Campus at about 16:00 | Source: Usisipho

The hardest thing about living in Sweden?

Moving abroad away from the comforts of home is bound to come with some challenges. But which are the most difficult to deal with when moving to Sweden? Missing family and friends? The cold? Or something else? For me, it was a “hello darkness, my old friend” sort of challenge.

Expectations

The two most common things that are mentioned as hard to deal with when moving to Sweden are missing family or friends, and the cold. I moved away from home when starting university, so I’m quite used to being away from my family. After about a year, most of my friends happened to be in my new city. So for me, this wasn’t such a big deal.

The Swedish winters can be tough if you’re not used to cold weather. And depending on where in Sweden you live, you might have to deal with rain, wind or snow. Despite not being used to snow, I find the cold to be quite tolerable in Gothenburg. You just need: a good hiking/alpine jacket, or coat, good shoes, and a pair of gloves, and you’re good to go. Central heating and the popularity of coffee helps a lot too!

But there was one challenge I was not prepared for: winter darkness. I read about it, heard what to do; but it never really felt important until I experienced it. I live in the south, so it’s not as intense as say, Umeå, but it’s still a challenge. The sun only rises at 09:00 goes down before 15:30. You wake up and go to university – it’s dark. You come back home – it’s dark. Maybe you’ll get to see the sun tomorrow?

Making the best of the darkness in Sweden

But don’t fear, there are ways to deal with it! For me, some of the following helped.

Experience the Swedish light culture

Sweden is absolutely lit in winter. Take a look around your town or city, you will find a lot of cool lights!

Night lights in Gothenburg | Source: Usisipho

Keep a schedule

It’s very tempting to come back home, and since it’s already dark, make dinner. Then you eat your dinner, feel sleepy, and think it’s time for bed. Don’t do it! It’s probably only 18:00, you’ll be up again before midnight, and there goes your sleep schedule. What worked well for me was staying on campus until about 17:00 or 18:00, and then going home and doing my routine as usual. Alternatively, you could keep a schedule, and stick to it.

Exercise

Come home and it’s already dark? Go out and do some exercise. I enjoy going for a jog in the afternoons. I find it keeps me active, and helps freshen me up! Just make sure you wear some reflective clothing in the dark! It’s the Swedish thing to do.

Have productive or social nights

Logic 101 dictates that… if it’s dark a lot… that means there’s more time for nightlife, right? That means time to hang out with your friends after class! This could be dinner together, going out together, group gym sessions, group study sessions, whatever you like. Any reason for socialising and time with friends!

Vitamin D supplements

While I can’t personally vouch for these, a lot of my friends swear by them. Give them a shot, they could help! Or maybe try some pickled herring (sill), it is rich in vitamin D! And it is one of my favourite Swedish dishes, though it may not be for everyone.

Look forward to spring

Before you know it, you’ll realise, “Hey, I did it!”. The winter solstice has passed and the days are getting longer and brighter. There’s still a bit of winter left, but after February, spring is within reach… Sun, I’m looking forward to becoming good friends again.

Be sure to check out Emma’s podcast on this topic, as well as the Facebook live!

Need more tips about about dealing with the darkness? Have questions about other challenges when moving to Sweden? Email me on usisipho.studyinsweden (at) gmail.com!

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