I sometimes wonder what on earth I am doing in Sweden. Most of the time I’m completely unaware of where I am. Other times I feel very settled and comfortable with my surroundings. But there are those moments – almost existential I guess – where I take a second, breathe, and realise I’m sitting in a country I’d only visited briefly once before I packed my little (well, it really wasn’t that little) suitcase and set off from Edinburgh Airport. It’s not that those moments entail any, ‘get me the hell out of here’, feelings. It’s more, how did my life lead me to be sitting here in Sweden’s fourth largest city? If you had asked me two years ago where I imagined I would be post-university, I think ‘Sweden’ would have been roughly the last answer I would have given you. Is that a bad thing? No, not at all. It’s just an excellent example of how you never know where life might lead you.
Now, I say all of this. But my father emailed me a picture this weekend which perhaps pours a healthy dose of doubt upon the above paragraph. There I am stood by the Trevi Fountain in Rome, 6 years ago. I had never actually seen the picture and, until he sent it through, I had completely forgotten that I’d ever owned a Swedish football shirt. I don’t remember why I bought it, where I purchased it, and I don’t even really remember wearing it. There is a vague memory of being chased down a street in Dundee on one of our unnaturally hot summer days a few years ago, by a bee that was convinced I was a giant, moving daffodil. I can’t imagine that ever happened to Henrik Larsson.
As hard as I try, I am struggling to cast my mind back to what my thoughts of Sweden were before I decided to apply to Uppsala University. Most likely, I thought of beautiful people, huge wealth, equality and social democracy, and an incredible welfare system. And has that changed? Well, in ways. But gaining a more nuanced, sophisticated impression of country whilst demythologising it, actually adds to its attraction.
Oh, we have snow by the way. Fairly deep, powdery snow. And there was me thinking it would never come. One last thing; please, please don’t judge me for the sideburns in the picture.