When I first arrived in Stockholm, Sweden, I was beyond excited. My nerves had subsided, and I was eager to get to my apartment and unpack. Surprisingly, after over 24 hours of traveling from city to city and country to country, I was not that exhausted; I was ready to meet new people and see new places.
Leaving the airport, the roads and surroundings on the way to my apartment in Sollentuna looked shocking normal, and “American.” I do not know if I was expecting it to all look like a movie and so over the top, but I remember being surprised that I was not unfamiliar with the landscape. My apartment is small compared to most USA apartments (maybe not NYC apartments, though). I am sharing it with a fellow Wofford student, Grace which is very nice to have a familiar face along with me on this journey! Although it is maybe smaller than what I am used to, it serves its purpose.
The adjustment to the time difference, apartment, commute, and school has not been that hard. It honestly has been quite flawless. The adjustment that has been the hardest for me to wrap my head around is how reserved the Swedes are. I am used to talking and smiling at strangers on the street and having simple conversations with others while on transportation. However, here, the morning commute, and really any commute for that matter, are relatively quiet. Everyone sits apart (which was happening long before the pandemic) and has headphones in. “Music on, World off” kind of thinking here. Maybe it is just the Southerner in me who wants to talk everyones’ ears off, but the Swedes are opposite in that regard.
Another thing about the Swedish culture that is not similar to the American culture is the amount of trust people have in each other. Coming from a culture where I have always been taught to be aware of my surroundings and keep an eye on my things wherever I go, I have had a massive awakening. People will leave their bikes outside of buildings or restaurants because “it is their bike and no one is going to take it because it is theirs and not anyone else’s,” or at least that is how my Swedish language and culture class professor describes the amount of trust the Swedes have with one another. An example of the trust that can also be seen here in Sweden is that parents just let their kids go freely everywhere. You will see kids who are probably not even eight years old on the metro and commuter trains — something I have and will probably never see in America.
While it may seem like Swedish people are reserved and keep to themselves, they are lovely people once you do happen to strike up a conversation with them. Before coming here, I did not have any reservations about traveling internationally. I have only ever left the country once before, and that was to go to Jamaica. With this being my first time in Europe, I had no prior knowledge of anything. I wanted to learn as I went, although I did research what Stockholm was like and the best things to do here. My time so far here has been a dream, and I am so excited for what the following three months have in store!