One of the most challenging things of being a Newbie in Sweden is meeting a local. Even when we are surrounded by them, to actually get in touch with them and share some time doing an activity together sounds almost impossible, however, there is a way to it.
We have all been there, we feel like outsiders, we get to meet people but not the locals. The locals have their busy lives filled with cool activities, exercise, after-hour drinks with friends in pretty places, jobs all over the city. As nice as they are, they don’t easily open up to new people or at least that’s the most common impression. Even when I do understand that, I also have needs. I sometimes feel lonely and in need of varied human contact. The need to belong and being part of something is a strong one.
This is what lead me to have in front of me a catalog of people from all kinds of backgrounds. People who I never thought I could be in need of. And yet, here I was, scrolling up and down. Reading the lines and between them as if I was going to select the one that will either break my heart or make me feel, even if for a brief moment, one of them. Man or woman, I didn’t mind anymore. I was ready to try new things.
Profiles these days are amazing! It’s been a while since I have been “people hunting” and the game has been upped big time. A portrait is no longer enough, there are specific activities and offers to tempt you. And videos! The videos are always a good selling point. You can see beyond the one image and see someone in their natural habitat, listen to their voice. Get to know them beforehand.
After looking for some time at the many Locals, picking up Anna was very easy, her profile said: “walk around the lake or bake cinnamon buns with me”. Cinnamon buns! I was already sold. After a few messages we agreed on time and day and we had a date.
Early that day, I was thrilled. I got up earlier than usual, got ready, took my bag and made my way to the central station. After finding my platform and having some minutes to spare, I decided to go classic and get flowers. Real ones, the ones alive because that’s more meaningful. As beautiful as normal bouquets are, they die eventually. A living plant with flowers has a chance. So I picked up a pretty flowering plant and got into the train.
The ride was beautiful! The landscape was painted with the most gorgeous autumn colours. Soon we left the city behind to be surrounded by lakes and rivers. If this was a sign of what was coming, then it was going to be great!
As I arrived in Norsesund I was welcomed with a beautiful lake right by the train tracks in front of me. On my back, just forest and only a few visible buildings. Across the tracks and with a big smile, Anna was waiting for me.
After a warm introduction full of smiles and curiosity on both sides, we walked along the road while we caught up on the life before us. It took only a few minutes for her to realise that Spanish was my native language and excited, she asked me if I minded using it with her. Her Spanish was perfect! Another layer of warmth was immediately felt.
Arriving at her house was an adventure on its own. I always wondered what kind of people lived on those beautiful houses by the lakes. Now I was finding it out. Through twisted paths and after some healthy climbing we arrived to a beautiful and modern building that houses 7 apartments and a nursery school. The views were breathtaking. Enormous trees of many colours opening just enough to get a glimpse of the lake. I wouldn’t mind living in a place like this!
As we entered the house, I had the feeling that we were no longer strangers and I was getting more comfortable by the minute. We jumped right into business and started making cinnamon rolls. The kitchen was open and the working area was comfortable. Soon we started mixing the spices to produce the magical dough. A beautiful, soft, fluffy and delicious smelling dough. Intoxicating cardamom, butter and sugar goodness. It was fantastic to be involved in the making of one of my favourite pastries in the whole world.
We kneaded, spread, rolled, cut and left the buns to rest. The time went a little too fast but that’s usually what happens when one is having a good time. Saying that is actually an understatement. I had a fantastic and meaningful time. For a short time, I was able to be a small part of the place I’ve been living for the last two years.
That need to be part of something is real and normal. When living in a place with a different lifestyle, language and climate, we seek to be close. Meet the Locals offers exactly that, an opportunity to engage through an activity to one of the Locals. They are people willing to open their lives and homes to anyone wanting to spend time with them doing something they like. Through hiking, cycling, having fika or like in my case, through the simple act of baking together, one gets to be a little more involved in their culture.
Meet the Locals allows us to experience the Swedish lifestyle from a Local perspective. A fantastic program by the West Sweden Tourist Board that is not only aimed to people who recently moved to the country but also as an immersive activity to experience in a more direct way what the Swedish culture is like for any traveller. It is a simple thing, really. There’s no need for special equipment or gear, just interest and selecting someone who offers an activity you want to share with.