• Sweden's news in English
 
app_header_v3
My Swedish Career
'I gave up Canadian Idol to pursue my dreams'
Kevin Lee at the Hard Rock Cafe in Stockholm.

'I gave up Canadian Idol to pursue my dreams'

Maddy Savage · 29 Feb 2016, 06:00

Published: 29 Feb 2016 06:00 GMT+01:00

Unlike many expats and immigrants living in Sweden, Canadian-born Kevin Lee was never fazed by the Nordic nation's harsh climate and fondly remembers the first time he stepped off a plane and arrived in Stockholm.
 
"It was the middle of winter and it was so beautiful," he tells The Local.
 
"I just remember loving the Old Town and the feeling of having all these islands and water, but at the same time everything was so modern."
 
As for the sub-zero temperatures, "Stockholm feels tropical compared to parts of Canada", he says with a laugh.
 
Lee's initial visit to the Swedish capital was during a year he spent living and working in London, having quit a career in television production in Toronto that he had pursued relentlessly between the ages of 16 and 23.
 
Despite being offered a full-time job working on Canadian Idol, one of the highest-rated shows in his country at that time, the music-obsessive had decided that if he didn't pursue his other dream in life – to travel in Europe – he would never end up leaving his home country.
 
"I thought that if I took the decision that age, it [television] would be everything I dedicated my life to until I retired, that it would be the be-all-and-end-all," he explains, admitting that plenty of his colleagues and family members were bemused by his decision.
 

Kevin Lee at a comedy event in Stockholm. Photo: Private
 
But the risk clearly paid off. Lee enjoyed seeing as much of Europe as possible during his time in London and when he started getting itchy feet again he decided to relocate to Sweden for a while. He loved it so much that five years later he is still here.
 
Now head of sales and marketing at Stockholm's Hard Rock Cafe, Lee worked his way up from being a waiter, a job he had done for years back home in Toronto, alongside his studies and the unpaid work experience he needed in order to break into the media industry.
 
"No matter where you go in the world, there is always someone who wants to be served. If you've been a waiter it means you've always got something to fall back on," explains Lee.
 
"But I was prepared to do anything. Be a cleaner, do night shifts, anything (...) I am really thankful that Hard Rock gave me a chance."
 
After spending his time off studying Swedish at the country's state-funded SFI classes, he says he "started loving Sweden even more" and embraced learning about the nation's culture and customs as well as its language.
 
A long-time lover of black clothes and Converse trainers, he jokes that he already had Sweden's fashion sense nailed before he moved here, and says his shared love of understated style immediately made him feel "comfortable with Sweden as somewhere that could be a base".
 
Lee's role at the Hard Rock Cafe has also allowed him to continue his interest in the entertainment industry. It is run by Richard Herrey who helped Sweden win the Eurovision Song Contest in 1984 with the cult hit 'Diggi-Loo Diggy-Ley'. The Canadian is helping to organize a number of events to coincide with Stockholm hosting the competition later this year, after Måns Zelmerlöw's victory with 'Heroes' in 2015.
 
"We want to do as much as possible for fans who are coming, so they can see different parts of the city," he explains.
 
In the meantime, Lee is hooked on Sweden's prequel to Eurovision, Melodifestivalen, and is currently travelling around the country at weekends to watch and make videos about the heats that will decide who the Nordic country's 2016 entry is.
 
According to Lee, "the Eurovision community is really something special that extends beyond borders and it feels great to be part of that".
 
Story continues below…
 

Kevin Lee loves karaoke and stand-up comedy. Photo: Private
 
By contrast, the 31-year-old admits that while he has made plenty of connections in Sweden – through work, the Melodifestivalen circuit and doing English-language standup comedy as a hobby – he believes he still only has a handful of Swedish friends that he can really count on. The ex-waiter warns other foreigners planning a move to Scandinavia to be prepared for a place that is "not as friendly as Canada or as open as London".
 
"It is harder to meet people in Stockholm. In London I had a great wide group of friends – 30 to 40 – and even when I see them now it's like we have never been away from each other. I have lived here far longer and I don't have that. That doesn't mean that I necessarily want to have more – I am very happy with the friends I have here – but it does put things in perspective."
 
Lee, whose parents are from South Korea, says he is also concerned with "growing racism" in Sweden. While he does not personally feel that he has been discriminated against, he argues that "the migration issue and everything with asylum seekers is tearing people apart in Europe" and says he is concerned for the future of the "leftish, socially focused" country he fell in love with.
 
"For the moment though, I still feel comfortable and it feels like somewhere I can really be long-term. I don't like talking about 'forever', but maybe, maybe not," he continues.
 
"I will never regret moving to Sweden."

Maddy Savage (maddy.savage@thelocal.com)

Today's headlines
Why this Swedish police dog has been hailed as a hero
Äddie the police dog has finally retired after ten years on the job. Photo: Christer Torlen

A heart-warming Stockholm Police tribute to Äddie the retiring police dog has attracted hundreds of replies and thousands of likes on Facebook.

Five facts on Manchester United-bound Ibrahimovic
Ibrahimovic is on his way to Old Trafford. Here's everything you need to know. Photo: Anders Wiklund/TT

Zlatan Ibrahimovic has finally confirmed his next choice of club. Here are five facts on the Swedish striker after he announced he is signing for Manchester United on Thursday.

Swedish state appeals against Roma register ruling
Fred Taikon was one of the eleven victims. Photo: Maja Suslin

A court ruling judged that the Swedish state should pay out compensation to eleven victims of ethnic discrimination, but an appeal has now been launched.

Ikea opens massive museum in Sweden
A scene from the museum in Älmhult. Photo: Emil Langvad/TT

Flatpack enthusiasts rejoice: Ikea has just opened a 7,000 square metre museum in the building that once housed its original store.

The Local Recipes
How to make a Swedish chicken and strawberry salad
Chicken and strawberry: a better combination than it may seem. Photo: SwedishFood.com

Easy to prepare, this chicken and strawberry salad is the meal you need this weekend, trust us!

Ibrahimovic confirms Manchester United move
Ibrahimovic playing for Sweden at Euro 2016. Photo: Thanassis Stavrakis/TT

Swedish striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic has put months of speculation over his future to an end by confirming that he will join Manchester United.

Man detained in Sweden over poison plot
Uppsala University. Photo: David Naylor/Uppsala universitet

The case, which involved assistance from the FBI, regards poisonous substance ricin that was allegedly stolen from Uppsala University to aid a blackmail plot.

Fifty Stockholm heart patients hit by superbug
Staff check air quality in an operating theatre at Karolinska University Hospital. Photo: Gary Fabbri

A potentially deadly antibiotic-resistant bacteria has spread to more than 50 heart patients at Karolinska University Hospital in Solna, Stockholm.

Two jailed for match-fixing in Swedish football
Photo: Björn Lindgren/TT

A Swedish appeals court has jailed two football players and handed suspended sentences to four others for their involvement in a match-fixing scandal.

How many Swedes were unfaithful last year?
Photo: Sandra Qvist/TT

It kind of depends how you define it.

Sponsored Article
5 reasons you should try dating with The Inner Circle
Business & Money
Swedish banknotes expire this week
Sponsored Article
Why Swiss hospitality graduates are in demand
Gallery
People-watching: June 29th
International
Foul-mouthed attack on young Swedish mother in England
Blog updates

28 June

A message for British expats in Sweden (The Diplomatic Dispatch) »

"The people of the United Kingdom have voted to leave the European Union. As Prime Minister…" READ »

 

10 June

i lördags, på lördag – time phrases for present, past and future (The Swedish Teacher) »

"Hejsan! Swedish time phrases can be difficult to master. It takes a lot of practice to…" READ »

 
 
 
Private
The Local Voices
'Having a Middle Eastern name makes life in Sweden hard'
Sponsored Article
International students in Stockholm partner with Nepal school
National
Is this Swede the new Vincent van Gogh?
Politics
Citizenship applications up 500% for Brits in Sweden
National
The humble Swede who sent England home from Euro 2016
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Gallery
Property of the week: Torhamn
Sponsored Article
Avoid hidden fees when sending money overseas
Private
The Local Voices
'Sweden is the best place for people with special needs'
International
'A morning of sorrow': Sweden reacts to Brexit vote
Sponsored Article
Education abroad: How to find an international school
International
Sweden opposition cools talk of 'Swexit' poll
Sponsored Article
The man behind Sweden's biggest music festival
International
'Devastated' - Brits in Sweden shocked by Brexit vote
Gallery
People-watching: June 22nd
Sponsored Article
US expats: Have you met your tax deadlines?
Private
The Local Voices
'Swedes don't treat me differently because I wear a hijab'
Sponsored Article
Malmö: Home to the best food in Sweden?
Culture
How do Swedes celebrate Midsummer?
Sponsored Article
VIDEO: Why Malmö is the world's 6th best city for biking
Culture
Coming soon: Sweden’s smelly fermented fish
Sponsored Article
5 reasons you should try dating with The Inner Circle
National
Assange lawyer: Sweden should recognize UN opinion
Private
The Local Voices
Why is this Syrian dentist who hugs like a Swede worried about undies?
Sponsored Article
6 simple travel hacks that will make your life easier
Swedish nationalist 'shot and ate' lion and giraffe
Analysis & Opinion
'Sweden's residency revamp is harmful and inhumane'
Photo: The Local
The Local Voices
UNHCR boss: 'It's hard to start your life without your family'
Politics
VIDEO: Brits in Europe say why UK should stay
Photo: Marko Risović
The Local Voices
World Refugee Day: Searching for safety in Europe - in pictures
3,314
jobs available
PSD Media
PSD Media is marketing company that offers innovative solutions for online retailers. We provide modern solutions that help increase traffic and raise conversion. Visit our site at:
psdmedia.se