The decision of moving to a new country isn't something that most people take lightly.
There's the weighing of the pros and cons, the research into the living costs and all the red tape that comes with navigating the foreign housing and healthcare system. But for me, it took a three-day trip to Stockholm to know that I wanted to make it my new home.
What made the Swedish capital so appealing?
Sure, Sweden being a welfare state, famous for its social security net, work-life balance and high standards of living isn't short of reasons to move, but none of those were on my mind when I arrived in Södermalm one fateful summer evening.
Instead, I saw a city that glistened.
There is just something about Stockholm. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT
And it wasn't just the evening lights shining over Gamla Stan or the ships making their way towards the Baltic – Stockholm glistened with the promise of homecoming, the feeling of being at home in a place that should feel completely foreign.
It was something I hadn't felt in a long time, a gentle, soothing knowing that had very little to do with logic.
I spent the following couple of days exploring Stockholm till my legs hurt – I stopped for fika in Vasastan, strolled alongside the black outcrops of Mariaberget with city views stretching for miles, took photos of the pretty streets of Östermalm, even stayed in Nacka for a night, where I woke up surrounded by deep woods and to the sunrise over the sea, all this only a short bus ride away from town.
Stockholm epitomized how I wanted to feel – relaxed, inspired and at peace.
Marta Rus lived in London before moving to Sweden. Photo: Private
It struck the perfect balance between the excitement of the city life and closeness to nature. In Stockholm, you can go from high-street shopping on Drottninggatan to jumping in the lake within the space of 20 minutes. Sat alongside lake Mälaren and on the edge of the Baltic sea, the city's built on water and you can see it sparkling in the distance pretty much wherever you go – and there's a certain sense of calm about it.
Stockholm's small enough to make it easy to get around on foot but big enough not to be boring, a stark contrast to my perpetually busy London life, where the fun and excitement came at the price of an hour-long commute, train delays and transport costs that justified neither. Stockholm simply suited my energy in a way that London just didn't.
More than anything though, it felt like home. It was an instant connection – a little bit like falling in love.
Careful planning has never been my strong point so it came as no surprise that the day after I returned to London I was quick to book a one-way flight back to Stockholm, with the idea of staying for a couple of weeks and extending my stay to a month or two if I managed to rent an apartment (which, as anyone living in Stockholm will be quick to tell you, isn't an easy task).
I work freelance and I'm location-independent which is why this plan made sense. Luck had it, one of my Instagram followers was renting her place on the exact day I was planning on coming and was kind enough to trust me with it. It was almost too easy and I took it as a good omen.
This is how I found myself living on Tomtebogatan for two weeks, one of Vasastan's most charming addresses, with palace-like towers, oriel windows and pretty turn-of-the-century details lining up the street. My luck continued and by the end of my two-week stay in Vasastan I managed to rent a gorgeous little tvåa (two-room apartment) in Söder, filled with light and complete with that wonderfully soothing Scandi-boho look.
This street is called Tomtebogatan, and it’s where I stayed when I first came to Stockholm! Isn’t it dreamy? ✨ There used to be a castle just round the corner, on Rörstrandsgatan, which turned into a porcelain factory in 1700s. Most of the buildings in this area were built in the early 1900s and if you lived on the crossing overlooking the factory, you could easily tell the time of the day by watching the workers gather for their break.
Just as I hoped, I stayed in Stockholm for another month. It was autumn by then. On some days, my mornings would start by watching the sunrise from the top of Skinnarviksberget, with a flask of hot tea and a cinnamon bun from Bageri Petrus. On others, I'd sleep in a bit and drink my latte macchiato at one of Mariaberget's many cafes, surrounded by Stockholmers enjoying their pre-work fika.
Fast-forward a couple of months, and I've waved London my final goodbye and moved to Stockholm. I don't want to say it's for good, but I'm in no hurry to leave either.
Stockholm is one of few places where I wake up feeling happy just to be here.
It's not about how beautiful it is, or that sense of connection I felt the first day I arrived. The city made me feel welcome and at home in so many other ways – Stockholmers are a lot friendlier than they are given credit for. I quite like the fact that they take a bit longer to fully open up, this way their friendship feels more real and more deserved.
Meeting people and making new friends isn't hard either – there are plenty of networking events, Meetup and Facebook groups for expats and sometimes, you're only a hej away from turning a stranger into a friend – yes, even in Sweden!
Could this rose-tinted glasses perspective be typical for someone who hasn't yet experienced the ins and outs of living in Sweden? Perhaps. But it's been over three months now, the days are getting shorter and darker, wine prices aren't getting any cheaper, and I'm still loving every minute of it.
Perhaps it's because this has never been a matter of a positive outlook, but about finding my place in the world.
THE LOCAL'S READERS:
I love seeing Stockholm transform over the seasons. The air is colder now and I needed to dig out my autumn jacket. Soon the leaves will change colour and I’ll go on leafy strolls in Södermalm’s Tantolunden, like I did last year. I’m not the best cook but I thought it’d be fun to make my own preserves with fresh berries and try baking kanelbulle (cinnamon buns) – although I may wait till Cinnamon Bun day on 4 October for some extra motivation ?. The sun rises later now which means I finally stand a reasonable chance of waking up at the same time as the city awakes. I’ll do this tomorrow, pour hot tea into a flask and go watch the boats pass by Kungsholmen, towards Lake Mälaren. What are your plans for Sunday?✨