“Moving to a new country is not a fairytale. Moving to a new country is a lot of hard work. And first of all, you should work on creating a better version of yourself.”
For me, every time when I moved to another country, I felt as if I were reborn. Things are not familiar anymore; you learn living anew in a completely different setting. While it could be exciting in the beginning, after some time it turns into a big question mark: what am I supposed to do now?
I come from Russia, and of course my view of the world is different compared to, let’s say, a person from a Scandinavian country. So, before arriving to Sweden, I thought I was ready to experience culture shock to a certain degree, but I did not expect that it would be so difficult. Only after a while I understood that my mistake was in not being flexible enough. Adjusting to a new cultural setting takes time, patience, and effort. Also, at that time I did not know about the existence of such amazing organizations as International Citizen Hub Lund, MINE, Mitt Liv, which are of great help to newcomers with no knowledge of the Swedish culture whatsoever.
Before Sweden, I lived in Russia, Ireland, and China; my Chinese journey lasted for more than 4 years. Living in Shanghai, a never sleeping megalopolis city with a huge international community, was a very precious experience for me. I met so many people of different nationalities, learnt a lot about cultural differences and realized how important the cultural competence was.
Every day in China I felt like being in a huge vortex of events, news, jobs…Yes, you read it correctly: it is quite easy to find a job in China, more than that, you can try a bunch of professions too. You can constantly change jobs if you want to, combine them, do so many different things at the same time that at some point it gets a little bit too much: the non-stop rhythm of the big city starts wearing you out…That’s why my spouse and I decided to look for opportunities elsewhere, and we were so happy when my husband was offered a job at IKEA!
Now it was time to move to Sweden! That is when the next chapter in our lives has begun.
Being a foreigner in a new country, you need to be curious about everything. You should always be a learner. I remember myself in the beginning not knowing that you need to take a queue ticket almost in every place in Sweden, or not being aware of the bike paths and almost crashing with the cyclists or saying no to “fika” when offered…Of course, this was combined with the feeling of awe and excitement of living in a new country. Tiny streets, cozy cafes, tasty pastry, such deep fresh air that you can’t get enough of it, juicy green parks, absolutely breath-taking sceneries…The word “exploration” would describe that period of life best.
But day after day, the new was becoming the usual, and the adventure was turning into the routine. And then you suddenly think, “Here I am, without a job, without friends, without any clarity in the future. What am I doing here?” Suddenly you feel very lonely. This transformation phase and how you pass it, is truly crucial for expats, I would say. The help and support of the beloved ones is particularly important here. Because in reality you are not alone, but at that point you feel as if the whole world turned away from you.
My advice is not to hide inside the shell like a turtle, or shut down, even if doing anything else seems to be extremely hard at the moment. Remember: you are not alone! Speak it out, talk to your partner, friends; the main thing is not to be piling up all these emotions inside of you. Start a journal or an agenda; write down your thoughts, plans, what you have done during the day and how it helps you get closer to your goal. Make your life more structured and organized.
The next step is to become truly open to the new. It does not help at all to be resentful and not willing to see what the world is offering you. And I can assure you, there is so much interesting out there! Join ICHL, participate in their activities (and they have a bunch of those!), get to know new people, start networking! New hobbies, volunteering, doing sports and being closer to nature (Skåne has amazing places to go, and now that the summer is here, you can buy a summer Skånetrafiken card and travel in Skåne without limits!) helps a lot as well.
And one more thing: don’t be afraid and don’t back down. As Frank Sinatra was singing, “The best is yet to come”
/ Daria Sedikova