Monday, January 28, 2008

Top 10 Pieces of Unsolicited Advice for Foreigners in a Strange Land

Oh, how readers of Linköpinglivin’ love their Top 10 lists, second only to “Fun Facts” in popularity. It has been awhile and, well, you really deserve this.

Occasionally, fellow foreigners will comment about the helpful nature of Linköpinglivin’ for people interested in learning about life in Sweden or even what it's like to move abroad. Though the title should explain it all, I will qualify that, especially in light of last week’s entry, this list is not meant to be inclusive of those who have been forced to a new country by necessity or desperation, but could be of some use, despite those difficult circumstances.

However, if you have chosen to venture away from your native country for professional, personal or adventure-seeking reasons for a period of time or forever, then listen up (along with a small personal “1 – 10” self-evaluation and comment following each proclamation):

10) Immerse yourself in your new place, not your home from afar.
With the wonders of the Internet (Email, Skype, Social Networks, websites from home), it is wholly possible to live parallel lives in two countries. This limits the experience of the new culture, country and personal acclimation to your new world. While you can live with one foot in both places, I recommend against it as much as possible. At least give yourself reasonable boundaries from home until you are fully immersed in your new surroundings: Personal Grade: 3 – My experience in Sweden, and particularly my language acquisition, has been significantly hampered by my continual and constant, many-times-daily exposure to home. I realized this helpful piece of advice way too late…

9) Speak with native speakers in their language, demand it.
In some places, you have no choice, and for this you should be thankful. Oh, I can hear the cries of hypocrisy now, but hey, at least I’m trying to help others to do what I haven’t….Personal Grade: 3

8) Join a social group.
You need to meet people. You need to meet people more than just colleagues, more than fellow students. And you need to get out there and be intentional about it. Whatever your interests, go find the nearest club, group, church or social organization so you can begin to make friends. It doesn’t happen automatically. Get after it! Personal Grade: 9 – Ryttargårdskyrkansfolk, tack så, så mycket för allt!

7) Don’t let this life adventure become normal.
When you’re new to a place, your eyes, ears and mind is wide open. Keep it that way! Embrace the newness and abnormality and make the decision to keep it that way – don’t lose that wonderful curiosity…Personal Grade: 8 (and trying hard to keep it there).

6) Adjust to your new financial surroundings and don’t compare.
If you’re moving to a country that is more expensive than your native country, think in your new currency and don’t compare. When you go home, think in that currency, but never the two shall meet (or if you come to a country like Sweden, you’ll be crying the whole time). If you’ve moved to a country less expensive than your native country, compare every day and have a great time!!!! Personal Grade: 7 – Sorry America, but it sure is a great time to be getting paid in Swedish Kronor!

5) Move out of your comfort zone, get extroverted and ask a lot of questions.
I know, I know, easy for an American to say, but it sure does help with a lot of the other pieces of advice found here…Personal Grade: 8 – Believe it or not, I really am an introvert at heart.

4) Make a decision to not get defensive about your home country.
Let’s be honest, I have full credibility to speak to this one! If you separate your identity from your country – and, by the way, you are NOT your country – your experience can be full of rich discussions about culture, life and worldwide experiences of people and nations. If you’re defending your country the whole time, no one has much fun…Personal Grade: 9 – There have been a couple conversations in which I was taken down, but usually the only thing I get defensive about is… beloved baseball, so just don’t even bring it up!

3) Experience your new country in every season of the year.
Just like a relationship, you never really know until you’ve been in it through all the seasons of the year…Personal Grade: 10 – I simply love the seasons in Sweden and will dearly miss the extremes when I am gone.

2) Persistently request, welcome and embrace all visitors.
Sharing your new locale with family, friends and acquaintances wandering through is simply a joy. Let people know they are always welcome and treat them like visiting royalty when they make the (sometimes long) journey. Personal Grade: 10 – And all of you in the U.S. are still welcome to experience the polar bears on the streets and igloos in which we live here in Sweden – the promise of going down in blog lore is still valid. Thanks to those of you who have gone out of your way.

1) Keep a blog, journal, record, diary or whatever you need to help cherish the experience.
Document it because you’ve never had it so good. Personal Grade: 9 – I wish I’d kept a more personal journal, because believe it or not, I do not choose to share my innermost being on Linköpinglivin'…

Pictures above:

Some mighty strange things found in Sweden, except the market fresh "Brains, Liver and Tongue" found in Paris.


Ang said...

Fun entry, Sean! Wish I could come & experience it.

Feels like the polar NW today, lots of snow, schools closed, more snow tonight ... fun times!

We will miss you on SuperBowl Sunday, next weekend!

Anonymous said...

hmm... what's the strange about the clothes? Maybe I can't se it with my swedish eyes? :)

Christelle said...

How come you picked up the worse French food ? ;-)
Ok i agree,it's a strange food that, as a French, I NEVER eat !

Anyway ,I loved your 10 advices !

Mike said...

Great post again!
I totally understand where you are coming from with that post, and it seems like it will make life much easier. I have personally tried to do many of the things, and they have been very beneficial to me. However, some things still get stuck, especially the currency issue and language.
BTW, what are you doing on the Superbowl here in Linköping?


Dan and Elise said...

way to give yourself a "10" on the "all seasons" one... you would've never given yourself a "10" in anything in your life 5 years ago. my how you've grown.