Yeap, Sweden made me shy!

I know the word shy and the name Cate Mukei doesn’t sound right in the same sentence for most of who know me.

But I have been unknowingly acting shy!

See, when I arrived in Sweden on April 7, I had not clue of the transformation I would go through as a person.

I went through the crying stage where I really wanted to go back home. Infact, I just wanted my mother. To get over it, I tried to make new friends but that didn’t really go well.

I’m a very talkative and goofy person. Most of my Kenyan friends thought I was funny. No one really peed on themselves because of I joke I made but still, they did change their facial expressions.

READ MORE: NEW COUNTRY, NEW JOB SURVIVAL TIPS

That’s not the case anymore. Most of the time people just stare at me. Blankly! Do you know how humiliating that is? When you just sound like a chatter box? No one is responding to you?

That’s actually one of the reasons I decided not to pursue a career in journalism in Sweden. I attended several press conferences and I remember trying to explain something in comparison to how media work in Kenya and everyone just stared at me like I was an alien. If it wasn’t for some other foreign journalist (I think he was from BBC), I think I would have broken down there and then. He made me understand that it was nothing personal. That’s just how Swedes are.

Then there is the accent. I never thought that Kenyans have a unique accent until I moved here. And sometimes people don’t understand what I say. It also doesn’t help that I have a soft voice. Remember, I’m talkative but not loud. I still don’t understand that bit myself. So having to repeat myself all the time really did things to my self-esteem. A shy journalist? I was really hard on my self and frankly speaking I almost gave up on starting conversations with people.

Learning Swedish also affected my English skills so much that I have to think all the time when I want to express myself. I have to think in Kamba, translate it to Swahili, then English and finally Swedish. Just picture how difficult it is to have a conversation with me lately.

WHAT YOU MISSED: WHY I DON’T TELL THE AFRICAN STORY

So what kept me going?

Frankly speaking I’m still rebuilding myself self-esteem. Mostly because if I am to progress, I need to talk to people. It’s important that I communicate and confidently share my capabilities. As a creative, I have also discovered that I’m now in a different set up and I have do adapt to it. I’m not hanging out with fellow creatives and can’t easily share my scattered thoughts. I’m in Rome now….you know what is expected when you get there!

I have also started appreciating small things around me and using them to motivate myself. For instance the number of people smiling back at me in a month has sky rocketed from two to eight. Mostly because I now work for a multinational company. Guys, did I tell you that a Swede actually sat next to me in the bus and started a conversation with me? I’m thinking of writing a book based on that single incidence.

Anyway, I have to stop here and study for my Swedish Language National exam which is an week. Another self-esteem boosting milestone!

New Job, New country survival tips!

Prior to my relocation to Sweden, I had been to Europe several times but it had never occurred to me that I would permanently move and work here.

It’s now nine months since the big move but each day is a new lesson. One of my greatest fears during the first few months was to get depressed as I was really homesick and didn’t have any friends.

I had countless numbers of moments where all I wanted to do was just pack my bags and book the next flight home. I managed to keep myself by studying, blogging, working and volunteering at Goteborg’s Radningsmission.

Then I went to Kenya for three weeks and it was during that visit I came across an article that enabled me make the plan below for survival in the new country:

LESSONS FROM KENYANS IN SWEDEN

Take care of your mind and body

There is something fulfilling about healthy living and this involves working out and diet. Sometimes, when I chew on carrot or lettuce leaf, as rabbit-ish as it may sound, I feel so empowered and just want to organise a mini presser to update the world that my body is currently digesting some vitamins. It even gets worse when I discover that my triceps are finally bulging out. Thank fully Instagram helps me keep up with fellow health freaks, and gym addicts as we compare notes through hashtags. Bottom line this is a very fulfilling habit and as they say garbage in, garbage out. A statistical statement that also works for my body.

Avoid social media analysts!

Lately, I don’t watch or keep up with current affairs as I did in the last ten years. Of course I do try to keep up with Donald Trump’s Covfefe, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta’s oversize suits and Kim Jong Un’s haircut but I’m very careful not to get carried away. I, mostly, avoid social media analysts. Those guys will make you think that the world is ending tomorrow. The constant negativity perpetuated by news reports, over time, can give many people the false belief that all of life is horrible. I wish I could live without watching or reading the news for 30 days but no one wants to have a conversation with a clueless human!

WHY I DON’T TELL THE AFRICAN STORY

Purpose

I’m at a point in my life where I think about everything I do and why I do it. I no longer just jump out of bed, shower and walk to work just because. I call this purpose. I actually wake up at 5am but only leave bed at 5.30am. I spend 30 minutes staring at the ceiling thinking about the day ahead.

This gives me motivation to attack the work day. This meditating routine helps me stay motivated and feel centered, focused, and ready to perform. Just like you slowly warm up before exercise, you want to slowly warm up your mind and body before working. I read that this helps one fulfil their short term goals.

Have a life!

I can’t really say that I have friends in Gothenburg yet but I’m slowly getting to know people. I really love having a good laugh which mostly involves my own embarrassing moments and who better to share with than new friends?

This also helps me to avoid overthinking and builds my self-esteem. Knowing that another Kenyan also used to run across the zebra crossing when they first got to Sweden even when they had right of way is so comforting. That, and other ‘sheep in the big city’ kind of amusing tales that will not be shared in this article.

This has also exposed me to different cultures as I now have also met other people from various countries.

I’M STILL A VILLAGER

I’m not perfect

Living in a multicultural environment has really been tough on me. There are times I have sat and wondered if I said something wrong that could have offended someone unknowingly. I’m more conscious.

At some point last year, I got too conscious to a point I stopped talking but I started losing myself. Then I made a conscious decision now to be too hard on myself. Sometimes, out of curiosity one may end up asking very offensive questions. I have learnt from my mistakes and this has also enabled me to accommodate those so called ‘offensive questions’ when they come my way.

This has enabled me to remain calm even in situations where everyone thought I should give rude responses or condemn people. The more understanding you get, the more approachable you get. I have had people apologise to me for things they asked about a month ago and just discovered could be offensive. Of course, we laugh about it as most of the time I didn’t get offended and can hardly remember what that was about.