Francisco, Spain

Francisco Vilaplana

Francisco is a 36 year old associate professor at KTH and an avid lover of Melodifestivalen. He is originally  Spain and came to Sweden the first time 8 years ago to do an Erasmus exchange program. And as you can see from his story, he hasn’t left yet.

I was a last year University student in Spain and wanted to do an Erasmus exchange for my master thesis project. I was offered different countries in Europe (Italy,

Fran Christmas tree

Fran in a Christmas tree

Scotland, Sweden) and I just chose Sweden because it was the most ‘exotic’ place to me. Then I loved the experience as an exchange student and wanted to return for a more permanent stay, and the rest is history.

What was the hardest to adjust to?

In the beginning I would have to say the language and the feeling of being lonely, but I guess that is not only exclusive for Sweden, but happens whenever one moves to a new country.

What do you like the best about Sweden and Swedes?

I like Sweden’s organization, the opportunities for research, innovation and entrepreneurship, the comfort in everyday life. Swedes have a sense of respect to privacy and to each other’s individualities, that I like and at the same time, a sense of social responsibility.

And the fact that once you break the initial ice layer and you manage to know them well, you have a friendship forever.

What is your favourite Swedish word?

Skärgård (Archipelago)

What do you find strange about the Swedes?

Sometimes I find them very squared in their thinking and with a very limited sense of improvisation. Another thing that somewhat irritates me is the fact that when you need something, you have to ask for the right question to get some help.

If you ask for help in general nothing happens, you have to ask for help within the different minimal steps in the way (it is difficult to explain with words, but it has happened to me several times when trying to sort things out administratively).

What do you miss the most from Spain?

The life in the streets, the food, the weather.

What is confusing about Swedish culture?

Some social rules: e.g. Systembolaget, the midsommar tradition, people’s blank unemotional faces when something happens. It is very difficult to interpret (in Spanish we say ’acting like a Swede’ for a reason, hehe 😉

Do you have any advice for a Newbie?



Learn Swedish as soon as possible if you’re planning to stay for a longer period. The rewards are many from every perspective, personal, professional, social …

Be proactive when meeting people, engage in social activities, join sport or music clubs, it is important to know that it takes time to find a social network (more than in other countries) but the results are completely worth it.

Do you have a story about something strange that happend during your first time here?

The first time I saw a semi-final of Melodifestivalen. I remember I was invited to a home party by at that time an acquaintance (now he’s one of my very best friends in Sweden) where the guests (now including some of my dearest friends) started gathering and watching these weird performances, commenting every detail while sipping some wine. Of course after that I fell in love with the festival and I became best friends with the people at the party.