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Swedes flock to change name for new Berlin life

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Swedes flock to change name for new Berlin life
14:32 CET+01:00
So many Swedes have opted to legally change their name to Klaus-Heidi for the chance to win a new life in Berlin, that German airline Lufthansa has been forced to close the campaign.

So many Swedes have opted to legally change their name to Klaus-Heidi for the chance to win a new life in Berlin, that German airline Lufthansa has been forced to close the campaign the sparked the trend.

Thirty-eight’s a crowd. That's how many Swedes legally changed their name to Klaus-Heidi for the chance to live in Berlin, courtesy of Lufthansa. 

One of the first Swedes to do so was 47-year-old John Eje Thelin - now Klaus-Heidi John Eje Thelin. But his friends call him Heidi.

"I’ve been wanting to move to Berlin for quite a while," Thelin told The Local. "My wife and I have been planning it. The last time I left Berlin, I felt like I was leaving a lover. A lot of the people who have been blogging about it have said things like ‘Oh, I’ll give it a shot, and if it doesn't work I’ll go to India'. But for me it's just Berlin."

The response by Thelin and other Swedes left the German airline so bowled over, it decided to close the competition early.

"We never even imagined that so many people actually would change their names," said Magnus Engvall, senior marketing specialist at German airline Lufthansa, to the newspaper Dagens Media. "The campaign has spread even beyond the nation's borders."

Lufthansa's mission was to find just one Swede who loved Berlin so much that he or she would legally change name to Klaus-Heidi. The audacious Swede's reward would be an apartment in Berlin, prepaid for a year, along with free language classes, a bike, and airfare within Germany.

The contest began on October 11th and was set to continue until November 28th, but the airline decided to close almost a month early when they found not just one, but over three dozen Swedes were willing to make the change.

In Thelin's case, he was notified by a friend about he contest early on the day the contest opened, and his name-change application was in the mail by that afternoon. By the following Thursday, the process was complete: He was Klaus-Heidi. 

Thelin's wife Debi said she will be with him every step of the way, and whether or not he wins, the couple plans on relocating to Berlin.

"He is Charlie from Willy Wonka," Debi said to The Local. "Everyone else is in this for a lark, because they think it’d be fun. But he wants this. This is truly his golden ticket. It’s not just getting out of Sweden, this is, 'I really do want to change my life. I want my new life in Berlin.' And I'm all over it."

The one true Klaus-Heidi – the one who gets to go to Berlin, that is – will be picked by a jury based on the applicant’s justification for the move. Those who already submitted the paperwork for a name change and are waiting for a response are still eligible, but there is no reason to change your name now, the campaign’s website states.

Of the 38 Swedes who have changed their name to Klaus-Heidi, nine got their paperwork in the first possible day, Thelin informed The Local. The competition rules emphasize that the process should be completed quickly, so Thelin suspects the winner will be one of those nine.

And if Thelin doesn't win?

"My name is Klaus-Heidi and whatever happens, Berlin is still my town."

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Solveig Rundquist

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