I’m sitting here at the Espresso House on Götgatan in Södermalm, my favourite café for writing, reading and relaxing. My iPad says it’s nearing 15:00 (3:00 p.m. Stockholm time). It’s a brisk seven degrees Celsius (44.6 Fahrenheit). However, the café and the city at large are alive with activity. After meeting friends for a lunch gathering near the Mariatorget Tunnelbana (Stockholm’s underground metro) exit, I walked to the café, which gave me an opportunity to get a bit of exercise while soaking up the hustle and bustle of the city.
Passing parents casually watch their children play in the city’s many parks reinforced my awareness of the Swedes love of outdoors and nature. Weaving through people weighed down by their weekend purchases helped me familiarise myself with the various landmarks, restaurants and stores I’ve visited since returning to Stockholm six weeks ago.
Productivity has been at the forefront these last few weeks, with CV (resumé) and portfolio submissions being sent out for suitable full-time and freelance employment. I’ve also been able to devote creative hours to a couple of literary endeavors. Each day here affords me opportunities to fold myself into Stockholm's daily life, which includes navigating my way on the subway and learning price differences amongst some of the city's major grocery chains (Coop, Hemköp, ICA, etc.).
Thanks to my private Swedish language sessions through the Strømmen Language School in Los Angeles, California, I can at least start a conversation with native Swedish speakers. I also recently discovered the Meetup group called Prata Svenska. Moderated by native Swedish speakers, Prata Svenska meets at cafes throughout city for those interested in continuing language immersion.
Late last month I was fortunate to go with friends on an overnight Tallink | Sija Line cruise across the Baltic Sea for a weekend conference in Riga, Latvia. Riga is the largest city amongst the Baltic countries, which include Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. Formerly part of the Soviet Union, Riga is a blend of Northern and Eastern European architecture and traditions.
Through all my experiences, I’m most grateful for my friendships in Sweden and the U.S. Everyone's been a source of support and positivity on my journey as a newly minted expatriate. There's no monetary value I can place on how they've been here for me.
I’m doing it. I’m living it. It’s real. It’s me. The social media posts and likes are little morsels of yumminess. But these brief moments are not what sustains this. What helps me move forward is my Higher Power, my belief in myself and my support system. And for these, as I sit here at Espresso House clacking away on the keyboard attachment to my iPad, I am truly grateful.