"Every morning I get off the metro, shed a bit of my urban skin and enter this amazing creative zone in the forest," says Desmond Wong, who came to Sweden as a master's student at Umeå University in 2012 and never left.
He now spends his days designing customer 'user experiences' for clients, a role which he says combines a knowledge of product and graphic design with detailed research of target audiences.
"Say your grandmother goes to the post office," he explains.
"It's not just about posting a letter but about all the other parts of that process – writing that letter, buying the stamps, the journey to get there. My role is to think about the steps in this kind of user experience, how to make all those steps easier, more enjoyable and less fuss."
Working for a growing design agency, Veryday, based on the outskirts of Stockholm, he is coy about his clients, but says he has worked with some high profile brand names.
The firm's location also gives him the opportunity to indulge his love of nature.
"Our building is an old converted church and there is a community garden with trees and a lake. In my job you need to be creative, but if I get stuck, I can go out and take a walk and clear my head. It's very charming," he says.
"It can also be a bit surreal feeling so out in the countryside. I can be sitting in a meeting and hear roosters," he smiles.
Desmond Wong's office in Bromma. Photo: Veryday
Wong says Sweden quickly felt like home after he relocated here from Canada three years ago, thanks to numerous similarities with his homeland.
"Like Canadians, Swedes are known for being polite, they have a good attitude to social welfare and are progressive in terms of human rights, so I felt akin to all of that," he says.
While he admits he has struggled to learn Swedish due to "time pressures" he says he feels otherwise well integrated into society and benefits from working alongside other former student friends from Umeå, who have also relocated to the same firm in the Swedish capital.
"I feel lucky to have people at work who I can also socialise with – we do a lot of fun things together after work and there is a good mix of ages – although I have managed to make a few other friends from outside of work as well," he explains.
"One of the reasons I stayed in Sweden was because all the concepts I learnt at university felt like things being embraced here. There's a really human-centred perspective and a hand-on approach [within design firms]. I felt more connected and closer to home really, when I looked at jobs at design companies here".
Wong and his colleagues watching the solar eclipse on Friday. Photo: Veryday
After "practically living in the studio apart from sleeping" during his master's programme, he says he is also enjoying exploring Stockholm at weekends and making the most of the Nordic nation's "work-life balance".
"In Umeå the city is very compact and it wasn't until the last-but-one month before I left that I started taking hikes around the area and seeing how beautiful it was. Stockholm is more spread out but it is so easy to get around and I enjoy having more free time to explore all the different options it offers".
"There is a great balance here and I know I can walk out the door and leave work behind at the end of the day. Or alternatively there is even space in my office to work on side projects. Sometimes I use the studio space to mess around with electronics, which I enjoy".
When asked about his future plans, Wong says he doesn't think too far into the future and is just focussing on getting the most out of his experience in Sweden day by day.
"Sometimes I miss home, but really I am just soaking it all in as much as I can".
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