Friday, 23 March 2007

The Adventure Begins

I’ve now arrived in Sweden, and have been here a little less then 40 hours. Its 3 degrees, with fierce cold winds from the arctic. But its also sunny, so for most Swedes, its summer.

In the 30 hours it took me to get her, Ankie’s sister Maria gave birth to a baby boy. In the last phone conversation I had with Ankie before leaving, she told me that Maria had called her mother, worried she was about to give birth. Ankie’s mother dismissed this as Maria just being overly anxious, as she wasn’t due for another three weeks. At Tullamarine airport I got a text message saying Maria was giving birth, and when I finally arrived, young Adam had been born. Although at that stage he wasn’t called Adam yet, as it was only yesterday that Maria and Chris agreed on a name.

In the short time I’ve been here, I already feel overwhelmed by the Swedish language. I can understand some signs, and certain words, but when people speak, it just sounds incomprehensible. Yesterday, when I sat down on a tram, some guy started yelling at me. I thought I had done something wrong, and was trying to explain to him I didn’t speak much Swedish. Then I noticed he was slurring and struggling to stand up. Turns out he was just a drunk who was yelling at anyone who would listen to him.
Maria’s fiancée Chris says in the two months he’s been here he’s learnt enough Swedish to have simple conversations. If I can get to that stage in two months, I’ll be rapt, but right now I feel there is so much to learn that I’ll forever be a mute. Everyone speaks excellent English, but not speaking Swedish is still a hindrance. For one I can’t read the paper, or watch the news. I’m starting to appreciate just how hard life must be for people who are illiterate, or migrants who don’t speak any English at all.

Friday, 16 March 2007

Open Letter to Princess Mary

With only days left until I arrive in Sweden, I’m getting increasingly anxious about my work situation. Which got me thinking: Maybe I should contact other Australian expats for advice? We’re always being told that Australians like to stick together, and help each other out. With this in mind, I’ve decided I should approach Princess Mary Donaldson of Denmark, and see what advice she can impart.

Court of TRH The Crown Princess of Denmark
PO Box 2143
DK-1015 Copenhagen K

Dear Princess Mary

My name is Nic, and I’m a young Australian who is about to move to Sweden. I, like many Australians, have been inspired by your riches-to-riches story. Not a day goes by that I don’t marvel at your lifetime of achievement. My friends and I will spend hours talking about you, with our admiration often reducing us into stunned silence. Whenever I meet other Scandinavians, your name often comes up, and every time I’m proud to tell them: “Mary and I were born under the jurisdictions of the same state!”
Many have said you’re a role model for all young Australian women. But as the most successful Australian living in Scandinavia, you’re also a role model for me. Thus I am attempting to follow your example, and currently in the process of wooing Princess Victoria of Sweden, in the hope that I too can marry into royalty. As one Australian expatriate to another, I seek your help and assistance.

No doubt you know Princess Victoria personally. In fact you’re probably even related. (We know what you royals are like: nearly as incestuous as Tasmanians!). So I was wondering if it was possible for you to introduce us? I’d prefer to avoid a one-on-one meeting, as I fear that could be awkward and uncomfortable. I was thinking about something subtler, like a nice informal dinner party at your palace in Copenhagen. That way we could meet and chat casually. Maybe invite some of your close friends, and “randomly” sit Victoria and I next to one another.
I might also need your assistance in facilitating conversation, so as to avoid any uncomfortable silences. Maybe slip in a few fixers such as “So Nic, tell us about your new yacht,” or “I can’t believe you were voted Most Eligible Batchelor of the Year again!” And every so often try a “really Victoria, what a coincidence, Nic also likes to watch movies. You two have so much in common!” I take it as given that you’ll also fain laughter at all my jokes.

I’m sure you’re a very busy woman (those ceremonial ribbons don’t cut themselves) but I’d really appreciated it if you could make this a priority. As heir to the Swedish throne, Princess Victoria is obviously quite a catch, and I fear she will not remain single for too long. Thus, time is of the essence, and I’m quite keen to get the ball rolling on this one. So, if you could get back to me ASAP with the arrangements, I’d be very grateful.
Yours faithfully,
Nic Townsend
PS. Would it also be possible to stay at your palace while I’m in Copenhagen? If this isn’t convenient, can you recommend any good backpacker hostels?

Friday, 2 March 2007

Job Hunting

Hi, and welcome to my blog, My Life As a Swede. Less then two weeks now, until I arrive in Gothenburg. At this stage I feel a mixture of excitement and anxiety about moving to Sweden. Excited by the prospect of living in a new country, and all the opportunities it presents. But also anxious about the uncertainty ahead, and how/if it will all work out. In the short term, my biggest challenge will be getting work. From all accounts, the Swedish job market can be difficult at the best of times, and will only be compounded by my lack of Swedish.

So of late I’ve spent much of my spare time coming up with creative ways for supporting myself in one of the world’s most expensive countries. Below is a list of possibilities.

1. Crown Prince

To date the most successful antipodean in Scandinavia is easily Princess Mary of Denmark. By getting herself hitched to the Crown Prince, she has become an ‘inspiration’ and ‘role-model’ in the eyes of many. Without doing a day’s work, she has set herself up for a life of extraordinary privilege and obscene wealth.
She is certainly an inspiration for me, and I could do no worse then follow in her footsteps by marrying into a royal family. Conveniently enough, the heir to the Swedish throne just happens to be the young unattached Princess Victoria. To date the 29 year-old is still looking for Mr Right.

2. Furniture Designer

Thanks to Ikea, Sweden is synonymous with cheap designer furniture. Like French chiefs, Italian sports cars and Brazilian footballers, nationality immediately equates to a perception of excellence. Perhaps moving to Sweden is my opportunity to start a designer furniture business? To capture the image-conscience yuppie market, I could change my name to Nik Tøunsen, and give all my designs fancy Scandinavian names, with lots of å and ø.
On the surface, my lack of design skills might make my furniture look crude and primitive. But I prefer to label the process as stripping away the destructive forces of excessive materialism and superfluous extravagance, and getting back to a basic functional minimalism. Complicated instructions could hide my shoddy designs. What’s that, your Kønå coffee table has collapsed? We’ll obviously you didn’t put it together properly. Nothing to do with my craftsmanship, I’m a creative genius.

3. Crime Writer.

Swedes love their crime writers. Henning Mankell, Kerstin Ekman, Ake Edwardson, Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo, to name but a few. In fact Sweden has the highest population of crime writers per capita (possibly?). Despite exceptionally high living standards, few social problems, and one of the lowest crime rates in the world, Sweden seems to be a popular setting for gritty gruesome crime thrillers.
Maybe it’s the absence of crime that causes this proliferation of crime writers? Why else would a nation that has been free of warfare and social upheaval for generations, find violence such a curious novelty? Or maybe Swedes are sick of their goody-goody image, and enjoy novels that can convince them that towns in rural Sweden are on par with South Central Los Angeles?
I'd like to explore the niche market for True Crime: Novels about criminals and major crimes that have actually taken place in Sweden. Such as Lars Lindqvist's unpaid library fine, Jonas Larsson the jaywalker, as well as the notorious cartel of school kids and their stolen sweets. It’s the real Sweden, like you’ve never seen it before. Behind the squeaky-clean wholesome image discover ...the squeaky-clean wholesome reality. Forget it Jake, it’s Swede-town.