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My Sweden - Nannberga
'We're love refugees too - but not the usual kind'

'We're love refugees too - but not the usual kind'

Published: 22 Feb 2013 12:23 GMT+01:00
Updated: 22 Feb 2013 12:23 GMT+01:00

After his son started a family in a small village in central Sweden, Scotsman Tom Smith ditched his dreams of retirement in France and instead followed his family to Nannberga, where he teaches Swedes the intricacies of making stained glass.

If you search online for information about Nannberga, you’d be lucky to find much.

The tiny Swedish village, located just 12 kilometres south-west of Arboga in the centre of Sweden, doesn't even get a mention on Wikipedia.

But for Tom Smith, a 61-year-old Scotsman who once had elaborate retirement plans featuring food, wine, and a farmhouse in France, Nannberga became a sudden and unexpected reality in 2006.

"I found out that I had heart problems when I was working as a teacher in the UK and had to retire at 54," the pensioner tells The Local.

"You can’t very well drop dead in front of the children, can you?" he adds with a laugh.

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His wife retired soon after, and with their son starting his own life with a Swedish wife and daughters in Nannberga, the retirees made an instant decision to jump ship and join their growing family in Sweden.

"I guess you could say we’re love refugees too, but not the usual kind," he explains.

Now, the Scotsman spends his time teaching Swedes how to make stained-glass windows, something he took to himself in the UK "like a duck to water".

Better still, he has almost cornered the market in Sweden, he says, partly because the art form is virtually non-existent around the country.

IN PICTURES: Check out Tom Smith’s art and find out more about his Sweden

Smith paints a fine picture of Nannberga itself, describing it as more of a community than a village, where the inhabitants of the "20 or 30 houses" are talkative and welcoming.

While many of the houses there are holiday homes, the 61-year-old says that a growing number of people are throwing in the white towel on their city lives and making the move to Nannberga full-time.

"And we are only 15 minutes' walk from the fourth biggest lake in the country, Hjälmaren," the artist adds.

"Perfect if you feel like a walk."

Better still for Smith, thanks to the layout of the village, he thinks he got a taste of France in the end anyway.

"There's a big, wide avenue leading through the village with trees on either side that gives a bit of a French feel to it," he says.

"It feels like it could be France after all."

And big city adventure is only a stone's throw away for the residents of Nannberga, with the bustling medieval town of Arboga and its 10,000-strong population just a short drive away.

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"Heading there is like stepping back in time, into a village; most people know everyone else. It’s a friendly kind of place. You can’t go into a shop without people knowing who you are."

But for now, Smith is keen to get on with his stained-glass lessons.

"Some of my students have been coming for two years; I think they enjoy the social side of it just as much," he says.

"Halfway through the course we have a British cup of tea and a biscuit that my wife bakes."

And with the courses held in English, Smith claims the Swedes can learn even more than just the art of creating stained-glass panels.

"I say they have to pay for the courses but the English is free," he chuckles.

As for life in a small Swedish village, the 61-year-old couldn't be happier with Nannberga.

"It’s great here, the people are lovely. They try to help me learn Swedish, but always switch to English if I don’t understand," he tells The Local.

"I've been told so much about Swedes keeping to themselves, but we've found the opposite - people have been very friendly towards us. People go out of their way to come and talk to us."

So does that mean France is off the cards, then?

"Well, I have only good things to say about Nannberga. I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else."

Oliver Gee

Follow Oliver on Twitter here

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Your comments about this article

18:16 February 22, 2013 by theobserver
"Better still, he has almost cornered the market in Sweden, he says, partly because the art form is virtually non-existent around the country."

Indeed, this art form does not exist in Sweden. Not like, say, architecture which is so advanced in Sweden.

Superbly decorated buildings, exquisite design both inside and outside, a pleasure to the eye and comfort for the soul, the paradise in urban design, the very modern next to the very traditional, functionalism hand-in-hand with sophistication, the pinnacle,--to be brief--of the creme de la creme of architectural design and art. For example, http://goo.gl/maps/4zfpv

Any resemblance of Swedish architecture to communist mass-produced blocks is, of course, a propaganda.

Stained glass art may be inexistent in Sweden, but architectural art is everywhere, for the pleasure of citizens and visitors alike. I don't understand why some people say that Paris and London are better, architecturally, than Gävle. Immigrants' ungratefuleness, I guess.
19:49 February 22, 2013 by skogsbo
Paris wins in Europe, for individual old and new buildings, plus overall grand design, stand on the arc d triomph and look along the champ. Rome, London, Edinburgh, Barcelona all off great individual buildings, but not the overall shape, it takes a different level of thinking to plan that. Name 1 European or world class Swedish building. Don't say those ugly buildings like the lipstick or twisted tower.
22:21 February 22, 2013 by dermutt
Skogsbo, It takes a monarchy and a state with too much power to "plan that". Try building anything in London and hear the voice of protest. French monarchs and to this day, presidents have always built whatever they want, they like to leave a legacy.
23:21 February 22, 2013 by theobserver
Skogsbo:

Sorry, but you are blind. The buildings of Swedish Towns are the best in Europe, and

in the while world. Especially, in neighbourhoods. The elegance of swedish apartment blocks, of the rows of uniform, exquisite balconies, the fine details in their decoration, the choice of colours and building materials, the sense of awe and belonging and warmth it creates to visitors, residents and mere onlookers ... All these things are second to none and there is no single building in Paris which measures up to them. Please open up your eyes.
00:15 February 23, 2013 by skogsbo
Me think the observer is actually blinsome nice wooden buildings, but the stuff in the past 200 years, is built for typical Swedish practicality, not to please the eye. Still waiting for the blind observer to name just 1 classic Swedish building.
00:48 February 23, 2013 by theobserver
skogsbo,

I showed you a photo of a wonderful Swedish building. Here it is again:

http://goo.gl/maps/4zfpv

Can't you see the beauty? The elegance of its architectural design? The finesse of its balconies? The subtlety of its colours? The modernity of its windows? The attentionthe architect gave in the details?

A piece of art!

How can anyone compare this to Parisian buildings?
19:11 February 24, 2013 by Rishonim
Not to be 2 critical of Swedish architecture but to compare it to anything less than a depressive tenement area in Kraków is an insult.
19:26 February 24, 2013 by theobserver
Rishonim:

I'm sorry I don't understand.

Are you saying that Swedish architecture is worse than a depressive tenement area in Kraków?
21:36 February 24, 2013 by Rishonim
theobserver,

Sweden has the ugliest architecture in Europe. They are very depressing to look at. It is reminiscent of the housing images from the old soviet union. They, the fat and boring developers created those nasty looking buildings without any feelings from the 50s onwards. They should be forced to live in some of those apartments as a punishment for creating such disgusting edifice. Thank goodness for Gamla Stan.....I don't think anyone in the right mind could compare the Swedish architecture with Haussmannian architecture or the Neoclassical architecture in Rome
19:28 February 25, 2013 by theobserver
Rishonim and skogbo:

Art and beauty in Sweden, especially in architecture, are unparalleled in the whole world. Let me give you another example of exquisite Swedish architecture, a building combining the ancient Roman style with a modern avant garde touch. Simply superb!

http://www.uglycityguide.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/DSC_0821-e1333480584444-600x800.jpg
17:46 May 27, 2013 by lilithian
Sorry "theobserver"

The building picture you put

http://www.uglycityguide.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/DSC_0821-e1333480584444-600x800.jpg

is actually in Paris, France. I do however agree that Sweden has its share of ugly buildings as well :)
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