What I prefer about my life in Sweden

A girl I know from Lund wrote on a photo of mine the other day (in Swedish), "the girl from LA who'd rather live in Sweden. Love it."

It's a familiar description... one that is often given with simultaneous disbelief and appreciation. "How could you move away from California?! To move to Sweden?!" mixed with, "Wow. That's impressive, and I'm glad you like Sweden enough to stay here. It's pretty cool here sometimes, isn't it..."

Growing up and living in California (and to be specific, not from LA, but from the San Francisco area, then having lived ten years of my adult life in Santa Barbara before moving to Sweden) is hard to beat. I thought that all of my life, and now having some distance from it, I still think that. It's a weird thing to say, that I'm the girl "who'd rather live in Sweden." I don't really think about it like that. I don't think about it as if I have two options, one in each hand, and one is better so I choose it.... it doesn't feel like that. That feels like I'm choosing one set of weather conditions over another, one set of friends over another... I'm not.

It's just that I had good reasons to come here, and I followed an intuition that I would love it here, and I did. I'm continuing to live here for several reasons but the biggest one is just that it overall FEELS like what I'm supposed to do. To live this life here while doing what I can to be a part of the lives of people I love in California too.

So clearly, I don't like to think in black and white! I don't like to compare and contrast and rank the places, things and people that I love. But I decided that if I were reading this blog I would want some more black and white. Not just, "what do you like about Sweden?" but "what do you prefer, in comparison?" There's got to be some things! Yes, okay, maybe...

What I prefer about not just Sweden but MY life here, compared to the California life I had:

1) Seasons. I like what having distinctive seasons does for distinguishing your memories from one time of the year to another, for differentiating the year's activities, for the adrenaline rush of spring and coziness of winter. But mostly I love it for the way it draws beauty out in different ways from the landscape. That would be hard to give up.

2) In Stockholm, there are so many different parks to go to. So many different places to walk around and be charmed. So many different avenues going around islands and next to water. So much nature within and nearby. I am addicted getting outside, year round, and experiencing it all as much as possible. Now I certainly miss the beach from Santa Barbara, I would go to it all the time. But I prefer the landscape and nature in much of Sweden compared to Southern California... some of it reminds me of places I loved going to in Northern California and Oregon growing up. Here in Sweden, I'm emerging into much more of the outdoors girl I always felt like I was but wasn't getting that much of in my adult life before.

(biking, not Stockholm actually, but on the isle of Ven in Skåne)

(Fall in a Stockholm park)

3) The relationship that people have to their and others' bodies here. While I do appreciate being from a place where being healthy and athletically fit is highly valued, with some distance, I have realized how twisted the environment is for females in Southern California in particular. The constant anxiety about being thin and managing your diet, the comparisons with others, the pressure for youth and beauty... I think you can't grasp it fully until you have lived it and then lived away from it. And to think that STOCKHOLM is a break from all that, a notoriously good-looking, fashionable and slim capital city that has a fair share of problems with both female and male anorexia. But yes, looking good in Sweden has less to do with your weight and more to do with a variety of other things, and the way that both women and men judge others follows suit. The way that California guys (to generalize) talk about girls is something that I'm almost never exposed to in Sweden, where hot = thin, and bodies are analyzed and generally just paid way more attention to. There isn't, except for maybe a few wealthy circles, the kind of pressure here for new moms to lose all the weight immediately. There isn't an obsession with the next workout or athletic event you will do, or conversations about what you are trying to improve upon (weightwise, wrinklewise, hairwise, etc). I rarely think about the size of my friends and where I lie in relation to that, like I started to the minute I moved down to Southern California for college.

It's very good for the soul to step away from that environment, and for a good enough amount of time to let it all that distorted perspective crumble away. Some of it is very very sick.

4) The way people celebrate here. I will have a whole other post another time about the various celebration traditions and how they differ in Sweden. But overall, the way that parties are commonly done here is right up my alley and delights me all the time. Theme parties, often. Formal party invites, occasionally. Fancy dress events. Sit down dinners with seat assignments. Lots of "get out of town as a group" special parties, like "80s theme party set in a countryside house for a 30th birthday weekend where people stay overnight" or "four guys are turning 25 and they are inviting all their friends to a barn party in the countryside overnight for an Octoberfest theme party." It's not like this kind of stuff isn't found among my friend groups in California but it's very rare, and it's not as if I don't miss the laidback, casual vibe of celebrations there... But there's something that I really adore about these adventurous and/or high glamour, planned and organized, and so often dance-oriented celebrations here. Adore adore adore.



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Feels good to write about those things. Sort of like a gratefulness exercise. It's been a hard month, and despite the gorgeous fall colors, the weather does feel quite cold at the moment. California, I miss you for the way that October evenings weren't so chilly that you needed to bundle up to manage a bit of sitting outside at night. I miss you. 

Comments

  1. Corrine, I especially love #3! I could not agree more...when you live in another country (probabaly even another state) that is no southern California you realize how skewed our perception or idea of what "normal" is. I love living in a place where women are expected to be round and full and curvy. And get this--- husbands and wives call each other "gordo/a" as a term of endearment! Can you imagine hearing hey fatty come here in any English speaking home??? haha. oh, cultures and countries.

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  2. I have been wondering about this for a while, so I love that you blogged about it! I only went to Stockholm once, in 7th grade, February, for a drama festival. All I remember is that the family I lived with that weekend had a home that overlooked this enormous, frozen Fjord. It was a magical view. I love reading your stories and seeing your pictures, you look so happy. I agree with Michelle, too! -Kerry G

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  3. Kerry, so fun to hear from you! Thanks for the comment! Amazing that you got to stay in that kind of home in Stockholm. There's certainly no end to the amazing views that people can have here and all around the area. I am happy here. Not that I wasn't before... and not that life is always so great, but I'm certainly loving it here :)

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  4. Hi Corrine, really enjoyed your blog. My daughter will be studying abroad in Lund University at the end of July and would like to ask you about Lund. Could you pls email me at karendar@sbcglobal.net
    Thank you Karen

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