Falling in love with Stockholm

“Det finns inget dåligt väder, bara dåliga kläder” (there is no bad weather, only bad clothes).

I think of this Swedish saying almost every morning as I wake up to the squeals of nursery school children playing on the lulling hill in front of our home. Whether it is pitch dark or spitting rain, they are always outside, clad in bright red water-proof slickers and neon green light-reflecting vests, breathing in the fresh air and chasing each other around the soaring trees. Sometimes the sun has not yet risen, and they look like glowing fairies. Our daughter loves to press her face against the window and call out to them.

I have adopted this expression and the attitude of these young naifs as my mantra. After piling on layers of sweaters and slick boots, I’ve spent hours enjoying this lovely city that we now call home. Rain and snow sometimes penetrate my jacket, but I cannot resist being entranced by the wide, romantic boulevard that is Strandvägen, featuring the most intricately designed apartment buildings. I have never seen such well-preserved woodwork and carefully painted mosaic windows before.

I am not only attracted to the glamorous and cosmopolitan portions of Stockholm. Even more so, it is the almost artistically disheveled neighborhoods and stolid, gray apartment blocks I have stumbled upon outside of the city center that I am drawn to even more. The smell of spiced lamb and the purposeful look of people walking to work for the night-shift is strangely familiar to me.

Beyond the enticing visage of the city, I’m drawn to the admirable attitude of Swedes that focuses on family and work-life balance. As a young mother to a toddler, it is so gratifying to see gaggles of “pappor” (dads) pushing babies through the streets. Proactive engagement by both parents is so important in early childhood development and provides a healthy sense of partnership.  I know my husband adores introducing our daughter to new things here in Sweden, which has created a solid familial bond for her through his enthusiastic involvement.

People are generally not as glued to their email and Blackberrys here, and I am beginning to admire the fact that I often do not get my emails returned for a day or two, and almost never over the weekend!

Many Swedes, and even the ex-pats living here, put a premium on taking ample vacation time to take care of themselves and their families. In my opinion, working to live and not living to work actually makes one more productive. The city has been fairly empty over the holidays, and I have never felt so relaxed and lucid. Perhaps it is the weather that forces one to begin to slow down as the day diminishes. Whatever it is, I can say one thing categorically: I am falling in love with Stockholm!