“By the way, I’ve got big news to share with you : I will soon be flying to Sweden…”

When I was accepted for an European Solidarity Corps volunteering with Globala Kronoberg organisation in Sweden, I took time to realise that in a few weeks I will be for a year in this (amazing) country that I don’t know at all. Obviously, I have shared this great news. 

I’d like to tell you about the reactions of different people concerning my departure, to see what’s the image of Sweden from a French people sample view. Some reactions were funny: 

“Is this really your choice of destination? ”

This question comes from a guy who doesn’t know me very well. Of course I want to discover the European northern countries (that I have never done before) which is a part of my life to-do list.

“Maybe you will meet Santa Claus in person!”

I secretly thought the same thing (but it remains between us).

“Do you think IKEA stores are the same as here?” 

I will discover it in a few days with a visit to THE original IKEA store of Sweden (as a former student who only buys IKEA furniture, believe me, it’s an honour).

Primary, the preeminent point during discussions about my year abroad was the quality of life at work in Sweden. Currently, we live in a period where mental health is a real society issue (not only in France). French people look fascinated by this system which seems far from theirs. 

Secondly, the weather in Sweden was also a huge point always mentioned by people. it’s in a sense totally legitimate, how can we not think about this few hours of light only, during the winter period? Some reassured me by telling me that Bretons could withstand all weather conditions (let’s talk about it in 6 months)! I no longer count the number of questions about the kind of vitamin that I’ll take (promise mum and dad, I’m not going to forget).

Nevertheless, my family and friends have mentioned their wishes to discover the country. Indeed, the weather didn’t  seem to be a prohibitive factor. Catch snowy landscapes, frozen lakes, visit splendid christmas markets, enjoy a coffee with this incredible cinnamon pastry in the coffee terrace of Stockholm and just watch the life going on. Specifically, if the name of the city that I will stay sounds unpronounceable to the French, Växjö appears to be the perfect place for nature-lovers. 

Human perceptions are frequently based on cliches. As i’ve seen, perceptions of Sweden seem greatly influenced by Netflix series and christmas movies (it’s always snowing, people go to work by sledge and practice ice skating all the time, moose walks in cities. Of course I’m joking, French people don’t see -only- Sweden as a huge christmas market). In another sense, it could be rewarding to note French cliches in Sweden.

All that to say that without physically being there (TV report does not count, even if ARTE channel allows you to travel by staying on your sofa), people have a great image of Sweden. 

With photos, videos, anecdotes sharing, I hope to bring them with me in this experience and give them even more the desire to explore this territory which will welcome me for the year.

Marie, one of the Globala team volunteers