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'A friend from Umeå is a friend for life'

The Local · 6 Feb 2013, 15:00

Published: 06 Feb 2013 15:00 GMT+01:00

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Jeanette Renman, a multi-lingual 24-year-old Swede, is a native of the north and found herself in Umeå one year ago with her fiancé. She presents: My Umeå.

So, tell us a little bit about who you are.

My name is Jeanette, and I was actually born and raised not far from Umeå. "Not far" meaning about 140 kilometres further inland, but distances are relative in northern Sweden. I work as a communicator right now, and have studied rhetoric and languages in Uppsala.

Nice to meet you. Now, let's talk about Umeå. Is there anything it’s well-known for?

Yes. Umeå has recently been on the international scene for a few things. It’s the European Capital of Culture for 2014 along with Riga, Latvia. Also, there was a man who lived in his car for three months last winter drinking melted snow to survive. The city was also the home of Stieg Larsson, the writer of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.

Not bad. The city was also in the headlines recently for its happy lights at the bus stops. What did you think of those?

I liked them, it made the waiting for the bus a little different - and a lot brighter. But just as the bus drivers said, it made driving quite a bit dangerous. It was okay when you biked, walked, or were in a car, but for drivers...it felt just like a car was driving towards you with the high beams on. But they were only there for six weeks and they've been replaced now.

Gallery: Take a walk in Umeå through the eyes of Jeanette

If you had a visitor for one day, what would be included in your tour of the town?

Right now, Umeå is a growing city. That’s a fancy way of saying that it’s full of cranes and scaffolding. But I would take my visitor to the Västerbotten Museum.

I like it because it tells the story of how life in Västerbotten has evolved over the last 10,000 years. It has the world’s oldest ski too, which is over 5,000 years old - even older than the Egyptian pyramids.

What about the people in Umeå. The Ume-ites? What are they like?

The people in Umeå are very welcoming and happy to have you here. You feel the spirit of the norrlänning, meaning Northern Swede. We all trust the people we meet, and we’re happy to sit and talk to anyone who'll talk back. Even though there's a stereotype that says we never talk, we actually have to in order to keep warm.

Speaking of warming up, where's the best place to get a coffee?

There are quite a few places to go, but my favourite place to go for a fika is Kafé Station. It’s a coffee shop where they make everything themselves, everyone is welcome – and the building used to be a fire station in the 1800s, hence the name.

Where is your smultronställe (your favourite place to be)?

I really like IKSU, a fantastic gym not far from where I live. It’s the largest sports facility in northern Europe where you can play beach volleyball all year long. Indoors, of course. A lot of students go there to let off a bit of steam, but ordinary working people like me go there too.

Tell me something about the town that people might not guess.

Story continues below…

Well, Umeå is very dark during the winter. In fact, one week in December, I think there were only seven hours of sunlight for the whole week.

It might seem like self-torture to live here after hearing that, but when the sun starts to shine again and every fibre in your body is filled with light, energy and pure joy – it’s worth it. In summer, the sun shines for 24 hours, which is pretty amazing in itself.

And finally, what’s the one thing a visitor simply cannot miss?

The people. Talk to them, joke with them, start discussing politics or music. Just let the people from Umeå near your heart. I’ve heard several people say that someone from Umeå might seem distant at first, but a friend from Umeå is a friend for life.

Oliver Gee

Follow Oliver on Twitter here

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Your comments about this article

15:37 February 6, 2013 by Åskar
I wouldn't say that Umeå is in "the far North" as it is in the middle third of Sweden on a North-South axis. It is actually much further South of the northernmost point of Sweden than Stockholm is North of the southernmost and you never hear Stockholm described as being in the far South of the country.
16:17 February 6, 2013 by swinglish
I agree with the article. I lived in Umeå for six years. I moved away 5 years ago because of my wife's work but still have contact with friends I made in Umeå. Even thought he winter can be long the summer is worth waiting for and the town has plenty of interesting places to see and visit.
18:53 February 6, 2013 by johan rebel
A friend from Umeå is a friend for life?

Scary prospect!
09:51 February 7, 2013 by Tamm O'Shanter
@johan rebel - Lol!

I can only speak on the basis of my experience there (two years' worth).

Umeå.people I met were very dour and insular, they were more than willing to 'put down' my cultural heritage with various offensive comments, and although these 'friends' came to my barbecues and dinners when I invited them - not once was I ever invited in return.

I was glad to leave the place!
10:34 February 7, 2013 by just a question
I have never been there, but in my experience, the more North you go in Sweden, the worst they treat immigrants. That's strange considering that there are not so many immigrants so far North.
11:12 February 7, 2013 by Borilla
#s 4 and 5

You reap what you sew. @#4 are you sure you are not another typical UK expat moaning about how much you miss the wonderful UK and putting down the Swedes? Umeå is a very nice town and a very nice place to live.
13:19 February 7, 2013 by Maggie Malay

Yet another discussion to do with Sweden in which people express a differing opinion (to the image presented in the article) - and its always 'Well it must be YOU that is at fault - never Sweden'
19:05 February 7, 2013 by NordicCrown
I left Umeå last year. While there I was 'mugged' in the street and had my handbag stolen and my car seriously vandalised - in both cases the local polis weren't interested. If thats your idea of a "nice place to live" it certainly isn't mine.

@post 6 - Sweden should learn to take some criticism - rather than denying anything is wrong
09:53 February 8, 2013 by Migga
@ Maggie Malay

Most posters only offer negative opinions on here, they never meantion anything positive. They don`t want to. There is never only negative experience to any country or people, but some posters on here choose not to write about that. Of course there is things that are wrong in Sweden but you never hear about anything done right on here. It`s just a one way track.

@ NordicCrown

You call these comments criticism? They wouldn`t qualify for that in any country. It`s just negative opinions . Where are the suggestions to change, the positive feedback and so on? Some posters on here are just here to find or point out faults, not to evaluate or be constructive.
13:15 February 8, 2013 by Borilla
@#8 What exactly does the ability or inability of Sweden to "take some criticism" have to do with the discussion? Being "mugged" or having your car vandalized can happen anywhere. If that is your criterion for "a nice place to live", you would be well advised to return to Umeå since the likelihood of it happening there is far more remote than London, Paris, Moscow, New York or virtually any other city in the world.
23:08 February 8, 2013 by theobserver
"The people. Talk to them, joke with them, start discussing politics or music. Just let the people from Umeå near your heart. I've heard several people say that someone from Umeå might seem distant at first, but a friend from Umeå is a friend for life."

Must be a different planet. Down south, most Swedes are not just dissimilar, but *exacty* the opposite: start discussing politics and they turn their backs; in fact, start talking to them, and they run away; they are distant at first, they remain distant next, and, finally, they are distant forever; as someone above said, you invite them, they will gladly come, but will never ever invite you; friends do not exist down south. With a few exceptions: those Swedes who have ventured to spend some time in a country outside Sweden. Some of them get sensitized and realize how insular they are. Well, those Swedes are the ones you can probably speak to and who are likely to respond. The rest, the local villagers, just forget about them. Better speak to the wall. (If you stand at a suitable distance from a Swedish wall, then echo may fool you that you are having a conversation with a Swede.) As I said, Umeå must be on a different planet.
02:26 February 10, 2013 by Pee Wee
I'm an American living in Umeå for the 2012-2013 academic year. All I can say is "I love Umeå" and I love the people I've met in Umeå. If I had to live the rest of my life here, I would consider myself lucky.
10:27 February 11, 2013 by just a question
We are talking about different things. These interviews have been conducted on university students. Of course they live another in another reality than immigrants (parties, meeting people from another cultures, trips, etc)

Talk to an immigrant (from any country) and the story will be different.
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