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Why an Iraqi who won Swedish lottery won’t quit his restaurant job

Bawar Abdulljabbar, 23, came to Sweden from Kurdistan in 2009, and says the country has taken care of him since he arrived here as an orphan.

Why an Iraqi who won Swedish lottery won't quit his restaurant job
Photo: Maja Suslin

“Sweden is my mum,” he says.

He has settled into the country and particularly enjoys his job at a restaurant in Höllviken near Mälmö. Then on May 6th this year, something life-changing happened: he won the lottery.

“My whole body started shivering and changed its colour,” Abdulljabbar remembers. “I was extremely surprised! I called a friend and was crying on phone – he was scared and thought something bad had happened to me.

“When I told him what had happened, he realized that they were tears of joy.”


Photo: Maja Suslin

The 23-year-old had played online football matches before, and had tried out the Triss lottery tickets a few times before striking lucky with his tenth ticket. The prize money will be paid in monthly installments of 15,000 kronor (about €1800) over the next 25 years.

But even with his newfound wealth, Abdulljabbar doesn’t plan to quit his job at Mässrestauranger. “Why should I? I’ll never do that, I can’t live without work. I’m very happy with my job and the staff are like my family.”

His ‘work family’ congratulated Abdulljabbar on his win. “They said I deserved it because I work really hard for them, and I always help others.”

The young restaurant worker hasn’t yet decided how to spend the money. “I couldn’t think of anything because I was so overwhelmed,” he explains. But he hopes it will help him to achieve some of his goals, for example, opening his own restaurant, or perhaps paying for his wedding if he gets married in the future.

He might even change careers, as his dream has always been to become a barber. “I wanted to join training courses but it needed specific prerequisites which I didn’t meet. But I might still follow my passion – I’m still young!”

But one thing’s for sure, Abdulljabbar won’t be using the money to leave his adopted country any time soon.

“I’ll always live in Sweden, this is my place,” he says.

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ENERGY

EXPLAINED: When should I turn on my heating in Sweden this year?

Energy costs in Sweden are set to reach sky-high levels this winter, which will leave many people wondering when they should start heating their homes. Here's what you need to bear in mind.

EXPLAINED: When should I turn on my heating in Sweden this year?

What’s happening?

As a result of supply stoppages for cheap Russian gas affecting energy prices on the European market – particularly in Germany – energy prices in Sweden have been at record levels for months, especially in the two energy price zones in the south of the country.

With winter looming and no sign of things getting cheaper anytime soon, private individuals are starting to cut down on energy usage as much as they can to slash their bills this season.

Does it make a difference what type of accommodation I live in?

The right time to start heating your home depends on several factors including your own personal preference, the weather, whether you live in rented accommodation or own your own property, and on the age and features of the property you live in.

How does the heating system work in Swedish homes?

More than half of all houses and commercial properties in Sweden use district heating or fjärrvärme, with this number rising to around 90 percent for apartment buildings.

This system distributes hot water from heating plants to houses and apartments through underground water pipes, meaning that heating sources are centralised, rather than individual houses or apartments having their own heating source.

In smaller towns and in houses, district heating is less common, and it’s these households who can benefit the most from waiting longer to turn on their heating.

Do I control my heating?

It depends. If you live in a rented apartment or a bostadsrättsforening (co-operative housing association) with district heating, your landlord or the board of your housing foundation will usually decide for you when to turn your heating on.

Unlike other countries, Sweden has no official legal heating season, with heating in bostadsrättsföreningar usually switched on automatically following periods of cold weather, no matter which date they occur on.

This will usually be designed to provide an indoor temperature of around 21 degrees – you can turn your radiators down if you feel this is too warm, but you won’t usually be able to turn them up if you want the temperature to be warmer.

The Public Health Agency recommends temperatures of between 20 and 24 degrees indoors, with temperatures lower than 18 degrees in apartments posing a health risk.

Temperatures lower than 14 are not recommended as they can cause condensation and mould growth on walls and furnishings, which, again, are a health risk, and can cause permanent damage to properties.

Can I save money by waiting to turn my heating on?

Again, it depends. If you’re renting and you pay varmhyra – rent with heating included – then you won’t save money directly, but heating your home wisely could make it less likely for your landlord to raise your rent to cover increased heating costs.

If you pay kallhyra – rent without heating included, then waiting to turn on the heating will save money on your electricity bill.

Similarly, in some housing associations, electricity and heating costs are included in your monthly fee, meaning you pay your share of the heating costs for the entire building ever month. In this case, your energy costs are more affected by how much energy everyone else in your housing association uses than your individual usage.

On the other hand, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t care about how warm your heating is – if you have your heating on full-blast for the whole winter, your costs will increase as well as the costs of all of your neighbours, and if the entire association’s energy costs increase substantially, the board may decide to raise the monthly fee or avgift for everyone in the building to cover this.

If you pay an individual energy bill based on your own household’s usage, and not on an average of the whole building, it could pay to wait before you switch on your heating.

How else can I save money on heating costs?

Turning your heating down a couple of degrees can make a big difference to your heating costs, but you can also save money on heating and make your property feel warmer by making it more energy effective.

There are a few easy ways to do this, according to the Swedish Energy Agency.

Firstly, make sure your house is well insulated, not just your doors and windows, but also in the loft: a large amount of a building’s heat escapes through the roof. This also applies to the boundaries between well-insulated and poorly-insulated areas.

If you have a cellar or conservatory, for example, which is not heated and not insulated, make sure the door between this room and the rest of the house is well-insulated with no gaps around the doorframe where heat can escape into the colder room. 

In a similar vein, locate any drafts and do what you can to block them, either with draft excluders or by replacing worn-out draft excluder strips on old doors and windows.

You can also benefit from thinking about how you furnish your home – furniture placed in front of radiators mean it is harder for warm air to circulate, and you can keep your house warmer at night by closing your curtains or blinds to keep eat from escaping through your windows.

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