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Swedish cabbie flags unique London career

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Swedish cabbie flags unique London career
15:03 CET+01:00
As London gets swept up in "Scandimania", one Swede has found himself in the driver's seat. The Local talks to the only licensed Swedish cab driver in London about his unique career, getting the Swedish PM in his cab, and Sweden's presence in London.

“No one else from Sweden, past or present, has managed to go through the ridiculously hard testing system: The Knowledge of London,” Andreas Eriksson trumpets to The Local.

Not until now.

Eriksson, a 38-year-old from Västerås in central Sweden, was the first Swede to ever pass the test and became an official London cab driver in September.

He believes his background puts him in a unique position – in fact, some passengers have even suggested he contact the Guinness Book of Records for managing to become Sweden's only driver of a London "black cab", as they are commonly known.

“While a Swedish carpenter can go to Greece or anywhere else and ply his trade, a taxi driver from Stockholm or Gothenburg can't just turn up in London and start driving," says Eriksson.

"He or she will first have to qualify to become the second ever Swedish national!”

And that's no easy feat.

The Knowledge Test, a famously rigorous probe into the most intimate understanding of London's streets, was initiated in 1865 and usually requires several years of study.

And now that Eriksson finally got the green light, he is keen to investigate how to use his nationality to his advantage.

While he admits painting the cab in blue and yellow may be one patriotic step too far, his first thought was to provide Swedish holiday travellers with city tours in their mother tongue.

In the past, Swedes on holiday in London have hired translators who have had to sit in on tours, making the process often doubly expensive for the passengers, he explains.

“As I have been trained on all London areas I can pretty much offer a spoken tour tailored to each customer based on their interests, be it rock ‘n' roll, architecture, or just the classics - all in Swedish,” he explains.

Meanwhile, Eriksson is a keen participant in London's Swedish community.

He writes a column for LondonSwedes.com, keeps in touch with other Swedish business owners, and even drove Millennium actor Sven-Bertil Taube to an event at the Swedish church.

As to why London seems to have caught a case of Sweden, and indeed Scandinavian, fever, Eriksson explains that the answer is simple:

“Sweden has a lot going for it and has always had a reputation abroad as being one of the best places on earth to live,” he says.

“In a quite deep recession such as the one Britain is struggling through, I think people look for inspiration in places where it seemingly isn't as harsh and miserable.”

While Eriksson admits he'd love to have Sweden's Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt in the back of his cab one day, the plan for now is to just keep driving.

“The good people of London have places to go, people to meet and things to sort out,” he tells The Local.

“It is my job to assist with that as best I can.”

Oliver Gee

Follow Oliver on Twitter here

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