Welcome to Sweden, we’ve been expecting you…

Welcome to my first blog from Sweden!

Those of you who know me well will know three things,

1. I hate camping
2. I watch too much TV
3. I like to keep things simple

And it is light of point 3 that I give you the first of my weekly blogs charting our new life in Sweden. The reason for the blog is simple, you can see how I’m adapting to life in a country very different to England where I currently have no job, no friends, and don’t speak a word of the language. What could possibly go wrong as I metaphorically ‘bumper car’ my way from one potential international incident to the next?

For those wondering what the hell I’m on about, last Sunday myself and Alex moved to Stockholm for the three (ish) years. Alex has a diplomatic posting over here and I’ve come along for the ride.

But before I get into the first week and some ‘unique’ cultural learnings and observations, an announcement. For those of you who don’t know, myself and Alex are expecting a baby! Ok, I say we in the loosest possible sense of the word as Alex is doing all the heavy lifting at the moment, but how cool is that? Mother and baby are all good and the due date is the 26th July (so if you are planning a visit, I’d suggest getting in quick!)

But what of life in Stockholm?

Well the first thing (and those of you from JCDA will know how close this issue is to my heart) is the state of tea in this country. Seriously Sweden, you need to have a word with yourself and sort it out.

Long story short, we don’t have the internet in the flat at the moment so I’m having to go to coffee shops to jump on their wifi. This obviously means buying something and as I don’t drink coffee, it has to be tea… and let me tell you, it’s just not good.

Added to this is the fact I’ve been frequenting pretty much everyday the same coffee shop, Muggen (http://www.muggen.se/). Muggen is not the best word, ‘Mugged’ would be more appropriate when you pay £7 for a cup of tea! … my Gran would be more likely to believe they made ice cream on the surface of the sun, than someone could get away with that!… However as I am a useless tourist and fearful of ‘new places’, I’ve become a regular to the point where I walk in and they say, ‘ah, the usual’? And of course as a polite Brit I can’t say no, so have become trapped in a continual cycle of tea hatred! When will the madness stop? We really need to sort Wifi at home.

Going for a coffee (Fika – that’s right kids, that’s a Swedish word!) is a BIG deal. Everybody does it and the emphasis is on ‘chilling out, chatting with friends and generally taking as long as possible to complete the simplest of tasks’… Which unfortunately is also the approach the staff in the cafe’s take as well. In fact it’s pretty much an identical approach to service the pubs I used to frequent after work in Camden, “yes I know you work in here because Amy Winehouse used to own it, and your real passion is ‘your music’, and yes, I’m sure that ‘big break’ is just around the corner, but do you think you could pull yourself away from looking at your tattoos, lumber jack shirt and ironic glasses in the mirror for two minutes and pull my bloody pint!”

Which brings me to my second observation, everyone (EVERYONE!) speaks perfect English. Now before those you who saw my feeble efforts at GCSE French, and yes I did colour in part of my final paper – which is what happens when they make you join up dots and name the animal that appears, this is not an excuse to get out of at least attempting to learn the language. But you can’t believe how good everybody’s English is over here.

One question I’ve been ask a lot since moving here – is it cold? Simple answer, yes. Oh yes. But I have been assured it is warming up. As you can imagine, coats are a big deal and it breaks my heart to tell you that my pride and joy, the old Burb Mac, just isn’t up to the job. Funnily enough, you don’t see many mac’s this time of the year, but it might explain why I keep getting stopped by people who do those on street survey things – “look at this idiot, surely he’ll tell us what he thinks of his mobile provider, he’s too stupid to wear a proper jacket!”

The irony given the importance of a good jacket, and another strange Swede only thing, is that there are no clothes pegs on the back of toilet doors. Zero. I’ve therefore become a dap hand at improvising with the hinge where the door meets the frame, tricker than it sounds when balancing a jacket and body warmer… The next step is to balance a scarf as well – I know you all can’t wait to hear how I get on!

I have also discovered that I apparently do have a slight scandinavian look about me (must be the eyes Dan Fell) – well people talk to me in Swedish for about 4 seconds before they see the blind panic in my eyes and switch to English! All of which despite the fact I accidentally shaved off my beard last weekend – beard trimmers, more complicated than you think – fact. So yes, thats right, I must be the only person in history to move to the home of the Vikings and then decide to shave off the beard they’ve had for the last 6 months. What next, trip to Italy and give up tomatoes and cheese?

Talking of Swedes, i have to say they have all been brilliant. An extremely nice and welcoming bunch. Everyone has been extremely patient and only too happy to help. I think this might be in their culture. I got the tube the other day and the escalators were broken. That meant climbing up about 200 steps. It wasn’t pretty. But when I got to the top there was a small army of tube workers handing out drinks, offerings medical support (!!) and seating. Thankfully I needed neither, though my fitness levels are at an all time low – Fergie you would be appalled.

So just to finish, we have our first official visitors this weekend with Lauren and Dennis hoping over. Very exciting but knowing Loz, she’ll probably know more about Stockholm than I do…. But how wrong can you go with meatballs, museums and overpriced booze?

Till next time,

Fraser ‘no beard’ Hynes

Off to Muggen again I go...

Off to Muggen again I go…

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