For a bit more than five years now, I have been living in Stockholm, Sweden. This was a very welcome change from the scenery of my home town of Belgrade. I've really grown to enjoy the fabric of city intermingled with greenery of trees, parks, and grass. Often I like to point out that all you need to do in Stockholm is pick one direction, walk for five minutes, and you have reached a park or some other green (non-artificial) surface.
The second thing I love about Stockholm landscape is the coastline. Stockholm is huddled between the Baltic Sea with its archipelago on one side, and large lake Mälaren on the other. In addition to these two there is a number of smaller and bigger lakes spread-out throughout its surrounding suburbs. Next to almost every water surface, numerous paths circle and intertwine. And if there's one thing I enjoy, then it's walking along the coast of the sea or lake.
Infrastructure here is well built and maintained, although one reaps the most benefits if living near a metro line (where prices also tend to go up quite a bit).
Apartments are expensive, and rents are outrageous - up to the point where it might be even cheaper to buy a place than to rent it. Unfortunately, so far I have not been too impressed with quality of apartments, something I find particularly weird given supposedly high standards in Sweden. Sound insulation has been a very frequent issue for me, since noise can really mess with the quality of my sleep.
As for Swedes, well, it's a mixed bag in my view. While quite polite and orderly, they are not as approachable for friendships. Here and there I was able to find a couple of friends, but to a large extent it's easier to hang-out and form connection with other foreigners than Swedes. For the better or worse, though, I've become a very good friend with another Serbian guy that used to work with me here (more on work later). And as for other, not-so-platonic friendships (nudge-nudge, wink-wink), so far it also looks like foreign girls a bit more approachable. Then again, you should not hold a geek onto his word for that :)
I managed to form a small board-gaming party here over these years, and we meet almost every or every second weekend. My board game collection has grown significantly as well. Some of the favourites, that get played quite often, are Nations, Deus, and Dixit. My personal favourite, Cosmic Encounter has not received as much attention, in spite of me getting practically all the available expansions. But I plan to change that a bit too by trying to increase the board-game circle a bit, and well, just "bullying" people into playing it :)
Starting around October 2015, I finally caved-in and ended-up opening a LinkedIn account. I realised it was necessary to get my career forward. Around September last year I also opened an account on Meetup, and joined a couple of groups dedicated to technology, and one group dedicated to Swedish language. As mentioned, since Swedes are not as approachable, this turned out to be a good way to meet more people and just hang around.
Last two years I did not travel as much, both professionally and privately. I skipped a couple of FOSDEMs, partially because I was a bit under stress (again, more on that below). However, as for the initial three years, I did travel a lot. Destinations included Germany, Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, and Czech Republic. In addition to those there was also a couple of domestic (Swedish) travels. Of all those, my favourites were probably Czech Republic and Gotland (an island off the coast of Sweden) - which I visited twice. Unfortunately, I still have not found a decent replacement for my web gallery, so can't link to those (in spite of having quite a large collection of photos).
Work-wise, after being five years at PrimeKey Solutions AB, I have finally stopped working there in April this year - after resigning two months ahead. That puts me at about 8 years of working within security-related companies, and this has become a bit tiresome due to general mentality and principles that govern the domain. Inability to progress with more modern technology stacks, and over-reliance on manual methods (instead of using all the nifty automation tools that have evolved over time) has ended-up taking a huge toll on me mentally. In spite of managing to automate a number of tasks, and delivering a number of projects using the automation tools, it was a constant uphill battle, and that had to end. The company was also not able to provide me ability to grow professionally, and it was another reason to move on.
Additional stress came in form of absolutely horrid behaviour and attitude of Migrationsverket in relation to work permits. After observing a retroactive change to rules for issuing work permits, I first witnessed the potential issues I'd be facing via my Serbian friend, primarily due to stupid bureaucracy. Won't go into too many details, but the last work permit he got he had to wait for about 13 months, including sending out a lot of additional paperwork. During this time, you can't really leave Sweden (although their customer service will say nothing prevents you :P ) because you might not be able to get back in until application gets approved. While still in country, though, you can work as normal at least. I was a bit luckier, and didn't have to mess with too much paperwork, but still waited for my decision for 9 months. Taking into account that I did not want to try my luck with new employment during application process, this resulted in about 15 months of being unable to switch away to something different. Fortunately, this time around I got a permanent residency permit, and no more of that crap for me.
After all of that combined, a small break was really needed. So, as I mentioned, I resigned, left my final project in near-complete state (was essentially just a matter of customer designating time to wrap up the production environment), and decided to focus a bit on cleaning-up my infrastructure, learning new things, shaping-up physically, looking into new opportunities, and above else - just chillin'.
Since I'm not a big spender, this was not much of an issue thanks to savings I made over the years.
Unfortunately, as luck would have it, I had to move (yet again) to new apartment over the summer. This messed-up my plans a bit, but got resolved in the end. Suffice to say, after reaching my sixth apartment in five years, I'm starting to feel fed-up of moving. The next time I move, it has to be into my own apartment.
One of the big results of summer, jobless period for me is that I lost weight - a lot of weight. In fact, I ended-up having to buy quite a bit of new clothing thanks to that. The belt had to receive new holes, jeans went from waist 33 to waist 30 (inches) - including switching to more narrow models, shirts went from L/XL to S, short pants from L/XL to S. Old running t-shirts that used to stretch over my belly are suddenly the right size. My short-sleeve shirts are dangling off of me. This feat was performed with initial long walks, just to get accustomed a bit to more physical activity, followed by relentless jogging and dumbbell workouts. During the July I was running about 40km per week - this has gone down in intensity a bit, but I still ensure to run at least 3-5 times a week.
In addition to better physique, I've been able to relieve a lot of stress that accumulated over the last five years. At this point I have clear idea on what and where I want to be, and some of the priorities got shifted around as well.
I had a couple of job offers that I turned down due to high demands I've put forward, but will take something up by beginning of November - possibly within consulting industry. Still trying to weight in on a couple of options and what offers the best ratio between how interesting, how well paid, and how hard the work is (especially in terms of overtime/on-call duty).
Guitar has become a big part of my life, although I need to get my playing skills much better. After buying a Taylor 314CE in December 2015, I became much better motivated to practice and play. At this point I can play a number of songs of medium complexity, and I'm improving every day.
Since my humble cooking beginnings in Serbia (with first pasta sauce recipe being provided to me by my friend Jelena - thanks for that one if you ever read this :), my culinary journey has taken me a long way. I've come to enjoy both cooking and baking, and all people that had the chance to taste something I made were very happy - which I incidently find one of the biggest rewards when it comes down to preparing food.
So, in retrospective, the last five years here in Sweden have been pretty decent. There are things that could have turned out for better, but in general I'm still satisfied. Once a couple of loose ends are cleaned-up, it will only get better.