Catalans Abroad

Marc Femenia Nobell. catalonia today.


Just one of the locals

Why did you leave Catalonia?
I came to Sweden as an Erasmus exchange student in 1996. I was supposed to stay for 10 months… and I’m in my 22nd year here now.
Why did you choose Stockholm as a place to live?
It was actually the only place that I could go on my Erasmus scholarship. However, I was very curious about Sweden since it was this almost a mythical country with a perfect society. I wanted to see for myself how much was myth and how much was reality. I also remember thinking that it would be exotic experiencing the Scandinavian climate.
How long have you lived there?
For 22 years, since 1996.
Are you happy with the job opportunities you found in your adoptive country?
Yes, in this aspect there’s a great difference from Catalonia. In general, it’s not only that you’re better paid, but also that you are more respected as a worker. Not every boss takes for granted that you will sacrifice your private life for your work. For me in particular, even if the editorial market is collapsing here too, at least it’s possible to make a decent living out of it. The people I know in Barcelona are having a much harder time.
What do you think is the best thing about living there?
It’s very easy to live here. Not everything is perfect, but things work in general and irrational bureaucracy is kept to a minimum. Politicians are honest, and the political climate is constructive. There’s a healthy cultural and social debate that enriches society as a whole.
What would you most like to change?
The growing xenophobia. It’s not new nor particular to Sweden, nonetheless I see it as a potential problem in the future. Luckily the great majority of Swedish society stands very strongly against it.
What do you miss most from home?
Family and friends, of course. But also the climate and the food. Although the food is much better now than back in 1996 when I arrived. Now you find many more ingredients, and the interest for new types of food is always growing
What do you take with you as a present from your new home when you go back to your own country?
Salmon and the typical sauce (hovmästarsås) are always appreciated back home.
What characterises the neighbourhood where you live?
Kungsholmen is probably the most anonymous neighbourhood in the city centre. Östermalm is posh, Södermalm is hip… but Kungsholmen is… nothing. At the same time, you don’t feel that you don’t belong here if you don’t have a certain “uniform” as may happen in other neighbourhoods. Here most people care less about “status markers” than in other parts of the city.
What do you consider the highlights for any brief visit for the first time?
Gamla stan (the old town) is a must. You could also visit the Vasa museum and Skansen. The Vasa museum shows an original ship from the 17th century that remained sunk at the bottom of the port of Stockholm for more than 300 years. It’s unique in its kind, and the rest of the museum, dedicated to sailors’ lives in the 17th century is very good too. Skansen is a great place to learn more about traditional Swedish culture and fauna. You can see all kinds of Nordic animals really close up. A trip to the archipelago is also highly recommendable if the weather is good, it’s a fantastic landscape.
And if visitors have more time or make a return visit?
Take a stroll through the different neighbourhoods, from the posh Östermalm to the hip Södermalm. The City Hall and the Central Library are nice too. A bit outside of the city, by Drottningholm Palace, there is a very well conserved 18th-century theatre that is stunning.
Are there any places to avoid?
The tourist traps in Drottninggatan.
Do you plan to come back to Catalonia?
I visit several times a year, but the probabilities of moving back are quite low. For a long time now , my standards about everything are Swedish… so I think I would probably have a hard time readapting to life in Catalonia. My daughters were born here, and they are beginning to be an age where the decision to move would have to be thought through very carefully.

CATALANS ABROAD Stockholm, Sweden

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