If I had to describe my past month in Stockholm in one word, it would be “ Lagom”. Lagom is one of those famously “untranslatable” words, in this case essentially relating to a sense of “not too much and not too little”. That feeling perfectly sums up my time here; having enjoyed the perfect blend of both academic and free time to explore this beautiful city.
Sitting in an Espresso House with my “islatte” while writing this blog post, I don’t think I’ve ever felt such a sense of “being home” anywhere else before. While my time spent living in Colombia, China, and New York have all gifted me with unique feelings and memories, I’ve never felt as comfortable and content as I do here in Sweden. I also apparently seem to share the exact same music taste with the Espresso House playlist, because I can’t think of a better musical compilation than including both ABBA and Pop Smoke (dear to my heart as a New Yorker).
I also definitely have a newfound appreciation for my favorite Swedish band, Hov1, after having lived in Södermalm, or “Söder” as I’ve been taught to say.
Though I have to admit I was a bit distressed to learn that I’ve been pronouncing “Skarsgård” wrong my entire life (I’m sorry Bill). I’m determined to conquer Svenska, and already have plans to study it this fall semester upon my return to New York, as well as binging Swedish series such as “The Young Royals” and “Love and Anarchy” for the millionth time.
I’m so grateful that I had the chance to see and experience some (slightly) older elements of Swedish culture as well. Having visited both the Vasa Museum, and the Viking Museum while I was in Djurgården; it was incredible to stumble upon a rune stone while in Uppsala.
Walking along the canals in Uppsala made for a particularly lovely weekend trip as I’m strongly considering studying at the university there in the near future. “Must-see”’s in Uppsala include the old cathedral, Uppsala Castle, and, without a doubt, Güntherska’s Hovkonditoriet for some delicious, and gluten-free, fika opportunities. While smaller than Stockholm. Uppsala loses none of the architectural grandeur of the capital, while also possessing a lot of quaint “picture perfect” small-town charm.
A big surprise for me was definitely the ease with which I was able to adapt to such a new city and pace of life. I fully expected to experience a plethora of culture shock during my time here, but in fact, I only had “reverse-culture shock” upon my return home. Returning to such a car-centered lifestyle was definitely an adjustment period after my time enjoying the fresh air and physically active environment in Stockholm, not helped by the fact that I cannot drive.
I also definitely miss the plethora of wonderful, and largely free, museums throughout the city. The National Museum was one of my favorite spots in the city to spend free afternoons. Walking around the spectacular sculpture garden is something I can’t wait to return to.
Another one of the other biggest highlights for me (literally) was unexpectedly encountering Sweden’s national animal, the moose. While I saw plenty in Skansen, the first one I saw here in Sweden was actually in the wild during my train trip back from Skåne. It was quite shocking to see in the wild, and I definitely felt incredibly lucky to have had the chance to see a national treasure.
Of course, one of the other most enjoyable aspects of living in Stockholm was the chance to participate in the fika culture here. Stockholm has done an excellent job of embracing food allergies and dietary preferences. Despite being restricted to gluten-free options, I found an immense selection of gluten-free and vegan goodies, even compared to New York.
Every pastry I tried was spectacular, and the presentation of the food here was always like something straight out of an Instagram post. However, notable standouts for me would have to be Fern and Fika, Chokladfabriken, and of course, Espresso House.
Fern and Fika had one of the best “pink lattes” I’ve ever had, and my favorite gluten-free kanelbulle in all of Stockholm. Not to mention the adorable atmosphere of the cafe itself, and the delicious smoothie bowls.
Chokladfabriken offers some salted caramel licorice chocolates which I promise are to-die-for. I have to admit that I was a bit hesitant at first to try such a “Swedish” twist, but I’m completely sold on the idea now.
Despite being Sweden’s equivalent to Starbucks, Espresso House far exceeded my expectations for both their coffee and pastries. I was shocked to see the number of gluten-free options they offered, and the caramel cheesecake is honestly one of my favorite treats here.
My course, Public Health Policy in Practice, was genuinely one of the most enjoyable and educational classes I’ve participated in. Having the chance to learn about the famous Swedish health care system, while actually in Sweden, as well as the impacts of migration and COVID-19 was an invaluable academic experience. Additionally, the ample opportunity we had to engage in “hands-on” learning with bike tours, picnic trips, and museum visits throughout the city of Stockholm was an amazing chance to engage with the local culture and people.
I’ve completely and utterly fallen in love with life in Stockholm and I never want to leave. I hope to return to Sweden and pursue my master’s degree in a field such as international law or public health, with the goal of eventually relocating here permanently. I would love to continue to contribute to WHO’s goal of Universal Health Coverage, as well as my personal quest of finding the best gluten-free fika spots in the land of ABBA.