June 26, 2016

Life Abroad in Sweden

Is it just me or does it feel like time is seriously passing by so fast? 

It has been a year since I left my home country and lived abroad. It seems like it was only yesterday that I came to Sweden with my children. Oh man! That means there's only a few months left before we moving back to Malaysia. I can honestly say that I loved and enjoyed every single minute of my time here. 

I never thought I would be in Sweden again. 

Our first trip was in 2003 when Mr. Hubby attended short course programme, Operational Hydrology Course in Norköpping, Sweden. It's just a couple months after we got married and I'm 8 weeks pregnant with my first child. So it can counted as wonderful wedding gift package, honeymoon in Sweden together with tiny baby inside my tummy while learning new things about water technology. Orang tua-tua kata, rezeki anak. 
Picture taken at Nordiska Museet, Stockholm.
Zaman muda remaja time ni, dua-dua tengah kurus kering lagi.. hihi..

And after twelve years, we're in Sweden again with three children. We will living here until end of this year. Living in another country challenges us to learn how to live in a different, grow into more independent and gives us the ability to be a local in amazing cities. I'm forever grateful that through these new experiences, it has broaden our perspectives and open our mind to different opinions and ideas.

I fell in love with Sweden since my first trip and I haven’t changed my mind one bit! I've been fascinated by Swedish culture and lifestyle. The beautiful old buildings and nature, the high importance on the balance and quality of life, free education and health care, good public transport, recycling, safety, walking a few kilometers out of the city, mingle around in the forest, lepaking by the river or lake and of course 'fika' (no more 'teh tarik' for me..)  are the reasons why I am crushing on this wonderful country

Personally, I admire Sweden’s approach to the work life balance (the prioritizing between work and lifestyle; health/family/leisure). Yes, I know many of us still struggling on it. I used to have a situation where I have to choose between family and work. What is important to me is not my career success, but the people in my life, my family.

We were never planning to live abroad, but two years ago when Mr. Hubby have been offered to study in Sweden, we decided to jump on the opportunity. So here we are, live together in Uppsala until Mr. Hubby completed his thesis successfully. 

Living in foreign country provides us with novel life experience. From the moment we touched down in Sweden, our life turns into a journey fulled with uncertainty. Things seem don't go exactly as we planned. Besides of high-cost living, we never thought that finding a house to rent in Uppsala would be such a challenge. Seriously, I am not making a joke ya. It is extremely hard to find place to live in Uppsala since thousands of new students move to Uppsala to begin their studies each year. 

For student (fee-paying or scholarships holders) from non EU/ESS countries, the university will help finding a place to live. Unfortunately, due to the high demand for housing, Uppsala University Housing Office could offered us a rented studio apartment for period up to one year only. After that we have to search our own housing.

Our first home in Uppsala was a small studio apartment 
at Student Housing in Eklundshovsvägen

All the stuffs has been packed, but we still have nowhere to go.
At the very last minutes, we received an e-mails from University Housing Office offering 
an emergency housing in Salixvägen, Lilla Sunnersta for two weeks. 

After two weeks stayed at Lilla Sunnersta, we're moved out again. 
Tarik beg dah serupa macam peserta Akademi Fantasia yang tersingkir pulak. Siap galas beg plastik biru Ikea penuh dengan periuk belanga tu. Hahaha..

There are different kinds of housing companies to turn to in a way to find accommodation. The largest housing companies in Uppsala are Uppsalahem and Studentstaden. But these housing companies operate a queuing system. So the longer you've been in queue list, the more points you accumulate and you'll be offered when a room becomes available. However, these queues are long and it can take up to 2-3 years of queuing, and by that time Mr. Hubby may finished with his studies. Sighh! We also had tried looking through Studentboet and Heimstaden, sadly nothing available. 

Another quickest (legal) way to find a place is to go through popular Swedish site, blocket.seThis site is entirely in Swedish. So, Google Translate used to be our best-friend. We searched and applied for every apartment we could find on blocket.seWe had sent at least five e-mails a day to various people who were renting out their house. From my view, it might easier to find a room for single than an apartment for family of five like us. 

Last year, we managed to rent an apartment for 10,500 SEK per month for four months. Although knowing that one-bedroom apartment was quite expensive, we had no choice. According to our previous tenant, she received over hundred applications within the first hour after she advertised to rent out her apartment. We're the lucky number one who sent an e-mail first. 

Upon signed a rental agreement, we paid the first's month rent plus three months advance. Total payment was 42,000 SEK which equal to RM 21,000 for four months rental. Mahal gilerrrrr... Alkisahnya, habis duit simpanan kena korek sebab nak buat belanja makan sementara tunggu next elaun sara hidup masuk dalam akaun. 

Our fourth home was at Rosedalsvägen

The apartment is fully furnished.

We used to be homeless in Uppsala but we are grateful to have been blessed with wonderful and loving friends. For a couple of months, we stayed (2 kali menumpang) at our Malaysian friend's house. They have an extra room that could fit us temporarily. 

Stayed at our friend's house at Väktargatan twice. 
Dah la tengah musim sejuk, tempat tinggal pulak takde. Nasib baik ada yang baik hati sudi menumpangkan kami sekeluarga.

On last February, another Malaysian friend subletting their 'first-hand' rental apartment to us. It is because their current tenancy still last until end of July. Alhamdulillah, when we are in a desperate need of help, Allah ease everything. May Allah bless and reward our Malaysian friends for their great efforts of helping. 

And this is our current (fifth) apartment at Dag Hammarskjölds väg.

Most homes in Sweden will include a fridge, freezer, stove and oven. 

Btw, moving houses often is kinda part of our lives here. Since living here in Uppsala (within a year), we have been in five different apartments and moved house at least six times. I'm always a bit worried about our children complaining why we have to move repeatedly. But thankful they seems enjoy this new adventure because we always continue to talk a lot about the move. 

For first time in life, we used public transportation (bus) to move house. 
We took about five trips to clear up everything. Phewww!

Banyak beg tu.. Lari rumah malam-malam ke bang? 

Cool experience.. moving house during snowy winter. Brrrrrr!

All these difficult times happened to us like a great eye-opener and make us realized that we do take for granted on lots of things. So, we need to be grateful for what we have today, because we might not have it tomorrow.

Okay guys... Enough blabbering with our never ending housing stories. Selagi tak balik Malaysia, selagi tu ada je kisah kami pasal rumah sewa di sini. =#@$^@^&%!

After housing, groceries shopping in Sweden is also a bit expensive and e
ating out at restaurants can take a big chunk out of our budget. The only way to eat cheaply (halal) is cooking our meals at home.  I am not a good cook but living here personally helps me improved my cooking skills. I even try to learn some new recipes. 

I did tried make this popular traditional Swedish confectionery, Chokladboll. 
They are quick and easy to prepare. Chokladbollar often eaten with coffee during fika.

This menu of Kebabtallrik (with soft drink) costs about 75 SEK.

Life is not about being the best, but about giving the best. A year without a full-time job and becoming a temporary stay-at-home-mom was a gift. By staying at home, I was able to focus on our children growth and have more quality time with my family. Furthermore, I also able to give full of attention listening to our children interminable stories and endless questions. Everyday after school, our children always excited to share their activities in school.

I love to take our kids do some outdoor activities like having fun time together playing at the playground, walking through a forest trail or along the river and lake. It is one way to limit my kids' gadget time. Many of Uppsala's playground have exciting themes like Pelle Svanslös (Peter No Tail), fairy world, shipwreck, the jungle, the circus or the farm.

Living in Sweden has changed my family and me (in a positive way). Generally our lifestyle is much healthier now. Since we're living without a car here, walking five miles or more a day has become part of our routine. 

Walking in cold winter (for short distance je la)

I find that it is safer walking or cycling around in Sweden. Most major roads here have clearly marked lanes for pedestrian and bikes. Besides, crosswalks are everywhere and cars will start lower the speed dozens of meters before reaching the crosswalks and stop for pedestrian to cross. 

Bike and pedestrian path in Uppsala

Pedestrian crossing

Along the way living in Sweden, we meet lots of people from around the world and have made some new international friends. It is really nice to indirectly experience different cultures, languages, ideas, beliefs, socialize and so on through them. Our Malaysian friends in Uppsala are the sweetest people and 'like family' to us.

Some of Malaysian students in Uppsala

Alya and Adel's Swedish friends.

Living in another country gives us amazing opportunity of learning a new language. Learning the local language is vital to gain acceptance in society and allows one to experience the culture from within.

Unfortunately, after a year, despite living in Sweden, Mr. Hubby and I still spoke mostly survival Swedish. Most Swedes can speak English fluently, so it put zero effort in learning Swedish. Bila nak pandai kalau macam ni? I think our children speak Swedish much better than us.

Nevertheless, I'm going to keep learning Swedish because it was one of my goals from the moment I stepped off the plane at Arlanda Airport. I think it's a worth and pretty cool if I able to speak another language. I am striving to improve my Swedish, so I enrolled in online course Learning Swedish and Duolingo.

Another best way to enhance my Swedish, I watched Swedish movies or English movies with Swedish subtitles on Netflix. It helps me practicing to pronounce more like Swedish and pick up common words that are often in casual conversation. Besides, I've also watched Youtubers who teach Swedish like TheSwedishLad and GoSwedish

Since I enjoy listen to music quite often, I have made a playlist of my favorite Swedish songs playing on Spotify. I think this method is more practical to me because I always paying attention to the lyric. 

Being able to speak little Swedish helps us to travel around Sweden. Until today, we had traveled to Stockholm, Göteborg, Malmö, Enköping, Sigtuna, Gävle, Örebro, Västerås, Borlänge and Karlstad. Travel has always been a passion to both of us, Mr. Hubby and I. Hopefully, once our renewal resident permits ready we might able to travel to other countries in Europe. 

Although livi
ng abroad gives us an enriching experience and wish if we could stay in Sweden for a long-term, our heart will always belong to our home country. To be frank, we missed Malaysia and cannot wait to return home. 

Malaysiaaaaa... tunggu kami pulang! (tak lama dah..hehe..)


  1. best beb, aku suka all the pengalaman yang dikongsi....all the best

    1. Thank you babe.. saya suka-suka isi masa lapang.. :)