Disclaimer: this article does not consider friends or family as things to miss. I mean, there’s FaceTime and WhatsApp, so what more do you need?
As an English person living abroad, it doesn’t take long for you to realise the things you miss from home. For me, it was during the first week or so, I was about to sit down and eat tea (dinner, whatever you want to call it) when I realised what was missing. Gravy. In my first few days of eating out or having pasta and sauce, this issue wasn’t there. However, in my attempt to combine two food cultures, Swedish meatballs with potatoes and veg (unadventurous I know), I realised I was lacking my one crucial English ingredient. In a panic, I googled ‘Swedish gravy equivalent’, but this gave no results. How dry my tea was with no gravy.
In my next trip to the supermarket, I searched the aisles looking for Bisto or some Scandinavian equivalent. To my surprise I found some ‘brun sås’ (direct translation: brown sauce), which on the package looked like gravy. In my next meal using gravy, I used my basic Swedish to work out how to make this ‘brun sås’. Much to my disappointment, but not my surprise, it was nothing like gravy. Fortunately, a friend brought me some a few weeks into the semester and I have since been able to introduce gravy to several people who had never heard of it.
Due to living in Scandinavia, comparatively to Leeds, life is very expensive. There’s no PoundWorld or Wetherspoons over here. So if you’re on the lookout for a cheap pint, meal or tube of toothpaste, this is not the place for you. For the first few weeks, every time you buy a pint of milk or a loaf of bread, you do the conversion in your head. Sometimes you double check with your phone and are still shocked at the prices.
With time, an immunity builds up and you suddenly become insensitive to the outrageous expense. However, this is all lost again when friends or family come and visit and you pay £5 for a beer, having claimed this was one of the best priced bars in town. There is one saving grace however, the Erasmus grant. I do hope students continue to receive this even when the UK leaves the EU, because it has allowed me to do a few once in a lifetime opportunities! That isn’t even considering the price of food, especially meat, causing me to starting “Meat-free Mondays”. This has now been extended to “meat when I can afford it”.
This leads nicely to the one thing I truly miss more than anything. It doesn’t bother me living alongside a foreign language where I can’t always understand what’s going on. I have become insensitive to the high prices you have to pay. I even don’t mind having to buy alcohol from the government controlled shop with its annoyingly short opening times. I would even go as far to say that I have enjoyed the cold weather.
But why, oh why, can Denmark’s neighbour not have high quality bacon, pork and sausages? Denmark has more pigs than people, so there is certainly no shortage of meat in this south-west corner of Sweden, yet we are still sold rubbish sausages and extremely fatty bacon.
I am dreading the end of my year abroad and I will miss many aspects of Halmstad: the wonderful people, the beautiful beaches, the laid-back atmosphere. However, I cannot wait to choose between pies, steaks and sausages when I eventually return to the UK!
Written by Charlie Vickers – Hogskolan I Halmstad, Sweden