Welcome to the September installment of Expat to Expat Q & A, as you know Belinda and I have decided to try something a little different with this months installment and I hope you enjoy it and let us know if you have any suggestions or feedback in general!
Now for the questions!
How do you fit into your new culture without losing some of your identity?
When we were still living in California one night after dinner Mr. H turned to me and said “when we move please keep cooking the same food” and I said of course I would. The meals I was cooking were the meals I knew how to cook and I knew there would have to be some ingredient changes but I told him those were my meals and a new country was not going to change what I cooked.
Well I was wrong and right at the same time because there is no way a move so big does not change you even down to what you cook for dinner.
I always say I did not move to Sweden to become Swedish but to live in Sweden. And for the most part that is what has happened but like the addition of boiled potatoes being added into my cooking repertoire I have changed along with the bubbling water in my pot.
What I think can be hard is adjusting what you think and value vs what you do. For example I prefer to eat hamburgers and pizza with my hands so I still do as it is not being outright rude even though most people you see in restaurants here will use a fork and knife but I always take my shoes off when visiting peoples houses even though it took me a long time not to feel uncomfortable being bare footed as it would be rude to not.
In other ways I have felt that my identity has been strengthened due to being faced with so many new situations and outlooks on life I have had to really think about why and how I choose to do things and not just go along with what was expected of me like at home.
Throughout life though I have always been a bit of an outsider so it is not very surprising I have been a content staying on the fringes of Swedish life as well.
My advice to you though is make sure what you value the most you hold on to but in many aspects you can try something new for a bit and if it is not you it is ok to go back to being the original version of yourself.
In life people want friends who are genuine and true to themselves and in my experience this is no different if you are from America and the other person is from Sweden, China or Antarctica!
Me and a group of friends from Australia and Poland in London.
Me and a group of Icelandic students I became friends with in Ireland.
Me and a few of the people I lived with in London; this mötley crue features South Africans, Kiwis, French and me the lone American.
What do you think your biggest trigger for homesickness is?
I personally consider three places home; Southern California, London, and Sweden and I find for each there is a different trigger for homesickness.
California being my first home has the longest and hardest bouts of homesickness for me to handle and it will often be brought on by interacting with my family. Not that I do not want to be in contact with them but in my day to day life I am focused on the here and now so when I Skype with family members they are so much bigger than in my normal life and therefore I get very homesick. Holidays that are celebrated in America but not Sweden like Fourth of July and Thanksgiving will also get me down so I try to stay away from the internet on them and just once again focus on the here and now.
For London looking at pictures of my life there, like I did for this post, always starts a slow ache in me to get back there and visit my old haunts and catch up with friends still living there. Other things that will start the London ache are any visual media that features places around where I lived, Burger King cheeseburgers (very random but vital to my late night diet at the hostel), subways, and thinking about when Mr. H and I met.
For Sweden when I have been away it has been for vacation so it is a much more literal homesickness in that I am missing my physical home and routine. This summer I missed Sweden in the sense that this is where my life currently is and while vacations are amazing so in my normal life. One day this summer we went to IKEA and honestly I was in tears when we got home because I missed the safety and comfort that is what Sweden is for me now.
a view I would never tire of, from room 21 at Astor Kensington