A long note on loneliness in Sweden. Buckle up!
#1 One among many
There are different triggers that make us feel lonely.
Feeling lonely on a buss – lots of people around you, lots of locals around you and yet you feel like you don’t know much about the culture and people because you lack a Swedish friend who could reply to your shy “Hur mår du?”
Feeling lonely in a class because those around you are from a different ethnical or cultural group. We are all humans no matter the colour & beliefs, that’s true, yet it’s a strange feeling to realize that you long for someone who looks like you, thinks like you, speaks a language you can understand and has a similar cultural background… True story!
#2 One surrounded by …nothing ?
I’ve heard quite a few foreigners settled in Sweden describing their lives as lonely. At first it sounds intriguing – a bunch of adults nodding saddly their heads while someone else is explainig what lies behind this word. Time flies and one becomes more familiar with the local culture and mentality. That’s when hearing this word starts to make one (Me) feel uncomfortable, even bored. I’ve developed a new mental habit, that is, rolling my eyes in my mind. Every time I hear another story from another friendless foreigner about how reserved Swedes are and how lonely those foreigners feel – oh no, not AGAIN! I do understand how disappointing it can be – enough to say that all my friends are foreigners…
Most expats are eager to talk and share stories: about their adventures as well as their ups and downs. That’s normal. Sharing is caring and talking is sharing so everything is fine! ;D
It feels strange though when so many people complain about one particular thing – those reserved & unfriendly locals! It may give you the idea that there’s something wrong: either with foreigners/expats or with the locals, and if so, the question is – who should we fix? the broken newcomers or the broken natives?
My perspective as an expat– Even though you’ve worked with them for so many years, non of them has ever invited you to their home. No matter how many times you have had a chit-chat with your neighbours, they still haven’t suggested any walk or fika that could bring you closer.
My perspective as a native – I often ask myself this question: “Would I be so out-going and chatty as I am now living an expat life if the circumstances were different?” What type of a person would I be if I lived permanently in Cracow? All familiar with Polish culture and mentality, settled, smug and confident thanks to my close group of friends and family support. Would I be interested in making international friends? or would I be like “Hola! Gracias and … let’s call it a day… See you tomorrow at work!”
I imagine If I lived in Cracow, I’d want to work in an international company. I’d want to talk to foreigners working in that company and yes I’d invite them to my flat once I found something fun and good about them. Call it curiosity. Maybe there are other motives too.
There’s nothing wrong with the natives. It’s not like all of them should simultaneoulsy open their doors to strangers so that the latter can feel more welcome. Expats come and go. It takes time to build a trust and call someone a friend. I WOULD make friends with strangers, but it does not mean the whole nation would or should follow my steps. Again, it’s a matter of motives.
My advice – If you’re feeling lonely,…
- seek international friends (the gym, social sites, language courses, etc)
- develop stronger bonds with your friends & family in your home country. Call them!
- invite your friends over so that you’re surrounded by those who give you support
- learn to be independent through interests (ice hockey, knitting, jogging, etc.)
- buy a pet
- be active! travel to different cities in Sweden, get to know the culture
But if you still feel upset, misunderstood & lonely…
Ask yourself this question: What’s more important to you: money or people? Most of the foreigners whom I have met here in Göteborg, cite money & higher standard of living as top reasons for moving to Sweden… Well, …. thats their choice, isnt it? Sometimes you can’t have everything at once, can you?