Mahmoud is 24 years old from Aleppo in Syria. He had to flee from Syria to avoid being forced into being a soldier for any groups that fight for control of the land. Back in Syria, before the war tore the country apart and forced him into exile, he was working as a tailor for 5 years. His hopes for the future is to get into the university and study Textile Design, to build on his past experiences. He has heard of a good program in Örebro, and is itching to start studying.
For now, the waiting for his residence permit to be approved is proving challenging. Without a residence permit, he can not work, study nor apply for SFI courses. Determined to not waste any time, he has started to learn Swedish on his own.
When did you arrive in Sweden?
I arrived 1 year and 2 months ago. I travelled from Syria to Turkey, and Greece by boat. Then I got a flight to Italy, and then found my way to Sweden via Denmark. The journey took 5 months. I was with a few other friends on my journey. They found a place to stay in Finland, Germany and Denmark. We started in summer, but arrived deep into the winter.
What is your story and how did you end up in Sweden?
I could not stay in Syria because I was at risk of being forced to be a soldier for any of the groups that are currently fighting. There was no other option than going away. My brothers and sisters also left a few months after me. Only my parents are left in Aleppo.
I knew a friend in Gävle before I started my journey, so I thought It would be good to come to a place where I already knew someone. It makes it a bit easier to start a new life. I also knew there was good opportunity to Study.
What is the hardest to adjust to in Sweden?
The waiting. I have waited for over 1 year to get my residence permit. Without it and without a social number, I cannot register for SFI classes. I study Swedish on my own with internet courses and have found some help from associations like ABF, so I have been able to make progress.
But the waiting is hard. I would rather do something else than wait. No one wants to wait on his own life to happen. Everyone wants to get on with life. While I wait I cannot apply for work and for studies.
What do you like the best about Sweden?
Equality for all in the society and justice are the two things I appreciate the most here. It is something that is very different in Syria. In Syria, it simply does not exist.
Education. It is easy to study here. I would like to get into a Textile Design program at university in Örebro.
On the food part, I have tried the köttbullar, and I liked it. We have something similar in Syria, but with different spices.
What Swedish word is your favourite?
Uppehållstillstand…. It is a tricky word. It is probably the most important word for us… but it is also long and hard to pronounce. There are many newcomers who struggle with pronouncing right the very one word that is most important to them.
What do you find strange about Swedes?
I have some Swedish friends, and many friends that came from abroad but have been in Sweden for a long time.
But some Swedes are afraid of people coming from abroad, and people they don’t know. It is hard to deal with. They make up their mind about me before I even have a chance to meet them or talk to them.
What do you miss the most from Syria?
My family. My friends in Aleppo, where I am from. I miss my town, my friends, my brother and sister and their kids who are really sweet.
Do you have an anecdote about something confusing that happened during your first time here?
The pronunciation of certain words is hard to get for me at first. When I arrived in Malmö, I wanted to buy a train ticket to Gävle. At the counter, I asked for a ticket to Gavle (mispronouncing it) … the man replied blankly there was no town with such a name in Sweden. Imagine my surprise!