I want to share some useful tips that are probably obvious, but nevertheless important!
Take an interest in the language
In a lot of my previous ramblings, I have often gone on about language. I am still taking my ‘advanced’ Swedish course, and though it is getting a little more complex and a little more stressful I can still say that I am enjoying it!
In my opinion, learning Swedish at the same time as doing the rest of my courses is the best decision I have made in terms of academics. It’s allowed me to make new friends (both Swedish and not) and also let me feel a little less constricted within a new country. Not to mention the fact that being complimented on saying the least complex (and still relevant) sentence you can think of by an ordinary Swede is really rewarding!
One of the ESN board members here in Linköping has been instrumental in keeping my enthusiasm for the language alive… mainly because he seems to enjoy watching me butcher his mother tongue! I find using Swedish to do simple things like ask whether some friends want to fikar, or asking what time we’re meeting in the evening extremely satisfying, especially when communicating with others who are at the same / similar level.
So really, my tip is this: take language lessons! Especially if you think you won’t be any good, which is what I thought at first.
To be honest, I still don’t think I’m brilliant, but I feel much more comfortable speaking and using Swedish than I do with French…
Find a native friend or two
I went to have my hair cut. Having spoken to other exchange students, and hearing that they were forking out on average around 400 kronor (close to £40), I was a little apprehensive about venturing out into town to try and find a good deal!
A Swedish buddy, the same one who speaks Swedish with me, recommended a barbershop that did a student price of 200 kronor! A significant saving!
The place is called “George’s Magic Hair” at Djurgårdsgatan 35. I walked there from the bus stop at ‘Barnhemsgatan’ and passed about 4 or 5 hairdressers before finding it. It’s quite far off the beaten track and I would never have found it if I hadn’t been told about it! The fact that the guy who runs the place spoke good English too was a bonus!
This sort of local knowledge is invaluable, and something you would never be able to find out all by yourself!
Besides local knowledge, natives are able to make the strangeness of living abroad less so; simply by being around.
Don’t be afraid of being wrong once in a while!
I’ve been trying to work out how to articulate this one…
In essence, what I mean by this is that it’s ok to walk into a shop looking for clothing to find that it only sells kitchenware. You’re never going to know unless you try!
It’s taken me a while to embrace this sort of attitude, and I think that is mainly down to factors well outside my control, but I finally feel comfortable enough in Sweden to be more relaxed about making mistakes. I’ve settled here in a way that make Sweden feel almost, but not quite, like home.