Lund, Sweden: Settling into Scandinavia

I am in Lund, Sweden at the moment, beginning my year abroad in this southern Scandinavian hamlet.

The university here, which is Lund’s main attraction and draw, was established in 1666, but the town itself was founded around the cathedral sometime in the 990s CE. It is located in Skåne ([sko:nɛ])/ Scania, which also at one point was part of Denmark. As such, it is a little funky in the mindset of Swedes. Full of extra sounds linguistically. Quirky.

A train ride away from Copenhagen, it is quiet and photogenic and place I am happy to spend the next year. For travellers heading to Scandinavia, Lund should definitely be on one’s list for a day trip from the Danish capital. The Skanetrafiken (train and bus system) is the easiest transportation to get here.

Small, winding streets criss-cross the town with bodegas and salons scattered amongst the bricks and cobblestones (Photo credits by PintsizedPioneer)

Each year, Lund welcomes a horde of international students (particularly Dutch and Germans and self-proclaimed Californians) to study on either exchange or for their master’s. Welcome day generally starts around the 20th of August, which is quite the busy day for arriving students. It took me until about 9:45 PM to be in my housing that day after arriving from Norway at around 2:00 PM in Copenhagen. Luckily, at every stage of transport, there were Lund representative to help out and direct traffic. However, by the time I got to the ticket venue for activities (Viking Tour, Taste of Sweden, etc.), they were all booked up.

The AF building/ castle: the main gathering place for students (Photo credits by PintsizedPioneer)

Perhaps, they did not anticipate so many people. Seems to be a trend during orientation. If you do arrive on Welcome day and want to do such activities, head over to that booth ASAP. More tickets will be sold on various, random days at the International Desk – but, get them while they’re hot, sooner rather than later.

Lund itself is miniature compared to Vancouver. Downtown is referred to the city centre, which itself is a collection of streets surrounding the square, making up most of the city. For a larger city, residents must take the train or drive to Malmö to the south (which I have yet to actually explore).

Negatively, Lund is expensive, especially for students. Sweden makes it somewhat difficult to financially integrate into the society as personalnummers (social IDs) are only given out to residents here for more than a full year (12 months). They are pretty necessary and greatly assist one in opening a bank account.

Some classic Scandinavian backdrops (Photo credits by PintsizedPioneer)

Sweden is relatively cashless as well, so small exchange fees for every swipe or insert of a card do add up. I am going to try to open an account when I formally get my residence permit, but it may be a challenge. However, persistence is key.

Nevertheless, since Vancouver also is an expensive ass city to live in, relatively besides the exchange rate and card charges, it is not much different. However, for other Europeans and Americans, the prices can be a bit ridiculous. In some way, I think I should be more concerned that these prices do not actually phase me …

So, in some ways, Sweden so far is much like Canada. However, in other ways, not so much. One aspect I have noticed is actually the … for lack of a better word … coldness?

Not necessarily climate-wise, but in demeanour, Swedes as even the orientation lecturers have mentioned can come off as a bit cold. Unless you are fika-ing (coffee & sweet snacking), friendless is not exuding on the streets. However, I think that is mostly just toward us foreigners, which in some ways is understandable if one does not speak Swedish.

However, in a globalizing era and within a country that promotes its modernism as a plus, perhaps the old-school European reservations on openness and in my opinion, mild exercises of xenophobia might need to go by the wayside. I remark in this way, as it seems after always mentioning Swedes’ collective reserved nature, one will usually hear from a Swedish person that in reality, Swedes do want to make friends and fika together with strangers and seek these experiences out during the coldness of winter — so in the words of Oprah, ‘So, what is the true’?

Nevertheless, as a student, meeting Swedes and other youths is not super difficult. Lund has a unique Swedish system of student organizations called ‘nations’. They serve as the less sexually charged sororities and fraternities of the campus and offer lunches, pub nights, parties, you name it! Students must join a nation, but all are welcome in every nation; one might just receive perks in his or her own.

And, a reminder that it is still a functioning city – really good cheap salads at COOP too (Photo credits by PintsizedPioneer)

My tip for another great way to meet people (especially locals) – Tinder and Grindr! No joke. These apps are where I learned that the best nightlife outside the nations is unfortunately in Copenhagen, which is a bit of a schlepp. There are some clubs in Malmö, but nothing to shake a stick at. No pun intended.

Transitioning is actually quite smooth thus far. Classes have yet to start, but will next week. As a new German friend remarked, it feels very aimless right now. So, I am excited to set into a schedule soon.

Get ready for more Swedish posts and also a quick trip to Edinburgh coming in September. Oh, did I mention we will be heading to Barcelona in October as well? Uff. It is nice to travel. Stay tuned and travel often!