As most of you may know, at the start of October, I moved to Sweden with my boyfriend Andrew. We tried the whole long distance thing a couple of times this summer, and let’s just say neither of us were a big fan.
The day after Rachel’s wedding, without much thought or preparation, I found myself on a one-way flight bound for Europe. Before long, we arrived in Malmö, a coastal university town in southern Sweden… conveniently located just a 30 minute train ride away from Copenhagen, Denmark.
Now, I know what this may look like… it probably looks a whole lot like me running around the world chasing the boy I love… and, yes, while that is part of it, there’s much more to the story.
When my initial residency application was denied (and put under what may potentially be a year long review process) we decided to say screw it and found an alternative… a very fortunate alternative - Getting my British passport.
My mum is British, making me a British citizen by default, so the whole process of getting my passport was pretty straight forward. The most difficult part was making sure that all of the forms were filled out properly and the passport photos sized correctly, but after a stressful few days, it was submitted. A week later, my application had been received, processed, and I was sent my brand new, shiny, god send of a UK passport.
I say god send, because this passport is going to make things so much easier for me here in Sweden (until Brexit I guess… but that’s a problem for another day). I can travel freely between EU countries, I can legally work in Sweden, AND (here’s the best part) - I can go back to school for my masters - FOR FREE… (so you can bet money that I will be taking full advantage of that).
All EU citizens can attend university in Sweden for free… and all Swedish citizens are actually given monthly stipends for attending school from the time they’re in high school.
Being from the states, this whole concept is completely foreign for me.
Most of my friends and I entered “the real world” with some serious college debt. We have been working since we could, and while this has given us lots of “experience” to put on our CV’s… (experience that doesn’t help much when it comes to landing a “real job” after graduating)… it also distracted us from the studies that should have had our full time and attention.
Sweden is getting the whole education thing VERY right. Once you’ve jumped through the governmental red tape, residents and citizens are actually offered a number of awesome benefits - universal health coverage, paid vacation, free Swedish classes, and maternity leave (maternal AND paternal).
…but those aren’t the only things they’re getting right here.
I can’t speak much for the rest of Sweden, but, in no particular order, here are 8 of favorite things about living in Malmö after month one.
1. Fresh air
This is a biggie.
In Korea, the air quality in general is far from ideal, and it only got worse during yellow dust season. While living there, it seemed like I was constantly sick… due to the polluted air or perhaps my germ-infested classrooms.
It’s nice to go outdoors without feeling like I need to wear a mask… to take a deep breath of air that isn’t slowly killing me. A bit dramatic?? Maybe… but I cannot emphasize enough how great it is to live in an environment that doesn’t make me cough incessantly for weeks on end.
2. Everyone speaks English
Well, maybe not everyone… but the vast majority. Though there is a bit of a language barrier, it’s nothing like what I experienced in Korea.
Not only does just about everyone here speak English… just about everyone I’ve met is bi or tri-lingual. I fully intend to do my best to get on their level.
Even though I could totally get by on English alone, I have been trying to learn how to speak Swedish… starting with the essentials - foods. Jag älskar mat - (translation: I love food).
3. Sunsets by the water
When I attended uni in the little coastal town of Wilmington, North Carolina, one of my favorite things to do for sunset was going for a run down to Wrightsville beach or alongside the Cape Fear River.
In Korea, I frequently enjoyed sunset runs and river beers by the Han.
I was happy to find that these were traditions I wouldn’t have to give up after moving to Sweden. From Västra Hamnen to Ribersborg, there are so many beautiful places to enjoy sundown by the water in Malmö.
Aaah, fika. A Swedish noun/verb with no direct English translation.
Basically, it means to have a coffee break… but fika is more about socializing than getting your caffeine fix.
Best paired with something sweet and good company, this daily break is a Swedish custom that I can definitely get behind… and thanks to fika, there is no shortage of cute cafes to choose from, (which I was happy to discover, since cafe hunting was one of my favorite weekend activities in Seoul).
With unlimited coffee (for about $3) and an attached plant shop, Atrium Kaffe Bar is definitely my favorite spot for fika so far.
5. It’s easy to get around
In North Carolina, having a car is a necessity… but here in Malmö that’s not the case.
In it’s Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan, the city says “Walking, cycling and public transport are the first choice for all who work, live or visit Malmö. These travel choices, together with efficient and environmentally friendly freight and car traffic, are the basis of the transport system in our dense and sustainable city - a transport system designed for the city, and for its people.”
While, yes, there are times when it would be nice to have a car… like when we bought our Christmas tree and then carried it all the way home… it definitely isn’t essential (making it one less expense residents need to worry about).
It’s affordable, easy, and safe to take advantage of the city’s public transportation and well kept bike paths. As a matter of fact, Malmö has been named one of the most bike friendly cities in the world. I guess I have all the cyclists to thank for the fresh air.
Pro tip: Look both ways before crossing the bike path.
Before moving here, Andrew told me that all of the girls in Sweden are tall, blonde, with huge boobs. Needless to say, I was happy to find this was not the case.
Though I have been in some areas where Andrew and I were the only two brown haired people there… this hasn’t been very frequent. It’s a nice change of pace… as, in Korea diversity was a bit… well… lacking.
A Diverse community means diverse foods.
…and you already know how much I love food.
People at home asked me, “What do Swedish people eat?” and other than meatballs, I honestly had no idea.
Turns out, Swedes have their own traditional foods and drinks like anyone else, but for the most part, I’ve found the food choices here to be really diverse.
Believe it or not, here in Malmö, I’ve found myself eating more falafel and kebabs than anything.
7. Being closer to family
…my family and Andrew’s family.
After years of being 7,000+ miles away, it’s nice to have people who treat me like a part of the family just a short train ride away. Family meals and gatherings are something you really miss after living on your own for awhile.
I’m also closer than I’ve ever been to my family in England and Ireland… a proximity which I plan to take full advantage of very soon.
8. International day-trips
Remember how I said Copenhagen was just a 30 minute train ride away? Well, this is something we’ve taken advantage on more than one occasion since I moved here.
From Malmö, it’s so simple to make a little day trip to Denmark… so simple, that this weekend, we even went over one evening just for a concert. It feels like a little vacation… but it actually takes less time to get there than it used to take for me to drive to work in the states.
there’s a lot to love about living in Malmö.
So far, it’s been a bit of an adjustment process in a very unexpected place… (long-term, solo life in Asia will do that to you I guess) but in a positive way.
Though I hardly have life here all sorted out, I’m really enjoying this journey I’m on, and am loving that it brought me to Sweden.
Month two is shaping up to be a pretty exciting one… though a big chunk of it won’t even be spent in Sweden. I’m so excited for new opportunities and adventures, and to share them all with you as this chapter in my life unfolds.
What do you love about Malmö? Let me know in the comments below!
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