#10 — Everything new

Today is my 29th birthday. My first birthday alone, no friends or family around me. But I still have a big smile on my face.

4 days ago, I moved from my hometown and country to my new apartment in Stockholm. No small undertaking; but one I’ve wanted to do since I was about 14. I’m not a fan of my hometown- every place has its good and bad sides, but I honestly struggled to see much of the good after so many years. Even going back to visit my parents once I’d moved away left me feeling slightly down when I stepped off the train.

So making the bigger step to move abroad when the opportunity presented itself was an easy decision to make. Even better, the country I would be moving to had a lot of positive cultural differences in my view. The most common thing I heard is that “Oh wow, but it’s so expensive.” Well, that’s true. The salary at my new job is good, enough to live on just fine, but it won’t leave me a whole lot in terms of savings (at least for the first few months).

But I’d rather be poorer and content with the life I have.

I’m fortunate to have had some amazing life opportunities already; I’ve worked as a volunteer at Olympic and Paralympic games, I’ve travelled to many different countries, I’ve met a ton of fantastic people (famous and regular Joes like you and me). This is another to add to the list, and I plan on making the absolute most of it.

So today, the first day I’ve had alone here, surrounded of boxes of my stuff, I decided to deal with none of it. Instead, I woke up at 3am to play a video game with friends I’ve not spoken to in a month. I went back to sleep at 6am, to be woken up to a phone call from my parents at 10 as they sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to me. I dozed again for a little while longer before heading out to go see the Pride Parade.

I’ve never been to a ‘big’ Pride parade before. And Stockholm, you did not disappoint! For over 2 hours, the parade went past. SO many different groups and organisations and teams, so much singing and dancing — but the thing that will stick with me is this.

I took a photo of a truck with a big ‘Tel Aviv salutes Stockholm Pride” banner on the front. I loved seeing other nationalities in the parade, I love multiculturalism. As I was checking the photo turned out ok, a lady leaned over and asked me something in Swedish. Slightly embarrassed that I’m still learning the basics, I said “Sorry?”. She only paused for a second before repeating her question in English.

“Would it be possible for you to send me that photo, please? I have a friend in Israel who would love to see it.”

“Sure,” I said, honestly quite flattered. A couple of attempts to send it as a media message to her husband’s phone failed (both my UK and Swedish sim cards need some tweaking, it seems), so I asked if I could email it to her instead?
“Oh yes! That would work great!”

So I opened my email app, attached the photo, and handed her my phone. “There you go, just put the email address in there.”

A stranger in a city I’m new to, and I felt perfectly OK handing her my phone to send her a photo in an email.

She thanked me again and handed it back for me to send. It sent, so I hope she’s now got it. But I found myself thinking afterwards, “Would I have even done that in my hometown?” The town I spent at least 20 years living in, that I know well — I might have done it, but I definitely would not have turned my back on the person holding my phone to watch another truck go by. I would have been paranoid as hell. But not here, not in that situation.

So thank you, Stockholm. For being the kind of place I feel relaxed in after just a couple of days.

And I promise, I’m working on my Swedish. Thanks for being patient with the New English Girl on the block.

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