Guest post: First impressions of a new Expat life.

Those last few weeks before you move somewhere new can be full of anxieties. Will I like it? Will I be bored? How will I fill my day? What will those first few weeks be like? Everyone tells you something different and it’s hard to know who to believe. So for today’s Summer of Guesting post, Jessica from This Trailing Spouse describes just what it was like for her, arriving in Stockholm at the start of her first overseas posting.

When I left my home in San Francisco last January, I’d already spent fifteen years building a nonprofit fundraising career, a deep bench of friends and neighbors, and an all-around gorgeous, jasmine-scented life for myself in the fresh-produce-capital-of-the-world. Water restrictions aside, living in California was pretty easy, and my life seemed well defined into the distant future. And then, as happens in the best stories, love walked in.

It was a surprise, and it wasn’t. My husband and I actually met on the first day of classes, freshman year of college. We reconnected later in life thanks to the wondrous glory of FaceBook, and married a mere 17 years after we first shared an early-morning class back in the mid-90s.

By the time we reconnected, he’d built a career with the government overseas, but ultimately gave me the call on where and how we would live. He offered to leave it all behind if I wanted to stay in San Francisco, where he’d join me and create a life for himself, or I could give up my digs and follow him abroad. It wasn’t much of a choice, to be honest. A life full of adventure and travel in far-flung places full of mystery and intrigue? Uhh… Where do I sign?

After years working in less-than-plum locales, he was finally due a reprieve

I am still pinching myself.

This city is effing magical. It’s castles and cobblestone sidewalks and kannelbullar (Swedish cinnamon buns) kind of magical. It smells good here. Nearly every day I am ambushed by unexpected beauty; some assault on the senses that leaves me gobsmacked by my good fortune. You should see the city parks here. It’s so green, and gorgeous, and European in the most beautiful way. I have never felt so lucky.


Now, I know, I know…this is all fleeting. Not only will we have to leave here in a few years, but reliable sources suggest I should temper my expectations for six months from now when there are four hours of sunlight on a good day. And I know that the shine of a new city (if it shines at all to begin with) loses some luster after time passes and daily irritants take their toll. Don’t even get me started on how hard it is to get internet in our home. I’m writing this post from a ferry in a Swedish archipelago outside Stockholm, where it’s easier to access wireless internet than it is in the middle of the city, where to have internet in our apartment, we first need a personnummer (the Swedish version of a U.S. Social Security number, which is required for everything, and to procure takes approximately 3-6 weeks). Then we must open a Swedish bank account, because no business here accepts online payment without a EU-based credit card, and then finally we might be trusted with internet in our apartment. It is 2015, for goodness sake. Why is this not a basic utility!? (Amirite? Anybody else struggle with this one?)

But minor frustrations aside, the last few weeks have been tremendously happy ones. I know how lucky I am, and I am determined to enjoy every minute, and live in the now. I have a terrible habit of leaning forward to a point in time, and often waste precious moments thinking/worrying about something that may never be real. Until the U.S. government sends us on to our next assignment, I intend to suck the marrow out of this good Swedish life I’ve been given, herring bones and all.


Thank you Jessica – I hope you continue to enjoy beautiful Stockholm and the whole of Sweden (it does sound amazing – being a big fan of cinnamon buns I might just come visit…)

If you are a new(ish) expat, what have been your first impressions of your new home? Did they live up to – or even surpass – expectations? Can you give any advice to Jessica and others like her making their first overseas move?

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