I’m Here To Stay

Disclaimer: This was written after a tough day. Not every day is tough. But some are.


Sometimes I think to myself: I wish I could ask someone how to do this immigrant-thing I’m doing right now. You know, moving to another country and making it your home and all. I wish there was someone who knows how it works. And then I realize: I am that someone. I’m the one who supposedly is an expert in this. I’ve done it twice before, after all. I should know.

But I don’t.

I know how to learn languages, but I don’t know how to learn to say things in the right tone, so that what I mean actually comes across in the right way and people don’t just understand the words I’m saying, but also my heart behind it.

I know how to make friends, but I’m surprisingly insecure when it comes to cross cultural friendships. I second guess every move I and my maybe-future-friend make, because is this a cultural thing or a personal thing and do I come across as too distant or too needy when I do this or that? Do they even WANT a new friend?

I know how to be a host, but I don’t know how to be a host in a new country where I don’t know if any aspect of the social event I planned is appropriate: the time, the reason, the food, the drinks, the music, the other guests. Because being a host means making people feel comfortable and at home, and those things matter. More than you’d think.

Well people, what can I say. It’s a process. A learning curve. A very curvy one, actually. With ups and downs and a few detours and sometimes the road seems blocked. (but it never is)

So here’s a few reminders for myself and for Sweden.

Sweden. Listen up. First of all, I’m not Swedish. So I won’t get all the social do’s and don’t and sometimes I will make you feel awkward and uncomfortable, but also sometimes I will make you laugh (in a good way) and you know what? I also have things to teach you. That’s why different cultures are so awesome. I’m not Swedish. I’m Ruth.

Secondly, what’s up with eating cake with spoons? It is, has been and always will be forks for me. Deal with it.

Then this: if I pass you on the street and I make eye contact, and you look away. WHAT’S UP WITH THAT? So even when you do that, I WILL say hej to you, loud enough so you can’t mistake it for a cough or something. You are here, I’m here, and there’s no good reason to not acknowledge that.

Lastly: it takes time. For all of us.

Sweden, you’re like a family member, like a second cousin. Vaguely familiar, sometimes charming and other times surprisingly confusing and offensive. At times I strongly dislike you, but I mainly love you.

Cause I’m here to stay.

And it will get better.


Starting Over, Again.

Moving to a new country – how do you do it? Well, the moving part is easy. The difficult part is what follows.

This is my second time (or third, if you count the 3 + 6 months I lived in Switzerland), and though I may have gotten an idea now of how it works, I usually still feel like it’s all new to me.

In 2010 I moved to Nepal, where I didn’t know a soul, or the language. And I managed. I even enjoyed it. I enjoyed it very much, actually. But here I am, 4 years later, just moved into our apartment in Sweden. Another country, another language, and it feels like I’m starting all over again.

And even though I’ve done it before, it can still suck sometimes. Trying to find peanutbutter in the supermarket. Or powdered sugar. Neighbors that try to make small talk and me stammering ‘eh…jag pratar inte så mycket svenska…pratar du engelska?‘ and the blank face that follows.
Sitting in the apartment with no friends calling or stopping by, cause, quite frankly, I don’t have friends here. Needing Jacob to translate letters for me, and the manual for the laundry machine, and what the neighbor was talking about.
Trying to figure out where in the heck I’m supposed to bike. (sometimes on the sidewalk/bike path. Sometimes on the road. And sometimes no one knows.)

So yes, it sucks sometimes. And yes, I feel lonely sometimes. And yes, I feel handicapped sometimes for not speaking Swedish. But I’ve done this before, and I know it will get better. It will.

And when I feel like nothing is working, or I can’t find what I need, I hear my mom’s voice in my head ‘je bent toch niet voor een gat te vangen?‘ and then I remember that indeed, I’m not one who gives up that easily.

(I did find the peanutbutter, while looking for powdered sugar, which I didn’t find btw – but the peanutbutter was right in between flour and sugar. Nice one, Sweden.)


Where’s My Dal Bhaat?

Yes my friends, Ruth has moved out. And that means dealing with withdrawal symptoms.

In this house we eat eggs. Toast. Chicken soup. Pizza. Spaghetti. Cinnamon rolls. Pickwick tea.

And I? I walk around the house endlessly, sweating, my hands are constantly shaking and at nights I dream about big pots of lentils and rices that chase me but I can’t eat any of it.

So every now and then I sneak out to eat at the base. So I can deal with it again for a while.

the front door of the house without dal bhaat

Ja beste mensen, Ruth is verhuisd. En dat betekent afkicken.

In dit huis worden eieren gegeten. Geroosterde boterhammen. Kippensoep. Pizza. Spaghetti. Cinnamon rolls. Pickwick thee.

En ik? Ik loop zwetend eindeloze rondjes door het huis, mijn handen trillen constant en ‘s nachts droom ik over grote pannen met linzen en rijst die me achtervolgen maar waar ik nooit uit mag eten.

Dus af en toe sneak ik er tussenuit om op de base te eten, en dan kan ik er weer tegenaan.