Today marks my 15 Years Living in Sweden, the country that “tricked” me into liking it ever since I came to visit friends in 2001. The day after arrival I was treated with the traditional August party (Kräftskiva) at Skokloster Castle, a beautiful country-side ride away from Uppsala, with great food, laughter, “snaps”, dancing, singing and fantastic weather. How could I not like this country!? 

Title photo: one of the first photos I took in 2006, shortly before moving, was of Stockholm’s Old Town, seen from the Skeppsholmen bridge. Part of some of the last series I made with an analogue SLR.

I moved to Sweden for love in 2006, and even though life changed, it gave me many happy years and an amazing, warm-hearted family from Gävle all the way down to Skåne. I wrote and got published my own Sweden travel guide book in the Netherlands and Belgium in 2008, which was the best excuse to zip like crazy through the country and get to know my new home inside out. I’ve never stopped discovering Sweden and was able to fulfil a few last big dreams – including seeing the northern lights and Lapland in winter time in my 15th year here.

Photographed here in 2007: Sweden’s giant Dala horse, in Avesta. The symbol from what is dubbed The Heart of Sweden (Dalarna region) became the cover photo of my travel guide book, published in the Netherlands and Sweden in 2008.

In Sweden I learned how to better appreciate life and the outdoor, I learned how to dance salsa, how to fight elegantly with capoeira, how to cook properly, I made some very close friends – kept my best old ones too, I improved my physical condition and developed my soul. I added a new career as a teacher; as a journalist I became correspondent for Belgian Radio VRT1 for more than a decade, had my few minutes of “fame” on Swedish public Radio 1, did some occasional correspondence work for Dutch radio 1 and TV and worked happily on very interesting longer news items for NOS Nieuwsuur together with some of the best reporters and cameramen the Netherlands has to offer.

Boulognerskogen in Gävle 2008, from my early Sweden years. To me this illustrates the close connection Swedes have with nature, even inside busy cities most Swedes live within 300 metres of green zones.

Much thanks to the Sweden’s tempo and landscapes, the people I’ve met and the experiences I went through Sweden made me a better human. The 15th year here has been a weird one. It showed me that, despite pressure, Sweden to a large extend choses not to tramp on civil liberties, on human rights and on personal freedom; much to the contrary of many other nations including the Netherlands, my country of birth. Sure, Sweden made some questionable choices tackling COVID19, but compared to the rest of the world Sweden feels like the True Land of Freedom to me.

Now, how life goes from here on, I’ll see. I might move to another country, share a new love life with somebody beautiful, discover different lands, because life has its ways. But to you, Sweden, and all of you I’ve met here: tack så himla mycket för flera underbara år. Stor stor kram och mycket kärlek till dig❣ I wouldn’t be here without you. | © 2021 Marcel Burger, (text and photos)

Snow in Gävle on 9 April 2008. A red house with white details in winter time, the idyllic Sweden that is still alive – out there and inside me.