comes. I don’t take them everyday because I often forget, but when I remember I think I feel better. Obviously, talk to a doctor before starting any supplement regimen (I didn’t do that, but it’s fine I think…).
  2. Use a light lamp. Last year my dad bought me a SAD (seasonal affective disorder) lamp to help with the winter blues. It looks like an iPad with just a really bright screen, and you just sit in front of it for like an hour. I’m not sure if it works, but it’s worth a try. I haven’t used mine yet this season but I’ll definitely pull it out soon.
  3. Take a break and leave town. I did that this weekend, actually! My best friend from home currently lives in Madrid, Spain where she teaches English. I didn’t have classes on Friday or Monday, so I took a long weekend and visited her. It was an amazing weekend: the weather was PERFECT and SUNNY, the food was unlike anything I’ve ever tried and so delicious, the warm, exciting culture was infectious, and the prices were so cheap! It was basically the opposite of Sweden right now, and I needed it. Taking a break or a mini vacation is energizing and helps break up an otherwise monotonous season. While it’s a bit sad to be back where it’s so cold, my travel fever is temporarily abated and I can get back into my routine.

Beautiful Madrid!

Noviembre

Sweden is undeniably a beautiful country, but not in November. While I have my birthday to look forward to next week, I’m mostly just gritting my teeth and waiting for the holidays. If, like me, you’re finding the season to be a bit sad, try one of the above tips or check out out the website I linked to. With a positive attitude, any season can be enjoyable!


 

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Interview with a friend

Posted in: Life in Sweden, Linköping, Personal on 3 November, 2017 by Keely

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Today I thought it would be interesting to interview my very first and best friend in Linköping! Like me, Barbara moved here in April 2016 to live with her Swedish sambo. We also both come from very warm, sunny climates (Sardinia and Texas), and definitely have had to adapt to the drastically different weather and culture here in Sweden. We met in the summer of 2016 in an SFI (Swedish for Immigrants) course and instantly bonded over being newbies in Sweden and the idiosyncrasies of our Swedish sambos. Suffice it to say, there’s always lots to talk about! I asked her a few questions about her experiences over the past year and a half:

♥ What’s your best advice for learning Swedish?

I would say that the easiest way to learn Swedish is to be in Sweden. I tried to learn Swedish when I was home and it was really difficult, so I would recommend being in the place first of all. Secondly, you need to be completely emerged in the culture: watching TV, listening to radio, reading books… But for me, I need a lot of structure and it helped to go to SFI. I might recommend a better course than SFI, but being forced to do homework and practice regularly was helpful. Speaking the language was always my biggest fear, but since I started working in a restaurant I’ve been forced to speak Swedish with customers. So that helps, being forced *laughs*.

♥ What have you found hardest about adapting to Swedish culture?

The fact that everyone was so rigid when following rules. For example, at the tax office, they never made exceptions with documents when I first moved here. I didn’t get the help I needed because they were so strict with the rules and bureaucracy, which I appreciate now but it was frustrating at times.  I also find it weird they avoid contact with people all the time. Like my boyfriend always avoids going to the doctor until the very last minute. Also, using my boyfriend for an example: if there’s a problem at the bank, he won’t go in and talk to them! In Italy, I would definitely go in and just ask a human being what the problem is. Instead, he searches for hours online for an answer instead of popping by the bank and asking them in person!

♥ What are your favourite things to do in Linköping?

Oh god, this is a hard one. I feel like I don’t do anything here *laughs*. I guess a fun thing is to see ice hockey during the season at the Saab Arena. Ice hockey is so “exotic” and fascinating for me. Last winter I went to a lot of concerts! On Saturday there are concerts at the Crypt so I went maybe every other week. And Swedish bands are really good, so you should take advantage when concerts are around! Also Linköping is the best place to have a fika. My favourite places are Simons Rosteri and Babettes.

♥ Any advice for dealing with the winter blues?

I have no idea how to deal with the winter blues. It’s still a struggle for me. Even when I lived in the north of Italy I struggled with the cold because Italians don’t heat their buildings. I don’t like going out when it’s cold and dark, but my advice is to force yourself. Push yourself to do stuff! Right now the sun sets really early around 3:30, so it’s best to go out in the morning. Take a long walk, run some errands, but always take advantage of the daylight. I also take D vitamins once a day so I hope it will help. Also at home, it’s nice to have candles around to have nice light and to cuddle on the sofa with warm tea and a blanket! As human beings, we should be easy on ourselves and accept that some seasons are lazier than others.

 

Thank you so much for you interview, B! And my personal advice is to make a great friend to talk to about all the joys and struggles of moving to a new country! It makes it easier when you know you’re not alone 🙂

 


 

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When the leaves fall down

Posted in: Life in Sweden, Personal on 27 October, 2017 by Keely

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There’s a joke that me and my boyfriend tell each other constantly around this time of year:

United Kingdom: We call it autumn, from the Latin word autumnus.

USA: WE CALL IT FALL BECAUSE LEAF FALL DOWN!

When I tell this joke to other people, they either chuckle politely or don’t get it. I find it hilarious because it so accurately represents some differences I notice between Europeans and Americans. I’m generalizing here, but some Europeans (especially the British), tend to speak eloquently and seem to use more sophisticated phrasings. This is definitely not true of everyone, but many people’s language seems more “buttoned up,” if that makes sense. In contrast, Americans like to keep it short, sweet, and to the point. I myself feel so LOUD and opinionated when I’m in Sweden, which is odd because I considered myself more demure in Texas. Anyway, I just think this joke sums it up so perfectly. I don’t think there is a “better” way to speak or comport yourself, but it’s been almost a year since I last visited the US and I definitely feel nostalgia for my loud and proud countrymen.

I got a care package from my mom yesterday, which actually made me feel more homesick. Among other things, she sent me a big bag of Fritos chips (super salty corn chips are a staple in any Texan diet) and two boxes of Mac n Cheese! These are two things I’ve NEVER encountered in Sweden, and while I don’t eat either thing that much back home, I find them comforting when I’m away. I’m planning on cracking open some Mac n Cheese for dinner tonight and I can’t wait to taste that orange, “cheezy” goodness!

I’m also kind of down because NO ONE CELEBRATES HALLOWEEN HERE!! It’s horrible!! Halloween has always been my favorite holiday because I love dressing up, the chill that just starts to spark the air, and the excuse to eat as much candy as I want! I love carving pumpkins and roasting their seeds, decorating the house in spiderwebs, and watching spooky movies. Now that I’m older, halloween parties are basically the best parties all year, but if I’m not up for that I can always stay home and hand out candy to the super cute trick-or-treaters. I’ve seen a feeble attempt in the grocery store to sell Halloween-type stuff, but nothing like at home. They’ve already started putting out Christmas things! Too soon, Sweden, TOO SOON! I’ll also be missing Thanksgiving again this year, which is my second favorite holiday because the food is sooooo good and it’s great spending time with family. The fall (or “autumn” if you insist on calling it that) was always my favorite time of year and now I can’t wait for Christmas because that means it’s almost spring again.

Sorry if this rant was a bit depressing, I guess I’ve been slacking on taking my Vitamin D supplements. There are good moments that I cherish this time of year, like taking my pup out for a brisk walk in all the leaves! So lovely. He’s been sleeping a lot more now that the weather is changing, so we mostly just cuddle all day. It’s cuddle season!

 


 

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Keely Witherow

Keely Witherow
Hey you guys!

I came all the way from Texas to study International and European here at LiU, and so far I am loving it!
Grab a little fika, get comfortable, and let me tell you all about my adventures as a student in Sweden!

MSSc International and European Relations

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