So I’m always asked “why did I move to Sweden?” especially by Brits when I have to call and sort something back in the UK. Whenever, I’m asked I think “why not!”
Well to be honest from a young age I always knew I wasn’t going to raise a family in England. Nothing against England it’s my home and it made me who I am, but I was very lucky to experience different countries, every year, from a very young age. Every summer my Nan would fly myself and my cousin with her to visit our family in the US, Canada or Jamaica. So I got the international bug early. My decision was pretty much made up in 2005, two years before I even met my husband Kevin, when I went travelling around the globe. I loved how much more myself I felt when I was in a different country to home. Strange as that may sound it does make sense to me. I always felt like I had a lot of pressure to be there for everyone, when I was at home, that was both perceived and real. I tried to be a people pleaser and was never taking time out to look after me.
seeing how much Eva enjoyed Sweden and loved her cousins
Funnily enough it took more convincing for Kevin then it did me and he is Malmö born and raised. For me it was the opportunity to raise our family in a country that seemed to offer a better quality of life. Again, I love England, but it became very clear once Eva was born that we would be living hand to mouth while Sweden offered a better alternative. My parents are young and both still in full-time work and nursery fees in England were stifling. Eva’s such a social child and it upset me not being able to send her to nursery more than two days a week. Also, living in central London and being worried for crossing the street because of the crazy cyclist was enough to make me want to move out of London.
I had been visiting Malmö on and off for over 7 years at the time that an opportunity came up for us. I loved Malmö, it had all the sites of a big city but at a slower pace. The outdoors were embraced, especially in the summer and it has such a beautiful landscape. Large parks with children play areas, lakes and forests all within walking distance of each other. I loved how everyone got around on bikes and there was actual bike paths built into the sidewalks, so much safer than what we had back home.
I also loved how family focused Malmö was. Anywhere we went in Malmö was child friendly and we noticed that even before we had Eva. Every coffee shop/restaurant was welcoming to bringing kids and if they didn’t have built-in microwaves for mothers to heat food for their bubbas then they would offer without hesitation. There was so many different outdoor kids play areas and random free activities for everyone, during the summer especially. I think when seeing all of this through parental eyes along with how much Eva loved being with her cousins (who are the same age) helped Kevin realise we needed to make the move.
It’s been good, bad and ugly but it’s still the best decision I ever made.
Fast forward to 2015 and the opportunity to move presented itself. A job and apartment presented themselves at the same time so we went for it. I had decided this was not a new phase but a new life journey. For me “new phase” doesn’t give a sense of longevity or promise. It sounds like you will move on or grow out of it. I think as I’ve grown over the years I have realised I have to fully commit to something in every way if I am going to make it work whether that’s relationships, work, projects or life choices. I remember friends saying if it doesn’t work you can always come back and to I would nod along. But I knew for me that wasn’t an option. Not really. I had done my due diligence and knew that this was not a trial move. If anything I knew that it would lead to another country but I knew for sure it was the last time I would live in England full-time.
It’s been good, bad and ugly but it’s still the best decision I ever made. I cried like a baby as I said goodbye to my best friends, my aunts, Nan and parents. Everyone was so supportive my parents and nan especially. I had so much guilt deciding to leave and move their only grand child/great-grandchild a flight away, but they kept telling me how much they also believed it was the best choice for us.
It dawned on me recently that I was taking a very small, but similar, step in the direction of my grandparents. Their generation left the Caribbean and their parents to move to the UK, US and Canada at a time when there was no Skype, emails, Facetime or affordable flights! They started their families in new countries that were worlds apart from their home in terms of culture, social standing and prejudice. Our move was nothing in comparison to that.
When we arrived I was a little said but very excited with what Malmö had to offer. Unfortunately, I fell into a slump early on and I believe it was because I was completely out of my comfort zone. Getting registered was very time consuming and frustrating mainly because I couldn’t get things moving – social security, health, language courses etc – until I was.
It’s a lot easier………. to paint on a smile than it is to drop the smile
I had always been independent, the bread-winner and manager of the finances in our relationship until now. I had no job, no friends in Malmö only family and I didn’t speak the language. I didn’t want to go out alone without being on the phone or having Eva as a distraction. Every job application was met with a no. Now I was completely reliant on my husband and my anxiety was very high. I didn’t communicate this to Kevin or anyone really and instead just bottled it up. The worst thing I could have done, as it manifested itself physically in migraines and depressive states.
It’s kind of my way when I’m unhappy, anxious or in one of my depressive periods I retreat and cut myself off. Mainly because I don’t feel I have the energy to put on a front, but in actual fact I believe it’s because I don’t have the energy to open up. It’s a lot easier, for me anyway, to paint on a smile than it is to drop the smile and show my sadness, anger or disappointment. I’m learning to get better at this. I thank god every day for my beautiful sister-in-law who, since we moved, has been the one person I can be 100% myself with without it being an effort. I have also found that I am becoming more and more comfortable with this side of me and am opening up to more friends and family without that fear or rejection, judgement or disappointment. Disappointment in their reaction to me being vulnerable.
Seeing Eva and Kev thriving with developing bonds outside of the family was hard for me but ultimately ended up giving me the push I needed to switch up my attitude. Nearly everyone in Sweden spoke English so why not just try to speak Swedish and if they didn’t understand just explain you’ve just moved over. It came at the right time as I had finally gotten registered and was ready to start my SFI course. I truly believe what you are feeling either invites the right/wrong people in or keeps the right/wrong people away. I made friends at my SFI class, neighbours and even picked up one of my really good friends now while she was working at a restaurant😝.
I remember a conversation I had with my Lizzie, my sister in laws aunt. I said I feel more like myself than I have in years. When relayed the conversation to Kevin I said to him I wasn’t sure if it was because I felt braver after making such a big life choice and finally adjusting, but I recognise myself in the mirror again. When I smile I can see it in my eyes, when I ride my bike to work I take (as Parker from Friends would say) “a mental picture). I am also the most honest I have been with myself for years, I acknowledge my flaws and try to improve where I can. But what I am most surprised with is that I can appreciate compliments something I couldn’t really do before.
I CAN RECOGNISE MYSELF IN THE MIRROR AGAIN AND I LOOK GOOD 😆😍