This following text is one of a few answers I wrote on Quora back when I first moved to Sweden, and so far, it's also my most popular answer on the platform with over 80.5K views, 756 up votes and around 50 comments (some of which are furious). I am publishing it here because I wrote another post a week ago or so on why I chose to move to Sweden and I would like to share some of my first impressions from 2018.
Original publication date: August 5, 2017
Question: What is it like to live in Scandinavian countries?
For a foreigner, it is an emotional roller coaster accompanied by all types of shocks and firsts. When I moved to the far north of Sweden last year, I was so excited about this new life, but I was also anxious since I had no idea how it would turn out to be.
For the first month, I had trouble sleeping because of the extended daylight, I never saw the sun coming up at 3 AM before in my life, and to make matters worse, I didn’t have good curtains in my room back then. Every night I would wake up far too early and suffer for the rest of my days because of that.
Then the loneliness set in, it hit me like a speeding car, I was so far from home, living in a city just below the arctic circle and I knew no one, had no friends and didn’t even know where to start. You might see many people talking online about how Swedes are proficient English speakers, and that’s 100% true except for one catch. They don’t use English as much as someone who only read online articles about them would speculate, and this hits foreigners hard because it impairs your ability to integrate within the society and your potential "new friends" pool get much smaller if you don’t speak the language.
What? Can't I pay for a bus ride using cash? What logic is this? It is the Swedish way of living, no cash, only cards and mobile banking, and it took me some time to get used to it. Moving from a country where I paid for almost everything in cash to a country where I won’t use cash for months is a huge step, and for some people, it takes more time to get used to it.
Then comes the winter, the freaking cold weather, the insanely low temperatures, the snow, the icy roads, the northern lights, and the frozen sea. So many things happen here in the north of Sweden when the winter starts, you get way too busy enjoying them that you don’t even feel lonely anymore.
Winter brings the darkness too, and that’s when the problems start. You see, I was used to standard daylight length, seeing the sun setting down at 3 PM was a mind-blowing experience for me. I am a night person, I work better at night, and during winter, that meant less sleep for me since most of the day was night anyway. I never got depressed because of the darkness or the winter, but it hit my friends so hard they had to get help before developing more serious issues.
The image says: “The Swedish summer is the best day of the year.” It is a joke about how short and awkward Swedish summer is. Right now, it is 14 degrees outside. It has been raining at least once a week during the last month, and we barely see the sun. However, when you survive a Swedish winter, even this cold, wet summer feels like one hell of a change, and you find yourself secretly enjoying it before it ends!
Did I hear you asking about Spring? There is no Spring here, at least not in the north. The closest season to Spring is what Swedes call Vårvinter, which translates to early spring, something between the two seasons. One day, it is sunny and pleasant, the next day it is snowing. Vårvinter drives me crazy because of the constant change.
Sweden is a very safe country, don’t believe the BS on the news, I lived here for a year, and I never felt threatened or afraid for one minute. In fact, I was surprised to see people walking around the city at 2 or 3 AM without being worried.
Swedes are friendly, genuine people. They will help you if you ask them, but otherwise, they keep to themselves. The Swedish society is pretty keen on the individuality side, everyone here takes care of their lives and minds their own business. It takes some time to get used to the awkward hugs, the communication style and to the way Swedes function as a society, but it is worth all the time and effort.
No country is perfect, but Scandinavian countries are as close as it gets to perfect. I haven’t faced any significant issues or problems during the last 12 months, and aside from the usual troubles that come along when you move to a new country, I would say this has been a pretty damn good experience so far.
That One Comment
It will be a cold day in hell before someone with a name like mine writes something about a European country and not have someone telling them "When are you going back to your home country?". Doesn't even matter how positive or negative the post was, you will always get that question. Thankfully, one of the other commenters answered it perfectly: "He can stay for as long as he wants. When will you return to yours ?"
PS: Good god, grammar mistakes were abundant in the original answer, thankfully I got to fix some of them. My writing is a bit better nowadays 😉