Two weddings and some jet lag

At the start of April, I boldly exclaimed that I would be doing two writing challenges despite that month being one of the busiest of my life. I also promised I would blog a lot. Then I promptly disappeared off the face of the earth, which was rather rude of me but to be fair I HAVE been unusually busy.

Six weeks ago, you see, I married the love of my life. Then a few weeks after that we both flew from Sweden to Australia to watch my little sis marry the love of her life last weekend. Now we’re back in Sweden, struggling to fix our very confused body clocks, and trying to return to this so-called “normal life” people tell us about.

All of these things, naturally, need their own blog posts to be thoroughly covered. While in Australia we spent a weekend in Sydney and also spent some time exploring the beachside suburbia where I spent half my life before moving to this colder climate (there is actually a beach at the end of my street here in Sweden, but it has no waves and sometimes freezes over in Winter…meanwhile we went swimming in the Australian “winter” so you know…all perspective I guess?).

Our own wedding, in particular, needs at least one post. Not just for the photos, but because it was a momentous occasion – long time readers may recall that it was in fact due to blogging that my wife and I met at all, and we spent the first two years of our relationship on opposite sides of the planet before I moved to Sweden last year. So our wedding is the culmination of a lot of patience, persistence and determination, among other things. But it was also not your typical wedding…anyway, I’ll save that for next time.

Essentially this post was just a quick “I’m actually alive and this time I have a good excuse for not blogging” sort of thing. But I will get more posts up soon detailing our latest adventures, and then I may even return to writing about books and music and all that stuff.

Hope you are all well, fellow readers, writers and awesome people.

Here’s a sneak peek of the wedding:


Ett år i Sverige (One year in Sweden)

Three hundred and sixty five days have passed us by since I landed in London worried and several hours late that eventful day (thanks to the extreme heat in Australia delaying take-off), suddenly changing my flight destination from Gothenburg (a couple of hours north of Halmstad) to Copenhagen in Denmark (which is a couple of hours south) to at least regain some lost time. Fifty two full weeks have gone since I held the love of my life in my arms and knew that it was finally over – after two years of dating with half the world between us (only seeing each other once each year), we would never have to be apart for a long period of time ever again. Twelve months have gone by since I said goodbye to my parents, sisters, future brothers-in-law, friends and colleagues, as well as the never-ending heat of the Australian summer sun and those glorious beaches.

It’s been a whole year since I moved to Sweden, and it’s been one of the strangest and most unpredictable years of my life. Approximately nothing went according to plan, but I guess that’s been the fun of it all. My Swedish language skills are still very basic. My job is unstable and I’m only just earning enough to survive. My integration into Swedish society has been a bumpy bureaucratic road on which we are still travelling, but it is slowly coming together. However, I have grown to love the people and the place, and I was lucky enough to go on an amazing road trip around Sweden in which I saw various sides of the country from the big cities to the endless forests and lakes of the north (for pictures and stories from that trip, start here). I’ve made some great friends, learned about some fascinating history and culture, and 2014 by far was one of the most memorable years of my life.

Immigrating has to be one of the weirdest and hardest things you can do, especially when moving to a country with a very different culture and language (had I moved from Australia to England, say, it would have been a lot easier. Mind you, I might move to England (Or Scotland) down the track anyway. But that’s much later). That feeling of nothing at all being familiar takes getting used to, but you also have to go through the process of distancing yourself from your old country to an extent because if you try to stay in both worlds mentally and emotionally you’ll just burn out. At the start of my time here I kept checking on Australian news and I tried to keep up with what all my friends were up to all the time. In the end, I stopped paying attention to the news (which I got in some ways through the few Aussies I have on my Twitter, and in other ways through friends who text me or my mother who likes to chat while playing Wordfeud games against me). I stopped going on Facebook so much, because where my blogging and Twitter is mostly connecting to people all around the world, my Facebook is almost entirely Australian – I have all but quit that site now. It’s not that I don’t care for a lot of those people – many of them have been in my life for over a decade – but I think as a human being we don’t have unlimited energy for others. I try to get news about lots of people from a smaller minority, I guess, and when I go back to visit Australia (likely in May for my sister’s wedding) I’ll get a chance to catch up with those people properly then. It’s something I have to accept – I can only do so much when I’m 18 000 kilometres away. Besides, as I draw dangerously near my thirties, a lot of my friends are heading off in their own directions anyway which makes me wonder how different it would have all have been if I stayed.

As I have slowly learned to let Australia go a little, it has given me more energy to embrace Sweden properly. I’ve stopped being frustrated by the overwhelming introversion of the populace and started to find it quite endearing. I’ll give you an example of what I mean here: in Australia, before I became a teacher, I worked many years in retail in a supermarket in a wide variety of positions, many of them lower levels of management. We used to make a big point there of encouraging the staff on the checkouts to talk to the customer – not just hello, but asking them how their day was, talking to them about something, anything really. If I was on the checkouts I used to try and see how many bad jokes I could tell on any one day, and silly things like that. Anyway, I digress. In Sweden, the people here are so shy they only say hello and then at the end tell you the price. What’s more, if they did strike a conversation, most Swedes would be horrified and wouldn’t even know what to do. The idea of talking to somebody you don’t know when you have no reason to is not something that crosses most Swedes’ minds. If you stand in line waiting for a bus, don’t be surprised if the next person stands a good metre or so away from you at least, just to ensure no conversations strike up and personal space is preserved. And in apartment blocks, it’s not unusual for tenants to glance out of their peep-holes into the stairwells before leaving, to avoid the terrifying event in which they should bump into and have to talk to their neighbours! It’s funny, because I have brought it up with a lot of people here and they all giggle and admit it is true before saying that they wish it wasn’t. But it is, and if you come from a more extroverted country like Australia or many parts of America it does take some getting used to, but it’s good to remember that they don’t mean any offense by it and there are certainly positive aspects to it all as well.

There are other things about the country I have grown to love. I actually like the wild differences in daylight hours – in Winter we only get about 7 hours of daylight, while in Summer we get more like 18 or 19 hours a day (and up in the Northern most parts it’s more extreme, with total sunlight in Summer and total darkness in Winter just about). But there is something nice about wandering around at night in Winter, especially when it’s snowed (something it hasn’t done too much of, sadly, but I have had a bit of snow to lose my balance on). Likewise, going out for dinner and then coming out to several hours of more light is pretty cool in Summer, and despite how much the sun is in the sky I don’t ever have to worry about experiencing the extreme heat that Australia has ever again – Swedish Summer is actually everything I like about summer: mildly warm long days. I also like the welfare system here overall – not that I am getting much out of it myself, but I feel like it is a much better system than many around the world. In fact, a lot of things in the country do work quite well. Internet is cheap and amazingly fast (5th best internet in the world, apparently, compared to Australia at number 44 in the rankings…awkies). Transport is expensive but very reliable and quite comfortable overall. The health system, from what I have seen, works well. I quite like the education system from what I understand about it and what I have experienced – even if it is far from perfect and many argue far from what it once was, there are a lot of good things happening in education here.

There are a few dislikes, of course. Alcohol is a pain to buy (all the bottle shops are run by a government controlled chain…so weird) and impossible to buy on Sundays without going to a pub, and drinking at a pub is insanely expensive. The food here is up and down – I have eaten a lot of great food but a lot of restaurants have very boring menus as well. Surprisingly, the most boring food menus I have discovered so far were in Stockholm – along the entire waterfront was a string of restaurants which all offered the same things that every typical Swedish place offers. On the whole, eating out here is a little bit more expensive than I’m used to back in Australia, although groceries probably cost a little less so eating at home is cheaper. Dangerously, chocolate is a lot cheaper here. And of course, my biggest dislike of all is the slippery ice – I make Bambi look graceful!


The happy (silly) couple. I believe this was taken in England a few months ago, actually!

However, everything I have been through, everything I feel about the country, the ups and the downs – they are all worth it for one very big reason! I have spent a full year with the girl of my dreams, and today is also our three year anniversary! This year is going to bring even bigger things for us, some of which I will be sharing with you guys when they happen. But to say this might be the biggest year of my life is probably an understatement – I’ll leave it at that for now.

Now, if you’d excuse me, I have to go and cook a Saffron and Lemon Chicken dish for dinner (I’m completely out of my comfort zone cooking Persian food like this but I’m confident I can make this a heck of an anniversary dinner. And if all else fails there’s Ben & Jerry’s ice cream for dessert, so, you know…). Also, yes, we are taking pictures of it and I will be putting this one up on my recipe blog some time next week.

Year two of my Swedish life….bring it on!

Teaching myself Swedish – my toughest student is myself

As many of you know, I moved to Sweden earlier this year. As a lot of you also know, the last three years I spent in Australia I was a high school teacher, teaching English, History, and a little bit of Maths from time to time. But despite teaching probably over a thousand students, I don’t think I have ever faced one as challenging as myself.

The bureaucracy behind me migrating to Sweden from Australia as a British (and therefore European) Citizen is complicated – I am allowed to be here, but to get access to all parts of Swedish society I need the person number. In my unusual situation, the only real way to get this number is by having a job (there are other ways but they involve obtaining papers that would be too hard and take too long to get). But to get a job at most places I need to know Swedish, and to do any of the proper Swedish courses, I need the person number, and to get the…well you can see this goes round and round to no avail.

Here comes the part where I teach myself. I’ve spent a few months looking online at difference websites to help learn Swedish. There’s a lot of, well, very average ones, to be honest. I can’t afford anything I need to pay for, as I need my money to live on until I have a job. But then my girlfriend came across a playlist on Spotify (normally a music streaming service, if you’re not familiar – it’s the main way people listen to music here in Sweden) that featured various Swedish lessons. We listened to the first one together, on the pronunciations of vowels, found it was pretty useful, and have decided to use these alongside a couple of resources I have to try and teach myself the language as best as possible.

Swedish alphabet highlight vowelsThere are some drawbacks. The first one is that it seems some of these lessons are conducted by people from Stockholm. The capital city of Sweden has a quite unique accent that is very different from the Halland accent (where I’m currently living), or any of the Northern and Southern accents of the country really. As a result, the lessons could almost be teaching me things wrong because the accent disguises what I’m supposed to be hearing, especially when it comes to vowels. It’s not that the Stockholm accent is wrong, but it sounds different and only someone well versed in the Swedish language could see how the correct word is just accented, if I’m making any sense at all.

The vowels themselves are another issue. There’s nine of them, for a start. The five in English, plus y is a vowel, and also all three letters unique to Swedish are vowels –  å, ä and ö, pronounced roughly as orr, ehh and err (there’s a bit more to it than that though). But whether or not the pronunciation of the vowel is long or short completely changes the meaning of the vowel, and in the case of two of them the following consonant also can affect the word and pronunciation. So, in total, 9 vowels and 22 pronunciations of those vowels, each of which can and do dramatically change the word you are saying. For example, tack and tak could be pronounced similarly, but one of these words is thanks and one is ceiling. So the different sounding a is what varies the word in speech.

It’s one thing to know these rules, but another challenge entirely to follow them when talking in Swedish. Apparently I’m doing okay, though, despite my serious issues rolling my r’s which often distorts the entire word I’m trying to say. I also need to slow myself down – I like to talk a lot and fast, and right now I just can’t do that while learning Swedish. I also have to be patient – I can be very impatient when learning new things, but I must ensure I don’t become frustrated with this whole process as I need to keep it up.

I’m going to invest a lot of time over the next couple of months pushing myself through the language as fast as I can, to increase my chances of getting a job so I can finally sort everything out and get on with living in my new home. I suspect as I learn more there’ll be funny things for me to tell back here, and I will try and blog as much as possible (although I am going travelling around the country next month so I may go quiet for a week or two).

If you’ve ever gone through anything like this, whether moving to a new country with a new language or just learning a language for the fun of it, I’d love to hear from you and hear about your experiences! Or you can just laugh at me about mine. It’s all good.

All I have to do to burn 4000 calories each day is walk 10 kilometres!

Fitbit FlexApparently.

I recently was given one of these little Fitbit tracker things as a gift, and I’m quite fascinated by them. Basically, it’s a little computer chip inside a bracelet that you wear at all times, and this one I have, the Flex, measures your steps, kilometres travelled when walking, calories burned each day, and the amount you need to burn and eat based on how much weight you want to lose in a certain time. It even measures your sleeping habits – turns out I’m about as rubbish at sleeping as I thought.

The thing I like about this is that it does take things like weight into account with calorie burning, something that a lot of machines at the gym often don’t. So, due to the fact I’m considerably bigger than my girlfriend, naturally I burn calories a lot faster than her even if we do the same exercise. Lucky me, I guess.

My stats from yesterday - there are more than this, but these are the ones based on goals for each day.

My stats from yesterday – there are more than this, but these are the ones based on goals for each day.

What I didn’t realise, though, is how many calories I can burn quite easily. The starting goal is to walk 10 000 steps a day, which is roughly 8 kilometres (or 5 miles) – it measures steps and distance separately to counter for different step sizes. We’ve decided to aim for 10km per day instead because it’s really quite achievable for us, but by walking this much I am burning over 4000 calories in a single day. I can eat quite well all day and still keep my calorie intake below 2000, so hopefully the weight should fall off as long as I keep the food I’m putting in healthy.

I guess this all shows the way my mind works. Somehow, seeing the numbers like this appear on a screen (you connect the fitbit to a phone or tablet to see your stats each day) not only helps me to keep track of what I’m doing but also motivates me to keep at it. I’ve resisted junk food a lot more these past few days as a result, which is awesome in itself. And when I start losing weight and my calorie burning slows down a little (because I’m not as big), I can use it to stay focused to go all the way towards being healthy. And then, when I’m healthy, I’ll feel like I can throw myself into various parts of my life more fully! Hooray!

So, my question to my readers is, what motivates you to become or keep healthy? Have you used a device or app like this?

Well, that’s a bit Watsonian!

I’ve never imagined my last name as an adjective before, but that’s exactly what the Daily Prompt from the WordPress Daily Post has asked me to do today. I don’t often do these daily prompts but this one was too good not to do.

The prompt, which can be found here, says:

Some writers’ names have becomes adjectives: Kafkaesque, Marxist, Orwellian, sadistic. If your name (or nickname, or blog name) were to become an adjective, what would it mean?

Watson Family Crest

The Watson family crest

My last name is Watson, as both the title of this post and my username on here and every other social media I use may suggest. The thing is, there already is a famous Watson in literature – probably several actually – but I am referring to the famous assistant to Sherlock Holmes. This character is a little hard to define, however, as the interpretation of him by directors and, for that matter, readers, has varied greatly since the Holmes stories were first penned so long ago. Also, he’s had plenty of time to become an adjective and he hasn’t, so, you know, my turn.

If I were to base the meaning of Watsonian on the history of the name, the history is diverse and goes back a long time – well over a thousand years. The name, which stems ultimately from the name Walter, means apparently either “Powerful Warrior” or “Mighty Army” (most sources seem to point to one of these two), so maybe Watsonian could just mean powerful or strong as an adjective? But then the motto, “Mea Gloria Fides”, translates as “Fidelity is my Glory”, so maybe it could have something to do with that?

Of course, when we think of Orwellian or Kafkaesque we think of writing, and of certain elements of writing which are similar to those writers, such as political commentary through dystopian societies which Orwell was known for or the surrealism of Kafka. So really, I don’t know if my writing will ever be considered particularly strong or powerful, or adhering to some kind of fidelity (that isn’t even making sense). No no, when I think about it, my writing most of the time is a bit silly, sometimes I try to be thought provoking but normally I’m just silly, I’m pretty sure.

So, “Watsonian” as an adjective probably just means “silly”, or at best “vaguely funny”. And I’m alright with that.

What might your last name mean as a literary adjective?

Introducing My Second Blog – One for list-lovers

Since January 2012, I’ve been informing thousands of amazing readers all over the world of my ridiculous thoughts and feelings on a range of things, most notably books, music, comedy, and occasionally donkeys. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed doing this and I have no plans to stop it, so don’t worry this blog will continue as usual.

But I have felt a growing desire to start a second blog for some time. Something entirely different to my main blog here, something that would be more creative and more than likely quite silly. I remember growing up as a teenager that I used to read a lot of lists, not only in the form of books like 1001 Books/Movies/Albums to Read/See/Hear before you die, but also in the form of “20 things not to do in an elevator” and other silly ideas like that.

So I decided my second blog would focus on lists. Lists of silly and hopefully funny things that I’ll come up with, but occasionally something more interesting or serious too. But mostly I plan to write fun lists, and most importantly I’ll be writing all of them myself rather than just reposting stuff already out there on the internet.

The new blog is at mostly because my blog is called A Listophile’s Haven (I just dropped the apostrophe and s from the url). Right now it only has one list and the about page has been filled out, but I will be adding more lists over the next few days before slowing down to a couple of posts a week on there (as I have already committed myself to a minimum of three on here).

Go visit my new blog, let me know what you think of it, follow it, leave me comments and suggestions if you want, and please if you like it share it with others and spread the word. I’m quite excited to see what I can make of it, and I hope if nothing else I can put a smile on your faces or maybe even make you laugh!

A Listophile's Haven home page

Instagram and other adventures in social media

So, after years of refusing to join up (well not so much refusing as just not really even considering it), I’ve finally gone and made myself an Instagram account.

Was it the fact that I’m learning to live an entirely different lifestyle in a very different country to the one I grew up in? Perhaps. Is it a yearning desire to capture these moments as I make this enormous transition in my life? Maybe. Is it because I secretly yearn to be a great photographer. Absolutely not (I mean, if I suddenly gained awesome photography skills I’d be pretty happy about it, but I know I’m not good at it and I’m content to just take pictures of stuff I like regardless of my overwhelming lack of talent).

So I’m pretty useless on Instagram and probably need some help and advice. What are some good things to follow? How can I explore Instagram better? I really don’t know much about it and have only posted a couple of times and added a few people I know. I know when I first joined Twitter, I tweeted only a few times those first two years. In the last two or three years, however, I have tweeted some 6000 times and connected with hundreds of other people, so I did become addicted eventually. I’d like to be able to use Instagram properly sooner, I think.

Of course, now I am considering other forms of social media I could explore. I mean I have a Facebook, but I keep that a lot more personal and I mostly use it to stay in contact with my family and friends back in Australia (and some of my family in England, too), now that I’m living in Sweden. Otherwise I would have long since deleted that terrible thing. But I have been considering things like Tumblr, as well. Is it worth it? Are there other social media places worth checking out (yes, I already have Goodreads)?

Lastly, if you wanna add me on Instagram, I’m on there as theotherwatson (much like my username here on WordPress), and of course I am always looking for more people to connect with on Twitter too – I’m @abritishperson on there. And I forget what I’m on Goodreads as but you can find my page with the Goodreads widget on the side of my page.

The Coffee Machine

When I moved into my new home in Sweden, I pretty quickly went out to the shops (including the biggest shop I’ve ever been into, Ullared – but that’s another post on its own) to buy all the things I really need, like kitchen utensils, basics for my pantry, snowpants and…uh…a coffee machine. What? It’s a necessity, okay?

The totally-worth-it-coffee-machine.

So anyway, it’s a Nescafé Dolce Gusto, a machine that works with those little pods that you put into it and it does everything else for you. Well, I mean, you have to put water in the back, and change the size of the drink to suit your needs and wants and the rough guidelines of each type of coffee you can make, but otherwise you don’t do much. It can make all your standard coffee drinks, plus different flavours of some (there’s more than one caramel flavoured drink), hot chocolates – it even makes tea (though I find myself reluctant to try that). Not only that, but the thing is fast – it’s warmed up and ready to go within about 30 seconds, so basically you can have a decent coffee in under a minute, all with the press of a couple of buttons. See, totally worth it and necessary, right?**

Here’s my favourite three drinks I like to make with it at the moment:

  1. CappuccinoThe Cappuccino – a classic coffee, I have already gone through nearly two boxes of pods for this one (and frankly I need to slow down). It’s tasty and warming on these cold winter days, and my only real complaint about it is that it’s a bit weak – this is easily fixed up by adding an espresso shot to it, but then you’re using a third pod and those pods aren’t super cheap.
  2. ChococinoThe Chococino – I’m 99% sure this has no coffee or caffeine in it – it’s just a really intense, well made hot chocolate. It feels like you’ve been punched in the face, only with a chocolate fist, and not so much punched as gently caressed and…is this getting weird? I think this is getting weird. Anyway, chocoholics will love this. Non-chocoholics will probably also enjoy this. Chocolate haters will be sad and jealous of this.
  3. Caramel Espresso and NesquikHot Nesquik mixed with a Caramel Espresso shot – the Nesquik hot chocolate flavour isn’t as good as the Chococino, but it does only use one pod to make each drink, instead of two, so it is cheaper. But I find sometimes, especially in the afternoon, I feel like hot chocolate and coffee at the same time and I’ve found this particular combination is great. It’s tasty but also perks you up very quickly. Yes, I was drinking one while writing this. Yes, I am considering a second one.

I still have instant coffee because I just can’t afford to drink this stuff all the time (at least not until I’ve landed stable work), but it is nice and I don’t regret buying it at all. It’s great for guests, or for when I just want something a little bit nicer, and it’s the perfect accompaniment to sitting down at my laptop and writing for a while.

Do you have any kind of coffee machine at home? If so, what kind of machine? What are your thoughts on these pod-based machines?

**I think I should be paid for such generous marketing of this product.

Life in Sweden (in words), Part 1

I thought I’d mention that this will be a bit of a wordier post in the title as I have promised to do more than just post pictures of my new life. Also, let’s face it, I’m much better with words than I am with a camera (half of those photos last time had a mark on the picture near the top – yep, I’m special). There will be a few pics to break up the writing but not much. Hope you enjoy my story so far…

In plane view of a new life

The trip over here was actually a little more dramatic than I had hoped for. I don’t mean the plane crashed into the sea and I had to swim to shore kind of dramatic, just more incidents of a frustrating variety. The trip was 4 flights in total – from Sydney, Australia to Melbourne, Australia, then on to Dubai, then to London, and lastly to Gothenburg in Sweden where I would then be picked up and driven a couple of hours south to Halmstad, my new home. Each stopover at each airport was approximately 2 hours long, so it felt like it should have been a smooth process and relatively short with a total flying time (including stopovers) of about 32 hours if my memory serves me correct.

Of course, this didn’t go to plan.

Sydney to Melbourne was fine, but Melbourne decided it was feeling pretty hot that day, and so we all melted while it reached the low to mid 40s in temperature (Celsius – in Fahrenheit we’re talking the realms of about 105-115). As my departure time came and went and there was no sign of us getting on the plane, they finally informed us that the plane was too hot to board (I’d later find out it was 38 degrees Celsius inside the plane), and they were trying to cool it down – they would only be half an hour late. I didn’t panic. Half an hour was fine.

2 hours later we boarded the plane, but were told to hurry because they had brought the temperature down to 28 but had to turn off the air conditioning while we boarded so it would rise again. Then once on board, they informed us they had serious problems with the electrics of the plane. Another hour or so went by, and they very nearly cancelled the flight before bringing back power at the last moment (they literally turned it off and on again and it worked…I chuckled to myself about this later, not so much at the time). Then two people decided to leave, even though the pilot assured us we wouldn’t have left unless the plane was 100% safe. There was much booing aimed at the people who left (even though I think they were snuck out before the announcement).

Reunited at last!

Reunited at last!

4 hours late, we finally left. I missed my connection in London to Sweden and I knew it, and the next one was going to be 8 hours later, but the wonderful staff at Heathrow airport helped me reschedule to a Copenhagen flight (as Halmstad is a similar distance from Copenhagen in Denmark – about 2 hours at the most). Eventually, not too much later than I should have been originally, I was reunited with Linnéa, the very person who I have moved over to Sweden for in the first place!

Snow, wonderful snow!

As I landed in Copenhagen I was excited to see snow – I hadn’t seen falling snow with my own eyes for over 16 years. Linnéa laughed at me, telling me that wasn’t real snow, but for an Australian it was amazing all the same (we do have some snow in Australia, in a place cleverly called the Snowy Mountains). By the time we reached Halmstad though, I could see what it really looked like to have decent snow. I slept a good sleep that night, and amazingly was over my jet lag almost instantly upon awaking (which is kind of strange but I could hardly complain). I ventured out into the forest that next day to have a barbeque in the snow with Linnéa and her family, which I showed you guys photos of here in this post, so I won’t mention too much more on that.

The next day was fairly relaxed, although I did learn quite how slippery the ice could be when I fell whilst out walking the dogs – I fell backwards onto my right elbow and smacked my head hard against a rock. I spent the next few hours with an enormous headache, feeling slightly dizzy and disoriented but I knew I was okay. My elbow, however, still hurts over 2 weeks later, which is a lesson in itself for me. I am slowly becoming more confident walking on the snow and the ice, but it’s a skill which Swedish people are born with and which Australians simply do not possess most of the time, I suspect.

It didn’t snow much for that first week I was here, but the second week it snowed every couple of days. The first couple of times it was just a few centimetres, but then last Friday I finally saw what I think I can call proper snow – about 10cm, maybe more, fell in the space of a couple of hours. I sat in my apartment watching the roads slowly turn white again, watching the ground rise higher and higher with the snow. I sort of just sat here stunned as I watched it for a lot of that afternoon, not really doing much else. It made me wonder what it must feel like for those kids who grow up in remote and dry parts of the world when they see rain for the first time at the age of, say, 10.

Yep, that's the river.

Yep, that’s the river. Actually this is the day before the big snow so it was whiter the next day.

Anyway, by the end of this, everything was white. The frozen river had become so white it looked more like an extension of the park next to it. So it was a bit sad when on the weekend it began to rain, and then warm up to 2 or 3 degrees each day for several days in a row. Looking out now it looks like spring – bright blue skies again. Beautiful, but the snow is mostly gone and each night what’s left refreezes and leaves sheets of ice in places I don’t see so I nearly go flying every time I walk at night. But even if this were all the snow we got this winter I’d be happy with what I’d seen!

Getting on with life

The past 2 and a half weeks haven’t just been sitting around watching snow fall, I promise. The obvious thing that has been taking up a lot of my hours is spending time with Linnéa, and she has been amazing in helping me settle in. We’ve spent a lot of time with her family and also meeting her friends – I have never entertained so many people in such a short space of time, but it is nice to be cooking so much again. We’ve also spent a lot of time exploring town, eating out at places I can’t really afford – we even went to the movies last weekend (to watch The Hobbit – I was stunned they were still showing the second movie). It’s just nice to be with Linnéa after spending 2 years doing the long distance relationship thing (and 16000 kms is serious long distance).

Aside from all this leisurely stuff, I have had some issues with more bureaucratic matters. In Sweden everything, and I mean everything, uses your personnummer – basically your personal identity number. Swedes are born with this, of course. For me though, I have to go through a long process to get this key to society. I have obtained a sort of temporary version of this number which gives me access to some, but only a few, things. Now I need to get a job, so that I can get a bank account and process my Right of Residence (thank goodness I am a British citizen as well as Aussie, and therefore an EU citizen, or else this would have been a lot harder), and then once I’ve done all of that they’ll give me a personnummer and I will be a proper resident of Sweden, with access to everything. Of course, without knowing the language getting a job isn’t super easy either, so while I apply for the few jobs I can try my hand at, I now need to learn the language and quickly so as to broaden my work possibilities. I’m not overly worried (yet), and money isn’t too much of an issue (yet), but it would be nice to have a lot of this stuff done and taken care of so I can relax more.

I am second hand renting (where you rent from another renter – it’s a thing in Sweden) from someone who has moved to Stockholm for work for a while, so I have a nice little apartment that’s all furnished and is only a few minutes walk from the centre of town, across the road from the train and bus stations, and close to two different supermarkets. So my living arrangements almost seem too good to be true, which is nice, and the person I’m renting from is friendly and relaxed which is a nice bonus.

This was really quite tasty, although eating the berries with the meat seemed a bit wrong. Photo taken from because I forgot to take a photo of the meal at the time I ate it.

This was really quite tasty, although eating the berries with the meat seemed a bit wrong. Photo taken from because I forgot to take a photo of the meal at the time I ate it.

Lastly, there’s the food. People are asking me if I’ve eaten much Swedish food. I have eaten lots of nice breads and chocolates and so on and so forth, but the only “traditional” Swedish meal I’ve eaten is called wallenbergare, and is a sort of veal patty (like a burger patty I guess) with peas, mashed potato and…berries? There’s a side of lingonberries, a type of berry that is very common across Scandinavia and very sweet and tasty, and the idea is that you eat the berries with the meat, in the same mouthful. I tried it and it was surprisingly nice, but my tastebuds were wondering what on earth was going on. But aside from this, I am yet to try a lot of traditional cuisine from the area. No doubt in the future I’ll devote a whole post to the topic.

Anyway, that’s it for now. This post is more than long enough, but hopefully it gives you some ideas as to what I have actually been doing these past couple of weeks. I will do more of these posts in the future, but I will also start to write posts focusing on specific aspects of life over here, like the culture, the food, the history, and my mishaps with the language as I start to learn it. Feel free to ask any questions or comment as always! 

Two Year Blogaversary – What next and New Year resolutions

It’s hard to believe this, but tomorrow my blog turns two years old! It was on the 2nd of January, 2012 I started this blog, and little did I know where my blog would lead me (for those who missed the posts earlier last year, I revealed that the girl who I’m moving from Australia to Sweden for is someone I met within those first few weeks of blogging).

2013 was a crazy year for me, and I think it showed on my blog as my output generally slowed down across the year. 2014 looks even crazier – it’s two weeks tomorrow until I fly out of Australia and begin my new life in Sweden. So for the next two weeks I’ll run around in a mad panic and then when I get there I have to, well, start everything basically. Get a job, learn the language, continue to be awesome – it’s going to be a challenge, to be honest.

But I will work on keeping my blog more regularly updated, with the focus being on regularly – I will aim to keep a steady 2 or 3 posts a week, rather than writing 5 some weeks and none other weeks. I also have a whole bunch of other goals, but they’ll be easy to achieve and many of them are necessary to achieve. Here goes:

  1. Move to Sweden. (This is kind of a given, really).
  2. Get a job in Sweden. (Also fairly necessary).
  3. Learn Swedish. (I am particularly excited about this one).
  4. Enjoy the snow, and other big changes to my lifestyle.
  5. Get healthy. No, I mean it this time. I’m not upping and moving my whole life and then letting my health slip further down the drain – this time I’m taking back control. Just have to resist the pick and mix sections of the Swedish supermarkets (apparently they’re the biggest importer of those lollies in the world).
  6. Reach 400 blog posts on this blog. This is my 293rd I think, so that comes out at exactly 9 posts a month, or a little over 2 posts a week. I can handle that.
  7. Try and write creatively more often, and write what I am in the mood to write, rather than something I was in the mood to write several months prior. This issue has made writing challenging these last couple of years.
  8. Read more books. I barely read any last year, which was so disappointing. I’m thinking of aiming for 25 – just one a fortnight. I can do that, surely.
  9. The most important one is last: spend time with my girl! It’s been 2 long years of barely seeing each other, there’s a lot of time to make up for now!

I think for once I will achieve all my resolutions, perhaps because I’m being reasonable for a change.

My blog topics will shift a little this year – I will still post about books and music and other random things, but I’m going to post a lot more about Sweden and everywhere else I travel to as well. I want to document some of my experiences moving to a new country, and I am sure I will never run out of fascinating things to tell you all about, so I’m looking forward to that quite a lot. I’ll also update my about me page again after I’ve settled down in Sweden.

In the mean time, I hope you all enjoyed the end of 2013 and have a great 2014 ahead of you! Let’s make the most of it!