Thursday, March 24, 2011

Why Stockholm feels more like home

If Stockholm is trying to woo me, it's doing an excellent job.

On the eve of our search for an apartment in the Swedish capital, we attended a concert by one of my favorite musicians, Adele, and also ate incredibly delicious Jamaican food at Back A Yard.

Growing up close to a big city, I know I've been spoiled by having various cultural and culinary options close by. But it's for these reasons that even in the few times I've visited Stockholm, it already feels more like home.

This is an excellent realization considering we'll be moving there in just a little more than a month. Today, Russ and I went out for celebratory drinks after finding an apartment we like in what's considered the really-difficult-to-conquer Stockholm housing market. Thankfully, this one was at a reasonable price compared to others we saw.

One was incredibly nice but way out of our price range, and another was an odd, converted flat that used to be part of a bigger apartment. The entrance to this one was fun yet humbling, though, as you open the first-floor door and see some winding steps that you go up to the apartment's door. This was most likely where the servants used to enter in the once bigger, bourgeois living quarters.

We are particularly excited about fulfilling a desire Russ and I both have: actully living within a large city and not a suburb of a city. The closest we ever were to this before was a little downtown area that was part of a big suburb. Not exactly the same as Stockholm. Easy access to concerts, salsa dancing, theater, and so on will now be just a walk or subway ride away.

The month ahead is going to be busy while focusing on school and also preparing for the move, but I see this as a great opportunity for Russ and me as one of the many transitions we've been through together in our first year of marriage.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Unexpected Swedish adaptations

An experience buying something online this week caused a new and quite odd turn of events for me.

The price was in U.S. dollars and, unlike when I first came to Sweden, I found myself converting in my head back to Swedish kronor to better figure out the value of the price. When I realized I was doing this, I had to take a step back, thinking, "Wow...have I really been buying things in kronor for so long that my 20-something years of purchasing with USD suddenly doesn't compute as well as this new currency?"

For at least the first four of the nine months we've lived in Sweden, I found myself converting the kronor into USD to better understand its value. To all of a sudden be thinking the opposite is a very weird feeling for me. Don't get me wrong, I still of course understand USD, but working daily with Swedish money has clearly taken on a new meaning.

Another unexpected adaptation was when I was in my Yahoo email, and I was thinking in my head I need to click the "Radera" button, and then realized, oh wait, that's "Delete." Since I started using a separate university email account, everything on this one is in Swedish, and this apparently has caused me to think of radera before the English word delete comes to mind. So strange.

I've always been one of the lucky ones to have oily skin growing up, and have even up to the time we left Texas last year had to get prescriptions from the dermatologist to help with this problem. For the first time in my life, I made an appointment with the dermatologist today for issues with not oily, but dry skin. Again, an unusual experience for someone transplanted from a hot and humid climate to this dry, cold weather.

Also on the weather topic, when I was living in Texas, I many times tried to find shade from the sun. In Sweden I crave the sunlight and do whatever I can to be out in it when it's available. We've now entered a month when the sun is not only brighter, but also out for a much longer period. I can tell I feel less drowsy and have more energy than during the darkest winter months.

Since we have an incredibly convenient place to recycle (our apartment's trash room. aka soprum), I've noticed how we're recycling a significant majority of our waste rather than throwing it in the regular trash. Now, when I'm in a place where there is only a trash and not recycling bins for my paper, plastics, etc., I feel a pain of guilt if I throw away my empty plastic water bottle, as one example. Coming from a place where there isn't any convenient place to recycle for apartment dwellers, and even many living in the burbs, I never have felt this way before. Oh Sweden, how you are giving me more of a environmental conscience.

Despite these realizations, the root of who I am is still there, just with a few additions. And most of these things, learning how to really grasp multiple currencies, understanding a new language and seeing the value of recycling, are all ways I'm developing in a positive direction beyond my own native understandings.