Chats with a Caffeinated Canadian-Swede

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"The sweet buns are called semlor and are a classic made around Lent, these ones were made by my mormor." 

"The sweet buns are called semlor and are a classic made around Lent, these ones were made by my mormor." 

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Gamla Stan , Midsommar

Gamla Stan, Midsommar

The saucy fish is an appetizer called sill (pickled herring) and is served at any and every big Swedish dinner, these ones are from Mister French in Gamla Stan.

The saucy fish is an appetizer called sill (pickled herring) and is served at any and every big Swedish dinner, these ones are from Mister French in Gamla Stan.

A hot tub after a long day skiing. A cold shower after a day at the beach. The first cup of coffee on a Saturday morning. These are the feelings that Sophia Regitnig enjoys.

"Love is pretty nice too," the Canadian-Swede adds. I ask her what she finds romantic. Her response is simple: Someone who understands me. "No one should expect people to read minds," she clarifies. "The thing that I just find hard about society and relationships is when people don’t say how they really feel (or don’t feel comfortable saying how they feel). What’s the point?"

Naturally perspicacious, Sophia tries her best to truly listen to the words of her friends, family, and partners. "A little empathy goes a long way in understanding one another," she says. "Not just walking around the world thinking everyone is living the same life as you."

So what kind of life is Sophia living? It’s worth noting that she grew up in a bilingual household, speaking Swedish and English. She acknowledges this was a luxury and is grateful to have been exposed to other cultures through travel. “Seeing how other people live… It’s a good way of not becoming a total know-it-all ass of a person," she laughs.

I asked her what it was like to grow up in a small town. “Exactly how it's portrayed in every novel ever," she states. "You can't go to the grocery store without bumping into five people you have to stop and talk to. It's exhausting."

The native of Invermere remembers walking down the street as a child when a car pulled up for directions. She leaned through the passenger window to talk to the driver … only to have a nearby witness call her mother to report that she might have been kidnapped. "Everyone sees everything in a small town!”

She lived in New Jersey for two years as a teenager and has fond memories of taking the train into New York with her friends to see artists play small shows in cafés. "I’ve always been a little disappointed when going to see artists in sold out arenas... Not really my thing." she shrugs.

Requisite nature for Sophia is out in the mountains, preferably “big and isolated ones.” Because those aren’t available everywhere, she’ll “settle for a lake or a hike in the woods.” Coming from Western Canada, this contributes greatly to her happiness. "If I’m not happy I know I need to make changes," she asserts. "If I’m in a funk and I want to get out of it, I’ll plan a trip or get outside."

Sophia holds a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from the University of Victoria on Vancouver Island. "I hated university," she tells me. "Still bitter about paying that much money to have really really really old people 'teach' me things." Incidentally, she feels most at ease when in the close vicinity of her two younger brothers. "It's hard we we are on other sides of the globe," she muses. "Could not love two humans more. I had friends growing up that went through phases with their sibling(s) where they'd hate each other and scream and fight but, I don't know, we three have always been the best of friends."

With an ex-boyfriend in Mexico, she once took a hike that could have been fatal. He didn’t tell her how technical it was so she ended up “scaling a cliff in flip-flops with a rope that was going to break at any second.” But there were waterfalls at the end of the hike so it was worth it. “I was scared shitless,” she admits, “but I’ve always liked the saying that fortune favours the brave.”

Sophia reminds me that “life changes fast” and believes it's important to take advantage of Things Happening Now. The twenty six year old is presently working in Stockholm. "I’ve stuck with it because it pays really well, I get to meet a lot of cool people, and travel," she shares. “My next couple trips are domestic work trips, Kalix and Göteborg.” ///

RS: You’ve travelled to Helsinki for work recently as well?
SR: I’ve fallen in love. It’s so close to where I currently live but it’s much more Eastern European feeling. And the language is so different! Fafa's is a Finnish falafel chain that is SO GOOD. Good for a quick bite. And Savotta is an authentic Finnish restaurant that has this amazing cellar, I recommend getting a table downstairs in the cellar. Also Stockmann is a department store that doesn't exist in Sweden.

RS: What do you sell exactly?
SR: The company I work for manufactures prefabricated bathroom pods up in northern Sweden. They manufacture them with robots kind of like a car manufacturer and I sell them to property owners, developers, architects, for projects like apartment buildings, student housing, hotels, hospitals. Projects with many bathrooms of the same type. Sweden and Norway have been pretty big with building 'prefab' so the sales process is basically getting involved in the projects as early as possible with the property owners and developers so that when they pick an architect, we can make sure they draw the building with prefab in mind.

RS: What are your thoughts on design?
SR: I appreciate design when it's first and foremost, functional. Anything with too many bells and whistles and fluff is not functional to me, unnecessary parts. There's an auction house in Stockholm that has a showroom set up more like an apartment than an art show and I love seeing what's up on a Saturday afternoon.

RS: How’s Stockholm different from other places you’ve lived?
SR: Everyone here loves to tell me how similar Sweden and Canada are despite having never lived in Canada. As much as I find it annoying, they're not entirely wrong. Canada and Sweden are pretty similar climate-wise. But Stockholm is quite a bit further north than where I've lived in Canada, which means that the lack of sunlight in Stockholm in the winter is brutal. In December the sun rises at 8:45am and sets at 2:45pm. The buildings and infrastructure are older than Vancouver as well.

RS: What are your recommendations for people visiting?
SR: It’s best in the early summer and I recommend staying in an Airbnb in Vasastan or Södermalm. Sweden is expensive so get familiar with the metro if you don't want to be spending five hundred dollars on taxis. There are lots of amazing art, design, and history museums around. One that's not always on all the must-do lists for Stockholm is the Moseback Design District, there’s a couple cool museums and a really great outdoor bar that has a great view of Gamla Stan.

RS: Favourite local artists and brands?
SR: Aartists: Emma Tingard, Magali Cunico, Martin Jacobson. Brands: Acne Studios, obviously. Elvine. Filippa K. Samsøe & Samsøe is from Denmark but it's good too.

RS: Let’s talk about cool people.
SR: My favourite kind of people. Hard to pinpoint because cool means different things to different people but there is NOTHING worse than a boring person to me. If I think you’re crazy, I’ll probably like you. Qualities beyond coolness? Motivation and maturity.

RS: Have you seen that Gone Girl monologue? I always worry about that in relation to myself.  
SR: Yeah, it's a catch 22; you always want to put your best foot forward but if you never settle into being yourself, you're putting on an act. When I think people are cool, it's more about their confidence. I feel bad for people who make fun of themselves in an awkward way or wallow in self-pity.

RS: Who are the coolest people you've met recently?
SR: My grandmother's husband's son and his partner. I met them for the first time last summer. They moved from the city and bought a century-old house in the countryside that they're slowly renovating. They've got three boys under the age of eight that run around like wildthings as kids should.

RS: And they always have relaxed dinner parties.
SR: Once a month with their neighbours. And every one of their neighbours is interesting. Film director, ultra-marathon runner, social worker, academic researcher, musical artist…

RS: What strategies do you have for people living alone in a foreign country?
SR: Everyone's suggestion is to join a class - a yoga class, an art class, a language class. And I just want to say that in Sweden specifically, that doesn't fly. People really keep to themselves and keep their conversations with acquaintances/coworkers to small talk for as long as humanly possible. My suggestion would be to ask them out for a drink or a coffee. The next thing you know they're inviting you to their friend's birthday, and then, bam, you have twelve new acquaintances. Not for the faint of heart though.

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