An Alien in Sweden

Blog about my move from London to Norrköping and now Stockholm
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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.

Nonsense….

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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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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