Can you fall in love with Sweden without ever having been there? Photo: Janerik Henriksson/FLT-PICA
When The Local launched ten years ago, the idea was to provide an engaging news site for foreign professionals living and working in Sweden. Perhaps you're one of them.
But with more than a million readers a month on our Swedish site (and millions more checking out our news offerings in eight other European countries) and over twenty thousand followers on both our Facebook and Twitter pages, it's clear that there are plenty of people all over the world who are passionate about what's going on in Scandinavia, and want to read about it in English.
Here are seven readers who claim they're among the world's biggest Swedophiles. There are some surprising reasons behind their obsessions. Yet not one of them has been to visit their dream home.
1. David Linford Smith, 41, is a film editor from Hull, England
I come from a port town and the short version of my story is that we think a Swedish sailor got someone in my family knocked up. Ever since I was a little boy my mum used to talk about our family having some kind of Swedish roots and I eventually traced the family tree and found out that my great grandfather was Swedish and lived with an adopted family in England.
My aunt went to work as an Au Pair in Sweden because she was also fascinated by our family link and got a job working for Mona-Lisa Englund who was one of Sweden's most famous ice skaters in the 1950s.
In my early teens I used to listen to English broadcasts on Swedish radio in my bedroom and I was so interested by the different sounds that came from the language. I would also watch the Winter Olympics or the World Cup and support Sweden, without really knowing why. Then Nordic Noir took off in the UK a few years ago and I started watching Scandinavian shows and listening to Scandinavian music.
I have been to all sorts of European places but never Sweden, which I know is strange. At first I was worried about the language barrier but then I discovered that Swedes speak really good English. Perhaps there is a part of me that doesn't want to shatter this idealised dream I have of the place.
2. Lokesh Kumar, 34, is an IT consultant from Jaipur, India
I first became interested in Sweden when I did my Masters in Portugal and wrote a paper on the postal service in Sweden. It seemed so efficient. I learnt that Sweden was considering using robotic flying vehicles to deliver some letters and parcels there.
For me, Sweden is attractive because it is very technologically advanced and there is a lot of to discover in terms of the research and development going on in the country.
I am hoping to travel there on business soon and want to use the trip to also travel across the country to see how people live in the snow. I have seen photos of husky dogs and even igloos in Sweden. For me it has been years since I have seen snow, the last time was on a visit to Kashmor has a child, so I am really excited about that.
Sweden also appeals to me because it is a very clean place compared to India. Here there are stray animals, there is trash on the roads and the traffic is chaos - nobody follows the rules. It is my dream to rent a car in Sweden.
3. Amy Brticvich, 26, is a student and barista from Queensland, Australia
I'm from Australia, so about as far removed from Sweden as you can get in every way. I don't really remember where exactly my fascination began, but for as long as I can remember, I've been obsessed with IKEA. Typical I know, but my entire house is furnished from there! I also have an unhealthy love for the meatballs they serve.
It could also have something to do with my own European heritage and love for all things kitsch. Eurovision has become a yearly ritual for me, I never fail to get behind the Swedish entries. In fact, Carola's 'Invincible' is my all-time favourite.
Some of my closest friends are Swedish - I met them through my fiancé who was completing his Phd with one of them at the time. They've promised to show me around someday and teach me the language. There's no excuse for why I haven't visited yet, but I've promised myself I'll get there. There are too many things I need to do there! Not least of all is visiting IKEA in its native land!
4. Lucy Greggs, 21, is a student from Norwich, England
I am studying Swedish politics for my dissertation, as part of my degree in Politics and International Relations at Nottingham Trent University.
It was actually my mum who came up with the idea. She's not that clued up on politics but she is a nurse and she had a Norwegian patient who told her about the Scandinavian approach to healthcare and welfare. I also read an article how about how pregnant women in Finland get given a box by the state with clothes and toys to
help them through the first few weeks of being a new mum.
The more I researched Scandinavia and the welfare model, the more I felt I agreed with it and I started to think that Sweden in particular was such a wonderful country. It seemed to top every list, from the best place to be a child to the best place to grow old.
The main focus of my dissertation though is the rise of the far right in the country. I know that things are changing there.
I have applied to be an Au Pair next year and I can't wait to get over to Sweden to experience the lifestyle. For me it wouldn't be enough to make a quick visit as a tourist, I want to get under the skin of the place.
5. Nate Hawk, 15 is a high school student from Delaware in the US
Since October 2014 I have been obsessed with Sweden. It began when I started listening to First Aid Kit and then I found out more about the country and how different it is to the US. I like the way the economy works - the social welfare and how they distribute the taxes.
The working culture really appeals to me. People in Sweden get so much more time off than the US. I am still in high school so I haven't been able to travel to Sweden yet but I have already decided that I would like to study international business and perhaps through that I can get some experience working with Scandinavian businesses.
As a language, Sweden sounds really nice and clean. It has such a crisp sound and it is so lovely and sing-song-y to listen to.
Finally I love taking walks in nature, so I think I would enjoy doing more of that in Sweden.
I've become so interested in the country that I check Swedish news online on a daily basis.
6. Juliusz Zebrowski, 39, is a translator from Legionowo, Poland
I have loved Nordic Europe since the mid-1980s when got to know 'The Wonderful Adventures of Nils', a story by the Swedish author Selma Lagerhöf which tells the story of a young boy whose "chief delight was to eat and sleep, and after that he liked best to make mischief". I found the book in my grandparents' attic and then watched the animated series based on the book, which was televised in my home country, Poland.
I also read the Swedish author Astrid Lindgren's books (mainly 'The Six Bullerby Children') and watched the television series version of the 'Emil of Lönneberga' series, which was also written by Lindgren.
Other Swedish influences on me include the Muppet character the Swedish Chef and the Swedish music I listened to as a teenager - ABBA, Roxette, Europe. Then I became the exclusive show promoter in Poland for the great Swedish power metal band Sabaton, which made me love Sweden even more.
7. Jim Nolt, 68, is a retired teacher from Pennsylvania, USA
For more than five years, two good friends (Lois and Shirley) and I have been meeting every Wednesday for lunch. One day, during a lull in the conversation, Lois looked across the highway at a local landmark called The American Music Theater. “My husband and I saw ABBA over there a couple years ago. Not the real ABBA, but a group that does their music,” she said and later leant me a CD by the real band.
As the 1970s opened, I was 23, so naturally I had heard ABBA music before, but it left no particular imprint. Strange then, that after listening to Lois' greatest hits CD, I suddenly (some forty years later) wanted to know more about not only the music of Sweden but also it's culture, politics, literature, and language.
A couple years since that lunchtime conversation, I've read many books from Scandinavian authors, most of them Swedish. There is the Stieg Larsson trilogy, of course, but I also enjoy the works of Mari Jungstedt, Helene Tursten, Leena Lehtolainen, and most recently, Camilla Läckberg. I also saw the Swedish film, 'Låt den rätte komma in' ('Let The Right One In') starring Kåre Hedebrant and Lina Leandersson, directed by Tomas Alfredson.
But as interesting as those books and movies are, they are, nonetheless, fiction. Hoping to learn more about the real people and places of Sweden, I searched the internet for more useful news and information. How pleased I was to find The Local Sweden. Now I check it daily to learn what's going on with the people in this land I've come to love.
So fascinated have I become with Sweden that about two months ago I decided to begin learning the language online.
Sometimes when I complete a lesson, I'll lean back to close my eyes and relax for a few moments. More often than not I think about maybe someday visiting Sweden. Will it happen? I don't know. I doubt it. But then again...life offers many twists and turns, some caused by as little as a casual remark over lunch.
All photos: Private