Interview: Husband/Dad/Friend from Sweden

1. Can you give an introduction about yourself?

I was born outside Helsingborg in the southern part of Sweden and then moved to Lund to study. I ended up staying in Lund for 13 years until my wife Anna and I moved here. We arrived in April 2009 and my Stanford contract runs for another year.

2.  What are you currently doing?

I’m doing a postdoc at Stanford. Surprise!!! More precisely I’m trying to make an instrument that will be able to analyze single blood components.

3.  When you think back to your decision making and moving, what was the most difficult aspect in deciding to move here?

As far as I can remember I didn’t find it very difficult to make the decision. I really wanted to go somewhere else and Anna was pretty fed up with her work as well. I visited my lab before going here and I got a good impression. The people I met seemed very friendly and had a relaxed attitude (which is not always the case).

4.  What did you do to prepare yourself?

We bought a traveler’s guide to California and tried to read about the different cities and areas. We also had some friends that moved to SF for 7 months that we could talk to. They mostly ended up showing us pictures of Yosemite and the coastline but they were a good source of information anyway. The worst part was definitely getting the visa. So many forms to fill out and you never knew if you were doing it right or not. We spent a long time just waiting for the DS-2019 to arrive from Stanford and couldn’t really do very much else to prepare. Before leaving Sweden there were of course a lot of practical things like renting our apartment to someone else, selling our small garden, my motorcycle and other stuff that we wouldn’t need.

5.  What was the most useful source of information?

Probably our friends that had been there. We didn’t get that much actual facts but it was very clear that they had loved their time here and that made us more relaxed. The postdoc handbook on Stanford’s homepage was also a great source for practical knowledge.

6.  How did you experience your first couple of days in California?

The first couple of days disappeared in a haze of forms to fill out, getting bank accounts set up, buying cell phones, filling out more forms, getting to know the lab and filling out more form. Did I say I had to fill out a lot of forms? Apart from that we were surprised by how Silicon Valley feels and looks more like a lot of small towns built together. When you think about it you imagine high tech companies with giant, futuristic skyscrapers all over the place, not trees and squirrels everywhere.

7.  What do you enjoy most about your new life and what do you enjoy least?

I really enjoy the more stable climate here. In Sweden you never know what to expect, no matter what time of the year it is. Here you just want to know if it’ll be really warm or just warm. I also really like that most people are very active, outdoorsy and care about the environment. This is very different from many other places I’ve visited in the US and makes the Bay Area feel like a very nice place to be. What I enjoy the least is probably not having enough work colleagues. It’s kind of lonely working alone in a big lab and some days not seeing anyone else at work at all.

8.  What was your biggest challenge to overcome in your new life/place?

Finding new friends I think. I have a theory that as you get older you tend to not seek out new friends as much but instead spend time with your old friends. After a while you’re not really looking for friends anymore. Moving to a new place requires that you’re more active in searching for friends and are more open to strangers. It’s a good thing and it makes you realize that you really should treat strangers as friends you haven’t made yet :)

9.  Can you tell us your funniest experience you had in the US and if you have, the saddest situation?

Hmm, we were walking with our baby in the stroller at the Stanford campus. All of a sudden we see an older lady with a stroller walking towards us. When she gets closer we realize that she has a poodle in her stroller. She looks at us and exclaims: “Mine is easier!” and continues walking past us. I think I’ve been spared from any really sad situations. I was upset when a friends car got broken into (together with 7 other cars) when we were out white water kayaking. We ended up having to ride for 3h in a car without windows and all our wallets, phones, clothes and backpacks were stolen. Sad … but mostly annoying.

10.  What would you tell a friends who is about to move to California?

Do it! It’s a great area with tons of stuff to experience.

11.  Did you travel CA? If yes, do you have a secret tip/destination for us?

Camping in the middle of Redwood National Forest was a pretty nice experience. Also, there is a small hostel in Cambria, halfway down to LA, that is a very nice place to stay over at.

12.  What do you miss most from home?

Definitely all the friends and family. I don’t miss the weather and there is so much beautiful nature to explore around here. There is nice nature in Sweden too but it’s harder to get to compared to here.

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