Expat Living: Surviving One Year Mark

April 9, 2013 Katja Presnal

sunrise over Kinda canal

One year in Sweden

A few days in a new place is enough to know if you ever want to go back.
Couple of weeks in a new place is enough to fall in love, and know a little how locals live.
A few months and you have a wonderful honeymoon period of learning the new ways, being excited about everything new.
Six months and the reality hits, and you start realizing what you left behind and the newness is gone and everyday grind starts settling in.
One year, and you are either ready to leave, or all settled in.

Or this is how it usually goes in expat or nomadic living. In our life it seems like nothing ever goes “as usually.” We hit our year mark this February, happy to be here, and feeling lucky and thankful for each moment. Then we got some dark clouds over our heads, just some stuff about work, visas, life and our rental house, and the past couple of months we have been going through 50 shades of anxiety about entire expat living. I unfortunately can not go into details, but let’s just say, funny things happen when you are forced to thinking differently. I literally went from loving every moment here to wanting to pack my bags and move out of the country. It didn’t help that my favorite part has been our gorgeous river view from our home here and our landlord gave us a notice to move out. Another expat family – returning to Sweden from California on short notice. What can I say? This is all part of nomadic living, and it’s not all sunshine all the time.

The perks of expat living way outweigh the cons though. And I am not talking about the perks that come with relocation packages, but about our lifestyle here. If I could describe our first year in Sweden, I think it would qualify for using word “epic” to describe it. I have been in 13 countries the past year (USA, Canada, Iceland, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Germany, Italy, France, Monaco, Norway, UK, Vatican) and although many of them are current or past home countries, or tiny countries like Monaco and Vatican, they still count and tell a story how much we have been able to travel the past year. And no – we haven’t been gone all the time, in fact we spent almost the entire summer at home in Sweden, and we had visitors visiting us for over 5 weeks last summer, and we were able to do local day trips and got to know Östergötland part of Sweden pretty well. It has been an amazing year for our family, and ultimately we came here not for the career opportunities, but for the European lifestyle and focusing more in our family and what really is important to us.

This spring I learned that it might not always be good to settle in and be happy in the moment, but you have to remember to keep moving forward and dream big even when living in the moment. I am afraid that the past year I focused maybe too much in the living in the moment, and taking it all in and enjoying our new life in Sweden, that I got lost in the adventure. And I didn’t realize it until the status quo was changed by someone else by me.

Like said, I have loved living in our Swedish home by the river, but once we got that unfortunate call that we have to move out by the end of May, I remembered that when I drove to this neighborhood the first time I literally was swallowing my tears, and trying to hide what a disappointment it was to me to move from the US, a train ride away from NYC to the suburbs of small Swedish city. I had dreamed of sleek Scandinavian homes, maybe with less square footage but with minimalistic style, and while this house is nice and comfortable, it’s far from my Swedish dream house. And yet I had learned to love living here, and spent my days working by the window sighing how much I would miss this when we’d have to move out of Sweden and leave this river view behind us. Unreal how forgiving the river view is – I have been completely happy living in the suburbs thanks to the amazing view from one side of the house.

The entire thought sort of scared me – the view from one window had made me so completely happy that I had been blissfully ignoring the view from the other three sides of the house. What else I was looking in life through just one window? Was I blocking something else too?

I think what finally helped to get some disclosure for a few things, and us visiting back “home” in New York last week, it gave me clarity to see the “big picture.” I think part of our happy living in Sweden has been that we have also traveled and gotten out of the country. It’s not that we don’t like Sweden, we love it, but living in someone else’s land and feeling like an outsider is tough, however positive attitude you and the people around you have. It is important to be respectful of the new culture, get to know the culture and the traditions, and live in the new society, but at the same time it is important not to throw away what you came here with – your own traditions, your own values and your own culture.

Our adventure in Swedish will continue with a new chapter once we move to a new house next month. Looking forward telling you more about it.

To keep up with my daily life.. check out my latest photos on Instagram, you can find me on Instagram as Skimbaco and Katjapresnal.


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Katja Presnal

Katja Presnal shows how to live globally inspired life to the fullest and plan your dream life. Katja owns Presnal5 strategic marketing intelligence agency and wants to help marketing professionals to combine a dream career and dream life via freelance work.Katja is an award-winning marketing strategist, and a well-known speaker. Katja has lived in five different countries, and seven states in the USA. Her three children were all born in different countries within three years. When not working or jet-setting the world, Katja is at home cooking big family dinners.She has been featured in NY Times, Glamour, Redbook, Fodor's, Forbes and Woman's Day magazines among many other national and international publications and written for MTV3 and Lifetime TV networks.

Comments (11)

  1. adrienne shubin

    Moving homes is one of the most stressful things we can do. Relocating to a foreign country probably multiplies that stress by 10! And being in limbo only adds more anxiety.
    Hopefully, some warmer weather and getting your family moved into a new home will alleviate some of that stress.

    • Enjoy Life Oils

      Just knowing that we found a place helps! After living in hotels for over 2 months last year I don’t really want to go back to that!

  2. Stacey Cochran

    Homesick is tough to define when home has been so many places…but it is still all too real!

    • Enjoy Life Oils

      YES – that is exactly it. It’s weird feeling to be “homesick” when you feel at home in so many places and at the same time you don’t 100% feel home anywhere.

  3. Love you Katja (and that wonderful family of yours). I know you will be just where you are meant to be (and then we will come visit). :) Let me know if you need anything.

    • Enjoy Life Oils

      Yes, adventure continues. With so many things going on, a move here was not what we wanted to do, but I think we just lucked out by getting a completely new adventure next! My biggest worry still reminds: kids schools, but I’m sure things will sort out. I hope this long winter also ends and we both can enjoy warmer weather – this first full winter here has been tough, hasn’t it?

  4. I always say that I love change but I hate transition so while I have lived in the same city for many years, I can so relate to your feelings of stress. I would love to see photos out of all those other windows :)

    • Enjoy Life Oils

      Yes – exactly that! I hate the transition phase and the waiting game which way you are going. And great idea – will now post some photos from the “other three windows” on the katjapresnal instagram account!

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