An Alien in Sweden

A blog about my move from England and my new life in Sweden.
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Confusing honesty for rudeness in Sweden

February 17th, 2014 by Dean

I was in Stockholm over the weekend, and I went to a bar to see some Olympic skiing. Whilst I was there, I overheard some American visitors talking about how rude they thought some of the Swedish people they have met were.

I sat there and listened intently focusing on why they thought that these people that they have met been so rude. After about half an hour I actually asked them because I had never encountered this and wanted them to let me know, as coming from a different country myself, I had not encountered the same.

What they actually said was that they had asked some Swedish people if their attempt at the Swedish language was any good. The reply was no not really, but it’s okay. I had to think back to when I first moved here, and I can understand why the American’s thought that the Swedish were being rude, however, it’s something that I’ve certainly learned that is not true. Swedish people’s honesty can sometimes be seen as abrupt and rude.

Swedish people are honest to the point of being blunt and I think that bluntness can sometimes come across to some as being rude. Certainly in the UK if someone come up and said “Excuse me how do you think my English is?” I would imagine that most of the majority of the English replies will be not bad but underneath hiding the fact that it isn’t so good but we just don’t want to appear to be offensive.

Of course, sometimes that can be the best approach but, for me, honesty is the much better approach because without being honest even if it’s negative criticism, we won’t ever be able to better ourselves.

Swedish people will say something is okay, very good or be bluntly honest and say it’s bad. In a country like the UK and the USA when society often favours a soft approach when criticising or giving opinions, it can be harsh to come to a country where brutal honesty is the norm.

In the time since I’ve moved here I think that I would rather have honest feedback on something I’m trying to do, such as learning a language, instead of someone just brushing it over to make me feel better. I suppose you can have the best and worst of both scenarios but overall I don’t want anyone to think that Swedish people are blunt and rude because they’re not.

They are just being honest.

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Dear Zlatan – Why you are wrong about womens football

December 27th, 2013 by Dean

zlatan

In the few years that I have lived in Sweden I have gotten to learn one thing more than most if you are a success in sport you are idolised. Though I have tried, with some success, to get into Ice Hockey and Bandy, football will always remain my sport.

If there is one name over the past decade that is synonymous with Swedish football it is, of course, Zlatan Ibrahimovic

Mention Zlatan to most Swedish people and they look at you like you are discussing a member of family, or a favourite sunny place that warms the mind on a cold winters day.

And why not? He is certainly one of Sweden’s finest ever players. Easily the most gifted and naturally talented of his generation. In my era, only the legendary Henrik Larsson was equal.

Zlatan has all the attributes to make him a great. Tall, powerful, great experience and the audacity to pull off the ridiculous and make it look so easy (Remember his fourth against England?)

When I moved to Sweden, I left behind a season ticket at Chelsea. I had been a season ticket holder for ten years, and my aim was to find a club in Sweden that I felt the same passion and love for. As my local team were Norrköping I attended a few games. But then all my newly made Swedish friends were telling me that Norrköping was not the team, it was Djurgarden, Helsingborg or another range of teams. No matter what game I attended I just never found any bond. That was until I went to Linköping.

It was one June afternoon in 2011. I was in Linköping and saw that there was a football game being played. No difference to all the games that I had been to in the previous few months, with the exception that Linköping were a women’s football team.

I had been to some Chelsea ladies games, but this was the first time that I had attended a ladies game here in Sweden. I had to say it was like watching a local game back home, little atmosphere, and almost empty stadium. But the main difference is what was on the pitch.

I think Linköping won that game 4-3 after being 2-0 down and I was hooked. Something about this small city made me feel like I belonged there. I had no idea whom of the players were. Had no idea if this was even a professional league, but I went away feeling like Chelsea had just beaten Man Utd at Stamford Bridge.

Fast-forward two years and my love of the women’s game has grown immensely. In the past two seasons, I have only missed one Linköping game, home or away. I’ve sat in the blazing Swedish sun; I have gotten soaked in the rain and even saw one game in -14 degrees (I was the only one there).

Throughout that time, I have gotten to know and see world class players such as Nilla Fischer, Lotta Rohlin, Jessica Samuelsson, Louise Fors, Pernille Harder, Sofia Lundgren and many more. Those are just the Linköping players. Each week I have got to see world class players such as Marta, Press, Oqvist etc.

I even made a best friend in Lisa De Vanna

Every game has never disappointed me. Each game I look forward to without any doubt. Those days where I would meet the lads for a few beers before going to watch Chelsea is now replaced with a few, rather expensive, beers before going to watch Linköping.

Sweden put on a wonderful Women’s European Championship tournament this year. It was a wonderful spectacle that broke all records. Sweden came close to causing an upset but again were denied.

So this week Zlatan Ibrahimovic made some rather stupid comments about men and women’s football in comparison.

He spoke out after fellow international Anders Svensson was given a new Volvo for breaking Thomas Ravelli’s record of 143 international caps. Yet Swedish women’s international Therese Sjogran failed to get any similar recognition despite playing 183 caps for Sweden.

Zlatan was quoted as saying

“With all respect for what the ladies have done, and they’ve done it fantastically well, you can’t compare men’s and women’s football. Give it up, it’s not even funny,”

“When I come out in Europe they compare me to [Lionel] Messi and [Cristiano] Ronaldo. When I come home they compare me to a female player. With all respect for the ladies, they should be rewarded in relation to what they generate [financially].

“I was asked [by Swedish media] in the summer who was the better player, me or [Sweden striker] Lotta Schelin. You’re joking with me, right? When I’ve broken all these records, this goal record, the goals in the national team, who shall I compare it to? Shall I compare it to whoever has the record, or the ladies?”

I find this staggering. Women’s football is nothing compared financially to the men’s. There are international players worldwide who earn less in a month than Zlatan earns in a day. These are players that represent their countries.

Many players have full time jobs as well as playing international football. I even read that some internationals that have since retired are selling off memorabilia just to pay bills. Compare this to Zlatan’s wages and the difference is staggering.

Yet, regardless if, they turn up each session. Often pay there own way to travel to games, medical expenses paid themselves sometimes. Women have just as much passion and love for the game as the male professionals, yet what makes their dedication even more remarkable is they do it without hardly any fiscal reward.

Yet despite his sheer brilliance and natural ability Zlatan has failed to win a World Cup, European Cup, Champions League, or Europa Cup. Sweden’s women have won bronze in the last World Cup and European Championships and have also finished second in a world cup final in 2003.

Sweden’s women football are a wonderful team to watch. Each player deserves the same credit and recognition that the men’s team, as do all teams worldwide. When the captain of the men’s team makes comments such as this, it makes me wonder what damage it can do. Zlatan should be supporting and endorsing women’s football all the way.

Could you imagine Beckham saying the same thing for England?

Zlatan you are a genius, Sweden loves you and always will. You’re one of the most talented players in the world.

But have some respect for the women’s game. If you attended one you may just change your mind.

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RyanAir – Slashing routes or already done?

December 14th, 2013 by Dean

As I poured a beer this Saturday night, I caught on the news that budget airline RyanAir had slashed routes from and to Sweden.

Since I have moved to Sweden, I have flown around 90% of flights with RyanAir to and from London. Nothing to do with the fact that they are cheaper. Just purely based on my location. I am much closer (45 minutes) to Skavsta Airport than I am Arlanda here in Stockholm.

ryanair

Many say that RyanAir is like Marmite, you either love it or hate it. Personally I eat it for health but have tasted better. So after I read that RyanAir was slashing many routes from Skavsta my mind went into panic mode. Firstly I was thinking “What airline would I take now from Arlanda?”, Norweigan, BMI, SAS or BA? Yet the more that I thought of this more something told me that these cuts had already happened.

The news report and the Local article said that this was found in a report. Yet the maths did not seem to add up. Ryanair would be removing 23 flights a week from Skavsta. Yet when you go on their website there are only two flights a day that you can choose from. So that’s 14 a week, where did the 23 come from?

No company likes bad business, and I do recall last year having many more flights as an option when flying to the UK. My guess is that these cuts have already happened in some airports and that RyanAir did not want any “official announcement” until they were more in favour with the public eye.

Recently RyanAir have been blasted by the public for additional costs, over taxing and ensuring that customers pay far more than they should. On my last flight from the UK, I was rather stunned to find that you could now take a “Duty Free” bag alongside your standard cabin luggage. No more squishing bottles of whiskey into my laptop bag.

Love them or loathe them RyanAir are convenient. I just wish that they would make a statement on when or if these cuts occurred.

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Stranger in Stockholm – New Poem

October 19th, 2013 by Dean

An idyllic destination

Where life is so content

Natures one true paradise

Where future will be spent

Endless days of summer

The sun still high at night

A utopia in winter

Of purest true delight

Footsteps entwined with nature

The land is free to roam

From the barren colds of Norrbotten

To bohemian Stockholm

Behind frozen disguises

There lies true hearts of gold

Encouraged from deep within

A love can now unfold

Yet until that ice is frozen

These streets I walk alone

For within the realms of paradise

Some are on their own

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The beauty of höst

October 2nd, 2013 by Dean

I was walking around the local park this morning, and somehow it took me back to memories of autumn in England. That time of the year where, as children, we would spend what daylight there was collecting conkers so we could aim to beat our friends in ”Conker fights”. There is no doubt that it is getting much colder, and yes, winter is coming. But this year höst seems somewhat better than last year.

Back in the UK we usually long for an ”Indian Summer”. We’re famed for our wet and grey summers and the unusually mild temperatures that we have in September, and October make up for the wet summers. I was speaking to my parents last night, and they were saying that they are still eating dinner at the top of the garden, maybe it is a bit too cold for that here, but nevertheless höst has arrived!

Last year it seemed to not occur. One day we were walking in the summer sunshine, and the next we were knee deep in snow. Höst seemed to be as short lived for sure. The winter was long ad harsh, even by Swedish standards, and somehow the arrival of the new season makes Sweden look more appealing and beautiful than it ever has been.

As people prepare to add their winter tyres to their car and put their summer clothes away for another year I’m personally going to spend as much time as I can travelling Sweden before the winter sets in.

Somehow in winter most of the country looks the same. But in autumn, the real beauty of Sweden seems to come alive.






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Summer has just begun!

August 4th, 2013 by Dean

http://www.deanthebard.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/Blazing_Hot_Summer_Sun_Scol22.jpg

On the train yesterday there were four elderly Swedish people discussing the weather. One of the men was wearing a fairly thick jumper over a shirt. Fairly standard fashion for the elderly Swedish gentlemen.

One of the ladies was saying that the day before she had been into the basement getting up her winter coats. The other mentioned how she was thinking about what type of winter coat to buy this year. All of them agreed that summer was almost over and that there were just, and I quote, “One or two good weekends left of summer this year”

The day that followed turned out to be the hottest so far of the year. Despite wearing sun factor 8 cream, my head resembles a beaten up cricket ball. My arms, thanks to my short-sleeved shirt, look like two large crabsticks.

It sill amazes me how people tend to panic in Sweden about the winter approaching fast. They were deep in conversation about how the nights were getting shorter and that winter was vastly approaching. They certainly could promote Game Of Thrones if HBO need any slogan writers.

Those outside Sweden cannot imagine how harsh the winter was here. From the beginning of November, it snowed and did not stop until almost the end of April. It was a long, dark and cold winter that even the hardest of Swedes that I know found difficult.

I think were in for a long summer. Maybe even until October. I cannot see it being anything but warm this year. So for those who moan about when it’s too cold, too wet or even too warm, please let us all just kick back and enjoy the sunshine when it is here.

I certainly have no plans put away the sunscreen (especially after yesterday!) I will be having many more nights drinking beer in the sun watching some beautiful Swedish sunsets. I may even bring some Pimms back with me from the UK and make some lovely Pimms cocktails.

Don’t panic people! We have all had some fairly bad summers; let’s just enjoy what is overdue and here to stay for a while.

Viva La Sunshine!

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Chasing the Swedish Dream

July 29th, 2013 by Dean

lake

Back in 2008 I made a decision that I was going to do something different with my life. I was living in Walton-On-Thames at the time. It was work that took me there, but I knew deep down that something needed to change. I was living, on my own, in a five bedroom house that had more space than I could fathom, the only company I had was two cats.

Back then the world seemed different. Everybody was obsessed with Facebook, and it was probably at the height of its popularity then. To say it’s changed would be an understatement. Back in those days it was more popular to poke somebody than it was to send him or her a message. Also, groups were the most popular aspect of Facebook.

I remember having a late conversation one night with my best friend Jessika. She was a young woman from Sweden but had lived in the UK since childhood. The more she spoke about Sweden, the more the idea of one day living there began to appeal to me.

So one rainy evening, I decided to join as many Swedish group pages as I could. There were ones that were dull those that just had the appeal of Swedish women as their tone, and there were those that I still belong to now. No matter how many groups I joined, there seemed to be one common factor. His name was Brendan.

Back then I had no idea how long it would take for me to move to Sweden. But day by day the notion and the idea became stronger. As the plan grew into fruition, I often thought about Brendan and wondered how his love of Sweden would end up. I still, to this day, have never known anybody with a passion for Swedish life!

I think it was about two years ago that Brendan moved to Göteborg to give up his life back in the UK and live the life of a student for two years. Whilst I was not surprised when I saw this, I still think it’s admirable. I read today that the two years is now up. The fika is closed; the flight is back home tomorrow. I’ve no doubts that, like many of his 80’s hero’s (long story!) in movies, this is just the start of a trilogy. The guy is a top man, and no doubt he will be missing the trivial things that us Brits living in Sweden often moan about (Booking laundry time, light beer, planning when to buy alcohol etc.…)

However what it does reflect is that life is too short not to chase your dreams. If you are willing to take a risk and sacrifice everything for life and dream you desire, then why not go for it?

Life truly is too short not to chase what you desire and yearn to achieve. If it works out then it is fantastic, if not then at least you had the determination and courage to go for it. Both ways will make you a stronger person.

The grind of daily life can suffocate our ambitions and dreams. Of course, it is hard to just give up everything and go for what you want. But when the last page is turned on the book of life, it is so rewarding to look back and know that you lived the life you truly wanted to live.

Life has no boundaries, just self-imposed horizons, make them as small as you want. Just never stop reaching for the end.

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All aboard the crazy train!

June 27th, 2013 by Dean

Swedish train

So the other day, I took my usual train from Norrköping to Stockholm. I take this train around once every two weeks.

This journey though was somewhat different.

As the train pulled in, I noticed that my seat reservation was Seat 44 carriage 3. So as I boarded I scanned the aisle for my seat only to find someone sat in it. They were pretending to be asleep, but as I actually saw them board the train I was not going to fall for this.

I gently tapped them on the shoulder and told them that this seat was reserved for me, casually showing them the seat number. He grunted a little Swedish but opened his eyes when I replied in Swedish back. He told me that someone was already sat in his seat, so he was sitting in this one.

After two minutes, a lady behind me found herself in the same situation. Someone was sat in the seat that she reserved. The ticket inspector was fairly useless as sorting this mess out, she just wanted to make sure everyone HAD a ticket, regardless of if was reserved or not.

Eventually, my seat squatter moved to the seat opposite, and I finally claimed my throne. However, the lady was still angry as someone was refusing to move from her allocated reserved seat.

As the train arrived at the next stop, the lady finally got on her seat. She had a big smile on her face, only to leave at the next station some five minutes later.

Though this is the first time that someone has been in my reserved seat, it has happened to others on nearly every train I have been on in Sweden.

Though I feel that Swedish trains are far more advanced than in the UK, the system in the UK seems to be a little easier. If the seat is reserved then a little paper slip is put in a slit on top of the seat, so you know that it’s taken.

Swedish trains are rarely over crowded and maybe that is why the seat reservation system here works well so that nobody stands, but for the sake of customer arguments there needs to be a better system when it comes to allocating who sits where.

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My swedish teacher

May 16th, 2013 by Dean

A lot of people ask me how I have been learning Swedish since I moved to Sweden.

I started out using Rosetta Stone, though this is quite an expensive way to learn it does go far beyond the basics of just ”tourist Swedish”. The comfort is also that you can do it at your own pace and time. When I finally got my personal number sorted I applied for SFI, which is the government run language school for immigrants.

But in all honesty the best way I can advise people to learn Swedish before they move, or after if they can financially do this, is over Skype.

I found a website called Verbal Planet and there they have a good range of teachers that can offer lessons over Skype. Usually the first one is free so you can get an idea of how it operates and also get a good indication of if the teacher is right for you or not.

I had a few lessons but in the end settled for a teacher called Jessie. Jessie is from Linköping and now resides in Scotland. Jessie worked as a teacher here in Sweden and she is nothing short of excellent. Her methods of teaching make each lesson something to look forward to.

Jessie is calm, patient and has a great way of helping you with how you want to learn Swedish. Her rate is around 19 pounds per hour. Which may seem like a lot but trust me, I was paying double that rate in London.

My advice for anyone moving to Sweden in the future, wanting to learn or who have already moved is to give Jessie a try.

I will put a permanent link on my blog page.

I thoroughly recommend Jessie as a great teacher.

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Glad Påsk from Sweden!

March 31st, 2013 by Dean

Wishing all my friends in Sweden and back in the UK a Glad Påsk & Happy Easter!

påsk

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