An Expat’s Life In Sweden : My Relationship With Winter

I think about winter all. the. time. There’s never a time when the cold isn’t on my mind. As soon as the year ticks over into November, I turn my face to the sky for that first snowfall.

But snow has been scarce this year. Extremely scarce. Scarily scarce. I want to move further north, where it’s colder, and darker and the snow has been falling steadily for weeks. I dream of having a house where the forests meet the mountains and people are few and far between.

I’m grateful for the ice that we have though, even if the temperatures are fluctuating wildly, leaving it to weep then crackle and freeze…weep then crackles and freeze.

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There’s a wall of rock near home, one that has captivated ever since I moved to Sweden. I pass it almost everyday, but it’s in winter time when I can’t stay away from it, for those months when it grows ice.

These photos were taken today, at around 2.30. I’d just come back from the store and ran inside to grab my camera. The rock wall with become covered with more ice over the coming months, and while today, many of the icicles were breakable, they will become thicker and more steadfast, glistening and shimmering in the short hours of daylight, and gathering strength in the cold hours of night.

 

 

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An Expat’s Life In Sweden : Advent, Hunting For Ice & A Teething Baby

Advent

On the first of December in Sweden, pretty much everyone (except us, I’ll show you when we do) puts up their Jul (Christmas) decorations. People’s windows tend to look the same; a large lit-up paper or metal star hung inverted (I don’t think many think of the Satanic association, so I always have a childish giggle at this) and advent candles.

Most people opt for a wreath of greenery on the front door, fairy lights in the garden, tomtar and nissar figurines dotted all over the place, and half a dozen straw Jul Goats of various sizes, both inside the house and out. The colour scheme is predominately white, maybe some will have an off-cream coloured lights and if people are really daring, and it’s rare, they’ll opt for coloured lights, but nothing too garish.

While it looks cozy, it’s all quite uniform. Because the winters are so long (yay!) and dark (also yay!) Swedes jump at the opportunity to light up their homes all festive like, and a lot actually get into the spirit before December has even arrived.  When I look out of the window now, my view is awash with twinkling stars in windows. It’s nice, but I’m more in favour of the forest dark.

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Hunting For Ice

If you would have said to me a couple of years ago, ‘when you’re 32 you’ll live in Sweden and have a baby, who’s driving you a bit mad with their teething woes,’ I would have scoffed at you and said ‘yeah, not likely!’ But here I am. And my baby is teething. And it’s really, really hard to maintain a calm composure.

Walking in the forest helps Saga relax 9 times out of 10 so I bundled her up and out we went. It was cold last night, about -4 and it was wonderfully crisp when we emerged from the cellar. (In our apartment block, all the prams and bikes and what have you are stores in a vast, creepy cellar.)

The cold air knocked Saga out within ten minutes or so, and I was able to hunt for ice. I was feeling shitty right up until the moment we got outside and my nose was filled with the scent of the forest. The cold has a strengthening effect on me. I could quite happily have one autumn season and three winters. I’m hoping in 2019 we might be able to spend the summer months in Greenland or Svalbard so I can avoid the Swedish summer (which was horrendous this year) completely.

As soon as I found the first icicle, my mood elevated even more, and I found myself able to breathe and start to enjoy the day. Most Swedes long for summer. I’m the exact opposite. Give me winter, give me cold and I’m happy, I can smile. I’m hoping to have an ice bath this weekend in the lake near our home. (It’s the one you see in the photos above. The first photo was its surface today.) The water is starting to re-freeze after the past warmish days and I’m craving to submerge myself in it, give myself to winter fully and completely.

*I’m sorry there’s no videos today. My phone is playing up something fierce and died on me moments after we got outside.

An Expat’s Life In Sweden : The Stress Of Being An Expat Parent

What’s happened to those videos I said I would be uploading, huh? Well, as you will have heard if you saw the one story I uploaded yesterday on Instagram, you’ll know that Saga has had a bad stomach the past few days, which has led to me spending most of my days changing nappies and most of my nights singing Blinka lilla stjärna (Twinkle little star) to a restless baby.

A friend of mine recently said to me that motherhood is like having two and a half jobs. I think motherhood as an introverted expat with bi-polar is like having four full-time jobs and half a dozen part-time ones on the side. The past few days have seen me wanting to burst into tears and swim back to England.

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Life can be difficult when you’re a sea away from family, a sea away from what was home for nearly 30 years and you don’t have a baby. It can feel almost impossible when you have a baby and a mental health illness. I’m not one for giving up, but I’ve said, well, whispered several times over the last 72 hours, ‘I just want to go home.’

I always took having my family close by for granted when I was living in England: ‘Hey mum, can I get a lift there? Hey mum, would you mind grabbing this, that or the other when you’re at Tesco? Hey mum, do you have time to dye my hair? Yeah, I know you said you’d never do it again after it stained the bathroom sink last time, but please!’

Then I came to Sweden and I didn’t have that anymore. There was no family nearby to ask for help, or to lean on when I needed support. It was tough before Saga was born, but I coped, most of the time. After she arrived, I often found myself, head in hands wondering ‘how the hell am I going to do this…’

Being a stay-at-home mum without my own mum around to watch her grow up and chip in with advice/hugs/offers to take Saga for a few hours is extremely fucking hard. I’m not going to sugar coat it. But there are moments in the chaos and the difficulties where I can think to myself ‘I’m doing ok, I got this,’ and Saga will smile, and I’ll grab my phone and try and capture the smile, so my mum and I can share the moment, even though we’re a sea apart.

 

 

An Expat’s Life In Sweden : Porridge, Moomin Mugs & Other Stuff

I haven’t talked much about life in Sweden on MostNorthern, but that’s going to change! All through December I’m going to be showing you what my life is like as an expat here in the cold north. (Well, it isn’t actually so cold right now UNFORTUNATELY. I thought winter had come to stay the other day, but then the temperatures climbed up and the rain set in.)

I made little videos all day long today, and you can find them on my stories over at the MostNorthern Instagram. (They’re also in Highlights under Life In Sweden.) I didn’t take a lot of photos today, but I will over the next month, and I plan to collect the daily stories at the end of each day and put them into one video to upload here.

Gröt For Breakfast

So for breakfast today, Saga and I took gröt (porridge.) Saga has her baby stuff and I have havregryn (rolled oats) made up with water.  Porridge is an excellent breakfast choice for the not-well-off in Sweden. A big bag is less than 20 kroner (about £2) and lasts a couple of weeks.

I’ve read that Swedish oats are a healthier type of oat, and they do have a much more ‘rustic’ taste. Apparently the Nordic climate is perfect for oats which means they’re of exceptional quality.

We Didn’t Leave The House

When I had the idea of doing this daily blogging/Instagraming I had visions of having a snowy wonderland to show you. Tragically, winter hasn’t arrived properly yet, and it’s all gloom in this neck of the woods, but because it’s raining all the time, it sadly isn’t that gorgeously atmospheric gloom that’s perfect for wandering in, as you’ll see in my Instagram stories.

Ska vi ta en Fika?

For those of you who haven’t been introduced to the concept of Fika, pull up a chair. Fika is like a teabreak (in England you tend to have one at about 11am and one at about 3pm) but you can have it whenever and wherever you want. There’s no time constraints on Fika and if you fancy one, you say ‘Ska vi ta en Fika?’ I suppose the English equivalent would be ‘Shall I put the kettle on?’ The Swedes normally have a cup of coffee (I take tea) and a kanelbullar (cinnamon bun) or something to that ilk, and talk about whatever’s on their mind.

With it being almost Jul though, pepperkakor (gingerbread) is eaten in vast quantities, and that’s what I munched through today. In England gingerbread tends to be quite dense, but in Sweden it’s extremely thin and snaps easily. It’s really good though and deliciously spicy.

The Moomin Mugs

If you were following along on my Instagram stories, you would have seen me use two Moomin mugs today (and Sebastian use one too, his is The Groke.) They’re made by Arabia and can be found here.

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Where I Live

I’m madly curious about people, especially where they live, especially when where they live is in the North. I’m also madly curious about what happens in their everyday. That’s why many of us read blogs in general and that’s one of the main reasons I established MostNorthern.

So, I thought it might be interesting for you to see some of my everyday, and in this instance, it was a hike in the forest surrounding our home, after a morning at my laptop writing about what mothers could be doing when their newborn baby is napping…

Winter is just giving and giving and giving this year, and I couldn’t be more grateful! After a morning of heavy snowfall, I trekked out into the trees to see what the skies had left, and here’s some of what I found.

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– Katie / Your Eyes In The North