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‘Moving to Sweden doesn’t mean winning the romance lottery’

Finding the love of your life can be tough and being unable to shake the "outsider" label after moving abroad doesn't make it any easier, explains contributor Elisabeth Carlsson.

'Moving to Sweden doesn't mean winning the romance lottery'

I’m not going to lie – when I moved to Europe from the United States almost three years ago, I was convinced that my love life would change dramatically.

Maybe this was too idealistic of me, or far too romantic, but given my penchant for foreign men (which all started at the age of twenty when I fell madly in love with an Australian whilst studying abroad for a semester in London), I secretly figured that my fleeting romances with handsome foreigners stateside would immediately turn into meaningful, long-lasting relationships if I just lived overseas.

And yes, I’ll admit, in my mind it all looked eerily similar to that scene in “The Holiday” where Cameron Diaz opens the door only to find the beautiful Jude Law standing there before her.

Oh, but how wrong I was.

In fact, I’d argue that since moving abroad – first to London and then to Stockholm – I’ve encountered even more romantic hurdles than I could have possibly imagined.

And, unfortunately, I’ve never been all that athletic.

Not only am I a single woman, in her late twenties and looking for a real relationship – which is frustrating enough under normal circumstances – but also add to that the fact that I’m American and am now living in Sweden for the foreseeable future.

To the average female, this may sound like I’ve won the romantic lottery given I live in a country that’s filled with Alexander Skarsgård-lookalikes. But I promise you all of this sounds a lot more exotic than it actually is.

Of course I’ve casually dated a variety of men since I’ve moved to Europe – for those needing a refresher, feel free to read my previous piece.

But the men that I still find myself involved with either call a different city than mine his home or, if I’m lucky enough to have him live in the same city as me, he just can’t seem to get serious with someone who is, well, American.

Maybe it’s because he’s secretly wary about whether I could actually spend the rest of my life strolling around Östermalm, pushing our precious child in a stylish pram, shopping at Svenskt Tenn and meeting his friends for Saturday fika.

Maybe he thinks I would prefer instead to sit in Yankee Stadium, eat a hot dog and balance our two screaming children on either hip.

And you know why I think this is?

I honestly think it’s because the men that I date here in Europe always see me as the “foreigner.”

This is by far the most frustrating and ironic thing I’ve come to realize about living abroad, especially when it involves relationships. It doesn’t matter how many years I spend abroad or if I learn the language of my host country to the point of fluency – I’ll still be forever labelled as an outsider.

And it clearly doesn’t matter if I spend hours, days, or weeks at a time with that special (foreign) someone; that invisible barrier (whether it’s the physical distance between us or his wariness over me being American) never fails to rear its ugly head and threaten to ruin everything.

And so far, it definitely has.

I may as well wear a sign on me that says, “Please apply if you live in a different city than me or if you have no intentions of actually committing.”

A bit dramatic, perhaps, but this has honestly become my dating reality.

So I suppose what I’ll continue to do is wear my heart on my sleeve (although now haphazardly wrapped in some sort of protective covering) and focus instead on all the wonderful things I currently do have in my life here in Sweden – devoted friends, a fulfilling job, and an adorable apartment.

He’s out there – living and breathing I hope – and in a perfect world, perhaps undergoing the same kind of heartache I continue to willingly undergo in search of the ever-elusive “one.”

And maybe, just maybe, if I’m particularly lucky he’ll live next door and bear a faint resemblance to Jude Law.

Elisabeth Carlsson

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The Local’s Swedish film of the month: The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out The Window And Disappeared

Film writer Peter Larkin reviews 'The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out The Window And Disappeared' (2013), directed by Felix Herngren.

The Local's Swedish film of the month: The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out The Window And Disappeared
Robert Gustafsson and Iwar Wiklander as the character Julius in 'The 100-year-old man...' Photo: Music Box Films

The film is a mixture of farce; it is a fantasy about an explosives expert who worked for political leaders from Franco to Stalin. Now on his 100th birthday, Allan (Robert Gustafsson) escapes his nursing home to go an adventure.

The film contains a rogue hippie, bikers, an English gangster and Benny (David Wiberg) who struggles to settle with a career choice so he constantly studies at universities. The film’s director Felix Herngren uses a sort of collective montage to show Allan at various periods in history.

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Gunilla (Mia Skäringer) is introduced as the ex-wife of one of the biker gang, she falls for Benny. She owns an elephant which brings a gag when the elephant saves the day. Herngren from Jonas Jonasson's 2009 novel has made a film essentially about two men Allan and Benny: Allan has lived and in a sense achieved everything he wanted, whereas Benny feels afraid to make even the first step.

Gustafsson, aged 47 at the time of filming, is heavily made up to look 100. His strongest scenes are as a younger man when he has these fantastic one-liners about how men shouldn’t dance.

Felix Herngren and Robert Gustafsson at the premiere. Photo: Erik Mårtensson/TT

English film critic Mark Kermode complained about the film’s lack of translation through Swedish humour for a British audience. I have lived in Sweden for a year and I still feel that I would connect with this film even I had not ever stepped foot in the country.

Peter Larkin is an Irish film writer currently based in Sweden. Read his blog here.