How old are you and what do you normally spend your days doing?
I recently turned 33 – and during the daytime I spend my time working as a digital communications strategist for an intergovernmental institute (International IDEA) that is headquartered in central Stockholm (situated on a cute little island tucked away between Vasastan and Gamla Stan).
Good morning! This is @tjspragg taking over @thelocalsweden’s Insta from last week’s host @i_anic. I’ll be showing you #MySweden – life in #Sollentuna and #Stockholm. Like many in Sweden though – this Påsk/Easter I've escaped the city for a few days in the countryside. So, for the next few days – I’ll be bringing you with me as I enjoy one of my favourite places to visit in Sweden: Österlen, a flat, green and architecturally stunning area in Sweden’s southern region, Skåne. Throughout the week, I’ll also be telling you a little about my #BecomingSwedish project (which you may already have read about on The Local Sweden). More on that later. Huge thanks to @hagmansfoto for taking this portrait of me this week! #MittSollentuna #TheLocalSweden #GladPåsk #VisitSkåne #VisitSweden
The institute assists in democratic reform and creates comparative knowledge resources and our impact is mostly in the fields of electoral processes, constitution building, and political participation and representation. My role in the organization mostly consists of interfacing with colleagues in Stockholm and with regional offices around the world, to prioritize and plan content for our various digital outlets.
Outside of my day job though, I have recently embarked on an integration project with a twist. To cut a long story short: back in November 2018 I agreed to complete an intense bucket list of 73 tasks that were set for me by perfect strangers – with the goal of culturally qualifying me to become a Swedish citizen when I apply in September 2019. The tasks have had me tour Sweden, put myself in numerous situations outside of my comfort zone and most importantly, have had me befriend many Swedes to learn more about Swedish culture and society in a variety of ways. I have been writing about my #BecomingSwedish experience for The Local Sweden, and have been keeping a regular vlog on my YouTube channel.
@tjspragg: I love coming down to visit #Skåne in southern Sweden every Easter – and I've been coming here long before I even lived in Sweden! The main attraction (apart from visiting family) is the renowned Easter #Konstrundan (open studios weekend). The concept is simple: artists across the region open up their studios to show their work – whatever it is that they create. All the studios and galleries in the region are plotted on a map (see picture 2), and the details of the artists are printed in local papers. Originating in #Österlen, the event dates back to the late 60s, grows in size each year – and now is replicated in many countries. The weekend is an art lovers paradise – as there is so much to see, so many artists to chat with – and almost everything is for sale. What I love about this weekend though, is seeing so much of the beautiful Skåne landscape as you drive in between artists – and that the exhibitions can take place in anything from grand galleries (picture 4), to people’s homes (picture 5). Each exhibition is marked by the inescapable red and yellow signs that hang everywhere (picture 6). On today’s Konstrunan agenda was looking at oil paintings and ceramics in #Simrishamn (pictures 7&8) and visiting our favourite carpenter in Skillinge (picture 8). We’ve so much more art to look at tomorrow – and who knows – maybe even some will come home with us?! Stay tuned! #MySweden #TheLocalSweden #visitskåne #artlovers
When and why did you move to your city?
I moved to Stockholm in September 2016 from Brussels, and after a temporary stay in Upplands Väsby I bought an apartment and settled into my new home in Tureberg, Sollentuna.
Some say they move to Sweden for love, others for work. For me it was a mixture of the two. Prior to moving to Sweden, I was working as a communications advisor to a British Member of the European Parliament in Brussels. On the same week the UK voted to leave the European Union back in 2016, I was also offered a position to work in Stockholm. Like many Brits in Brussels, the Brexit vote threw my plans to work in European affairs up in the air. So, with a job offer in my pocket, a Swedish wife and a baby on the way – I decided to make the jump to relocate to the capital of Scandinavia.
It didn't take us long to decide to live in Sollentuna, a municipality just to the north of Stockholm city. With family, nature and excellent public transport links nearby – the neighbourhood of Tureberg ticked all the boxes for a perfect place to settle in Stockholm. Someone once joked to me that many who live in the city move out to Sollentuna when they want to start a family. It wasn't until I moved there that I fully understood why. Not only can you get more space for your money than you will find in the city, but there is also an abundance of pre-schools, parks and cycle routes to enjoy with our little one. All this and only a 16 minute commute by train to my new job in Stockholm – I was sold.
Morning! Before I head out for day 2 of looking at art in Skåne’s famous Eater #Konstrundan (open studios) – I thought I’d start the day telling you a little about my #BecomingSwedish project. (Throughout my take over of @thelocalsweden’s account this week – I’ll be giving you glimpses of how the project has progressed so far – and give you more information on how you can get involved!) Back in November 2018, I agreed to complete an intense list of 73 tasks that were set for me by strangers. The tasks would have me tour Sweden and hassle complete strangers to join me on the adventure. If that wasn't enough, I have less than one year to complete the tasks. To understand why I'm embarking on this crazed adventure – I need to back up a little: In September 2019, I plan to put in my application to the Swedish Migration Agency to become a Swedish citizen. I will hopefully meet the legal criteria to become Swedish, but I started to question myself: do I really have what it takes to be a Swede? I started to put together a list of things I should see, eat and experience in Sweden before I put in my application – to qualify me to be a proper Swede. I wanted the list to be more than the usual things I could experience as a tourist. I wanted to delve into the corners of Swedish attitudes and culture to see what I was missing. I put the call out on Twitter to see if anyone else had something to add, which is how I ended up with a list of 73. What struck me the most about this process though, were the really great conversations I was starting to have with random Swedes on Twitter. It got me thinking – what if this project was less 'learning about Sweden', and more 'learning from Swedes'? So I hatched a plan. #BecomingSwedish needed to be about meeting Swedes and hearing from them first-hand what it is to be Swedish. If you haven’t already, check out the monthly article I have been writing for The Local Sweden about the whole experience, and don’t forget to check out my #BecomingSwedish posts on my account: @tjspragg! #MySweden #TheLocalSweden #Integration
What do you love the most about your neighbourhood?
What I love most about living in Tureberg is undoubtedly the easy access to nature. I'm sure many will say that one of the greatest things about living in a Swedish city is that some form of nature is never too far away, be it a lake, a park or even a little forest.
What is so fantastic about my neighbourhood is that I can cycle to the entrance to the Järvafältet nature reserve in less than 10 minutes. Once there, I have 1,700 hectares of unspoiled nature reserve to explore – with abundance of lakes, forests, cycle paths, barbeque spots and the occasional horse or two. If I decided to head in the opposite direction instead, I'd come to Edsviken – a long and narrow inlet from the Baltic sea that comes to an end at foot of the stunning Edsberg castle.
This ability to arrive at water or in be the forest in such a short space of time feels really rather special – and unlike anywhere I've ever lived before.
On the long drive back to Stockholm today, I took a quick break in one of my favourite places to stop off on the road: #Gränna (Småland). Check out the video ⬆️ to see why I love this place so much – and if you live in the area – please get in touch – I need your help for my #BecomingSwedish project! #MySweden #TheLocalSweden #vlog #vättern #polkagrisar
What annoys you the most about your neighbourhood?
It's hard to say – I'm really still in a honeymoon period with my new neighbourhood. If I had to compare it to where I previously lived in Brussels, I would have to say that I do miss no longer having a wide range of restaurants, take aways and late opening shops right on my doorstep. If that's the small price for having nature nearby though – it's one I am definitely willing to pay.
If I compare Tureberg to the neighbourhood I grew up in – one short coming is the lack of Indian food. Growing up in the UK's West Midlands, you get used to a really wide array of Indian restaurants – even in small towns. It's not the fault of Sollentuna itself, but if some talented chefs would take the initiative to open one or two more, it would make me very happy!
Now that I’m back in Stockholm – I thought I’d show you a little how #MySweden looks like on a daily basis: starting with the morning commute. The small island to the right is my office, called ‘Strömsborg’ (or, ‘Stream’s Castle’). The first reference to this island in the history books is from 1733, but there is no mention of a stone building on the island until a merchant bought it in 1896. In recent times, the island has been home to the Swedish Sports Confederation, a restaurant, a night club – and most recently – my office (International IDEA). As you can see – the island is now connected by a series of bridges – which like most places in Stockholm – are heavily trafficked by bikes at this time of the year! #TheLocalSweden #Timelapse #VisitStockholm #Strömsborg @tjspragg
How should I spend a day in your neighbourhood?
At the risk of sounding like a broken record: my recommendation would be to grab your bike and head out into the forest. Start at the entrance of Järvafältet nature reserve, where you can first top up your caffeine levels in the small café. Before setting off from the café, make sure to also visit Bögs farm – especially if you have children, as there are plenty of animals to pet. Onwards from there, I would cycle the 4km to Översjön, where there are several fantastic viewing points over the large lake. If you still have the time and the energy at this point – there is still plenty of more nature reserve to explore.
One of my favourite places to explore in #MySweden is the #Järvafältet nature reserve in #Sollentuna. The reserve has 1700 hectares of unspoiled nature to explore – with lakes, forests and cycle paths in abundance. I love cycling there in the summer, but it’s also a lot of fun to walk around in when everywhere is covered in a white blanket! Do make sure to visit when you’re next in Stockholm! #TheLocalSweden #MittSollentuna #landscapephotography #VisitStockholm @tjspragg
What's a fun fact not everyone knows about your neighbourhood?
Among the various celebrities that have come out of Sollentuna, which consists of anything from ice hockey stars to a murder suspect of former Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme, there are two surprising throwbacks to my youth.
Ulrika Jonsson was born in the municipality and although not very well known in Sweden, she was the host of one of my favourite childhood TV shows: Gladiators (which I even once attended a live recording of!) It was only this week that I found out that the 90's pop sensation Rednex also hailed from my neighbourhood – famed for their hit Cotton Eyed Joe. If you've never heard the song, don't Google it, it will be stuck in your head for the rest of the week.
2️⃣0️⃣1️⃣9️⃣ is going to be a big year for me – it's the year I'll apply to become a Swedish citizen! ?? I've still got loads of items on my #BecomingSwedish bucket list to cross off – and to experience them all, I need to take this show on the road! ? If you live in any of the locations mentioned in the video ⬆️ please do get in touch: @tjspragg #MySweden #TheLocalSweden #OnTheRoad