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Expat Advice: Culture Shock in Karlstad, Sweden

What is the name of the city or town that you are reporting on?


Did you receive any cross-cultural training for your move abroad? If yes, was it before or after the move?

No, training regarding the culture. I was able to work online with my Swedish co-workers. This situation helped me understand a lot more about the area and the people.

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If they speak another language in your new country, do you speak the language? If yes, did you learn the language before you moved or while abroad? If no, are you planning to learn the language?

I speak very little Swedish. I have been learning on and off for over 2 years. Most of the people I meet love speaking English and rather that over Swedish. That has been difficult to overcome.

Were you worried or concerned about culture shock before you moved abroad?

A little concerned, but it was not a point of stress.

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How significant was the culture shock you experienced when you moved abroad?

None really. Everyone is so Americanized, it's not hard to find something you need or want.

Expats often talk about going through the "stages of culture shock." Examples include the honeymoon phase, the irritation-to-anger stage, the rejection of the culture stage, and the cultural adjustment phase. Do you feel like you went through these or any other stages as you settled into the new culture?

I knew what I was in for before I set the move in motion. I still split my time between the US and Sweden. I love Sweden in the Summer, its the most amazing weather and everyday you can bike. Things that I find/found very irritating revolve around the health care system. I have Lupus and when I start down the road of being sick, it never gets any better. Without the proper medication, what most would think is a nasty chest cold turns into pneumonia. When I'm highly stressed my Lupus becomes active and I need special attention taken regarding my kidney function. Last Fall I became quite ill, my breathing was labored and when laying back, I could feel the fluid sitting in my lungs.

One evening I started coughing and gasping for air so deeply that my boyfriends mother took me to the ER. The girl at the desk, looked at me and then at my documents I brought with me regarding my health history with Lupus and flatly told me, she had never heard of such a thing and to call for an appointment tomorrow.

Finding my way to the hospital office where they would finally see me the next day, it took 2 hours for someone to actually understand what Systemic Lupus Erythematosus is and how it effects the lungs/heart/kidneys. After 7 hours waiting in a tiny room that resembled a broom closet, the doctor finally returned and informed me that, YES...they would prescribe medication for me THIS ONE TIME. Next time, I'll have to learn how to overcome the common cold without assistance to help build my immune system. HA!

The outrageous cost of living expenses and the high tax tacked on top of everything you buy and own, has also made me rethink how I plan my future here in Sweden. I really do love the people and the country's beauty, but to work until I'm able to retire here in Sweden, just doesn't seem to be the best option for me. The lack of awareness regarding Lupus has me doubting the care someone would receive in the future.

What, if any, were some of the changes you noticed in yourself that might have been caused by culture shock? These might include things such as anger, depression, anxiety, increased eating or drinking, frustration, homesickness, etc.

Of course homesickness. I miss my home, dogs, friends and everything that is so easy to obtain.

I do, however, love the fact that I ride my bike almost everywhere I need to go. It's simple and fresh. It works and is great for clearing your mind.

What are some things you appreciate most about the new culture?

Kind people willing to take time to get to know you.

Use of bikes instead of cars when possible. Living simply and without a ton of "stuff" we American's seem to accumulate over the years.

What are the most challenging aspects of the new culture?

Learning Swedish.

The tax situation.

Finding a home that has what I want in the area I's like to live.

Did you "commit" any embarrassing or humorous cultural blunders? If you did and you'd like to share them, please do tell!

Yes, when I first drove to my boy friends home from the airport, I turned onto a huge bike path. I had no idea it wasn't part of the road. There wasn't a sign or anything painted identifying that area was for bikes only. eeek

Do you have any advice or thoughts about culture shock you would like to share?

Learn some Swedish before you move. Find the area you wish to live in and then locate a real estate agent you want to work for you. Swedish property sales are only handled by the seller of the property. There is nothing that I've found which comes close to a buyers agent. I had to make a deal with an agent I met at a open house just to make sure I would know what is coming out and when.

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