"I was surprised by the large Indian community in Skellefteå"

Sushma Sriram continues her story of her move to Skellefteå from India.

Sushma Sriram was surprised by the large Indian and Asian communities in Skellefteå.

Sushma Sriram was surprised by the large Indian and Asian communities in Skellefteå.

Foto: Donna Richmond

Engelska2024-07-08 09:00

Acclimating to the cold in Skellefteå, we spent a week gradually increasing our outdoor time each day. Our fast-paced life back home was a distant memory as we embraced the inherent calmness of Skellefteå. Our temporary apartment's proximity to the city centre made exploring the city a breeze.

Snow-filled roads glimmered with the reflection of shop lights, and the iconic Sara kulturhus loomed in the background. Grocery stores and bakeries became our haunts during those initial weeks. The pastries from Stigs and the cheesecake from Cafe på Bit quickly became favorites.

The locals' welcoming attitude shattered any misconceptions we might have had. Skellefteå municipality and Welcome House Skellefteå proved to be very informative. They even organized a gathering for newcomers, providing a platform to meet others and learn more about the city. I was surprised by the large Indian and Asian communities in Skellefteå. 

Thrilled about trying a winter sport for the first time, I discovered Fritidsbanken through the Skellefteå municipality website. I was amazed by the vast collection of equipment available. From winter sports accessories and outdoor gear to camping equipment, indoor games, and even wellness items, there was something for everyone. The best part? Renting the equipment, entirely donated by the residents and managed by the municipality, was completely free. 

English sufficed for daily interactions, but the need for Swedish became apparent when I began my job search. The Welcome House Skellefteå website offered online career guidance sessions. The consultant took the time to understand my background and interests, sharing information about opportunities in Skellefteå. While some companies operated primarily in English, many roles listed Swedish fluency as a requirement. 

Additionally, most public information was only available in Swedish. Deciphering everything with our phones became tedious. We needed to learn Swedish. It was also the key to understanding Swedish culture and integrating into the community.

Like many others, I started learning basic Swedish through Duolingo before moving. But I craved a more structured approach and discovered the SFI (Swedish for Immigrants) program. Unfortunately, there were no new intakes at the time, so I registered for the next batch starting in 2024.

Checking our mailbox became a daily ritual. We finally understood why our friends emphasized having our names on the mailbox – most communication happened through traditional mail. To reduce paper waste, we later enrolled on a digital platform that delivered important information, from bills and health check-up reminders to updates about new apartments. The clear communication and transparency was impressive.

One such post brought us a delightful surprise: a welcome gift from Skellefteå municipality. It contained details about the city along with gifts and coupons to local stores. This thoughtful gesture we truly cherished.

As December approached its third week, we were still adjusting to the weather. But exploring the city, meeting new people, and experiencing the municipality's support had significantly improved our lives. The city was gearing up for Christmas, and a wave of excitement washed over me. My first Christmas in Europe! What would it be like?

Don't miss Sushma's next column in two weeks' time.