An Alien in Sweden

From London to Stockholm, via Norrköping

Sweden is more than just Stockholm

July 4th, 2016 by Dean

I first fell in love with Sweden when I came here in 1996 for the first time and in 2012 decided that I had one more move left in me before settling down. The one thing that I have learned in Sweden is that no matter how much you think you know about this country there is always some beautiful part waiting to be discovered.

One thing that I always hated about living in the UK is when I would read travellers’ reviews basing the entire country on a visit to London. London is not the UK, just as Stockholm is not Sweden.

Sweden, to many, is a beautiful utopia of islands in the Archipelago, yet it contains some magical beaches that spread for miles, a kaleidoscope of forests, hidden bays and some incredible mountains in the north for skiing.

So, to look beyond the beauty of Stockholm, I thought I would share some travel experiences that I have encountered in the last three years.

First, stop in Angeholm, a beautiful city in the west of Sweden residing in Skåne. Further north than the larger cities of Malmö and Helsingborg, Angelholm is host to one of the most beautiful beaches in Sweden. Klitterhus beach was found upon by chance on a road trip a few months after I moved here. It was in April, the winter was coming to an end, and the sun was beginning to peak into the world once more.

It was warm enough to go for a walk; the beach was empty, but I could picture its busy atmosphere in the summer. A beach that was almost eight km in length was something that blew my mind about Sweden. I had only been to cities before, so being at this beautiful beach was paradise. It was serene as most of the cafes and restaurants that would have been busy during the summer were closed. But I could see that there would have been many memories to cherish and enjoy here.

Another beautiful place to visit is Sundsvall. This historic gem of a city is located in Västernorrlands. I had the fortune to visit here in both winter and summer. A city that sits in-between sprawling hills it is a winter wonderland when cold and a beautiful harbour city in summer. A five-hundred-year-old city that has been rebuilt four times from being burned by fire. It thrives on its industrial heritage and its heart beats proud. Scenic, serene and now safely built by stone!

One place I enjoy visited in the summer was Söderköping. It is a lovely small town in Östergotland. A beautiful canal runs through the middle of the city. The history of the town dates back to the 13th century. Impressive architecture runs through the city and on the instance where the weather is sunny then you will be in a real beautiful part of Sweden.

Finally, I would not finish a tour guide without mentioning the beauty of Gotland and Öland.

These islands off the East Coast they are the two places where Swedes like to visit each summer. Gotland is the more popular of the two, but Oland is equally a perfect escape also. Gotland is the largest island in Sweden, sprawling beauty and a hive of popularity in the summer. Visby is a beautiful city to visit and the island hosts some of Sweden’s most fantastic scenery.

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Keeping in touch with those back home

April 18th, 2016 by Dean

I saw this infographic today, and it got me thinking. Not easy these days to “think” we are practically connected to a device of some definition almost twenty-four hours a day.

My first thoughts were the other day I began to write a letter. Strange I know, why not e-mail? Well, this was a Ugandan child who I sponsor, not only does his family not have e-mail but also a handwritten letter still means the world to some.

But I found that my handwriting was shockingly bad. I remember those glorious days when I could write with a fountain pen in school; perfectly joined up writing that flowed. Now it looks like my handwriting when I was twelve. But that is what the infographic shows, our reliance on technology has changed the way we live.

Remember those days when looking at the photos from a party would mean walking to the nearest chemist to get the film developed? Some would not turn out so well; others would have that sticker saying “Bad lighting” on. But the excitement of getting the film developed seems like the world ago.

Facebook used to be graffiti on a subway wall, knowing who was “In a relationship” was often defined by initials carved into a tree. Or sometimes “it’s complicated” would be written on a toilet.

Changing a video would mean sticking some tape over a VHS cassette, not editing in IMovie.

All seems like a lifetime ago.

But this post isn’t about how much better life was then or how I miss the “good old days”. The days are always good. What I do think we are missing is the connection we have to those close to us.

Communication has helped don’t get me wrong! Facetiming my family is a lifeline! Nothing beats those Sunday afternoons where I can see my family back in the UK face to face. And they can see me. Those Sunday afternoons that used to be routine now are no longer trivial they are priceless moments.

But when I think of communication I also reflect on how we miss the simple things like making a phone call. Those times are changing. Hearing a voice of a loved one so far away, especially as they age, means more than a simple SMS, Facebook post or Skype message.

When is the last time you received a handwritten letter from a parent? Mine still do! They mean the world to me.

Communication shapes the way that we live our lives. Just looking at the data above means that we rely on technology more than ever to stay in touch with the world. But there is no harm in mixing old with new.

Will leave you with one thought. Especially since I am talking about the value of time.

I was walking to work the other day when an elderly Swedish gentleman asked me the time. I looked down at my smartwatch and embarrassingly said: “Sorry, my watch needs charging.”

He took his pocket watch out of his waistcoat and said: “It’s ok it is eight forty-five.”

Time is precious. Don’t be connected to devices all the time.

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Never be afraid to take that chance

April 14th, 2016 by Dean

As you hit forty years of age, you begin to think about entering the next stage of your professional career. The learning curve is over; you have earned your wings and feel that you are in a position that you have rightfully deserved. So here you are about to run down the final third into the twilight years.

As I approached this, I thought about continuing in a safety net or taking a risk. It was something that I had been contemplating for a while. Is it worth taking that one big challenge? Certainly in my career, I had the opportunity to take some incredible opportunities. Somehow I turned them down (why I turned down the chance to work in Barbados at 26 was one I still regret!)

So three years ago I found myself packing up my bags and uprooting my life from the busy streets of London to the more chilled our Archipelago of Stockholm. Here I was thirty-eight years old in a country where I could not speak the language, bucked the Nordic trend by not drinking coffee, and I won’t even mention my cinnamon allergy.

Something inside me was saying “Do it, take that challenge.” So one wet weekend I started to apply for some jobs similar to those I had in London. My Swedish was rusty to say least so I was relying on Google Translation for as accurate a cv as I could.

Two weeks later I had two interviews and two job offers. Everything suddenly felt real. This was not something that I could just debate. I had given up my life and job back home. Left my friends and family behind, moved 900km away to a strange land.

Fast forward two years it was certainly the best decision I had ever made. I have had the pleasure of working for a fantastic company in central Stockholm that is a giant and leader in their industry. My colleagues have been polite, wonderful to work with, and I am grateful that they have been patient with my Swedish, which I am happy to say is not so rusty now.

I have even become a lover of coffee and liquorice!

The moral of this little entry is never be afraid to take a risk in your career. At some point, we all feel the need for change. It does not have to mean moving overseas; it could be leaving a company you have had a long association with or a change in profession. Yes, you will go through uncertainty, feel afraid and unsure. But that is human nature.

The real feeling of achieving the sense of satisfaction is one that will never be forgotten.

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Winter Clothes – Lesson’s learned!

April 4th, 2016 by Dean

One of the things I remember having issues with when I first moved to Sweden was clothes shopping from the country I was moving from. Looking back I would not have done it the way I did!

I moved to Sweden in November of what, I found out later, was a sensationally cold winter. Thought I had been to Sweden before I had no idea what experiencing a full Swedish winter would be like. I was living in the UK, so I went shopping for “Winter Clothes”.

Arriving in Sweden, I was armed with suitcases full of jumpers, jackets, and coats. All purchased from the UK High St. While they may be suitable for a mild UK winter, the harshness of that winter made me realise I should never have purchased all my winter clothes in the UK! For the next six months, I practically froze in 50% polyester 50% cotton jumpers.

Then came my second mistake! As the winter turned to spring, I decided to buy as many warm 100% wool jumpers in the Swedish sales as I could. I ended up with a large pile of jumpers with tags on. “80% rabbat” (80% deducted). Yes, I now owned a mountain of woollen jumpers that cost no more than 100 SEK (8 pounds) each.

So I was ready for the new winter! But then reality hit me in the face. The first winter that I experienced was a “freak winter”. The winters that have followed since have been as mild as they were in the UK! With the exception of a few weeks of constant snow, they have been relatively warm.

So those wanting to move to Sweden here is my advice for winter clothes.

Invest in layers! Wearing 2-3 tops is far more effective than wearing one jumper purchased in a high street store that does not feel a Nordic winter. Also, invest in waterproof winter boots and a warm winter coat (the puffy type)

Winter can get cold here, but it’s hardly the Antartic.

If you find yourself in Sweden around this time of year, head to the Outlet Stores (Stadium, etc.). Many a good bargain to find!

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Is Sweden’s open door policy going to succeed?

September 24th, 2015 by Dean

I remember when I first moved to Sweden and decided to take a walk down my local streets that there were hardly any homeless people. There were some people who were drunk on the streets, yet as the day turned into night, those people would soon disappear back to their apartments. After living in London for fifteen years’ homelessness was something that you see on a daily basis. Walking home from the pub is not uncommon to see people sleeping rough in shop doorways or under bridges. The UK has acknowledged that there is a big homeless problem, yet for me it is a problem there will always be with us unless the government can do more to help charities such as shelter.

The following year I noticed that there were more and more people begging on the streets of Stockholm. Most of those that I spoke to were from Romania you would come to Sweden to seek a better life. I would rarely give them money, more food and coffee. One thing that did make me want to write about this more was seeing for five people last December. Lying in thin sleeping bags in central Stockholm when the temperature must’ve been -15 and the snow was ankle-deep.

The last few weeks the news has been dominated by tens of thousands of people from countries such as Syria and Afghanistan risking their lives to travel to Europe to seek refuge in an EU state. It has caused something of a storm here in Europe with some countries arguing that others are breaking human rights. Germany said that they were taking as many people as possible, Hungary erected barbed wire fence to keep more people away. It is an issue that needs to be resolved. I have been listening to both sides of the argument, and I hope that there will be the resolution.

On one side of the argument, people need to understand that these people of human beings are fleeing war-torn countries. They are putting lives at stake spending weeks often travelling on foot with little food or water to get to a country where they may be able to have a sustainable life. If they are fortunate enough to arrive in the country where people can Seek Asylum, then of course they must abide by their adopted countries rules and regulations.

On the other side, I can also understand the people cannot simply walk across Europe and settle where they wish. Most EU countries are under an agreement that the first country where you land is the country that you should seek refuge. But this cannot work if they all arrive in Greece. There are approximately 120,000 people seeking refuge in the EU. Reportedly most want to settle in Sweden and Germany.

Here in Sweden there is an open policy where refugees are welcome. After living here for a few years now, I question if this is a wise move. Stockholm, in particular, has a severe housing issue. The waiting list for first-hand apartments in some areas is up to nineteen years, Sweden is not a large country in terms of population. With just over ten million people, it takes the second highest number of refugees in Europe per year. These people need to have accommodation; children need to be educated, and the places where they settle needs to be able to accept the intake and increase in population without causing any issues financially.

There are some cities that reportedly just keep many of those people seeking asylum in the same areas. Of course, there was a picture painted of crime-ridden areas high in unemployment. The only way that I see this succeeding is by integrating many people in different areas so that communities can benefit. Of course, there are those idiotic people who feel that all that seeking asylum are “Terrorists”. The many homeless people that I spoke to last summer and winter were a range of people from engineers, doctors, technicians and many other skilled forms of work. Some parts of Sweden lack in these professions and by giving these people a chance to benefit from a Swedish lifestyle they can give something back in a professional capacity.

The harshness is winter was rapidly approaching. The nights are getting darker earlier, and soon the snow and cold winds will arrive.

Those that are seeking to forge a better life here are fleeing war-torn countries. The only way I can see this working is by tackling the terrorism head-on in a full unified joint approach from the worlds forces. Europe cannot simply accommodate millions of people without it having an impact. For those already here they need to be looked after and catered for, but the only way to stop this just by ridding the world the fanatical terrorism.

Sweden has always had and honest approach and it an open policy for those seeking a new life. It is simply cannot just keep taking people in without it impacting in some way. The government has taken responsibility to review the situation at the end of this year. Time will only tell if this approach for work or if the doors may suddenly close on those wanting to arrive.

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August 30th, 2015 by Dean

Summer 2015 in memories

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Ninety days without coffee (The results)

July 31st, 2015 by Dean

Today marks the end of a 90-day trial that I have been taking part in.

Before I moved to Sweden, I would usually drink one cup of coffee in the morning before work. Of course, I knew that there was a bigger “coffee culture” here in Sweden, but that is not the reason that I undertook the trial. Even a year after moving here I never felt that the “Fika” culture was really for me. The whole idea of drinking coffee and eating cakes with friends is something that British people would always feel a little hard taking part of. It’s something more associated with Italians drinking espressos or Scandinavians with a coffee, taking the time to talk to colleagues or friends about what they were up to.

The UK is different. The catching up with friends usually takes place after work and possibly in a pub.

The reason that I began this trial was because after working in an office. My previous employer I worked the majority of my time from home, so meetings were usually held over the phone or Skype. Here they were physical, and you would normally begin by asking if they wanted coffee or water. I find not many Swedish people drink tea.

Soon the meetings were picking up and at the height of the year I would have six to eight meetings a day, and that resulted in six to eight cups of coffee. Already being an insomniac, I found that sleep was becoming worse. Some people here would drink coffee at night, I could not even contemplate that idea. My thoughts were what could I do about it.

So I decided on a little experiment. Give up coffee for three months and see what the results were.

Month one

The first month was not that difficult. Coffee for me is not addictive, it was just something that I drank during meetings, so it was not that much of an issue. For each meeting, I just replaced with either water or Hot Chocolate. In May so the weather was still a little cold so drinking hot chocolate was not so bad. After the third week, I began to sleep a little better and also felt more alert and awake. In fact, I was not missing coffee at all.

Month two

Something changed! I began missing coffee. The smell of coffee would be on my mind, especially when there was filtered coffee. I also began drinking more and more hot chocolate. This led to a craving for sweets (godis here in Sweden). I never ate them before, I would have the occasional bar of chocolate, but here I was buying bags of the stuff. When I was at home, I had a bowl that I would dip into when I was watching tv or on the phone. I was drinking chocolate milkshake after the gym. There were also a lot of godis being placed at work, which I don’t think too many complained!

Month three

Sleep was much better, on average three hours more per night and being an insomniac this was heaven! No more did I miss the smell of coffee or the taste. Meetings were satisfied with one hot chocolate instead of two. The craving for chocolate is no longer there. I feel more alert, more awake and above all far healthier.


Coffee is part of living here in Sweden. Only Finland consumes more per person each year. It became part of my life, but that led to sleeping issues especially during the winter months when there are little hours of daylight. Now after ninety days I will not be going back to coffee. I may have the occasional cup but what I found for me is that coffee is addictive, can affect your health and especially your sleep.

So it’s goodbye to coffee. Will see you around but the relationship is over!

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Why I am staying in Sweden

July 11th, 2015 by Dean

The past few months I have been seriously thinking about my future.

After some stale years here it has been a roller-coaster of a year for me in terms of change and life in Sweden. From several stagnant months in Norrköping to a complete change of life and a move to Stockholm, I decided that I needed to take some weeks off in the summer to think about my plans.

Stockholm I find is a beautiful city to live in; it can also be extremely tough and lonely. Certainly the winter just gone was far from easy. Leaving all my friends behind in Norrköping I once again started over in Stockholm. The job was fine, of course, there will be good and bad days but recently I have been questioning wether I should stay in Sweden or start again somewhere new. The two options were back to the UK or Australia.

I will not lie, I miss my friends and family back home more than ever. This is the first trip back home that I have taken since I quit my old job. Then I would be back in the UK four or five times a year, but it would always be for work. Coming home to Bristol and Bath has made me realise that I moved to Sweden for a reason and that simply running away was never going to be an option again.

I guess that after taking the time to think it has made me realise that home is where you want it to be.

Sweden is a beautiful country, but there are many hardships for people who move there, it takes a lot of personal challenges to overcome in order to make it what it can be and that is one of the most beautiful places in the world to live.

The UK is only two hours away, and it has better than ever to travel than when I first left. Australia I guess was a place that I miss immensely but can always visit once in a while.

I do not need to return to the UK or leave Sweden. I just have to make adjustments and realise that Sweden is home, forever will be and I have no plans to change that.

What happens in Sweden is the real adventure, not lying in some other distant land. It is the country that surrounds me that is why I am there, the people, the jobs, the friends they may all come and go, but Sweden is why I am staying.

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Jamie Oliver a ghost in Stockholm

January 6th, 2015 by Dean

This New Years Eve I found myself in Stockholm. First time I have spent New Year’s here.

I live not far from Östermalmstorg and so decided to have some pre celebratory drinks In Jamie Oliver’s bar before going to watch the Fireworks. I remember briefly that some of my work colleagues and I tried to go here on the evening of our party, but it was too busy. Surprisingly for New Year’s Eve it was relatively empty and we even managed to get a great table. It was interesting to overhear the conversation of people saying how good it felt to drink in Jamie Oliver’s bar and that his cocktails were the best that they had tried.

Living in London most of my life I have grown up with Jamie Oliver. From his annoying incarnation through his “Mockney Days” (Dancing in the Moonlight and “Pukka!”) to the respected campaigner who fights for better quality of meals in schools. Love him or loathe him, you have to respect what he has achieved.

It was not the first time that I had eaten or drank in his restaurants. Back in 2003 I took a then girlfriend to his “Fifteen” restaurant and paid around 3000 Kroner for a meal for two! Thinking of the money I was earning back then it was around half a months salary that I was spending.

Yet as I sat there overhearing the Stockholm diners gush over how privileged it felt to eat in one of his restaurants I was thinking to myself “Has Jamie Oliver actually been here?” After several minutes on Google, the answer came back as no.

Jamie Oliver is massive in Sweden. Much bigger than Gordon Ramsay or any other British Chef. In fact, I am amazed that Heston Blumenthal is not big here yet, I am sure the Swedish people will love him!. But Oliver is everywhere here, no matter where you go shopping you will see a range of his condiments, his cooking accessories and his books in your face everywhere.

Jamie’s Bar is a chain that is cropping up over the world like wildfire. Yet I almost feel cheated for the customers that believe he is the brain behind this operation. The drinks are not cheap, neither is the food but you would think that there would be some kind of input from the man himself. Of course, he is busy, he can’t be everywhere at once but you would have at least expect him to have visited the place during the several months it has been opened.

I agree with this article I read by Pernilla Ericsson sums up entirely the attitude that I have towards chain restaurants like this.

Stockholm is only two hours away. All, he needs to do, is fly over here once and show your face, it will make it a lot more appealing!

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Second week in Stockholm

November 28th, 2014 by Dean

Well, it has been two weeks since I moved from Norrköping to Stockholm. Though I have only had one weekend here. Though the city is one that I am no stranger to it still feels like it has been more of a primary move than a minor one.

It has been two years since I last lived in a major city and though Stockholm is a lot smaller than London, there is still quite a lot of things to get used to. I liked living in Norrköping. It was a slight and quiet city that offered me some form of escape that I needed at the time. London is more like a country on its own. They say that New York is the city that never sleeps, well London is the cousin with insomnia.

The area I live in Stockholm is Karlaplan. It is a very central area with quite an old population. It seems that everyone there has a dog. Even the shopping centres appear to have more dogs than shops. Coming from a country where dogs are banned from all shopping areas it is still a little strange to see so many dogs, even in stores.

The area is quite close to where the large ferry liners dock and during this foggy weather there is the odd blast of a funnel late at night which still wakes me up. For the first time, I have my own balcony. The balcony is something that most Swedish people treasure, their own little area where they can bask in the daylight and enjoy some escape from the city life. My only problem is that mine is seven floors up and I suffer a little vertigo!

But I like city life here so far. Ok the pubs are still “English themed” and seem to be randomly titled from two lists containing words such as “Horse”, “Whistle”, “Hounds”, “Lion” (Think Horse & Whistle, Red Lion, Horse & Hounds) and in all honesty they are probably more British than back home. How many UK pubs have you seen serving more than thirty beers?!

It is taking time to settle and I know that this is going to be a very quick winter and before you know it, I will be on the move again. I never look more than six months ahead in life so I cannot say how or where I will be ending up next, but one thing is common and that is that it feels good to be in a city once more, but I am missing Norrköping more than I thought.

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