This summer I complete two years in Sweden. Remember the fleeting passage of time; it seems strange now that I was so against the fact of moving here in the first place. Now I can’t remember a life other than this. Though like any other NRI I too miss India terribly, but if I were to leave this life just like that now, send shivers down my spine. I feel I grew up in India but learn to be a real adult here in Sweden.
It is remarkable what and how much a new country can teach you. People complain what not about life in Sweden, weather, lack of jobs, hurdles with the language and the European way of life but that’s what makes the ride so worthwhile. Here are 15 life lessons that life in Sweden has taught me till now, hoping many more lessons to follow.
I used to get angry, impatient and irritated at the drop of a hat back home. Traffic, standing in a queue, people staring, made me lose my cool were some of the things to begin with. Maybe it has to do something with the lifestyle, but since everybody here maintains patience while standing in a queue, crossing the road, at the tax office almost everywhere that one goes, I am much more tolerant. Seeing all these teaches us also a lesson or two and made me much calmer.
Opening the doors for strangers, throwing the litter in dustbin, understanding the plight of others, etc. has been incubated. Again a trend that is already there in the Swedish way of living, compassion is built within the society.
The more I hated solitude back in India, the more I am getting to love it right now. Alone time has now made me invest more time in reading books, writing articles, doing yoga and spending time in the nature. The scarcity of time back home is now found in abundance here and the solitude has made me find time for myself and doing new things.
Now I am not saying that there is no honesty in India. But ever since I encountered the Swedish way of life, honesty and ‘going by the word’ is the way things work here. The shopkeeper doesn’t count the change when you return the money back, the salesman advises you not to buy certain things even though he stands the danger of being in a loss, employers don’t ‘check’ your offer letter when you join a new job and so on.
Nothing opens your eyes to the world other than travelling. Seeing a different landscape, hearing a different language may some alien but the curiosity gets better off you and you get more adamant to decipher the culture. Living in Sweden and visiting different countries has given me ample opportunities to learn so much about different cultural norms.
6. Value of time
Unlike the Indian standard time that is well known for all the wrong reasons, everything happens at time here. A party at 7 pm begins at 7 pm and so works the same way for an official meeting at 8 am. Coming and being on time seems the way of life here irrespective of the weather or any circumstance and that I have learnt and imbibed.
7. Good weather doesn’t last long
Sweden is famous for its unpredictable dark, rainy and gloomy weather. Good weather days are few and far between and so is the sun. Weekend or not, if the weather is good, you could spy more smiles than ever. Since good weather is a blessing, I have learnt to value its importance more than ever and relish it while it is around. When it is not, I stay indoors and keep myself engaged.
8. Jumping out of the ‘well’
Till the time we are in our respective countries, we never see the life beyond it. Coming to Sweden made me see the vastness of the globe and the difference in the way of living. There thrive people like us out there who see the world with a different perspective. The culture, thought process and lifestyle is varied and one doesn’t realize it until and unless they pack their bags and experience it themselves.
9. Value of working
A vital one. I was a happy career oriented girl back in India and I didn’t realize the necessity of a career so badly until I moved to Sweden sans the job. Bagging a job grew more difficult owning to the necessity of knowing the local language in my profession. I toiled hard and it took me a year both to master the language and to bag a job. Now that I have a job I realize it wisely
Like anyone else back home, I had the luxuries of a cleaning lady, iron-wala and dry clean wala. There was pick up and drop facility for anything and everything. Amidst all the grumbling, tearing my hair out and wailing for the comforts back home, I learnt the house-work the hard way after living in Sweden. Ranging from fixing a bulb, picking the groceries, driving, everything in a nutshell. In fact, even when I go back to India for holidays, I insist on doing my own laundry, dishes and other necessities that for once I yearned for. Strange but the need to have a helper makes me now feel handicapped.
11. Fewer the friends, the better
I was used to being surrounded by a bevy of ‘friends’ in India. Going to the pubs, discos, movies with an acquaintance just for the company was very common. Moving to Sweden and good friends being sparse, one learns to pick the ones that you jell along well and not just to hang out. Spending quality time is more important than just being with random people whom you can’t connect with.
12. A new language, fresh wave in life
Learning Swedish in the beginning felt like something imposed on me as a means to fetch a job. It was tough. Slowly, my confidence saw a new high as I grasped it more and more. So much so that I actually started enjoying it and didn’t care whether or not I will get a job or not. And that exactly was the moment that I got one.
13. Walk or cycle your way to good health
People in Sweden prefer to walk or bike their way to work. You definitely can’t make out a person’s age as they exercise regularly mostly by cycling or walking. Unlike India where we are not used to walking for long distances, people here walk brisk and for longer distances. Of course India has the perils of not so developed roads. I easily walk 2-3 kms per day and that is the best form of exercise to start with.
14. Plan everything in advance
Summer trip? Book it in the winter. Organizing an event or party? Send the invites a week or two before. Doctor’s appointment? Not so urgent? Book a month before. Last minute schedules don’t work in Sweden. People value your time and expect you to value theirs.
India and its news and festivals were never so important than it are now. The connect to the motherland has become more stronger with me writing and talking more about India, its food, festivals and ‘problems’. How much do we bicker about India and its problems ourselves, we become defensive when a foreigner does the same. There are instances in which I learn more about my own country and its culture through the experiences of the swedes living here
As a parting note, life has its lessons to teach anywhere you go. Living in Sweden has made me realize the tiny gems that I underestimated back home. It is vital to spread the gems wherever we go so that we in our turn make the world gleaming and worth living!