Well, my four weeks’ vacation in Sweden did not start the way I expected. Instead of being on the West Coast having a fantastic time with two of my best friends, I am stuck in our apartment in Kalmar. Alone… with a cold and fever that seem to like me a lot!
However, time alone is not always a bad thing. It gives time for reflections and thoughts. Something I truly need at the moment as my life is in a transformation period at the moment. One era – our Moscow life – is soon about to end and another about to start. For the first time in my life, I have no clear plans for the future. Just a strong feeling that it is time for a break. I need to stop my life for a while to reflect and think about what to do next, instead of just continue full speed into the future!
Moving abroad is a big thing. An amazing experience that will change your perspectives, make you develop as a person and give you memories and friends for life. However, when I mentioned to people that I will move to Moscow, the reactions were not so positive…WHY? WHAT? I guess my choice of destination was a bit frightening and unusual. To be honest, if someone would have told me that I will live in Russiaf 10 years ago I would have said….NO WAY! Isn’t this one of the best things with life. It is full of surprises and it is only you that can decide how your journey should look like!
So what about our Moscow life? How has it been to live in Russia’s majestic capital? Time to share some thoughts with you regarding life abroad and our Moscow life experiences.
Moscow Life: One Year That Turned Into Four
One year in Moscow quickly turned into four years. Putting four years down now, it is quite a long time in a city and country, very different from my own – Sweden.
When moving to a country you go through different phases, at least I did. First it is all about settling in, getting to know the basic things. After this comes the honey moon days when you meet a lot of new people, discover all the new cool spots of the place you now call home. You slowly begin to get an understanding of the culture, to get a glimpse of the real life. Before you know it, the honeymoon turns into a “normal” day to day life, just like home. Our time in Moscow has been a lovely one, but also one full of ups and downs!
Phase I: Feeling Lost – A Small Town Girl in a Huge City
One of my first Instagram posts from Moscow says “So beautiful, but why are you so hard to understand”. This very much reflects my feelings the first months in Moscow.
Looking back, I must say I was quite brave. I took my things and moved to Moscow without knowing hardly anything about the city or anyone there. The only thing I knew was that I had a job, an apartment and I have managed to persuade one of the girls in my team in Stockholm to join. I got a lot of support from Oriflame with all practicalities but still there I was, alone in a huge city.
Still, I remember the day of arrival, taking the taxi directly from the airport to IKEA. When I passed the cash desk with two huge trolleys full of furniture and home interior, I thought I had made it. However, the biggest challenge was yet to come. Getting home delivery without knowing Russian turned out to be almost impossible. When the guy behind the counter neglected me and started to talk to the guy behind me, the tears began to come. Luckily, a lady in the cue spoke fluent English and turned out to be my star of the day.
Moscow did not give me an easy start of my Moscow life. Do not get me wrong. I was of course struck by the beauty of this city, all different hoods and things to explore but still to create a life here, to settle in was not an easy journey.
The language barrier, the traffic jam, the huge metro system with a map all in Cyrillic letters – it was a lot to get used to for a small town girl. The harsh attitude of the people you met in the streets, no smiling faces, a lot of papers to fill, visits to numerous authorities located in the middle of nowhere…
However, after a month or so I started to understand the game of the Moscow life. When the lady in the metro cash desk started to talk to the guy behind me, I just raised my voiced pushed the money through the little opening in her window and stared her in the eyes and with a firm voice said “Charge my card Spasibo”. Moscow bring it on, here I come.
I came here for work and worked turned out to be just perfect. My dream job was awaiting me. I get a lot of questions regarding how it is to work in a Russian company. Well, I do not. I work for a Swedish company but with a lot of Russian colleagues. I have had the privilege to work with the most amazing people here and have had two fantastic teams full of young, ambitious and highly skilled team members.
Phase II: The Honeymoon Days
After the “lost time”, it was time for the honeymoon days of our Moscow life. Moscow had so much to offer, so much to be explored and after a year when Fredrik decided to take a sabbatical leave and move to Moscow, everything was perfect.
We were a small group of expats enjoying everything from the fairytale buildings around the red square to sky scrapers in Moscow city. We found our favorite hipster and arty areas, biked and skated in Gorky Park, tried out new restaurants and bars every week. Well, you can read all about our Moscow Life in the Moscow Living Posts.
For me, the move to Moscow was also the time when I started to invest a bit more into myself. My 10 years in Stockholm had been crazy with 120% both professionally and personally. The move was a perfect starting point of a change, of a new lifestyle.
Abroad it is easier to start from scratch and make sure to avoid your previous mistakes. “Me time” got a place in my busy calendar. I started to read, do yoga and go to the gym more regularly. Once you free up some space in your calendar and your mind, new thoughts and ideas start to pop up. Doing less and giving yourself more time to relax can sometimes be the best boost of your creativity.
However, in my case my calendar is now again over loaded with my new hobby, travel blogging, occupying more time than I have. It is time to free up some time again!
Phase III: The Every Day Moscow Life
After three months of traveling in South America, our Moscow life continued with new positions for both Fredrik and I. However, after three years I began to feel a bit lonely. My private life felt a bit empty, not rich and stimulating enough.
Expat life is full of new people and acquaintances but also lots of goodbyes. After two years, some of my closest friends left Moscow. The group of friends became smaller and all of a sudden we had too much me and us time.
Three years also turned out to be a limit for my relationships at home. Less of my friends called on a regular basis, life continued for everyone in Sweden and I felt I missed out on more and more things. When traveling to Sweden for work, Stockholm did not feel like home anymore. Was I about to loose my routes? May sound a bit dramatic but it was a feeling that was coming back over and over again.
At the same time Moscow felt less and less like home. If staying in a country for a longer time you need to integrate into the society, find some connection with the core values, to feel a belonging and this just did not happen for me or Fredrik. The language barrier and the differences between Sweden and Russia turned out to be too big. It was time to think about the next step in our lives!
Time to Move On!
Living abroad is a life changing experience. It gives you the opportunity to truly experience the nuances, soul and culture of that country. Our Moscow life years have been an amazing journey both professionally and privately and if you ask me if I would have done it knowing what I know now, the answer would be a big YES. The Moscow years have shaped me in so many ways, let me develop in areas I could not even imaged before.
By the end of this year, it is time to move back home. To go back to our roots, quite literally. The move will not take us to Stockholm but to our small home town, Kalmar. A town with approximately 60 000 inhabitants. A huge change! Something that everyone keep reminding us about. Well, we will at least try and see how it feels. In the end no one knows where life will take us!
I will continue updating you regarding our journey and my thoughts and ideas for the future. If you have any questions or specific topic that you would like me to write more about, I would love you to share them with me in the comments below or send me an e-mail!
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