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#MySweden: 'My neighbourhood has a reputation for being an area for boring rich people'

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#MySweden: 'My neighbourhood has a reputation for being an area for boring rich people'
James Brown. Photo: Private
07:59 CET+01:00
Every week a new reader takes over The Local's Instagram to show us their Sweden. Today, James Brown from the United States shows us his part of Stockholm.

How old are you and what do you normally spend your days doing?

I am 53, for a few more weeks. I spend most of my weekdays working at my job, which I get to do from home most of the time. I am the Head of Online Education and Senior Advisor for Yoga Content for Yogayama, a studio franchise company based here in Stockholm.

In the evening and on weekends, I spend most of my time playing with my dogs, cooking and baking, and practising music. I play guitar and sing country music.

When and why did you move to your city/neighbourhood?

I moved here in July of 2018 for a couple of reasons. One was that I was offered a job here and, after being here for a month the summer before, I accepted the job so I could spend more time here in a place that made me feel very comfortable.

I have been teaching yoga for 22 years and had got burned out on the superficiality of the yoga world in the USA. Here in Sweden, the yoga scene is different. Before I came here, I thought I was finished teaching yoga, but then I saw how satisfying it is for me to teach Swedish students, who come to learn, rather than to get content for their Instagram feed.

The other reason is that the way things are in the USA have changed so much in the past couple of years that I just wanted to be in a different place. Although I grew up in the USA and have always been proud of my country, it just doesn’t make sense to me any more, so I was happy to take the opportunity to be somewhere else.

What do you love the most about your city/neighbourhood?

I love that it is quiet and beautiful, while still having easy access to all of the necessities of daily life. I rarely have to leave to get what I need, which is good because I rarely want to.

What annoys you the most about your neighbourhood?

My neighbourhood, Östermalm, has a reputation for being the area that the boring rich people live in. I am neither boring nor rich, so I have to overcome that unusual stigma when people learn that I live here.

Also, the people on the street are not very friendly. I have heard from my Swedish friends and coworkers that this is particularly true for this neighbourhood, and when I have visited Gothenburg and northern Sweden, or even gone to other parts of Stockholm, I did find the people there to be much more friendly and smiley when passing on the street.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Good morning, #MySweden, today I am going to tell you about my dogs, because bringing them here from the USA was, by far, the most difficult and expensive part of moving my life here. Their names are Diane, who is 13, and is named after “Show me the receipts, Diane” (google it); and Bobby Brown, who is 8, and whose name you will understand if you google the origin of Diane’s name. Together, they are the most important things in my life- my best friends, my constant companions, and my number one anti-depressant. They are a necessary ingredient of joy in my life here in a new, not super friendly country. Nothing helps me bring a quality of mysigt, the Swedish word for coziness and warmth, to my life like these two radiant and loving souls. But they weren’t here when I first arrived in July, because the steps to bring them here were far more difficult than I ever imagined. It took several visits to the vet to get the export process finished, and, because I moved from a small town in America from which not many people travel internationally, the local vet was unfamiliar with the extremely complicated paperwork needed, and there were mistakes in the first few submissions of the almost ten-page documentation that had to be approved by a government agency there. So, instead of bringing them with me when I first came here, I had to make two more trips home just to deal with that. And it was worth it and a whole lot more. Because they are here now, and have been since the fall. Every day I tell them how much I love them and how happy they make me … and they love living here, because my job here allows me to work from home, so I am with them most of the time. The people I work with here have come to know and love them as well, and people from my company stay in my place and take care of them when I have to go out of town. They eat excellent, Swedish raw meat at every meal and they are delighted to do so. And we recently bought smart Swedish winter coats for them so they could romp in the snow comfortably. I can’t imagine what life here, alone in a strange place without them, would be like. Fortunately, I don’t have to. #TheLocalSweden #jamesbrownlive @jamesbrownlive

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How should I spend a day in your neighbourhood?

The answer to this is easy: walk around. Within a few minutes walk from my house, you can be on the waterfront, in any of a number of world-class museums, in the middle of a bustling shopping area, in our well-well-preserved old town area, in a beautiful old park, or just walking around admiring the architecture. I never get bored walking around this area.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A snowy Sunday in beautiful #Östermalm, in central Stockholm. It’s been coming down all day but, fortunately is not sticking. I was surprised with the last round of snowfalls, my first winter in #MySweden, that nobody cleared any of the sidewalks in my neighborhood. For two weeks, walking was a high risk endeavor for my dogs and I. In any other snowy city I’ve ever lived, everybody clears the walkway of ice and snow in front of their property. It’s a legal requirement in some places. I would have thought that, in a place as experienced with snow as Sweden is, they’d do the same. I read online that, if you walk like a penguin, you’re less likely to fall. But I’ll take my chances. I’d rather fall on my behind like a clumsy human than waddle through life like a flightless bird. Do any of you other expats come from a place where it snows? How is it different here? #TheLocalSweden @jamesbrownlive

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What's a fun fact not everyone knows about your neighbourhood?

From the 1500s until the late 1600s, this area was used for cattle grazing. Then part of it was used as a military exercise field beginning in the late 1800s. Then in 1880, a new urban plan was set forth to make wide avenues and grand residences. That was when my apartment building was built, as were many of the foreign embassies that are still here today. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

This is one of my favorite things I have acquired in Sweden. I wear it all the time because it makes me feel connected to the long history of my new home, even when I am not in Sweden. It is a tin wire bracelet, made by the indigeonous, nomadic Sami people who roam Northern Scandinavia with their herds of reindeer. Using metal wire to decorate clothing, jewelry, and other personal items dates back to the Vikings. This kind of application, using tin wire woven into reindeer hide and fastened with a reindeer antler clasp, was probably first done in the 1600s. The tin thread was traditionally made by splitting a small tree branch in two, removing the central pith, then refastening the two pieces together. Then molten metal was poured in and, when it was cooled, it was drawn through smaller holes drilled into pieces of antler. I looked at hundreds of examples of bracelets before I found the right one for me. I got this one at a small shop on Gamla Stan, here in Stockholm. #MySweden #TheLocalSweden #sami #saami #tinwirebracelet #reindeer #jamesbrownlive @jamesbrownlive

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Follow James Brown on Instagram here. To find out how you can become The Local's next #MySweden host, click HERE.

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