When I stepped off the plane at Arlanda on August 18, 2002, I had no idea that I would still be living in Sweden five years later. I had just graduated from college and was ready to spend a year in Stockholm before I returned home to enter the 'real world.' What my 'real world' would entail was ill-defined, but it didn't involve herring (ok, it still doesn't really involve herring, but it's my fifth anniversary, so I can make all the gratuitous fish references I want) and it certainly didn't include filling out tax forms, choosing pension plans and acquiring a pair of Norwegian Forest Cats. I no longer flinch when asked for "legitimation" when making a purchase, I automatically look for the queue number when entering a pharmacy or bank and I expect five weeks of vacation. I take it as a given that an entire country can shut down for the month of July and think it's strange to put lingonberry sauce on pancakes rather than on meatballs. I'm convinced that the Stockholm archipelago is one of the most beautiful places on earth (except for the mosquitoes the size of Volvos) and the Arctic Circle doesn't seem so remote (especially as I'm blogging from Kiruna at the moment). I can now pronounce the number "sju," although I've still got a distinctive American accent and I still snicker when I read a sign with the word "utfart."
But despite getting used to many of the quirks of living in a foreign country, the five-year mark seems to be a tipping point of sorts. It's time to either hunker down and settle in for the long haul, or make some decisions about where it is that I really want to be. Still, I have no regrets about where I've been up until now. So here's to five years. May the next five be even better.