#BecomingSwedish: When plans go awry

Tomas Spragg Nilsson
Tomas Spragg Nilsson - [email protected]
#BecomingSwedish: When plans go awry
Soon-to-be-Swede Tomas Spragg Nilsson, right, watched his first ever ice hockey games. Photo: Screenshot

'The best laid schemes o' mice an' men, gang aft a-gley.' For those of us not well versed in Lowlands Scots (I certainly am not), this memorable line from the 1785 Roberts Burns poem To a Mouse is widely referenced by many the world over when, due to events outside your control, your plans fall apart.


Since my #BecomingSwedish project started back in November, I always thought that the greatest challenges to completing my list of 73 crowdsourced tasks (designed to culturally qualify me to become Swedish) would be all the travel required. Or finding Swedes across the country to join me on my adventures. Or maybe even the citizenship application process itself.

Sure, all of these elements of the project are proving quite tricky, but never did I think I would have to cancel plans for outdoor winter fun because all of the snow has melted away months ahead of schedule. 

It obviously rather alarming that Sweden has recorded its hottest ever February, and that grass fire warnings are already in place in some parts of the country. Given the summer of forest fires last year, such an early spring could well signal a hot summer to come.

Seasoned Swedes are quick to point out to me that some form of winter could still make a comeback. For now though, the weather is causing my best laid #BecomingSwedish schemes to go awry. Gone is the chance to ice skate outdoors on my local frozen lake. Passed has the opportunity to meet a new acquaintance to learn how to cross-country ski in the Stockholm suburbs.


One by one, it feels like the opportunities to try all the winter sports activities on my 'hinklista' are melting with the snow. Given that I'll be putting in my application for citizenship in September this year, I may well have missed my only opportunity to cross these items off my list before the deadline. This is something I will have to come to terms with, I suppose.

There is another way to enjoy the winter season though, without needing to venture outdoors. That's why I am happy that this month I finally got to check one item off my #BecomingSwedish list that I was really looking forward to: watching my first ever ice hockey game.

I wouldn't call myself a huge sports fan, but as a teenager growing up in the UK I loved heading out to watch a Saturday afternoon game of football with my dad. For me, it was always the excitement of the match day itself that kept me coming back. I miss going to watch the occasional game, and I've been longing to try and find that match day spirit in my new home here in Sweden. Who knows, maybe hockey will fill that gap?

The plan was to watch my local Sollentuna Hockey club play a mid-week game, so I met up with Joakim Jonsson, someone I first met back in December to celebrate Lucia with. Joakim wasted no time in explaining all the rules I needed to know to enjoy the game. We even took a tour around the stadium to see all the equipment you needed to play. It's easy to understand why you need a few kronor in your pocket to play this sport. Just from what I could see, to get on the ice you would need to buy a helmet, mouth guard, neck guard, elbow pads, gloves, shin pads, ice skates and hockey sticks.

Just as soon as we polished off our obligatory pre-match cup of coffee, the game was soon in full tilt. It wasn't until things got started that I realized just how quick this sport is and just how wide the required skill set you need to play it is.

I tried to speak more to those enjoying the game, and it wasn't long before I was offered some sage hockey newbie advice. I was told that that there were really only three things I needed to know about the sport to understand it:

  1. The coffee at the stadium has to be bad. Otherwise it's not hockey coffee.
  2. The changing rooms are the smelliest of any sport (skating around in padding for an hour is not a good recipe for smelling fresh).
  3. Sweden has to beat Finland in international tournaments. It's a matter of national pride.

The night ended with our team, Sollentuna, winning by six goals to three and I've no doubt I'll be back to see another game again in the not too distant future. If you haven't watched a hockey game yet in Sweden – I can highly recommend it!

As usual, there is lots happening with #BecomingSwedish over the coming weeks – so be sure to like my Facebook page to keep up with the latest. In particular, do keep an eye out for my upcoming vlog with The Local Sweden's Editor Emma Löfgren, where we sit down to taste test more semlor than we probably should have eaten in one sitting. If you've yet to come across Sweden's famous cream-covered cardamom cakes, make sure to tune in to learn all you need to know.

As a reminder, here's the hinklista in full:


Falun Gruva
Höga Kusten
Göta Kanal


Ice Hockey
Jumping in an ice hole after sauna
Cross country skiing
Dog sledding
Outdoorsy stuff in winter
Ice skating
Sladda med 245:a
Midnight sun
Be on a styrelse
Play with reindeers
Sing in choir


Flygande Jakob
Masses of lingon
Falukorv med pasta och ketchup
Homemade kanebulle 

Learn to

Exhale and inhale to say yes and no
Use English words when speaking Swedish
Memorise the weeks of the year
Become emotionally detached
Not brag
Complain about weather
Not talk to strangers
Stand in line
Cancel on a friend to spend time alone
Stop being loud in public
Master lagom
Du gamla du fria
ABBA lyrics


Vår tid är nu
Swedish reality TV
Moa Matinsson
Millenium Trilogy
Mannen på taket
Astrid Lindgren
Nile city
Göta kanal
Kalle anka
August Strindberg
Selma Lagerlöf
F**king Åmål
Torsk på Tallin
Skrotnisse och hans vänner
Den bästa sommaren
Vilse i Pannkakan


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