"Telling old stories, and singing songs, that make me think about where I came from"

Posts tagged ‘Sweden’

Update from the dark side of the moon

It looks like I’m going to have to start every blog post by apologising for not having blogged in awhile. This is something that I don’t want to do, so I’m going to get it out of the way now, and then hope for your understanding in the future. My lack of posts are simply down to the fact that blogging has become the very last of my priorities. Documenting your life through jumbled words on a computer screen seems to, in some way, preclude actually going about your day and living that life. After getting through my ever increasing work load, perhaps going to the cinema, more often watching the local ice hockey team, or generally just relaxing with a book at the end of a day of studying, the last thing that comes to mind is engaging in the activity which I am involved with at precisely this second. But today I woke early, the morning light is streaming into my room, the tree outside my window has frozen again, and it really has been quite awhile since I last posted. Plus, I’m desperate for any distraction from having to start studying again. So, here I am.

Frozen tree

Just as a note, as I type these letters I am also engaged in a debate with a Councillor on twitter as to whether or not trees freezing is a uniquely Nordic phenomenon or something observable in Scotland, as well. I think he wins, but I have never noticed frozen trees until living in Sweden.

Slalom expert extraordinaire

Since my last entry I have experienced a lot more of Sweden. Skiing – no, not of the Nordic kind, but skiing nonetheless. Visiting Gothenburg, Sweden’s second city and comparable to Glasgow – if we insert Sweden into a sort of Scottish model (something I do on a regular basis). Watched ice hockey, professional and children playing in a school playground, eaten more meatballs, found out what that purple sauce on the meatball sandwiches is, promptly bought the purple sauce, experienced -15 degrees, gained an understanding of why Swedes remove their shoes at the front door, and picked up a little bit more of the lingo.

Firstly, skiing. Now I had skied once before, although it was about a decade ago, on a dry slope, and I quickly realised once I got to the top of that fateful hill two hours north of Uppsala, that I remembered nothing from that one time experience. So I think it should be discounted. I spent the morning on my backside, my knees felt like they were going to break, the gaggle of children on the slopes seemed to be infinitely better at this pursuit than I could ever dream of being, and we went for some lunch at the point when I was getting ready to throw in the metaphorical towel. The final straw was when I had to voluntarily collapse to the ground as I sped towards a small child, the look of fear contorting his face, and the impending guilt of having annihilated a toddler pressed heavy on my mind. Clearly I was not the first person to have ever done this, as his mother motioned to me and uttered in Swedish that I had dropped my goggles. What kind of mental pursuit is this?

After lunch I was like a new man. Well, so I like to think. In my mind a revolution occurred, all of a sudden I was an expert slalomist and I could skid stop in an impressive fashion. Now I am aware that the reality probably looked far different, and from my girlfriend, Julie’s, giggling at my attempts, I’m fairly sure I am on the mark with this one. But either way, I had markedly improved. As we took the lift to the top of an intermediate run, skied off, slalomed our way down, and I stopped without even a hint of a fall, I suddenly realised why people like to ski. It was a rush – but I am still left thinking that any recreational activity in which you take the greatest pleasure at not falling and almost killing yourself, is a rather odd pursuit. But I might just be on my way to becoming a convert.

Gothenburg - and my new lack of hair

Secondly, Gothenburg. My father decided to take a jaunt out to my adopted Nordic home, but since ryanair flights are far more convenient to Gothenburg than Stockholm – and we thought it would be nice to see the other side of Sweden – we decided to visit its second city. It reminded me a lot more of Scotland than Sweden. It was windy, there was no snow, we saw some homeless people drinking on the streets, almost tripped over beggars, and we kept coming across parks or streets named after Scottish industrialists; Keiller Park, Carnegie Street (or ‘Gatan’ to those versed in Swedish), and so on. When we visited the city museum, the nineteenth century section was more of a who’s who of Scottish capitalists than anything particularly Swedish.

I think this post is quite long enough, so I’ll leave it there. I could go on to tell you about the stuffed whale in Gothenburg’s Natural History Museum, the fact that the museum itself was like something from the 1950s and that you could almost imagine Carl Linnaeus himself hunching over the exhibits, or about the gender history that I am writing just now (who would have thought). But I’ll save these intrigues for another time.

One last thing; I really, really, can’t wait for spring.

Gamla Uppsala

Meant to be

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.

Too long

It’s been quite awhile since I last blogged. I’m not sure if I really want to anymore, but I thought I’d give it a bash again. It’s a little like trying on a jumper that fell down the back of your drawers; you remember it, it brings back some nice and warm feelings; but it’s old, you’ve been there and done that, you’re not sure if it’s for you anymore.

Sweden has snow. That might be a little like saying, ‘bears *cough* in the woods’, but it’s taken its time to arrive. Even then, in fairness, it’s hardly covering the ground. The famed snow of Sweden seems to have given me a body swerve. In other weather related news, Scotland had hurricane winds and a tornado in Glasgow. No, the tornado was not part of my dream to remove the weege from the map, it genuinely happened. 

Anyway, I’m abundantly aware that this has become word spew; the inner and not so logical workings of my mind. Scotland is beckoning and as of Thursday I’ll be back in the land of whisky and heather – and fish suppers, strokes, alcoholism, and sectarianism. Scotland is like that rough pal – we all have one of them – you know, the guy who you meet for a pint now and again, you kind of tolerate him because he makes you feel real, like you have your feet on the ground, and let’s face it, you kind of like his crass pathetic self-loathing which makes your life feel all the better. It’s self-affirming. Well, if we accept that description, then Sweden is like your posh upper-middle-class friend who went to private school in Edinburgh, whose daddy is a business man, who plays golf, laughs too often and in a rather snorty fashion, who believes everyone owns a piano, wears jumpers his granny knitted but somehow makes them look good, and who generally makes you feel a little inadequate.

My relationship to each country follows in a similar vein: sometimes I feel I could really fit in here, I enjoy the company of my perfect friend, it seems to really fit my personality. But then sometimes, you get sick of how safe you feel, you become tired of the constant conformity of conscience, the equality of it all. Sometimes you just crave a greasy pie, a cheap pint, and the banter of that grotty but strangely homely pal. Sometimes you just want to be in Caledonia.

Anyway, if any of you have got this far and actually followed this train of thought, then, well, unfortunately I have no prize to give you. But good on you and I promise next time my post will be more lucid.

Disappeared into the Swedish mist

By my lack of blogging you’d be forgiven for thinking I’d disappeared and become one of the unfortunate characters of a Swedish crime novel. The last few weeks have spared me hardly a second to think. It has been the business end of our ‘period’ – mini-semester for those of you not versed in the Swedish academic system. At 1am this morning I put the finishing touches to the last piece of coursework for this period, so all that is left to do is present my latest work on Friday and then run to catch the bus to Arlanda, jump a plane headed to Copenhagen and, after a short stop off in what I’m informed is the most expensive airport in the world, I’ll be boarding a plane for Edinburgh.

In the intervening time since my last post I have turned 26, which I’m still trying to figure out my feelings towards, Julie has visited – around the same time – and I received my surprise present of flights to Belfast to visit Gary and Maeve. As I’m sitting writing this it has just dawned on me that this has been the longest period of time in my life that I’ve been away from Scotland and the longest period of time in 4 years that I’ve not seen my old uni pal Gary Cocker. So it’s nice to know the remedy to both of these issues is close at hand.

Gary and Maeve

It’s funny how the things that once seemed strange, new, exciting, or just plain annoying, have now become daily life. It has become the norm to understand nothing that is going on around me, to not see beggars, and to narrowly avoid being run over by bikes. It no longer seems strange that you can’t buy alcohol in the supermarket, that you have to take a ticket to join a queue, and that people leave work at 4:30pm – except on a Friday when you’ll be lucky to see anyone working beyond 1pm. There’s something bleak about Sweden; cold, damp, misty, and almost a little sinister. But that is counteracted by fashionable orange trousers, crazy hair, the fact it’s cool to wear glasses my grandparents would be embarrassed to sport, and the warm, welcoming nature of the Swedes.

A particular highlight was my first visit to a Swedish person’s home. One of our lecturers had invited the class to his apartment for a post-seminar and a general get together. In true stereotype the shoes came off at the front door, there was an array of weapons on the wall, and food and drink was provided. It was really nice and informal, which made me see the benefits of Sweden’s egalitarian system. Don’t be fooled, Sweden is by no means the land of milk and honey, and you can’t help but get the impression that a lot has changed in recent years – almost a loss of innocence – but the idea that a university is a community, with the professors all the way down to the first year students on an equal footing, is not just senior management rhetoric which appears in the latest recruitment pamphlet, the Swedes really mean it.

I get the impression there’s a lot more to learn about this country and the transition it’s going through. I’ve been surprised by some of the views I’ve encountered in what is supposed to be the home of liberalism and equality. I’m looking forward to better understanding Sweden during my time here, and it’s got me thinking that Scotland’s desire to emulate our Scandinavian cousins – to become a free social democracy in Northern Europe – might be chasing phantoms. Perhaps we’re aspiring to be the Sweden or Norway of twenty years ago, but things seem different here. It’s in off-hand comments and under-the-breath remarks that you pick up this air of disquiet.

Maybe people just like to gripe, but I have a feeling it’s more than that.

I will not be run over

A month in and I may not speak a word of Swedish – well, beyond the odd word to get me by in a shop and the necessary ‘I don’t speak Swedish’ phrase – I may not have tried canned rotten fish, or experienced unusually cold weather, yet. But at least I have now internalised which way to look when crossing the road. Gone are the early days of repeated left-right-left-and-right-again, every time I approached the kerb, a routine which must have made me look like I was having some form of convulsion. I’m settling in. Each day that goes by the inevitable confusion of culture clashes becomes less frequent, and I am beginning, slowly, to understand Uppsala.

Like Dundee, Uppsala is a student city. The University is not merely the lifeblood of this city, but it is the vital organs which preserves its life. Last week was Kulturnatten, a day when the city played host to various cultural events, stalls, and festivities. In the evening Julie and I took a trip up to the castle and watched some fire dancers in the botanic gardens. There was a wonderful carnival atmosphere in the city, but again, it had a student feeling. I couldn’t help thinking about Raisin Monday in St. Andrews, or Scotland’s best Freshers Week in Dundee.

As I walk down any street in Uppsala I am becoming blind to the differences from home. In the beginning they were everywhere; from the American style suburbs with boulevards lined with trees, to the incessant flag flying, or merely the architecture. Close your eyes for a second and you could be forgiven for thinking you were in New England. Not that I’ve ever been, but it’s certainly reminiscent of how I imagine Maine, Massachusetts, or New Hampshire to look.

The differences that I am still struggling with are the academic idiosyncrasies. Instead of a 3,500 word essay, I have to do a ’20 page project’. The lecturer seemed confused when I quizzed him on the required font, font size, line spacing, and margins. I mean, come on, a slight tweak of any of the formatting and you could drastically increase, or decrease, the length of the piece. Added to that, classes in Uppsala start at quarter past the hour, and some begin at 8:15am. I felt like death warmed up when discussing useful theoretical frameworks in early modern history at that time in the morning. Without caffeine it just wouldn’t have been possible.

All of these ‘issues’ are really minor complaints. I’m loving my course and I will be eternally grateful to Uppsala, and the Swedish people, for allowing me to study here free of charge. The country is welcoming and very interesting for anyone, like me, who has a passion for early modern history. Sweden’s answer to St. Giles in Edinburgh is the Domkyrka in Uppsala. This is where the reformation in Sweden began and it’s a 2 minute walk from my department.

If I stayed here for a lifetime, there is one thing that I would never get used to. For all the good that Sweden has done me, I now hate cyclists with the passion of a, well, a thing with a lot of passion.

12 Days Later

In some ways my stay in Sweden has been a little like the film which has inspired this blog title, ’28 Days Later’. There hasn’t been any mass extinctions or hoards of zombies, but I have spent the last 12 days being rather confused, a little lonely, unable to communicate with some of the locals, and wishing things could go back to the way they were 13 days ago. That’s not to say that I don’t like Sweden, because I do, nor that I’m really struggling, because I’m not. It’s more that the novelty of it all is wearing off somewhat and I’m eager to start class and move into my room – thankfully both events happen in the next few days.

Rangers football fans

There’s lots going on in Uppsala – it’s the way I imagine St. Andrews University to be, with a little more euro-trash. There’s a certain innocence to the city, and to the students who can be found dressed in funny clothes and singing songs at each other. I’m not quite sure what it’s all about, and to be honest, I’m not that interested in finding out. But I can’t help thinking that if this was Scotland the songs would have a sectarian undertone and the gangs of people would be far more menacing. Because that is the main difference that has struck me. In Uppsala you feel safe – not just in the student areas, but everywhere, all of the time. There’s no edge, no feeling that you should be aware of what’s going on around you. Take for instance the bike situation: everyone seems to ride a bike here and when they park them, very few people bother with a security chain. Rather, they’re just left there. In Scotland they’d last two minutes before being ‘acquired’ by one of the locals.

The hardest part of being here is being apart from Julie. We’ve been using skype – which has been tricky since I’ve been in hotels, searching for a decent connection, at times speaking to my computer in public. I’ve become one of those awful international students that used to drive me to distraction in the library. We text a lot, and phone occasionally. But it’s not the same as being in the same room as someone. She comes to visit on the 6th September, I’m counting the days.

This has been a hard entry to write. I’m not loving it here, but I’m not hating it. I’m a little bored and I miss Julie a lot. But I’m in limbo right now. This week I start class, move into my room, go to the supermarket for the first time, watch the local team tonight, and begin to live in a more permanent way. Once this week is out, I’ll have a better and clearer view of Uppsala, the University, and my adopted home for the next two years.

Oh, and I now live in a city where it’s cool to have a side-parting.

A real Scot in Sweden

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. 

A different ‘Scot in Sweden’

The year is 1812, Thomas Thomson visited Sweden and recorded his thoughts. I came across them and thought they might be of interest. Got me wondering if it has changed much…

“The principal merchants in Gothenburg are Scotsmen. In consequence of letters of introduction which we carried to several of them, we experienced from that liberal and respectable body a profusion of kindness and politeness which it was impossible to surpass, and which it would be very difficult to equal. The want of inns, and our ignorance of the Swedish language, would have made it very difficult for us to have procured dinner while we stayed at Gothenburg, but this difficulty was obvaited by the merchants, with one or other of whom we dined every day during our stay in that city. The entertainments which they gave were in the Swedish style, and possessed a degree of splendour at which I was not a little surprised. As the mode of dining in Sweden is very different from the mode followed in Great Britain, I shall give a general description of a dinner, that my readers may form some notion to themselves of the customs of that country.

The houses in Sweden are fitted up with great magnificence. The public rooms are usually on the first floor, and vary from three to seven or more according to the size of the house and the wealth of its master. These rooms always open into each other, and constitute a very elegant suite of apartments.The furniture though very handsome is not similar to ours. You seldom see mahogany chairs; they are usually of birch or of some other wood painted. As the table cloth is never removed they have no occasion for our fine mahogany tables, and as the dishes are brought in one by one, and the dessert and wine put upon the table before the company sit down, they have but little occasion for a side-board. Accordingly, except in the house of Mr. Lorent, who had a very splendid side-board made in London, I do not recollect to have seen one in Sweden, even in the houses of men of the first rank. The rooms are not provided with bells. This I am told is owing to the extreme cheapness of servants in Sweden, which enabled every person to keep such a number as rendered bells unnecessary. This reason, which I do not consider as a very good one, exists not at present, for since the loss of Finland the wages of servants have considerably increased. Bells, therefore, might now be introduced with the greatest propriety; and to a foreigner, from Britain at least, they would constitute a great convenience. I have sometimes been obliged to go three times to the kitchen during the course of my breakfast, to ask for things that had been neglected or forgotten by the servants.

The Swedes are fond of great parties. I have more than once sat down to table with nearly 50 people in a private house. The hour of dinner is two o’clock. After the company are assembled they are shown into a room adjoining the dining-room. In the middle of this room there is a round table covered with a table-cloth, upon which are placed bread, cheese, butter and corn-brandy. Every person eats a morsel of bread and cheese and butter, and drinks a dram of brandy, by way of exciting the appetite for dinner. There are usually two kinds of bread; namely, wheat-bread baked into a kind of small rolls, for I never saw any loaves in Sweden: and rye, which is usually baked in thin cakes, and is known in Sweden by the name of nickebroed. It is very palatable but requires good teeth to chew it.

After this whet, the company are shown into the dining-room, and take their seats round the table. The first dish brought in is salmagundy, salt fish, a mixture of salmon and rice, sausages, or some such strong seasoned article, to give an additional whet to the appetite. It is handed round the table, and every person helps himself in succession to as much of it as he chooses. The next dish is commonly roasted or stewed mutton, with bacon ham. These articles are carved by some individual at table, most commonly the master of the house, and the carved pieces being heaped upon a plate are carried round the company like the first dish. The Swedes like the French eat of every thing that is presented at table. The third dish is usually soup, then fowls, then fish (generally salmon, pike or streamlings), then pudding, then the dessert, which consists of a great profusion of sweet-meats, in the preparation of which the inhabitants of Gottenburg excel. Each of these dishes handed about in succession. The vegetables, consisting of potatoes, carrots, turnips, cauliflowers, greens, &c. are handed about in the same way. During the whole time of dinner a great deal of wine is drunk by the company. The wines are claret, port, sherry, and madeira. What they call claret at Gottenburg does not seem to be Bourdeaux wine. It is a French wine with a taste intermediate between claret and port. At Stockholm I drank occasionally true claret; but scarcely in any other part of Sweden. As all the wine used in Sweden is imported from Great Britain, our wine merchants can probably explain this circumstance though I cannot.

The Swedes employ the same articles for seasoning their food as we do, salt, peppar, mustard, vinegar, &c. I was struck with one peculiarity which I had never seen before: they always mix together mustard and sugar: I had the curiosity to try this mixture, and found it not bad. The dinner usually lasts about two hours. On a signal given the company all rise together, bow with much solemnity towards the table, or rather towards each other, and then adjourn into the drawing-room. Here a cup of coffee is served up immediately to every individual. It is but doing the Swedes justice to say that their coffee is excellent, greatly preferable to what is usually drunk in England. This is the more remarkable because the Swedes import all their coffee from Britain: its quality therefore is not different from that of our own, and its superiority owing solely to their understanding better how to make it. You can get coffee in the meanest peasant’s house, and it is always excellent. It is usually about five o’clock when coffee is over. The company separate at this time, either going home to their own houses, or sauntering about in the fields if the weather be good.”

The waiting game

You know that feeling when something has gone wrong in your life and it’s a few months down the line? You learn to come to terms with what happened but there will be the odd day, the more recent the unfortunate event the more regular these will be, where you just feel lost, and down, and frustrated. I’m beginning to realise that moving country entails the same concoction of emotions. The move to Sweden has become a waiting game with little annoyances thrown in. A large part of me doesn’t want the day of departure to come and another side of me is desperate to rip that plaster (band-aid to my American friends) off, step on the plane, and begin my Swedish adventure. Note, if I ever use that term again please hit me, throw me off a bridge – or for the more polite – ask me to refrain from clichés.

There still seems a lot of little things to do. Pack, sort out the relevant documentation, perhaps glance at a timetable of events for the first week, get an EU medical card, say goodbye to people, then say goodbye to more people, have what I’ve come to term ‘the Last Supper’ with my girlfriend (Julie is her name, just thought I’d throw that in there, an introduction I mean), and take a breath, look around, and make my peace with Scotland. Anyway, some of these will be fun, some emotional, some time-consuming, some annoying. I’m not a details person.

Am I methodically working my way through the above list? In a word, ‘no’. Instead I’ve read for pleasure, read for research, gone for a walk, enjoyed the sun, gone for a swim – well down a flume and traversed some waves – drank coffee, eaten Chinese food, cooked fajitas, written blogs, read up on football, watched some football, done some work, shopped, and shopped, and shopped, and done anything which comes to mind that isn’t in the list of ‘things to do for Sweden’. Currently I’m sitting in a pub under my old flat: a pub which is providing free internet, mediocre coffee, and a not so alluring smell of human faeces.

I’ll get around to the organisational side of things. For now I’m feeling fairly contented, enjoying glancing at the International Buddy Page for Uppsala University and awaiting my inevitable fate. 

Planning for Sweden, worrying about Sweden, deciding not to go, then go, then not…

I don’t usually get phased by big changes. I really don’t tend to think about life defining events or decisions until the precise moment when they kick in – in this case it would be stepping on a plane from Edinburgh to Stockholm. For some reason, though, this time is different.

Maybe I’m becoming a worrier in my old age – if mid-twenties can be defined as such. Maybe it’s just how big a decision this really is. I mean, I’ll be leaving Scotland for two years to study in a country I’ve been to once before. The thing is, I can’t quite pin point why I’m so nervous about the whole affair. My girlfriend, for her sins I guess, is having to deal with a rather temperamental version of me just now. At the slightest moment I snap at her – can’t be much fun. Maybe the whole thing will make sense if I go through some of my thoughts – apologies for the incoherence of this post.

Money, or lack thereof, is a serious cause of stress right now. I’m not too concerned about my financial situation a few months into my Swedish stay. The problem is the initial outlays; hotels (note the plural), first month rent on my apartment, food, clothes, books, and the distinct knowledge that my biggest weakness is blowing money on nothing-much-in-particular.

Missing home. This one is odd for me. I spent my whole life growing up dreaming of foreign lands, believing Scotland to have lost any charm or sense of adventure that it may once have had.  I remember reading somewhere that the Swedes have a word which roughly translated means ‘home blindness’. It conveys the idea that people never fully appreciate the merits of the place they call ‘home’. I think that idea can be expanded upon, because it is an affliction that particularly the young suffer from. Recently, and maybe because the reality of leaving has set in, I have begun to realise how great Scotland really is.

Leaving my life; Dundee, family, girlfriend, friends, and so on, and on. The same as missing home but a little different. By this I mean the personal aspect of home sickness, not merely missing my country and the things which I am used to, but missing the people who are part of my life.

Ok, now the big one, the constant nagging questions: Why the hell am I going to Sweden? And, why am I going to do a Masters when I, ignoring the arrogance, know that I could have gone and got a fairly well paid job? I’ll leave these questions unanswered and open-ended right now. I have to admit that the allure of a graduate scheme for some faceless corporation, as soulless as it may sound, is still a temptation that I’ve not fully managed to deal with.

Why is any of this helpful or worth reading? Well, I guess a lot of people who are about to head off to Uppsala, Lund, Stockholm, Edinburgh, or really anywhere that means going to a foreign land, are suffering the same doubts and indecision. If you don’t feel like this at all then I’d chance a guess that you will, or have, at some point. The reality is that we are never sure that a certain path is the right one. Particularly when our chosen path seems to preclude other hitherto options. I’m sure I’ll go to Sweden, figure out my finances, enjoy the novelty of it all, get excited about snow, get bored of snow, enjoy the academic challenge, blog, praise and curse skype in equal measure, and moan. Definitely moan, because if you’ve never met any Scots before then bear this in mind, we like to moan.

Oh, and just for you Troy if you’re reading, the price of alcohol in Sweden is playing on my mind as well.