Struggles of moving abroad

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In the beginning of January 2015, I moved from Brighton, England to Lund, Sweden to start a new job as a contractor for tretton37 but unfortunately I have faced some problems in moving here.

Moving to Sweden has been a complete life changing experience for me, there is no question there, however those changes are both of a mixture of good and bad. A very large part of my life back in England involved me spending a lot of time hanging out with friends building electronics in BuildBrighton along with sharing knowledge and teaching a lot of young minds the basics of electronics at events such as Brighton Digital Festival and Brighton Mini Maker Faire. I loved it, the moment one event would finish I would start to think about the next one, and what I should prepare. Everybody would comment on how I was so patient with people of all ages, and capable of taking complex subjects and making them simple for everybody to understand.

Another joy I had was being able to spend entire days in coffee shops on a regular basis, making friends with all the people that worked there whilst writing code on my laptop and enjoying more coffee than most people consumed within a week. On top of all of this, I never once needed to even consider looking at my bank statements each month wondering how much I had spent the previous month, because even though I lived a very comfortable life, I did not live to the extremes. I rarely ate out, hardly ever indulged in any toys, gadgets and treats.

Having moved to Sweden, I now have to give up on these pleasures for a number of reasons.

My friends back in Brighton were some of the best in the world at what they did. Chris Holden taught me almost everything I know about electronics, and would spend countless hours re-teaching me everything I forgot from lack of use. He also often would help me with a lot of my projects if he had the spare time to do so, and we always enjoyed a good chat about life in general. Steve Carpenter was not an electronics or coding like Chris, but he was a product designer that had an eye for detail and a head full of ideas, mixed with enough knowledge on how to get something done. Every time I wanted to do something simple but make it work quickly and look amazing, he was the guy that was able to help. He often shared some of his code with me when he was trying to fix a problem, and it was perhaps some of the biggest mess I had ever seen, but it would always achieve the job he required of it. Jason Hotchkiss was a hobbiest electronics designer with a lot of knowledge around midi from his hobbies, and many years of knowledge around programming in C and C++ for his day job. Often I would spend time talking to him about his amazing projects, how he made them and what he had planned next. When I did my first big project, Space-Buddies, he actually helped me a great deal with a lot of the code around storing and playing the musical tunes in a compact and efficient manner.

Where I live, there are no Maker Faires, nor Digital Festivals, but there are a number of small events for teaching kids to write code. Unfortunately for me, kids in Sweden learn Swedish first, and do not understand a good amount of the English language until much later on in life. So until I become fluent in Swedish (which may be enough 12-24 months), I will not be able to participate in any such events, even if they did exist here.

Everything is expensive and my salary after tax is a LOT lower than it was back in the UK. Sure my rent is lower, but even after paying rent, I lived a much more comfortable lifestyle back in England. I have had to watch every penny I spend since moving here, just so I can put a little away each month, either to save up for vacations or just generally have some savings. This means no more regular trips to the coffee shop for me, no more random purchases of electronics components from the internet, and being careful on every penny I spend in general, including my groceries. Back in the UK, I paid for my own mobile phone and gym membership along with regular payments for a personal trainer and a private tutor who taught me German, and I still had money at the end of every month. Here in Sweden, my company provide me a mobile phone (with a 1GB data limit), my gym membership (at a gym of my choice) but no personal trainer of course. I guess you can start to paint the picture of how great a difference salaries are over here, along with how much more the cost of living (not counting rent) is for people. The big thing over here is the “everybody is equal”, so somebody at a supermarket will not be earning much less than I am, whilst back in the UK I spent years fine tuning my skills to be able to earn a good salary. I was still earning below the average in the UK, so I did not expect the change over here to be so much of a big deal.

None the less, this all adds up as stress from time to time, and the stress gets to me. I am glad that I moved here for the many great things it has done for me, but it has made quite the impact on what I once called my life.

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Published on August 04, 2016