What is your overseas story?
Our first summer together, we traveled to 8 countries, I think: he first came to America for 3 weeks to work volleyball camps, and travel around Florida, Georgia, Tennessee and South Carolina to visit some of my friends and family. Then we coached a team for Bring it Promotions at the 8th Global Challenge, so we were in Munich, Germany, Verona and Venice, Italy, Vienna, Austria, and Pula, Croatia. I went back with him to Sweden for a week after the tour before going back to school, and we decided to take a 9-hour layover in Amsterdam. Our flight landed in Copenhagen, Denmark (which is the closest airport to him in Sweden) and we hung out there before taking the train up to Ljungby. Since that summer, we’ve added a trip to Alaska, and traveled to Budapest, Maribor, Prague, Rome, and Innsbruck.
How did you guys meet?
Daniel was my coach while I played in Sweden, but we didn’t start dating until after I had finished the season and been accepted to graduate school at UGA. He was so terrified to speak to his new American pros that he would only talk to us on Facebook with Google translate, which of course distorted most of his sentences. He was the youngest head coach in the top division of Sweden, and had improved the team from DII to DI to Elite Series in just 3 seasons. My mom came to visit me in January during my season here, and invited him to come and work camp with the local club near her home in Florida. Daniel had also planned to take the USA IMPACT course online that April. After I went home, we stayed in touch and then as it got closer to him coming to the States, we were talking more and more, and things just sort of happened.
Did you see yourself possibly finding love overseas?
Not really. I had a boyfriend while I played my first half-season in Hungary, and we were still dating while I played in Sweden, although things were getting tougher the longer I decided to play. I was still young and didn’t really want that sort of a commitment, so I honestly thought the single life was the best fit for me.
What concerns did you have?
I had just gotten out of being in a long-distance relationship with an American while I had been playing overseas, and now I was in the same situation but with a Swede while I would be living in America. The whole idea of a long-distance relationship is ridiculous to me. I am not a hopeless romantic, and don’t have any belief in “love at first sight”. Another big issue for me is trying to figure out how we can live together, having two different passports.
What were your families thoughts? and his?
Our parents are really happy for both of us. My parents love that he is involved in volleyball, he fits in well with my family and our travel-obsessed lifestyle. My sister loves him, which is a HUGE bonus; they buy each other chocolate-espresso candy whenever we travel places and compete to find the cheapest ones. It’s weird, but awesome at the same time. I think his family likes me; it’s a little more difficult with the language barrier to speak to his parents, but that’s helping me learn more and more Swedish. His dad is hilarious, and understand a lot more English than he thinks, but often when he gets stuck, he looks me in the eye and just says “you know me” with a wink. Haha
What have you learned from him.. being from different cultures and different backgrounds
He’s taught me to relax. As an American, I am constantly on the go, wanting more, searching for something new. He is completely content to sit and enjoy a coffee ever 2-3 hours, and just sit. He has a calming effect over me, and it’s refreshing to have such a balance to my high-energy personality. When we go to new cities, instead of me trying to plan an attack, he will suggest a coffee shop so we can sit and really take in the environment in which we are found.
What do you think you have taught him as an American?
I think that I have helped him with his self-confidence. American’s are really good at the whole “fake-it-til-you-make-it” thing, where Europeans, especially Swedes, are not. I’d like to think that I’ve taught him how to be more assertive in what he wants. I’ve definitely enforced some “tough love” on him, taking a direct approach which isn’t always what you want to hear from your significant other.
What is your favorite thing about dating someone from another country?
Think of something so mundane in America, like the grocery store, buying movie tickets, or even ordering food at a restaurant. Now think of what it’s like to do it for the first time. Being with Daniel makes me truly appreciate so many of the little things I have become desensitized to as an American. Going to the beach, walking in to a volleyball tournament where there are hundreds of courts in a convention center; these things are unfathomable to a Swede. Then again, there are times here in Sweden that I am like a child playing in snow for the first time. Going to IKEA for me was like Disney World is for him. And teaching him about American football and baseball. We went to a Braves game last summer, and I thought he was going to die of boredom. He was so excited about going to a MLB game, checking something off his bucket list. I’ve never seen him so disappointed.
Where are you guys now?
We are both living in Ljungby, Sweden. He is working for the local Swedish Social Work agency for adolescent boys ages 15-21, and coaching the local women’s volleyball club. I am practicing with a nearby pro club team, and assisting his with his club team. I am hoping to get a contract offer for the 2014-15 season with a nearby team so we can continue living together in Ljungby.
What cultural differences have you faced?
He never gets any stamps in his passport. The only 3 he has are from visiting the US. He cruises through security, but they run me down with 20-questions. It’s annoying. Personally, I think there are a lot of similarities between Swedish and American culture. It’s not as different as you would expect. I think the biggest differences would be about alcohol; in Sweden everyone always pays for and brings their own alcohol, due to the crazy inflation of prices. In America, when you’re out at a bar, it’s not so strange for friends to buy alternating rounds, or for someone to just straight up buy you a drink, with nothing in return expected. When Daniel were out for 4th of July, one of my best friend’s fiancee wanted to buy us drinks, and Daniel was not having it. I’ve come to learn that it is a bit offensive, almost like that person suggesting you don’t have enough money to pay for a drink yourself.