I opened my mail today (to be precise: I painstakingly pinched my single letter out of my letterbox in three attempts, because I don’t actually have the letterbox key), and it contained a letter from Skatteverket with my coveted personnummer! It’s like someone has handed me the key to the universe. I can now open a bank account (and thus get paid), register for SFI courses, get on the apartment queue… the world is officially my oyster. I don’t think I have ever been this happy about seeing four digits on a piece of paper. (Clearly I have never won the lottery.)
Overall, my first full week as a Swedish resident can best be described as an emotional rollercoaster. One minute having a perfectly fluent conversation with friendly people, feeling comfortable and happy, and 20 minutes later feeling lost, clumsy and awkward. And then the same circle all over again. As great as starting a new life is, it’s certainly unearthed awkwardnesses (is that a word? It is now) I didn’t even know I had.
However, what completely made the week for me was the genuine kindness of the people around me, which I won’t forget in a hurry. As awkward (not being very familiar with the social conventions yet) and as frustrated with my halting Swedish as I felt a lot of the times, my new workmates did everything they could to make me feel welcome and included. By the end of the week I was joining coffee breaks without feeling like I was sticking out like a sore thumb – and I spent Wednesday evening watching Madonna in concert, thanks to some kind colleagues and a spare ticket!
Life in London seems definitely very, very far away now. I no longer feel like I have to run everywhere like a maniac, dodge crowds (whilst getting irritated at slow walking people) and chase after having any resemblance of a life around 11 hour work days and a two hour commute. These days I walk to work past parks and avenues, and see ducks instead of crowds outside my office window. I have an hour lunch break every day and don’t feel bad about it. (In London I had actually turned into one of those people who shake their heads at the audacity of having any lunch break at all “when there is so much to do”.) I work extremely hard during the day, but I don’t work 11 hour days without reason and think it’s completely justified. I schedule meetings around lunch hour (again I used to sneer at people doing so in London), and made sure not to let work interfere with the Friday afternoon “Fika”. I go home after work and actually have some of the evening left to relax. I go out for random walks just for the sake of it, and sit in a park when the sun is out. And I don’t obsessively watch what I eat anymore, but find that I automatically eat less and healthier.
So, a week gone and with all the highs and lows, hardly any friends, no possessions, no permanent place to live and no bank account, I’m happier than I’ve been in years. I know the emotional rollercoaster is going to keep going for quite a while, but right now I can’t actually put into words how grateful I am…