Expecting having to justify my expat presence here

I just moved to Sweden and I keep getting honked at by all the cars on the street.

Hey friend, it’s been a while.

And I notice that that phrase ‘It’s been a while’ is usually follow by a reason why you haven’t heard from me. I always feel I need to excuse my absence, but you know what?

That’s just the way it is.

I’m a seasonal person and my last season has been mighty busy so there you go, plain and simple:

I was too busy to keep up a newsletter.

And I’m not going to apologize for it, because real life commitments will always come before self-imposed online appearance commitments for me.

And with that out of the way, let me get to the point of this mail/podcast:

I just moved to Sweden and all sorts of surprises keep creeping up on me  that I didn’t expect.

Like that honking phenomenon in the title of this post. Every time I get an hour to myself I set out to explore my new surroundings in Malmö – And I do that by bike, because we gave up our car in the pursuit to live a more sustainable life.

So picture this:

I mount my bike, I choose a point on google maps I want to see and get rolling. And by the second intersection – the latest – someone honks at me. And my go-to reaction is naturally:

“Wait what? What am I doing wrong?”

And I in my mind I go through the checklist:

  • I’m riding as far right as I can without getting too close to parked cars,
  • I wear a helmet,
  • I signal when I want to turn and then finally my gaze quickly checks 360° around me if anything is wrong….

Until it hits me:

They honk because I’m riding  my bike on the car lane… but I’m in Sweden now. There are cycle lanes everywhere. They honk to remind me that I don’t have to be here in the first place.

So I wave and change lanes. And I have to laugh and want to face palm myself, because: life (as a cyclist) is easy here. But I’m still in struggle mode. Ease is not at all normal for me. I’m used to fight for my space on the street. BUT Here I don’t have to, cyclists are actually welcome and encouraged to use their bikes. Pew!!!

So every time that happens, every time I get honked at, I take it as a good sign that moving here was the right decision. I was used to fighting but now I can relax  – at least in that area of life.

For the last 3 weeks this has been almost a daily routine:

Choose a destination, mount my bike, get honked at, for a split second panic about what the heck I’m doing wrong, then realize my mistake and finally mental face-palming myself and laughing because I take this as a really good omen about our decision to move to Sweden.

But today a new thought add to this chain – that being: 

Holy crap! How deep is ‘fighting mode’ actually entrained in me?

How conditioned am I really to always expect that I will have to fight? To expect that there is no place for me – at least not planned for – and that I have to create for my self… and how deep is it engrained into me to approach this creation process with mix of

  • having to push into a crowded space in the first place,
  • then hold my lane, so that I can advance and be prepared to on the one hand,
  • insist that I have a right to be here
  • and on the other hand try not to be too much of a nuisance, keep myself as small as possible and  – most likely- be prepare to apologize from time to time for my presence.

This last thought kind of clouds the happy honking reminder. Expat life is full of ‘ fight-for-your-right-to take-up-space’ – moments and that means I chose a life between feeling I need to forcefully insist and humbly apologize for my being here. 

Yes, sure. It taught me a lot too, but I can also feel that I’m tired of living like this.

Anyways, I choose to see this as a really good thing:

Realizing that I’m tired is a form of awareness and gives a really good clue on what to focus on next and where to grow next.

So here go friend: surprise surprise – an international move comes with a whole lot of mixed feelings, even if its your 7th country and ….I don’t know… I think my 28th move in total. I will keep my promise to you and tell you all about this move (which will hopefully be my last country) and I would looove to tell you it’s back to a regular schedule, but the internet and school situation is difficult right now – and might be until the summer – so hey! Let’s take it day by day yeah?!

You’ll hear from me… but in the meantime:

What’s been cooking in your part of the world friend?

Gimme the news!

I might not be able to send smoke signals as much as I’d like but I can receive them. So let me know what’s up with you.

Talk to you soon, 


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About Nic

Nic is a Designer, turned Cultural Adaptation Coach, turned Positive Psychology Practitioner and Workshop Facilitator.

She lived in 7 different countries, on three different continents, speaks 6 languages, and an avid advocate for the Inner Development Goals and on a mission to help design belonging and raise hope for all.

Meet with Nic via zoom