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My Sweden - Karlstad
'I felt like a tall blonde in the middle of Shanghai'

'I felt like a tall blonde in the middle of Shanghai'

Published: 05 Apr 2013 14:20 GMT+02:00
Updated: 05 Apr 2013 14:20 GMT+02:00

In our weekly profile of life in different parts of Sweden, Colombian-born entrepreneur Carlos Perdomo waxes poetic about Karlstad, a town that offers small-town charm, a bevy of foreign students, and no shortage of outdoor adventure.

Perdomo first visited Karlstad, a mid-sized Swedish city with around 60,000 inhabitants, several years ago to catch up with Swedish friends he'd met while living in Barcelona.

"They were on holiday almost ten years ago and we just kept in touch. We've managed to meet up every year since, and one time I came up to Karlstad for a long weekend," he explains.

"It was summer, so everything was green and beautiful and everyone was happy."

Perdomo's initial impressions of life in Karlstad stayed with him, and were reawakened last summer as he found his business ventures in Barcelona hitting a wall.

"I was going broke and it was just impossible to keep things going. I needed a break, and my friend said, 'pack your bags and come to Karlstad'," he recalls.

"Sweden always had this sort of charm of being a country where a hard-working person with a little initiative could make things happen, so I figured, why not give it a try."

Perdomo arrived in September, just as the famed Swedish summer was coming to an end. Looking back, he admits that leaving sunny Barcelona for an uncertain future in Karlstad was a bold move.

"But once I was here, I couldn't sit still," he says.

IN PICTURES: Click here to see more of Carlos Perdomo's Karlstad

In just over six months, the spirited entrepreneur has already launched two business ventures and left local residents scratching their heads after introducing what he suspects may be a new adventure-sport hybrid to the area.

"I did a lot of kite surfing in Barcelona. But Lake Vänern was frozen so I was forced to improvise," says Perdomo, referencing Sweden's largest lake by which Karlstad sits, nestled where the lake's northern meet the Klarälven river.

Along with a fellow Karlstad transplant from the UK, Perdomo strapped on a pair of alpine skis and rigged up a kite similar to the ones he used for plying the waters of the Mediterranean off the shores of Barcelona.

Soon, he found himself cruising along the frozen surface of Vänern, spawning a crowd of curious onlookers.

"We attracted a lot of attention. People were taking pictures and videos. I don't think they'd seen anything like it before," says Perdomo.

"I felt like a tall blonde woman in the middle of Shanghai."

Perdomo also tried his hand a winter recreational activity somewhat more common among Karlstad residents: ice fishing.

"All I caught was a cold," he quips.

However, Perdomo found his heart thumping when he ventured into the nearby Värmland woods to witness another Swedish winter sports spectacle he calls "the most amazing experience of my life".

The transformational experience? Watching Rally Sweden, an annual auto racing competition held every February in Värmland.

"After watching it on TV for 20 years, the chance to see these cars barrelling through the trees at 100 km/h was just awesome," he says.

With the snow melting, Perdomo is looking forward to getting back out onto Lake Vänern, but this time on a boat.

"The lake is my favourite thing here in Karlstad. It's just a short walk from the city centre, and when you're there, it's like you've come out to the middle of nowhere. It's so peaceful. It's like being in a picture postcard of Swedish nature," he says.

Another Karlstad-area gem, according to Perdeomo, is the nearby Bryngfjordan Bike Park, which turns a popular ski hill into a mountain biking paradise during the summers.

As home to Karlstad University and its steady stream of Erasmus exchange students from across Europe, Karlstad is also a place where Perdomo has been able to connect with other foreigners.

"Socializing in Sweden is a bit different, however, and it's something I'm still getting used to," he explains.

While saddling up to a bar for a beer by yourself is common in Barcelona, and often leads to spontaneous conversations and new friends, Perdomo has found the practice yields a different reaction in Sweden.

"When you go for a drink by yourself here, people assume you are an alcoholic and have no social life," he says.

In addition to busying himself with Swedish language classes at SFI, Perdomo is focusing a lot of energy on his business idea to introduce electric "tuk-tuk" auto rickshaws to Sweden.

"These cars are 100 percent electric and Swedes are really into green and environmentally friendly transport," he explains.

"Swedes also love Thailand, and these vehicles bring the charm of Thailand back to Sweden."

With the help of investors, as well as seeking funds on the crowd-funding website FundedByMe.com, Perdomo hopes to have the first set of tuk-tuks in Karlstad this summer.

"Who knows, maybe we'll eventually organized a tuk-tuk rally," he says with a laugh.

While he admits he still misses Barcelona, Perdomo is happy to call Karlstad home for now.

"Karlstad is also great because you can get to a lot of really great places in less than three hours. Olso, Gothenburg, Stockholm. It's a great road-trip starting point," he adds.

"And I really like the small-town atmosphere."

SEE ALSO: A list of The Local's past My Swedens

David Landes

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