Welcome to Sweden

A rainy Gothenburg morning nudges us to seek shelter at a local bookstore, but at least it grants me the opportunity to write this first post in-country. My friend Elias and I arrived in Sweden – Lund to be exact – Thursday afternoon after a pleasant three-night stay in Copenhagen. Lund is a charming university town, about fifteen minutes north of the larger post-industrial city of Malmo, whose roots trace back almost a thousand years when the southern Swedish territories still belonged to Denmark.

Only a week into my journey and a mere four metropolitan areas explored, I nevertheless have to admit that Lund is the frontrunner to book my stay. It possesses a vibrant energy, due mainly to its sizable student population, and exudes prosperity due to the investment dollars that keep pouring in.

“Most of Sweden is not like Lund,” admits Elias’ uncle Nils. The European Union recently awarded a multi-billion dollar scientific development project to Lund, which will place the Swedish city in rare company as one of perhaps three research sites in the world to boast a high-tech particle accelerator (of what specific kind I have no idea). The project award will create thousands of jobs and draw some of the best scientists to Lund and its university programs.

Lund is not only an international player in scientific research, but also hosts two other influential global corporations – Sony Ericcson and Tetra Pak. The former is probably familiar, a mobile phone manufacturer and software development firm. The latter is a privately-held company most have never heard of, although we use its products every day. Tetra Pak creates the packaging (predominantly cartons) for dairy and other beverages worldwide. According to Nils, the company’s billionaire founder drives an old Citroen. Swedish modesty, or romantic folklore. Regardless, it’s clear that Lund’s balance sheets are bleeding black.

Even Malmo, Lund’s heftier neighbor and a port city wading through the self-reinvention process, gleams in the evening sky. Over the last decade a popular destination for Middle Eastern immigrants, Malmo has seen a rise in violence (gang-related and otherwise) that is foreign to Sweden. “A few more shootings and it’ll be considered a true international city,” Nils joked. Still, Nils’ comparison of Malmo to Baltimore insults the former or aggrandizes the latter, depending on which side of the lens one peers through.

Peering out the window as the drizzle continues, I wonder what lies in store for the remainder of my introduction to Sweden. After a brief stay near Halmstad, we are in Gothenburg, with plans to visit Uppsala and Stockholm later in the week. If the rain keeps up, Gothenburg may become a small footnote in my narrative.

Halfway through the Sweden tour, music is still the mission but finding housing is a pesky and unwanted prelude. Fortunately, Lund has other factors in my favor. Near Malmo and only 45 minutes from Copenhagen, it could serve a wide musical market. As for housing, we made friends with some students there, one of which may need a roommate (I find out next week). Of course, the verdict cannot be decided yet. If I absolutely love Stockholm, I will find a way to live there. By all accounts it is the New York of Sweden, and much more picturesque. So, until next time.

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