I was born and raised in the big city of Jakarta, a city with population more than 10 million. You see building everywhere. Cars, roads, skyscraper, you name it. It does not really sleep even during the midnight. I thought Jakarta has almost everything a city should have. Until I move to Sweden. One of the very easy thing to spot: it does not have forests. Today is Forest Day so let’s talk about it! Continue reading
“So, what’s about Sweden? How is it? What are you studying exactly? And how is your life there? Is it really cold, right?”
And so on. These are only few of the questions that my friends have made in these last days, as I temporary returned back to Italy, due to Christmas holidays. I’ve tried to answer them, but then I thought: why do not share it here on the blog? As I may sum up, I’d say that this post is a sort of recap of my first four months in my new country: Sweden. (Do you remember why have I chosen Sweden?)
To be fair, the exact place where I’ve been living (maybe some of you already know that), is the nice and welcoming city of Gothenburg. A city that I loved from the very first gaze, from the first steps I took while getting off the bus coming from the airport in a sunny afternoon last August. The first approach with the city and its inhabitants: my landlady, people around the streets in the city centre or working in supermarkets, or in some university offices. The sound of the Swedish language, the Welcome Days for the international students in a big cinema and then in my department; the beginning of a new academic adventure and the chance to get to know new classmates from all around the world.
First day at the Welcome Days for international students in Draken, a nice cinema in Gothenburg
Yes, I’m lucky to be there, to live and study in Gothenburg. And I’m pretty sure about that every time I can shape an answer to the question: “Do you like staying there?”. You know, I come from Italy, specifically from the South. I’d say that my region is one of the most beautiful places in the world and many friend of mine told me: “You’re leaving behind this wonderful sea, the taste of our food and coffee… and up there it must be truly cold”, and so on. But you know what? I feel that a country such as Sweden fits perfectly the way how I am and how I perceive the reality and the world around me. So, have I already mentioned before? I’m really lucky to live in Sweden.
Being in Sweden means also that I had the chance to become a Digital Ambassador – and if I’m writing this blog post right now, it’s also because I’m glad to have been chosen to represent Sweden, my home country (Italy) and my university. I’m glad to have the chance to express myself, to talk about my experience and to help international students yearning for knowing more about the Swedish lifestyle as well as the academic world. Last but not least, since the beginning of this ‘adventure within the adventure’, I cannot not mention the fact that I’ve met wonderful people being ambassador such as me.
Probably, the fact that I’ve travelled and lived abroad before helped me in coping with these first months in another, different country. However, if you’re reading this post and you’re going to take a decision regarding your personal studies abroad, and you haven’t lived outside your home country before, I’d say that Sweden may be a good choice.
No matter how cold it may be… you can always dress properly, right? And as far as I was told, Swedish summer is very nice and full of things to do in environments which share a ‘common denominator’: Nature!
Hopefully we’ll meet here in Sweden… in the meantime, I wish you all happy holidays!
Today’s episode in the series on the wild but kind Swedish human, the Homo Sverigus, is set in his/her second nature, … nature! In my personal quest for integration insights, I will venture on an expedition through Tyresta national park and provide you with 5 outdoor activities to do in the Swedish forest.
No better place to go then Stockholm’s closest national park, Tyresta, right down south. This is the ultimate place to spot the Homo Sverigus on a Sunday afternoon at the end of the summer, as it is perfectly reachable from the city centre by public transport in a respectable time. So off we go, deep into the woods!
It doesn’t take long to find the first traces of the Homo Sverigus. The smoke is still rising up from a neat fire pit, visibly regularly used.
We then follow the strong smell of banana filled with chocolate, on a stick. Finally… between the branches of some pine trees I can see the first triumph of the day! Five brave campers in a row, deeply reconnecting with their basic instincts and biting their tongues while pushing a stick through a banana scavenged in the supermarket earlier that day.
You and I are a tiny bit disappointed when we take a better look, only to find that the campers are part of our very own expedition squad, better known as the Homo Belgius, Nederlandius & Indius. No giving up just yet! The winding roads are promising, as around any corner a Swede can be hidden.
Finally, we arrive on the highway of power walking Swedes marching on the clear cut paths through the wild, wild forest. For the next few hours we will observe them carefully and document what they do and what gear they use.
5 outdoor activities in a Swedish forest
In the Swedish woods you can get so much food, for free! The most popular items in the end of Summer and the beginning of Spring are definitely the lingonberries and blueberries. (Check out my delicious movie on lingonberry pie, all the way from forest to fork!)
Mushrooms are another delight that you can find if you make the effort to get up early. That’s right, if you come later in the day the chances are much lower of finding eatables, because the other Swedes have already done their round of foraging. Many Swedes also have incredible knowledge on what mushrooms you can eat, because you can’t just go picking out the pretty ones! The gnomes will thank you for it 🙂
What to bring?
- A bag or box for all the wild food
- A knowledgable Swede or book on edible mushrooms
2. Take pictures
Of course the modern human brings its digital memory to nature. There is no better way to get through the 5 next days at school or at work then staring at your Instagram posts. Just make sure, you don’t end up like this:
Aaaaah, Swedes make me chuckle.
What to bring?
- Your smartphone with camera
- The real deal; a DSLR
3. Make a campfire
What to bring?
- Fire starters
- Any food that suits a campfire (but empirical evidence suggests banana’s and chocolate work great)
4. Walk it out
The national parks are really comfortable and easy to walk, some tracks are even wheelchair friendly! In most places you will find wooden planks, bridges or gravel marking your path. And on the more adventurous trails over the rocks and through the trees there are painted stripes alongside the path to guide you, so as long as you keep your eyes open you will not get lost. (Says a lot, coming from me)
- Raincoat & sunscreen, because you literally never know.
- Your super cute babies if you have any, wrapped in big puffy coats.
- A good conversation partner.
- Your sporty, yet sort of sexy hiking clothes. As long as you fit on the cover of a #wanderlust YouTube track, you got this. Here’s some inspiration to get you started:
5. Take a rest
Find a good spot a little higher up where you can watch the birds fly by, the fish jump up and listen to the trees swing dancing in the wind.
What to bring?
- Your work/study stress, to dispose of at any tree in the forest. Between the bites of all our CO2, they gladly leave some room for all our worries. Trees are awesome!
- Swimsuit for daredevils
When to go?
Any season works great, in fact you should go once in every season of the year. In Sweden there are four, and the transformation in the landscape is huge each time. Winter is all white with snow covering the frozen lakes and the bare trees, Spring is sunny but chilly and everything feels fresh, Summer is warm and perfect for dips in the lake. However, I definitely love Autumn the most. When the leaves start to bleed it’s like you walked straight into a big painting with so many colours you never knew existed outside of an instagram filter.
Today I went to Slottsskogen (the big park in the middle of Gothenburg) with some friends with the idea of playing mini golf, we did not plan ahead this but we thought it would be fun to go there. As soon as we arrived we found out it was closed…what a bummer.
But we didn’t let that affect us, at the other side of the park there is a place where you can play “disc golf”, so we went there. First of all, whaaaaaaaaaat? “disc golf” you said? what the hell is that?
What is disc golf / frisbeegolf?
Disc golf is actually played like traditional golf, but instead of having clubs and a ball you have a flying disc, commonly known as a frisbee (feels so weird when I use the word “disc”, so let’s stick to frisbee from now on). The rules are very simple. A frisbee is thrown from a tee area to a target, which is the “hole”, in this case the target was an elevated metal basket.
Just as a golf course there are 18 metal baskets spread across the forest, some of them are very hard to reach because of the trees and rocks, or maybe I’m not very skilled when it comes to throw a frisbee. For me it was very fun, and at the same time I got to explore a little bit the park (I saw some seals in the distance, I’ll go to that part of the park another day so stay tuned).
When I woke up I never thought I would end up playing disc golf, which is the interesting part of improvised plans you never know what is going to happen. Finished in 4th place but it didn’t matter, because it was SO much fun.
For those of you who want to try this as well this is the location of the frisbeegolf course. The price is 40kr for playing and 10kr for the disc. Also here is the website where you can get more information about it (it’s in Swedish tho).
So if you are looking for a weekend activity, I strongly recommend playing frisbeegolf!
Do you have this game on your Facebook circle that went viral, about the list of four things you called, you like to eat and drink, and so on? So basically someone start with their top four list, then in the end, they will tag four friends to continue with their answer on top four list, and tag another four friends, and so on and so on until the end of time. Continue reading
I just returned from a 3 week trip back to Singapore and had quite a bit of adjustment to make. I didn’t realize how much I have adapted to Sweden. More specifically, living close to nature and absolutely loving it.
With that, there’s a price to pay when I leave Sweden for the densely populated Singapore.
#1 People and Noise EVERYWHERE
Singapore ranks #3 in terms of highest population density in the world compare to Sweden of #196. There are people, noise and crowd everywhere, the exact opposite to Älmhult, the town where I live in.
I lost my voice for 2 weeks! The need to constantly speak so much LOUDER to overcome the noise from everywhere is something I’m not used to anymore.
Restaurants are always PACKED, it is nothing strange to queue up over an hour just to get a seat in an ordinary restaurant. Singaporeans are used to queuing for food because we are a foodie nation and enjoy dining out. When I was out in any restaurant or cafe, I couldn’t even hear my phone ringing even though it was set to the loudest volume, imagine how loud I had to speak when dining out or fika with my friends!
I nearly regained my voice after 10 days but after a trip to the Universal Studio, I lost my voice again but totally worth it.
#2 Eyes become more sensitive to light
I became more sensitive to sunlight probably due to long dark winter here. This trip back, I went for a 6 hours kayaking trip and could barely keep my eyes fully open. I used to sail often and never encountered that before. It didn’t hurt but I had to try really hard to ‘force open’ my eyes.
My eyes also became more easily irritated. Living in a concrete jungle and reliance on air-conditioning means no fresh air. I felt trapped, along with dust, pollution and humidity. My eyes felt very itchy all the time during the entire 3 week trip back home.
On the ‘bright’ side, this irritation stopped immediately when I returned to Sweden!
#3 Bad, bad sleep
In Sweden, there is no need for air-conditioning at home. In fact, I always feel LAGOM at my apartment in Sweden. Lagom in Swedish means ‘just right’, not too cold or too warm. As such, I really get used to sleeping very soundly everyday.
In Singapore, air-conditioning is a necessity. Without aircon, I would be SWEATING buckets in my sleep due to the high humidity and heat. With aircon, it can get very COLD because rooms and apartments in Singapore are very small, the aircon is constantly blowing directly at me no matter where I stand. The solution is to repeatedly on-and-off the aircon. I had to wake up several times at night just to adjust the temperature, never lagom!
In fact, a good night sleep is something I’d gotten so used to in Sweden and I really missed that when I’m away!
There are a few other minor adjustments to made. For instance, I don’t need to sort the recycling back home. In Sweden, I always have a few chocolate bar lying around in my bag but this obviously won’t work in Singapore.