An Alien in Sweden

From London to Stockholm, via Norrköping

Is Sweden’s open door policy going to succeed?

September 24th, 2015 by Dean

I remember when I first moved to Sweden and decided to take a walk down my local streets that there were hardly any homeless people. There were some people who were drunk on the streets, yet as the day turned into night, those people would soon disappear back to their apartments. After living in London for fifteen years’ homelessness was something that you see on a daily basis. Walking home from the pub is not uncommon to see people sleeping rough in shop doorways or under bridges. The UK has acknowledged that there is a big homeless problem, yet for me it is a problem there will always be with us unless the government can do more to help charities such as shelter.

The following year I noticed that there were more and more people begging on the streets of Stockholm. Most of those that I spoke to were from Romania you would come to Sweden to seek a better life. I would rarely give them money, more food and coffee. One thing that did make me want to write about this more was seeing for five people last December. Lying in thin sleeping bags in central Stockholm when the temperature must’ve been -15 and the snow was ankle-deep.

The last few weeks the news has been dominated by tens of thousands of people from countries such as Syria and Afghanistan risking their lives to travel to Europe to seek refuge in an EU state. It has caused something of a storm here in Europe with some countries arguing that others are breaking human rights. Germany said that they were taking as many people as possible, Hungary erected barbed wire fence to keep more people away. It is an issue that needs to be resolved. I have been listening to both sides of the argument, and I hope that there will be the resolution.

On one side of the argument, people need to understand that these people of human beings are fleeing war-torn countries. They are putting lives at stake spending weeks often travelling on foot with little food or water to get to a country where they may be able to have a sustainable life. If they are fortunate enough to arrive in the country where people can Seek Asylum, then of course they must abide by their adopted countries rules and regulations.

On the other side, I can also understand the people cannot simply walk across Europe and settle where they wish. Most EU countries are under an agreement that the first country where you land is the country that you should seek refuge. But this cannot work if they all arrive in Greece. There are approximately 120,000 people seeking refuge in the EU. Reportedly most want to settle in Sweden and Germany.

Here in Sweden there is an open policy where refugees are welcome. After living here for a few years now, I question if this is a wise move. Stockholm, in particular, has a severe housing issue. The waiting list for first-hand apartments in some areas is up to nineteen years, Sweden is not a large country in terms of population. With just over ten million people, it takes the second highest number of refugees in Europe per year. These people need to have accommodation; children need to be educated, and the places where they settle needs to be able to accept the intake and increase in population without causing any issues financially.

There are some cities that reportedly just keep many of those people seeking asylum in the same areas. Of course, there was a picture painted of crime-ridden areas high in unemployment. The only way that I see this succeeding is by integrating many people in different areas so that communities can benefit. Of course, there are those idiotic people who feel that all that seeking asylum are “Terrorists”. The many homeless people that I spoke to last summer and winter were a range of people from engineers, doctors, technicians and many other skilled forms of work. Some parts of Sweden lack in these professions and by giving these people a chance to benefit from a Swedish lifestyle they can give something back in a professional capacity.

The harshness is winter was rapidly approaching. The nights are getting darker earlier, and soon the snow and cold winds will arrive.

Those that are seeking to forge a better life here are fleeing war-torn countries. The only way I can see this working is by tackling the terrorism head-on in a full unified joint approach from the worlds forces. Europe cannot simply accommodate millions of people without it having an impact. For those already here they need to be looked after and catered for, but the only way to stop this just by ridding the world the fanatical terrorism.

Sweden has always had and honest approach and it an open policy for those seeking a new life. It is simply cannot just keep taking people in without it impacting in some way. The government has taken responsibility to review the situation at the end of this year. Time will only tell if this approach for work or if the doors may suddenly close on those wanting to arrive.

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August 30th, 2015 by Dean

Summer 2015 in memories

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Ninety days without coffee (The results)

July 31st, 2015 by Dean

Today marks the end of a 90-day trial that I have been taking part in.

Before I moved to Sweden, I would usually drink one cup of coffee in the morning before work. Of course, I knew that there was a bigger “coffee culture” here in Sweden, but that is not the reason that I undertook the trial. Even a year after moving here I never felt that the “Fika” culture was really for me. The whole idea of drinking coffee and eating cakes with friends is something that British people would always feel a little hard taking part of. It’s something more associated with Italians drinking espressos or Scandinavians with a coffee, taking the time to talk to colleagues or friends about what they were up to.

The UK is different. The catching up with friends usually takes place after work and possibly in a pub.

The reason that I began this trial was because after working in an office. My previous employer I worked the majority of my time from home, so meetings were usually held over the phone or Skype. Here they were physical, and you would normally begin by asking if they wanted coffee or water. I find not many Swedish people drink tea.

Soon the meetings were picking up and at the height of the year I would have six to eight meetings a day, and that resulted in six to eight cups of coffee. Already being an insomniac, I found that sleep was becoming worse. Some people here would drink coffee at night, I could not even contemplate that idea. My thoughts were what could I do about it.

So I decided on a little experiment. Give up coffee for three months and see what the results were.

Month one

The first month was not that difficult. Coffee for me is not addictive, it was just something that I drank during meetings, so it was not that much of an issue. For each meeting, I just replaced with either water or Hot Chocolate. In May so the weather was still a little cold so drinking hot chocolate was not so bad. After the third week, I began to sleep a little better and also felt more alert and awake. In fact, I was not missing coffee at all.

Month two

Something changed! I began missing coffee. The smell of coffee would be on my mind, especially when there was filtered coffee. I also began drinking more and more hot chocolate. This led to a craving for sweets (godis here in Sweden). I never ate them before, I would have the occasional bar of chocolate, but here I was buying bags of the stuff. When I was at home, I had a bowl that I would dip into when I was watching tv or on the phone. I was drinking chocolate milkshake after the gym. There were also a lot of godis being placed at work, which I don’t think too many complained!

Month three

Sleep was much better, on average three hours more per night and being an insomniac this was heaven! No more did I miss the smell of coffee or the taste. Meetings were satisfied with one hot chocolate instead of two. The craving for chocolate is no longer there. I feel more alert, more awake and above all far healthier.


Coffee is part of living here in Sweden. Only Finland consumes more per person each year. It became part of my life, but that led to sleeping issues especially during the winter months when there are little hours of daylight. Now after ninety days I will not be going back to coffee. I may have the occasional cup but what I found for me is that coffee is addictive, can affect your health and especially your sleep.

So it’s goodbye to coffee. Will see you around but the relationship is over!

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Why I am staying in Sweden

July 11th, 2015 by Dean

The past few months I have been seriously thinking about my future.

After some stale years here it has been a roller-coaster of a year for me in terms of change and life in Sweden. From several stagnant months in Norrköping to a complete change of life and a move to Stockholm, I decided that I needed to take some weeks off in the summer to think about my plans.

Stockholm I find is a beautiful city to live in; it can also be extremely tough and lonely. Certainly the winter just gone was far from easy. Leaving all my friends behind in Norrköping I once again started over in Stockholm. The job was fine, of course, there will be good and bad days but recently I have been questioning wether I should stay in Sweden or start again somewhere new. The two options were back to the UK or Australia.

I will not lie, I miss my friends and family back home more than ever. This is the first trip back home that I have taken since I quit my old job. Then I would be back in the UK four or five times a year, but it would always be for work. Coming home to Bristol and Bath has made me realise that I moved to Sweden for a reason and that simply running away was never going to be an option again.

I guess that after taking the time to think it has made me realise that home is where you want it to be.

Sweden is a beautiful country, but there are many hardships for people who move there, it takes a lot of personal challenges to overcome in order to make it what it can be and that is one of the most beautiful places in the world to live.

The UK is only two hours away, and it has better than ever to travel than when I first left. Australia I guess was a place that I miss immensely but can always visit once in a while.

I do not need to return to the UK or leave Sweden. I just have to make adjustments and realise that Sweden is home, forever will be and I have no plans to change that.

What happens in Sweden is the real adventure, not lying in some other distant land. It is the country that surrounds me that is why I am there, the people, the jobs, the friends they may all come and go, but Sweden is why I am staying.

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Jamie Oliver a ghost in Stockholm

January 6th, 2015 by Dean

This New Years Eve I found myself in Stockholm. First time I have spent New Year’s here.

I live not far from Östermalmstorg and so decided to have some pre celebratory drinks In Jamie Oliver’s bar before going to watch the Fireworks. I remember briefly that some of my work colleagues and I tried to go here on the evening of our party, but it was too busy. Surprisingly for New Year’s Eve it was relatively empty and we even managed to get a great table. It was interesting to overhear the conversation of people saying how good it felt to drink in Jamie Oliver’s bar and that his cocktails were the best that they had tried.

Living in London most of my life I have grown up with Jamie Oliver. From his annoying incarnation through his “Mockney Days” (Dancing in the Moonlight and “Pukka!”) to the respected campaigner who fights for better quality of meals in schools. Love him or loathe him, you have to respect what he has achieved.

It was not the first time that I had eaten or drank in his restaurants. Back in 2003 I took a then girlfriend to his “Fifteen” restaurant and paid around 3000 Kroner for a meal for two! Thinking of the money I was earning back then it was around half a months salary that I was spending.

Yet as I sat there overhearing the Stockholm diners gush over how privileged it felt to eat in one of his restaurants I was thinking to myself “Has Jamie Oliver actually been here?” After several minutes on Google, the answer came back as no.

Jamie Oliver is massive in Sweden. Much bigger than Gordon Ramsay or any other British Chef. In fact, I am amazed that Heston Blumenthal is not big here yet, I am sure the Swedish people will love him!. But Oliver is everywhere here, no matter where you go shopping you will see a range of his condiments, his cooking accessories and his books in your face everywhere.

Jamie’s Bar is a chain that is cropping up over the world like wildfire. Yet I almost feel cheated for the customers that believe he is the brain behind this operation. The drinks are not cheap, neither is the food but you would think that there would be some kind of input from the man himself. Of course, he is busy, he can’t be everywhere at once but you would have at least expect him to have visited the place during the several months it has been opened.

I agree with this article I read by Pernilla Ericsson sums up entirely the attitude that I have towards chain restaurants like this.

Stockholm is only two hours away. All, he needs to do, is fly over here once and show your face, it will make it a lot more appealing!

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Second week in Stockholm

November 28th, 2014 by Dean

Well, it has been two weeks since I moved from Norrköping to Stockholm. Though I have only had one weekend here. Though the city is one that I am no stranger to it still feels like it has been more of a primary move than a minor one.

It has been two years since I last lived in a major city and though Stockholm is a lot smaller than London, there is still quite a lot of things to get used to. I liked living in Norrköping. It was a slight and quiet city that offered me some form of escape that I needed at the time. London is more like a country on its own. They say that New York is the city that never sleeps, well London is the cousin with insomnia.

The area I live in Stockholm is Karlaplan. It is a very central area with quite an old population. It seems that everyone there has a dog. Even the shopping centres appear to have more dogs than shops. Coming from a country where dogs are banned from all shopping areas it is still a little strange to see so many dogs, even in stores.

The area is quite close to where the large ferry liners dock and during this foggy weather there is the odd blast of a funnel late at night which still wakes me up. For the first time, I have my own balcony. The balcony is something that most Swedish people treasure, their own little area where they can bask in the daylight and enjoy some escape from the city life. My only problem is that mine is seven floors up and I suffer a little vertigo!

But I like city life here so far. Ok the pubs are still “English themed” and seem to be randomly titled from two lists containing words such as “Horse”, “Whistle”, “Hounds”, “Lion” (Think Horse & Whistle, Red Lion, Horse & Hounds) and in all honesty they are probably more British than back home. How many UK pubs have you seen serving more than thirty beers?!

It is taking time to settle and I know that this is going to be a very quick winter and before you know it, I will be on the move again. I never look more than six months ahead in life so I cannot say how or where I will be ending up next, but one thing is common and that is that it feels good to be in a city once more, but I am missing Norrköping more than I thought.

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Hej Då Norköpping, Hej Stockholm!

September 19th, 2014 by Dean

Well, after a few years in Norrköping I am about to up my life and move to Stockholm. As I am writing my new film and also promoting my new book, it makes more sense to be in a bigger city.

By now I am used to the housing system in Sweden. It was a real shock when I first moved here. In London, you could easily find a place within a week but in Sweden some cities have a waiting list of several years before you can get a first-hand contract.

My first apartment in Sweden was a real small 28sqm studio apartment. Was ok for one person but hardly any room to swing a cat. It had a tiny kitchen, the bathroom was so small I had to bend my legs to sit down and the bed was a camp bed that are the ones that you see on prison tv shows.

The apartment I am about to leave which is my second is much better. Built over 100 years ago it seemed like paradise compared to my previous one. It had a bath I could lie down in, a kitchen with tables and chairs and above all a bedroom of it’s very own!

The cost of the rent nearly doubled and the one I am moving into is almost three times as high as the first. But with a view overlooking all of Stockholm it’s worth ever Kroner.

It will feel a little sad to leave Norrköping but at times you need to know that you outgrow a place and you have to move on.

Norrköping will always be my first home in Sweden no matter how long I stay here for. I never look beyond six months in life no matter where I am living. If I do, I tend to look beyond that I just seem to get lost in time.

No, it’s Hej Då soon to Norrköping and Hej to Stockholm!

New journey begins.

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Summertime in Sweden

July 29th, 2014 by Dean

There is something magical about Sweden in the summer.

It feels that the entire country is on holiday during July. This is actually not far from the truth! July sees many companies, factories and businesses shutdown. Swedish people get a healthy amount of holidays and not surprisingly take nearly all of them in July.

When you live in a country that can have an average of five months of snow each winter then why not take all your holiday when the weather is hot?!

I’ve been fortunate enough to travel a lot during the summers that I have been here. There are some wonderful places to visit, from the islands of Gotland and Öland to the long stretching beaches of Skåne, and the vibrant nightlife of the main cities of Göteborg on Stockholm.

Yet, like many, I find the best places to go are just those you can randomly find here during these warm summer nights. A quiet river with a little beach is often the perfect place to escape from the busy caravan parks. Drinking a cold beer when the sun is still setting at 10.30, feeling the warm breeze as you swim in a warm lake, Sweden truly is magical this time of year.

Ironically I am already hearing a lot of my friends saying that the summer is over and now that many will be returning to school and work it will soon be time to put the summer clothes away.


It maybe the end of July but there are still many weeks ahead to discover the beauty of Sweden during these glorious summer days.

Would not want to spend it anywhere else.

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I am Home

May 5th, 2014 by Dean

It was back a few years ago now that I made the decision to move to Sweden. It was just one of those lazy September days. The rain had washed away all traces of what was the summer.

It was by far a spur of the moment decision. It was something that I had planned for some time. I just knew that as I was approaching the last few years of my thirties I had no ties in the UK that were keeping me there. I had a chance of forging a new life in a new country. Indeed everything was new, the language, the culture, the people and the places.

I was not that naive about Sweden. I had visited many times before and my knowledge far exceeded just Abba, Volvo’s a puppet chef and Sven Goran Eriksson. Fast forward several years (most captured within this blog!) and times have changed.

I no longer consider myself a ”newbie Swede.” My writing and reading are fluent, my speaking still needs a little work. I know where the ”kopping’s” are on the map. I know the difference between a simple coffees with a friend and the importance of Friday night Fika.

Yet in this ocean of Swedishness I still have a lot to learn. I still stare at blank faces when some ageing celebrity comes on TV. Much the same as if a Swede was trying to figure out who Sir Bruce Forsythe is.

This year is flying by. Another Melodifestivalan arrives, a Studenten will follow. Then the basking in the Swedish summer before the mass hibernation in winter begins. Every year seems routine, yet with each year it becomes more and more exciting each time.

Yet this year is different for me.

For the first time, work has given me the possibility of returning home. Not that it is a certainty but with the exception of the movie I am writing most of my work in Sweden has been complete. I am not panicking at all, I still have a year or so left on my contract, which is great, a few months ago I was thinking about maybe going back. Returning to London, returning ”home.”

Yet my decision was already subconsciously answered sometime ago.

I am home.

Somewhere along the line Sweden did not just grab my heart and own it, it entwined its routes into my heart and just simply became part of who I was. Somehow this country became home.

Whatever happens this year and into next one thing is for sure. I am staying here. They will have to physically kick me out before I leave.

Sweden, you gorgeous, funny, slightly quirky country. I have become part of you.

I am home.

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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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