What I love about northern Sweden
What I love about northern Sweden

What I love about northern Sweden

Paul Connolly has spent years evangelising to friends, family and anyone who’ll stand still long enough to listen, about the wonders of Norrland. And here are the five aspects of Norrland life he is most passionate about.

THE LIGHT

A few years ago, The Sun newspaper, the UK’s idiot king of tabloids, ran a story about Facebook’s new data centre in Luleå. The story started like this: “In this remote Swedish community the pale sun rises at 10am, sets at 2pm and the midday temperature is a perishing -30C.” The piece didn’t mention that these gloomy, freezing circumstances only infrequently held sway and only in the very deep mid-winter.

The newspaper then blithered on about how “biting cold and darkness dominate in Luleå, a town perched at the top of the world.” This is, of course, about 95 percent nonsense.

The story gave the impression that Luleå was a dark, dank place all year round. It is not. And neither is it here, a little further south, in Skellefteå. By early April, our days already stretch out more than 30 minutes longer than London’s and 20 minutes longer than Stockholm’s.

The vårvinter (early spring) days here are glorious – dazzling sunshine reflecting off snow, with temperatures of around 5C. And then there’s the midnight sun and our often sun-soaked summers.

Northern Sweden is an incredibly bright place to live. Even the deep winters are illuminated by the snow.

THE HEALTH SYSTEM

My girlfriend received incredible care when she gave birth to our twins a few years back. Since then we’ve had more great care in Skellefteå. What struck me first about hospitals up here was how uncrowded and efficient they were.

If we have an 11am appointment, the appointment would take place at 11am. In the UK an 11am appointment is purely indicative of the day in which you might be seen. They may as well just offer you an AM or PM slot, like some delivery companies.

There was another remarkable difference between the UK and Sweden. I had mainly good dealings with the UK’s NHS but some of the staff employed would have been better suited to working with grumpy grizzly bears – they were about as caring as a needle in the eye. The staff in Skellefteå were born to be in healthcare.

They’re compassionate, knowledgeable and, professional. The combination of uncrowded, modern, cutting-edge facilities peopled by staff who are in the right profession is a potent one. And when you have children, it’s a reassuring combination, too. The health system up here is nothing short of sensational.

What I love about northern Sweden
Golden eagle and fox, photographed by Conny Lundström.

NATURE

I’m looking out of my office window. Our land – bought for the price of a parking spot in London – stretches down to the lake at the bottom of our “garden”. It’s a huge lake. Over it fly ducks, geese and cranes. We’ve seen reindeer, elk and roe deer.

Snowy owls and golden eagles are also spotted but less regularly. And there’s the Northern Lights. We see them regularly from our front steps. Norrland – what a spectacular place to live!

CUSTOMER SERVICE

Customer service up here tends to be excellent. Shop staff smile and are courteous. They stop what they’re doing and help you find stuff.

In the UK the only supermarket in which that happens is the rather expensive Waitrose chain. Over here, even staff at the more middle-market Willy’s and Biltema are super helpful.

Try asking for help at Tesco’s in the UK and you’ll likely be ejected from the premises for harassing the staff. Up here, it’s actually part of their job to be helpful.

 

“In Skellefteå we lock our door to shut out the friendly people.”

 

FRIENDLINESS

My southern Swedish friends never believe me when I tell them stories of the friendliness of northern Swedes. About how people flit from house to house, rarely knocking, having coffee, sharing home-baked goodies and bearing gifts for young ones.

It really is like The Waltons TV series but with less religion and more cake.

After our children were born we were inundated with gifts. People would let themselves in and wander up the stairs – one couple from the village (who we had never met!) even walked into the nursery when Donna was breastfeeding.

We now lock our front door when we’re at home, but not because of people wishing us ill or liking the look of my hi-fi, as was the case in the UK.

In Skellefteå we lock our door to shut out the friendly people.

Hola

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