Gothenburg (known in Swedish as Göteborg) city, located on the west coast of Sweden and on the mouth of the Göta älv (Göta river) is the second-largest city in Sweden after Stockholm. A short distance down river lies the archipelago (a collection of rough and barren rocks and islands) and running the length of the west coast is the scenic and popular Bohuslän coastline.

However Gothenburg is home to the largest port in the Nordic countries, a large industrial base, is home to Volvo along with being popular with Students from around Europe and further afield. Despite being often overlooked by visitors due to Stockholm’s popularity Gothenburg’s chilled our appeal is increasingly making its mark as it has plenty of beautiful Neoclassical buildings, tram-lined streets, hip cafes and plenty of activities and festivals.

Like many New Zealanders, it is common to want to live overseas and experience another culture, I had chosen Sweden and Gothenburg because I liked their governance and I had hoped the Port would offer potential employment opportunities. I arrived in early June and would stay initially with a Swedish friend who invited me to their midsummer celebrations which is the quintessential Swedish experience – I was pinching myself as the day was so much fun! I would even meet Caroline that day that I would spend a lot of time with over the next 9 months.

Through those friends made at midsummer I would be offered a room in a Persian-Swedish girls apartment and we got along like wildfire! We had a great time and a lot of laughs, but laughs wouldn’t pay the bills, so after a fortuitous running into of a New Zealand friend on my second night in Sweden, I was hooked up with a job on the restaurant/hotel ship called the Barken Viking where I would work, on and off, for the next 8 months! This is one of the particularly challenging aspects of moving to a foreign country where you don’t speak the language, getting a job, so I was very lucky to work here, make friends with my colleagues and experience Swedish life, and with getting plenty of leftover food!

The shift work on the Barken Viking, washing dishes, helping prepare food in the kitchen, working at the bar and occasionally being a waiter was somewhat seasonal (and weekend work) so this left plenty of week days for my friends and I to explore Gothenburg and the surrounding region such as trips to Åstol, Marstrand, the incredible Fjällbacka, to visit friends in Trollhättan, travel buddies in Lund, bike rides around the Gothenburg and camping in the forest near any of the many lakes. As the months passed by though, it would begin to get too cold (or dark) for spending too much time outside. However I also made trips further abroad within Sweden, one particular trip to the far north of Sweden to see Stockholm, the Aurora Borealis, remarkable Jokkmokk Marknard and world renowned ICEHOTEL.

For a more detailed list of things to do while in Gothenburg check out the official visitor site.

The islands of the archipelago and Bohuslän coastline can be stunning and many lucky people either have holiday homes or live on the islands near-by to Gothenburg. One such island is Hön (Hönö) which Caroline and I were asked to house sit for a weekend and I have to admit the day we spent on Hönö visiting the market and exploring the islands rocky inlets with her friend followed by Swedish food for dinner is one of those near perfect days that’ll difficult to repeat let along better.

While in Sweden in an attempt to integrate better, I set about learning Swedish. Sweden has a brilliant system for this called ‘Swedish For Immigrants’ (normally known as SFI or Svenskundervisning för invandrare in Swedish) which you can join and attend for free if you have a personal identity number (Swedish: personnummer).

By time late November arrived it had become cold enough in Sweden for snow to fall and persist, lakes to freeze (running around on one is amazing by the way) and even the waters of the port to partially freeze. Before you know it, winter had arrived and Sweden had become a winter wonderland! I would be invited to Caroline’s family’s place for Christmas and being inland there was much more snow than near the coast where Gothenburg is located. Again I felt so fortunate to have been invited to join Caroline’s family and had a fantastic time, not only at home with her family, but also outside during the clear crisp days skiing or just frolicking about in the snow.

Spending time abroad getting immersed in a foreign culture has numerous benefits and even though I felt I was very lucky with the experience I had as so much, in hindsight, went right for me, I still highly recommend the experience to everyone, especially to those under the age of 30 years as getting one or two year visas under the guise of ‘cultural integration’ from British or European countries is much easier.

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