Turns out I’m not the only Scandi in the village. So far, I have made friends with a Finn and a Dane and now a Swedish café has opened up down the road! It’s been a few months in the making, with local residents eagerly debating the need for meatballs and whether it will be ‘just like IKEA’. The grand opening took place a few weeks ago and my husband suggested that we pop down so that I could introduce myself as a supporting fellow Swede. This should of course be the obvious and normal thing to do – just to go along, be friendly, say hello.
The only problem was that for some inexplicable reason, I had gone curiously bashful. Despite this, down we went for a salmon sandwich. ‘There she is!’, husband shouted excitedly on spotting the owner in the kitchen. At the prospect of having to say hello, I grabbed my sandwich and ‘chokladboll’ (a Swedish no-bake cacao treat) and scurried off as fast as I could to a table in the far corner. When husband caught up with me, I had no excuse for my behaviour. The closest I could get to an explanation was that I was overcome with that feeling you get as a child, when your mum or dad pushes you towards the only other child at a party and tells you to make friends. What if the other child thinks you’re a loser? What if the only other Swede in the village has no interest in being my friend? No – much better to stay safe underneath a veil of anonymous Britishness, until I’m able to grow up. I’ll have to go back at some point, of course. That’s another problem with being a Swede: once you’ve found a source of good ‘chokladbollar’, there is no keeping you away.
Maria Smedstad moved to the UK from Sweden in 1994. She received a degree in Illustration in 2001, before settling in the capital as a freelance cartoonist, creating the autobiographical cartoon Em. Maria writes a column on the trials and tribulations of life as a Swede in the UK.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Scan Magazine Ltd.’
TEXT & IMAGE: MARIA SMEDSTAD