The search to keep learning was the driving force to move for Denmark’s Sasha Hartley - That’s Denmark, WA. The forward thinking and innovation in Sweden can be both inspiring and daunting. From consumables to the environment, Sweden is a world leader, and Sasha is here to soak that up.
You were living in Sydney until recently. Have you seen a lot of Stockholm?
My favourite thing about Stockholm is the culture. There are so many museums, traditions and beautiful fashion stores. I would take a friend to a few cool bars in the city, on a ferry to Djurgarden where there are stunning gardens. And you can buy food from the garden! It’s on sale! I also love Nacka nature reserves. They are only 15 minutes from the city. It is a paradise all year round.
What are you still struggling with in Stockholm?
I can't understand the alcohol store here. It drives me crazy. I miss the beaches and the sun. The Swedes embrace summer and think about the environment, I really hope Aussies start to also. I feel they think they do but in comparison it is limited. We don't even have the bottle machines where you can get money for bottles!
For Drew, it’s only been six weeks, and for this PR professional and volunteer life saver, Stockholm is the polar opposite from North Bondi. Last week it was snowing. Today it’s a balmy 24 degrees. He’s hoping it’s enough to retain the Bondi tan!
What brought you to Stockholm?
My partner got a job in Stockholm, so I decided to move, too. I’m in a very fortunate position. I work in PR and I can run my Sydney-based company from the other side of the world. I start work at 5am in the morning, which is 1pm Sydney time.
I know you’re a bit of a wine aficionado, has the moved helped?
Yes, I’m also a wine writer (Instagram, Facebook and Twitter - @winewankers). Living in Europe means I’m a two-hour flight from the world’s most famous wine regions and I cannot wait!
What's your favourite thing about it?
I love how my life has been disrupted. I’m in a new country where I have to make new friends, new professional contacts, new everything.
First place you take a friend?
For camp factor, definitely the ABBA Museum. And in summer the weekend houses on the archipelago. Apparently that’s the only place to hang during the summer months!
What is your perception of Stockholm?
Everyone is insanely beautiful. People are very fitness-oriented and active no-matter what age. I do really like that about Sweden, and think that is something Australia should emulate. Just because you’ve retired, doesn’t mean you should stop living.
What have the Swedes got that the Aussies need?
Marriage equality, they’ve had this here for more than 10 years. Beyond that, this is a country of true equality.
There aren’t many people (and even less twenty-three year olds) who can say they’ve received a personal invitation from ABBA. For Hobart’s Grace McCallum, her trip to join the ABBA 40th anniversary choir would be her one way ticket to Sweden.
You had no experience with the Swedish language, so how do you cope?
I know a couple of key phrases that a friend in the choir has taught me. It’s hard and I know I’m not great at it. I sound like Yoda from Star Wars. I get everything in the wrong order.
Where is somewhere special you’ve visited?
The gold room at the Stockholm City Hall is incredible. It’s the most beautiful room I’ve ever been in to. The hall is covered in millions of mosaic tiles and they’re all gold. Also the ‘Artiplag’ is the most amazing art gallery set in the middle of nature. It's Stockholm's hidden gem!
What are your first impressions of the city?
It’s such a beautiful city. I love their mentality in their politics. The Feminism here is really special. It’s more like an opt-out system. Everyone assumes you are until you say otherwise. Because it’s so engrained in the culture, they don’t need to protest for it
From a functional angle, Stockholm is really expensive. But the quality of life is fantastic. You get a lot of bang for your buck.
And the culture?
I’ve been here a year, there are so many different islands, and some really quirky things in the culture like Surstremming.
Ah yes, the fermented herring. How did you find it?
Stockholm is about as far away from Nowra as you can get. For Ian, a music educator and choir conductor, it’s about the opportunities in music. He studied his Master of Music Pedagogy at the Royal College of Music (KMH) here in 1993. He would eventually meet his wife here. He spoke to us from an island in the archipelago. Yes, that’s as good as it sounds.
Are you in the right place?
I am in the right place. I don't think any country in Europe has to offer so much music education and an abundance of choir interest, both in singing and as audience. It suits my ambitions fine.
What’s has been challenging about living here?
The hardest thing to understand about Swedes is their reservedness. When you get to know them better, they all get quite passionate and opinionated but you have to cut through a barrier of trust to get there. The unabashed openness, sincerity and willing hospitality of Aussies is something that we should be proud of. It makes everyone else around the world feel drawn to Aussies generally.
What do you love about it?
The Swedes have culture. It's everywhere. Probably because the weather induces people to indoor activity and experiences, so going to exhibitions, galleries, concerts and making music appeals to many when it's dark, cold and wet outside. That just doesn't work the same in Australia.
Sydney’s Kate Watterson moved to Stockholm in 2015. It was about cultural shift, as part of a half Swedish-Aussie family she was keen to learn the language, know more about her background, experience the culture, and have easy access to the rest of Europe.
How does the experience differ to living in Sydney?
My favourite thing about Stockholm is the cycle paths, they’re everywhere. And there’s less traffic than Sydney. Stockholm has some amazing places. If I had to take a friend of my children's somewhere it’s the Tekniska Museet.
The Tekniska Museet is a bit like the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney. And Stockholm loves its museums...
If I go with a friend of mine, I’d go to the Moderna Museet (Museum of Modern Are) because the barista there has spent time in Sydney! What I don't understand about Stockholm and Swedes is the lack of cafes/little bars. I miss the organic things like fresh vegetables and fruit, seeing kids in the daytime sunlight because in Sweden they are all in day care.
And one final question to you all. Stockholm has the world’s largest IKEA. Is it as daunting here as it is in Sydney?
Sasha: It’s so cool. There is its own bus that can take you there from the city!
Grace: I’d never been to IKEA in Australia until I came here. And it’s mind blowing. There’s an entry and an exit and there’s no other way to get it. It’s the biggest in the world, and that’s the one I went to. That was a mistake.
Drew: When an abundance of Swedish design and form all around, you don't tend to pick IKEA. That said, you can screw up a ‘Billy’ bookcase anywhere around the world!
The Eurovision Song Contest will be broadcast on SBS’s Eurovision Weekend - Friday 13, Saturday 14 and Grand Final Sunday 15 May, 7.30pm on SBS, with LIVE early morning broadcasts from 5am on Wednesday 11, Friday 13 and Sunday 15 May.
For all the Eurovision behind the scenes action in Stockholm make sure to follow SBSAustralia on Snapchat.