#MySweden: ‘Älmhult is extremely diverse for being a relatively small city’

The Local's readers take over our Instagram account to introduce each other to towns and neighbourhoods across Sweden. Today, Sikandar Khan from Pakistan talks about life in Älmhult.

#MySweden: 'Älmhult is extremely diverse for being a relatively small city'
Sikandar Khan. Photo: Private
How old are you and what do you normally spend your days doing?
I just turned 28, and my each day is different from another, there is no such thing as a “typical day” for me. Even though my 8-to-5 work day is well scheduled and planned, I do not plan my free time and take each day as it comes.
Some days I like to go for walks and immerse myself in the secluded nature, other days I like to go some place new to hone my photography skills, or just have a cozy evening indoors in front of TV, binge watching Netflix. 
When and why did you move to your neighbourhood?
I moved to Älmhult in March this year after having lived in dynamic Stockholm for around four years. The reason I took this 180 degree turn was because I got an opportunity to work for Ikea, which was a dream come true for me. Although I had my concerns moving to a calm town of less than 20,000 people from the bustling capital of Scandinavia, and initially I missed the big city feels, with time I have started to like my new home. Now when I go to Stockholm or any bigger city, it feels very crowded to me. 
What do you love the most about your neighbourhood?
Älmhult is a very unique city, and with time it has grown on me. It is known because of Ikea, and most people living here are associated to Ikea one way or another. So wherever you go, you see someone you have either seen or interacted with at work, it makes you feel like a part of huge family and everyone is friendly. You get many smiles walking on the streets, which I missed in Stockholm. Apart from that Älmhult is extremely diverse for being a relatively small city, with people from around 40 nationalities living here so you get the international atmosphere that you'd expect in a bigger city. 
What annoys you the most about your neighbourhood?
We do have all the basic amenities here, but sometimes  when I need to go or buy something special, I have to go to Malmö, which is not that big of a deal as there is a direct train going every hour and takes like one and a half hours, but it could be still be annoying as you have to plan your day according to the train timings as they do not run all night long, which is mostly annoying during weekends. 
How should I spend a day in your town?
Even though Älmhult is small, it's not short of activities to do. Start with a hearty breakfast at Ikea store, followed by visiting Ikea Fynd. Every Ikea store has a small section dedicated to bargains called “Fynd” but in Älmhult there is a separate store of its own, just dedicated to Ikea fynd, the only one of its kind in the world. It is definitely worth a visit while you are here. 
There you can step into the history of Ikea by visiting the Ikea museum, spanning three floors. You can spend quite a chunk of your day here by reading Ikea's story, delve into the nostalgia and appreciate the glorious history. Which can then be followed by a meatball lunch at Ikea's museum restaurant. The meatballs are traditionally Swedish with a modern touch. You can also choose between veggie, chicken, meat and salmon. 
Later, if you still have time and energy left, you can go to the lake Möckeln, and enjoy the nature or fancy a swim perhaps? There is also a possibility to hire a canoe and go on a canoe tour. 
I'd totally recommend coming to Älmhult if you're a nature lover and a die-hard fan of Ikea.
What's a fun fact not everyone knows about your neighbourhood?
Did you know what the word Älm means Elm and hult means groove, so Älmhult means groove of Elms. (Elm is a type of a tree).


You can follow Sikandar Khan on Instagram here. Do you want to be The Local's next #MySweden Instagram takeover host? Click HERE to apply.

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How a rental car shortage in Europe could scupper summer holiday plans

After long months of lockdowns and curfews Europeans are looking forward to jetting off for a bit of sun and sand -- only to find that their long awaited holiday plans go awry due to a shortage of rental cars.

How a rental car shortage in Europe could scupper summer holiday plans
Tourists wait outside of rental car agencies in Corsica. Photo: PASCAL POCHARD-CASABIANCA / AFP

In many areas popular with tourists cars are simply not available or subcompacts are going for a stiff €500 euros.

Car rental comparison websites show just how expensive renting a vehicle has become for tourists this summer.

According to Carigami, renting a car for a week this summer will set tourists back an average of 364 euros compared to 277 euros two years ago.

For Italy, the figure is 407 euros this summer compared to 250 euros in 2019. In Spain, the average cost has jumped to 263 euros from 185 euros.

According to another website, Liligo, daily rental costs have nearly doubled on the French island of Corsica. At the resort city of Palma on the Spanish island of Mallorca, rental prices have nearly tripled.

Today’s problem is a direct result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Faced with near absence of clients, selling off vehicles to raise cash made a lot of sense for car rental firms struggling to survive.

“Everyone drastically reduced their fleet,” said the head of Europcar, Caroline Parot.

Until the spring, most companies still had fleets roughly a third smaller than in 2019, she said.

Car rental firms are used to regularly selling their vehicles and replacing them, so rebuilding their inventory should not have been a problem.

Except the pandemic sent demand for consumer electronics surging, creating a shortage of semiconductors, or chips, that are used not only in computers but increasingly in cars.

“A key contributor to the challenge right now is the global chip shortage, which has impacted new vehicle availability across the industry at a time when demand is already high,” said a spokesman for Enterprise.

It said it was working to acquire new vehicles but that in the mean time it is shifting cars around in order to better meet demand.

No cars, try a van

“We’ve begun to warn people: if you want to come to Italy, which is finally reopening, plan and reserve ahead,” said the head of the association of Italian car rental firms, Massimiliano Archiapatti.

He said they were working hard to meet the surge in demand at vacation spots.

“But we’ve got two big islands that are major international tourism destinations,” he said, which makes it difficult to move cars around,
especially as the trip to Sardinia takes half a day.

“The ferries are already full with people bringing their cars,” he added.

“Given the law of supply and demand, there is a risk it will impact on prices,” Archiapatti said.

The increase in demand is also being seen for rentals between individuals.

GetAround, a web platform that organises such rentals, said it has seen “a sharp increases in searches and rentals” in European markets.

Since May more than 90 percent of cars available on the platform have been rented on weekends, and many have already been booked for much of the summer.

GetAround has used the surge in demand to expand the number of cities it serves.

For some, their arrival can’t come fast enough.

Bruno Riondet, a 51-year-old aeronautics technician, rents cars to attend matches of his favourite British football club, Brighton.

“Before, to rent a car I was paying between 25 and 30 euros per day. Today, it’s more than 90 euros, that’s three times more expensive,” he said.

In the United States, where prices shot higher during the spring, tourists visiting Hawaii turned to renting vans.

In France, there are still cars, according to Jean-Philippe Doyen, who handles shared mobility at the National Council of Automobile Professionals.

“Clients have a tendency to reserve at the last minute, even more so in the still somewhat uncertain situation,” he said.

They will often wait until just a few days before their trip, which means car rental firms don’t have a complete overview of upcoming demand, he added.

He said business is recovering but that revenue has yet to reach pre-pandemic levels as travel is not yet completely unfettered.

SEE ALSO: British drivers will no longer need an insurance ‘green card’ to visit Europe, EU rules