A small rant about things I miss while living in Sweden

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Being a parent in the suburbs of Stockholm is probably one of the least fancy things you will ever do. In fact life in Stockholm in general is not the most glamorous experience. Unless of course you belong to that special breed of the really affluent, who own an apartment in Östermalm and spend your weekends in your fancy neighbourhood bars, sipping champagne cocktails and nibbling on mussel and salmon canapés – with old school European charm.

I remember when i was a newbie, in town just a couple of months. I and he decided to join and Internations event to meet people, which on that occasion was a movie followed by dinner at a restaurant nearby. I remember I was wearing a  black winter dress and my super comfy 3 inch Camper boots. (Campers in other societies equal orthopaedic shoes). Just before we head to the restaurant which was two blocks away the girl who had organised the event scanned me from head to toe: “Are you okay to walk on those heels to the restaurant?” she asked

My goodness, where am I? I thought.

That Winter I spent it in the most ugly square light brown snow boots, no doubt designed for Hobbit feet. The snow which lasted for several months and crystallised on the sidewalks would not allow any other type of shoe sole, unless you were willing to risk spraining your ankle or worse.

Since then I have made several lifestyle adjustments but if i were to make a list of the things I just can’t help missing the last years, here is the following:

I miss going out to socially interact with people without having to remove my bloody shoes every single time at least once. (often more times.) Whether it is a playground where I take my baby, or a house where i am invited, social interaction in Sweden is often shoe-less. I have given up on looking good in shoes.

 I miss dressing up a bit to go out without feeling that it is “too much” to put on a pair of earnings or a necklace . Or just making a small change to my casual look without having someone commenting on it as if I am dressed to go to the Opera. Which ends up making me feel overdressed again and going back to my “I ‘ll pop to the store to buy some milk” look.

 I miss spontaneity. I want to be able to buy a bottle of wine whenever I feel like it instead of feeling like a dirty alcoholic restocking at Systembolaget from 9am-3pm while pushing a trolley with dozens of bottles of booze for the next two weeks.

 I secretly miss the times and place of the happy non apologetic pub drinking, where everyone was too cheerful to bother about anything. And here is a secret dirty thought: During those times, I dreaded evenings with couples. In fact whenever I saw a couple among a group of friends I was overwhelmed by a feeling of boredom even before i spoke to them. Nowadays we all come in twos.-oh-my-holy-god- and we fight each other for the last baby chair in the restaurant.

Finally, I miss not feeling stressed because the day might not look like the day and the night might not look like the night for half of the year.

Expat communities: How it can get awkward

Last weekend I was invited by my friend Maria to an event of a well known international expat community, whose goal is to bring expats from around the world together. Before moving to Stockholm I would probably not consider joining an expat community. Nothing wrong with joining, you actually meet people in your shoes. In fact I met one of my best friends in Stockholm at an expat event. But in other places where I have lived, like London for example, I never had to join such community to meet expats. For one thing in a place like London it is hard to meet locals, not expats. People come and go all the time. There was always something to do and someone to hang out with, even if most times you never became friends with people. (Very often, the closest you would get was to become Facebook friends).

But Stockholm is another story. Much smaller and homogeneous, Stockholm can be challenging and you have to work on building a social network. Random or spontaneous hanging out is not common. In fact you need to plan your social life days ahead and preferably coordinate it with Systembolagets opening hours.  In this sense membership in expat communities in Stockholm makes more sense.

However in last week’s event something was off. It could be that there was the general blah feeling of a fabricated social event. The day and hour to start: Sunday afternoon. Sunday is the day God intended for rest. Giving the introduction speech of who you are and how you ended up in Stockholm times the people you interact is the equivalent of unpaid WORK. I am Greek, yawn. I am here with my husband double yawn. Then comes some comment about the Swedes, how expensive Sweden is, and how do we like it here, yawn, yawn, yawn. Why don’t we just skip introductions and talk about MH370 disappearance scenarios. Or about what we ate for lunch.

The nature of the event also (fika, which means short break for coffee, quick drink), which had everyone sitting in one spot and ultimately you ended up spending two hours talking to whoever was sitting next to you. Of course there were some people who attempted to mingle by changing seats but then again who mingles while sitting at a table.  What thirty- something will actually leave their seat with the naïve conviction that there is something more to be gained than if, for example, they changed seats in the metro or the bus?

Because after ninety-five minutes, (exactly the time when in silent coordination people who were not there to mate decided to leave asap), the impression was just that: you simply had a long anonymous chat with a stranger on the bus and once you reached your stop you simply got off. Only that in our case the stranger  can track you down from your online profile at the community’s site.

Why do I find that slightly weird? Some people had left their partners at home to spend their Sunday afternoon chatting with people they will probably never see again, sitting among strangers at what looks like a wedding party social arrangement .  In other events other people who took a “Me” evening away from their partner.  Scary as it may sound, they had no ulterior motives. They were not there to meet friends, hookups or professional contacts. They were simply there to have a drink and a friendly chat and disappear as soon as the clock strikes 12.

Or perhaps they were there for the same reason I was:  they thought they needed a break.

“The guy sitting next to you was very hot” my friend Maria told me on our way out. “Then why did you spend the last two hours talking to the bald one with the glasses? “

I didn’t mind really” she said.

That’s what I am talking about.