18th August 2011: my flight landed in Arlanda, Stockholm, and I finally commenced a two year stay in a country I had visited once before – for a day. I’m sitting in a small hotel room in Uppsala, the window is open and the rain is tearing down, cars are noisily passing the window. It is, however, quieter than the night, when added to the cars are the sounds of drunken residents of Uppsala and the snores of my father in the adjacent bed. Quite how he sleeps so soundly is beyond me. Each night I’ve crept to bed, scared of waking him. I’m slowly coming to the realisation that I could stomp around the room, shouting, and the snores would continue to emanate from his resting place.
I could give you a run down of everything that has happened in the days since I arrived, but I want you to enjoy my blog, not fall into a deep sleep like my father. So, in brief; I’ve been lost in Stockholm, visited the archipelago, eaten expensive food, generally been shocked by prices, got a sun tan, been drenched in rain – twice – seen the Cathedral, Castle, centre of town, looked for Neds, not been able to find Neds, and generally accepted that notwithstanding cultural quirks, Sweden is generally not too different from Scotland. That is, if Scotland had a bit more money and brightly coloured houses.
Whilst on the boat trip in Stockholm we saw lots of really impressive summer houses on the little islands that make up the archipelago. I don’t think I would be alone in assuming that these houses belonged to wealthy Swedes. And I don’t think I’d be wrong in this assumption. But our tour guide said something that took me aback. 50% of Swedes own a summer house – a remarkably high number, albeit many of these will be substantially smaller than the archipelago mansions. Yet, it is not only the upper and middle-classes who have such luxury. In fact, 30% of Swedes receiving state benefits (the dole to all the Scots reading this) own a summer home. At this stage I could make lots of sweeping generalisations about Sweden being a more inclusive state than what I’m used to, that Swedes are generally more wealthy, or that houses must be really cheap. I’d be intrigued to know how many Scots on benefits holiday in the Costa-del-sol; perhaps it would provide a rough comparison. I can’t make any authoritative statements and I leave this post as merely the reflections and first impressions of a new immigrant.
Two days in and I like this country. Uppsala is beautiful and Stockholm is a must see. But I’m still on tourist mode. If I figure out the truth – or lack thereof – of any of the above statements then I’ll come back to them. For now, well, I just wish it would stop raining.