I had the same stereotypical idea of Sweden as everyone else before leaving the UK: IKEA furniture, beautiful people, expensive living, amazing fashion, cold winters, meatballs and the non-stop worshiping of ABBA. But never did I think that my random choice of Erasmus location would be so great.
There are things that outsiders do not know much about- but I can assure them that everything good is Swedish. Yes, the previous list holds relevance, but there’s also Spotify; H&M; Rekorderlig; Beer Pong Championships; Daim Chocolate; Skype; Absolut Vodka; the Pirate Bay; Ibrahimovic; Swedish House Mafia; Gasques; and Snuz… And I had the incredible opportunity to live in this country for 10 months.
Not only did I meet people from all over the globe and attend the oldest university in Sweden; Uppsala University, but this experience gave me the ability to travel around the Nordic countries and Russia: which I would not have otherwise been able to visit in the timescale I did! I attended Eurovision in the place possibly most proud of the competition; learnt to ride a bike again, on the other side of the road; and learnt the basics of the language, although unnecessary in such an advanced country.
And, this language is so far advanced. Internationals began adopting words such as; ‘Fika,’ the concept of a usual hourly coffee break, for a chat and some cake; or ‘lagom’ a word to describe just the right amount, but not perfection. Alongside the easy and friendly ‘Hej Hej’ (Hello) or ‘Tack’ (Thank You), no one could go wrong.
Even the dark winter months can be seen as a good point. There may be days where you miss the sun entirely, but rooms lit with 7 lights on average, assist that hitch. Then, when the snow comes (and doesn’t leave) the reflection of the sun surrounds you and lights up the outdoors in a shade of blue.
People can boast that they spent a year in hot Australia and got a good tan, but what about this snow, or casually watching the amazing aurora borealis from your bedroom window? Or, enjoying week-long student-orientated festivals to celebrate the start of spring? Staying in log cabins in the woods? Screaming from your window at 10pm to keep up tradition? And having a 3rd resit exam be entirely normal? Exactly.
So, take my advice and go to Sweden if you get the chance. And if in doubt, type the words ‘Uppsala’; ‘Valborg’; ‘Lapland’; or ‘Midsummer’ into Google images to persuade you further. I learnt that everything good is Swedish, and these things must be experienced.
P.S. Here are a few additional tips…
- Naked saunas and showers are completely normal, do not freak out.
- Do not confess you dislike coffee or cinnamon.
- If a Swede invites you to one of their summer houses they probably built last year, go!
- Learn how to eat crayfish beforehand.
- Vegan food is easily attainable.
- Take a good coat: they wear skirts in minus degrees.
Written by Kate Imeson – Uppsala University