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Neil, UK

Neil Shipley

Neil met a Swede and moved to be with him. The idea was to come for one year to learn about his culture and language. One year became two, then 5 and now 20! Now he is a Managing Director of an international training company, specialist in culture and communication. He also writes the popular blog about Swedish culture: watchingtheswedes which we warmly recommend. 

You have been in Sweden for almost 20 years and lived a great part of your life here. Do you have any advice for newly arrived?

Enjoy it. Take initiative. If you need help, ask for it. Don’t expect for help to be offered.

Do you remember what you found the hardest in terms of adjustment in the beginning?

The lack of social spontaneity.

Neil at a party

Neil dressed up and enjoying the Swedish spring.

Is there still something you find strange about Swedes?

Not much anymore. After 20 years, I’m very adjusted and integrated.

Do you still miss something from the UK?

Initially I missed food such as Branston pickle and custard. Now I miss family and friends.

What do you appreciate the most with Sweden and Swedes in general?

The values, the quality of life, the general level of respect. And about the Swedes I like that they are easy to get on with and generally open.

Is there really nothing that you find puzzling about Sweden, Swedes and Swedish culture?

That it is inconsistent. On one hand open and tolerant, on the other hand there’s a racist party in the parliament with over 15% of the vote.

Neil in the snow

Neil the snow.

How did you meet your current partner? 

We met through a choir and decided on Sweden as we have family and friends and a big social network here.

From your point of view: which are the challenges of a culturally mixed relationship?

Communication and misunderstanding based often on language differences.

And which are the positive sides of a culturally mixed relationship?

Access to different things, differing perspectives and fun.

Finally, do you have any anecdote for your initial time in Sweden that you would like to share with us?

I arrived a day after the Estonia* sank. I didn’t know anything about this and I arrived to a place where people were very depressed and negative. I wondered what kind of ‘hell’ I’d moved to until I quickly understood the reason.

* Estonia was a cruise ferry that sank in the Baltic Sea in one of the worst maritime disasters of the 20th century. It sank in the night of 28 of September 1994 and is considered the deadliest European shipwreck to have occurred in peacetime, costing 852 lives.