What is it l What is it like being a Jamaican living in Sweden?

In our “Jamaicans to the World” series, founder Xavier Murphy speaks with Tasha and Andrea. They are Jamaicans living in Sweden.

Xavier: What is it like being a Jamaican in Sweden? Hi am Xavier Murphy, founder of Today, in Jamaicans to the world we talk to Andrea and Tasha who are two Jamaicans living in Sweden. Welcome Tasha welcome Tasha, how you doing?

Andrea: Good, thank you Xavier.

Tasha: Good, good, hi, Xavier, what a gwaan you alright? (Hi Xavier, what’s going on, are you alright?)

Xavier: What a gwaan? (What is going on). Listen I appreciate you guys joining us, I understand…you know, I know its afternoon there. What is it about a couple hours of sunlight? When does the sun guh (go) down there? What time does the sun guh (go) down there now?

Andrea: Well, the thing is, it’s not even so much of the guh (go) down or come up. It’s like even when it comes up it’s so cloudy that you don’t get any sun light at all, it’s very grey. Now the sun comes up around nine because, it’s getting lighter now so the sun comes up about nine-ish and then it goes down about three-ish

Xavier: Three!

Andrea: Yeah, but a couple weeks ago, it was like about 10’oclock to two o’clock.

Xavier: Wow! Well let me get back to my line of questioning. I am going to start with you Tasha. First of all, which paat a Jamaica yuh cum fram? (which part of Jamaica are you from) and then how did you end up in Sweden?

Sweden Skyline

Tasha: Ok, I am not from Kingston like most Jamaicans that live in foreign [laughter]. I am from the north side of Jamaica, beautiful garden parish to be more specific…

Xavier: Portland?

Tasha: St. Ann, in particular I am from Browns Town and I went to the all-girls school in Browns Town; St Hilda’s High.

Xavier: Okay, and how did you ended up in Sweden?

Tasha: I ended up in Sweden because I use to live in the UK first and maybe after Brexit happened and they withdrew from the EU, I was like oh no! No, no! I have to go. Then, obviously I was dating a Swede so it was just automatic that obviously I had to go. I immediately packed up my things and I was like oh no! bye, bye I’m gone and that’s how I am here in Sweden for four years now.

Xavier: Oh, wow! Okay Andrea, which part of Jamaica yuh fram (which part of Jamaica are you from) and how you end up in Sweden?

Andrea: Unlike Tasha, I am like most of the other Jamaicans who end up a (in) foreign. I am from Kingston and I ended up in Sweden because I met a Swedish man in London a long time ago and then I just by chance met him again in New York, because I was living in New York. I grew up in New York. Then I thought well that was serendipity, so we got married eventually we moved to France and then we moved to Sweden. I have been in Sweden now about eighteen… nineteen years. Long time.

Xavier: Wow! So you are a vet?

Andrea: Yes. We thought we would only stay here only a few years but then you know you get kind of settled and you get kind of lazy and then you can’t

Xavier: Well, that is great. Let me ask you this Sasha. You have a daughter?

Tasha: Yes.

Xavier: She is Swedish?

Tasha: She is, she was born here three years ago. And yes, she is also Jamaican, of course. With a Jamaican passport, a British passport, she’s very international, I would say. But really you could see a Jamaican at heart. She is really like loud like us of course, she is not very calm and when she sees the Jamaican flag she is like mama, mama, mama’s country so she is a like a true Jamaican at heart already.

Xavier: That’s amazing, that’s amazing. I am going to go a little bit more in the culture and the people itself and I am going to start with you Andrea. What are the Swedish people like? What is their nature? I mean you know us, we are upfront, you going to know if we like you or not. And so what would you say from your experience, what are the Swedish people like.

Andrea: Swedish people are very reserved, it’s like you know; we as Jamaicans, we gonna come up an waan mek fren an waan talk to people and stuff. (We are going to come up and we are going to want to make friends and want to talk to people and stuff) Swedish people are much more reserved you know. They have it a little hard with the Jamaican extra. You know I am constantly slightly offending… you know scaring off the people at my bus stop because when I first moved here you know I go out to the bus stop and I said hello, I said good morning to everybody and they started not making eye contacts, you know they are looking everywhere. And then like I go up in the face and like good morning and so after a while they learnt that there is a black lady coming so if you see her just say good morning because you know otherwise she is gonna… Now there is even a conversation, you know, because especially now after the pandemic with people having been locked down and stuff when people see each other, they are so happy to see somebody else so… but it takes a while for a Swedish person to get friendly.

Xavier: It takes a while for them to get warm up.

Andrea: yeah!

Xavier: Tasha, what’s been your experience? I know you teach and so I know you are interacting with kids and parents. What’s your experience with the Swedish people?

Tasha: Yeah, good question Xavier, you know, it’s really weird because I would definitely agree with everything that Andrea has said. They are very like cold they are not so quick to… They don’t smile as much either like us Jamaicans but what I find which is so different and alarming is that the children at school they are like so lovely. We have so much banter. These kids they come up and they say ‘wah a gwaan Miss Segree’. (What’s going on Miss Segree) They are so fun and when I ask them, why do you guys change when you leave school? Don’t talk to anybody on the bus, on train, why you changed. They said, we are trying to conform to society, to everyone else. I just turn to them and I was like but that is quite sad, you should be just fun and happy like you are in school with me.

Xavier: Who teach them what a gwaan? So you teaching them a little Patois.

Tasha: Of course!

Andrea: As soon as they find out you are from Jamaica, they want to learn something Jamaican.

Tasha: Definitely, definitely!

Andrea: All my friends I have to teach them things. They listen to Reggae music and they come back and ask you questions and stuff.

Xavier: What kind of questions they are asking, like the lyrics or like oh…

Andrea: The lyrics.

Tasha: Yes the lyrics and I also have a girl and she is in the junior school but one day I saw her in this Bob Marley hood and I was like you know I am Jamaican, that’s where I am from you know, and then she was like, you know I want to go to Jamaica, I want to… And she is a singer, she has this beautiful voice and I was like oh, my gosh you need to visit. And she was like he is my idol and I was like yeah, mine too.

Xavier: Along that line, you would say that the Swedish people love Jamaicans? What is their impression of Jamaicans? Is it the welcome carpet because a lot of folks I talk to they say once somebody knows you are Jamaican, all of a sudden, boom! It’s the welcome carpet. Has that being your experience?

Andrea: Yes, there is a fascination with Jamaica all over the world and especially… Okay it starts like what Tasha said from Bob Marley but then you know you have Usain Bolt and then people are in to music. So every time you say you are Jamaican, people just think you are very exotic and you are very fascinating.

Tasha: Yeah that’s true.

Andrea: You can find that people… yeah, the welcome carpet comes out.

Tasha: True and another thing Xavier, I must add is that as Andrea said as well: the music the culture. In a town you know called Uppsala which is close to Stockholm, there is a big Reggae Festival also in Ireland, they host people like Spice, Coffee and it’s amazing how much they embrace us. I have another friend called Jasmine and she just bring Jamaicans together and she was like just talk, I will just listen, just talk.

Andrea: I think they are so fascinated because they meet so many Jamaicans where ever they go and they know Jamaica is such a small country, they are always asking how did Jamaicans get so much influence and how come you people all over the place. Because you come from this little country.

Xavier: No! No! No! Do not say this little country, remember we believe…

Andrea: We have a big island mentality, yes.

Tasha: Yes! Yes! Yes! Very!

Xavier: So Shhhh! don’t say little island.

Andrea: Big island mentality, yes.

Xavier: I’m going to jump in to the food. Tell us about the food, if there is one type of food or one food you say man, if you come to Sweden you have to try this. And I am going to start with you Tasha. What would that thing be that you would say, you know, this is something in Sweden that you would have to try? It could even be a desert you know, anything.

Tasha: Oh, Jesus, this is not so good: the food topic because I don’t this is the best thing about Sweden when it comes on to food but oh well, let’s see, let’s try and see maybe I would say cinnamon bun. I don’t know but for me the food is one of those things.

Xavier: You almost sound like you are reaching for something and I get it, I get it. Some of my folks say listen man… I goin to get to what you miss, I am going to get to what you miss the most. I am going to jump over to you.

Andrea: Well yeah, you know, its cinnamon bun because a lot of Swedish food is… ahh… Its ok but it’s not like completely yummy. Like you eat a lot of herring you know (Unclear audio 11:05-11:07) so for every single occasion you eat herrings and potatoes for example and meat balls and you know things like that. So I don’t know if there is any… There is a Christmas thing called Jonssons Frestelse which I like, which is like a potato gratin with cheese well no not cheese, with cream and it’s got like anchovies and stuff so for that one I kinda like when it’s done well but otherwise…

Tasha: You eat to survive! You eat to survive! but there is nothing to say geeze this taste gud ee-man. (gosh, this taste good oh, man). No! No! Not really, everything is just bland to be honest with you. You just have it to get by.

Andrea: But on the other hand, Swedish chef, Swedish cooks are really good because they cook… There is a lot of international fusion because they think that their own food is so boring so they blend it with other things so there is really good food that you can get but it’s not Swedish food, it’s like a fusion kind. There is lots of good stuff you can get.

Xavier: Yes, I see. I am going to jump into, which one of the di (the) Jamaican food that you miss the most starting with you Tasha. What’s that Jamaican food that you are like man I crave this, I want this?

Tasha: Oh, my gosh, I wonder what that is now. Maybe breadfruit to be honest with you I can get patty, mi (I) cooked curry goat yesterday, I cooked Ox tail last week. It’s like my sister still lives in England so they send me all the spices and normally they send me care packages as well. But really Xavier, mi nuh (I don’t) really miss anything in Jamaica, maybe just the authentic patties and coco bread, yes, I miss the authentic snacks. Here as well mi nuh really get much snacks but of course…

Xavier: Banana chips!

Andrea: Banana chips!

Tasha: Banana chips! Yeah! Yeah! It nuh authentic but… I guess I can get everything I want really if I go to like (14:11- 14:14) I can get yam banana and whatever, everything deh yah (is here) you see so…

Xavier: Andrea!

Andrea: Yeah! I miss the authentic parties you know because you really can’t get the really nice good patties here but you still get a lot of the food because there is Jamaican restaurants and there is Jamaican catering and like Tasha said you can go to the stores you know, there is the Asian stores that you can get tin ackee and you can get cassava if you want to make bammy. I started learning how to make bammy so you see you can get everything, salt fish, everything.

Sweden Street

Xavier: I did an interview that said they have learned to make their own bammy. I interviewed some folks from Spain and they made their own bammy. It seems like patty is what you all miss.

Andrea: I miss patties. Please, send the care package with the patty dem (them).

Tasha: Yes! Please! The real patty!

Xavier: Tasha and Andrea wants their patties so please send the patties to Sweden or open the patty shop there. Are there a lot of Jamaicans there?

Andrea: Yes! Yes, yes.

Xavier: In your area? I guess I should say in your area.

Andrea: Okay, well not in my area but I know quite a few Jamaicans actually; outspread. But surprisingly when I first moved here, I thought there were not so many but then when you start to talk to people then you actually start to meet quite a few.

Xavier: Tasha, in your area… I know you mentioned a friend… A Jamaican friend. Do you meet other Jamaicans?

Tasha: Yes, of course, she also has her own radiography company and there is also another doctor as well that I know so there is a few but I wouldn’t say a lot.

Xavier: You know us Jamaicans we tend to exaggerate maybe I shouldn’t have said a lot, maybe I should say a hand full or other Jamaicans.

Andrea: There are other Jamaicans, there are two handful we could mass it with one to two if we wanted to [laugh].

Tasha: Xavier, I think the statistics that said… I am sure…. It was over four hundred in the entire Sweden and this was in 2001. I live in Stockholm and I think Andrea does as well.

Andrea: I do and I think most of them live in Stockholm and Gothenburg

Xavier: Four hundred can take over a country, you know. Four hundred is not a hand full enuh (you know)

Tasha: Really, of ten point three million people? [laugh]

Xavier: What would you say was the biggest adjustment you had to make when you moved to Sweden? And I am going to start with you Tasha.

Tasha: For me, I think for me, the language is the biggest thing, although most people speak English it’s still for business and everything, you need to learn Swedish to conduct any business or anything, you need to learn the language. For me although I work in an international English school I get by and again most people do speak English so it’s quite easy but for me the language is not so easy for me. The weather… I mean there is a saying in Sweden that says there is nothing as bad weather only bad clothes so when I came to Sweden I just bought everything like, like boots, jackets, hat everything. And now Xavier mi (I) run outside even inna (in the) snow. I don’t really have a problem with the weather anymore, mi (I) nuh (don’t) really care bout (about) di (the) weather but the language I would say is my biggest obstacle.

Xavier: Andrea!

Andrea: For me it is the light. I miss the light although in summer time you have the exact opposite where its light almost the whole day so that was the biggest adjustment for me and then I came here from New York via Paris to here. When I first came, here I thought it was so slow, people were so slow. I am just like come on already [laugh], you know, that pace you find in New York where people are just like this and you come to Sweden and people are just like dada dadada and its like and I am like… And they do this thing which still drives me crazy, which is: people take the escalator and then they stop when they get to the end and so the whole pile is backing up behind them and every morning you are like move! Can we walk here? But I have calm down now.

Xavier: We soon come to the exclusives. I am going to cut a little bit on the language here I am coming back to you Andrea because I know you are in the photography world. Folks you have to check her out. Andrea you will have to give your website in a minute. But I know you do photography and you do a magazine and from a language perspective is the magazine you do there… tell us a little bit more about the magazine and is it in English or is it in Swedish.

Andrea: It’s called Krull Mag, it’s on a website called its spelt k-r-u-l-l-m-a-g. So Krull means nappy in Swish. It’s a magazine that we started like four years ago because we were sitting around you know, me and some friends talking about how there is no representation and stuff. We decide instead of bitching about it we make our own so we started an online magazine. And in the beginning, we started off in Swedish and it was like Swedish and English but then a lot of people got interested in other countries and they didn’t understand Swedish so they asked us if we could do just English so we mostly just do English. But I speak Swedish so I still operate in Swedish.

Xavier: Let me turn this a little bit and Tasha I hate to put you on the spot.

Tasha: Okay.

Xavier: You just mentioned your magazine and representation again I don’t know the full details of the magazine but I do hear one thing from ladies in Europe sometimes and I see Tasha’s hair braided and so on the question I am going to ask is that are you doing your hair Tasha or you are finding places to do your hair because that’s one of the challenges that I have heard from some of my black Jamaican friends who say listen I can’t find anybody to do my hair, and Andrea you opened up this box when you said representation and so that’s the question I have for you Tasha. Is it you doing your hair or you are able to find folks to do your hair?

Tasha: Good question Xavier, that’s a huge problem here because when I was back in England it’s like Jamaicans everywhere to like perm your hair do a weave or whatever. Here in Sweden, there is like nothing at all. You can find people to do your braids because there is a lot Africans from The Gambia here who actually did this but to be honest with you there is no proper stylist that I can go to, to say ok I need a proper perm. You know Jamaica, everybody a Jamaica can cream hair and you come out looking fly. Here… no it’s not there… And you have to either wear a wig, a weave or you have to do a braid which is a protective style for like winter time like now. At the moment it’s really hard. There is no…

Andrea: Tasha need the hookup, I have to give you the hookup, and I even know a Jamaican hairdresser. There is a Jamaican hairdresser here in Stockholm.

Xavier: Alright!

Tasha: I need to find her because you know what Xavier my sister use to travel all the way from England to come and perm my hair and then because of the lock down she has not been able to travel to visit me so I have been doing it for myself. Di hole a it drap aff (the whole of it drop off)

Andrea: It’s better now, I have to say when I first moved here, I had to be dragging stuffs in to suitcase and stuff everywhere. But it’s much better now and there is a boutique called Vison’s Boutique in Stockholm and I think she has been there for over twenty years and she has all the products, African hair and solon and whatever so I can give you the hookup.

Xavier: Yes! You got the hookup today, you got the hookup.

Andrea: I don’t need it myself because I just cut everything off this Christmas, I was like in a transit.

Tasha: It looks so nice Andrea, it looks so pretty.

Sweden boats

Xavier: Again, on representation. Music… Are you hearing…? I think I heard you all said there is Reggae Music there but is it popular, is it something that you will turn on your… Well, I know people don’t really listen to radio anymore, they listen everything online but when you are out and about would you hear Reggae Music at different times, I mean is it something that you hear? Any of you could jump in on this.

Andrea: Yeah, you hear it all the time. I mean I am still shocked when I walked in to a store and they are playing Reggae and I’m not just talking just Bob Marley, they are playing Chronixx and you know, Koffee and whoever and you know. When I hear Assassin, I’m like what!

Tasha: It’s true though, it’s true.

Xavier: I am going to ask you this one Tasha. How do you keep up with your Jamaican culture, your Jamaican news while you are there? What do you do to kinda keep up? Is it social media is it, you know, what do you do?

Tasha: Yeah, social media, that’s one, YouTube, obviously I still have family back home. And for me I think it’s so important because even the girl who did my hair she is from The Gambia and she kept talking about Jamaican music, Jamaican stuff and what’s hot now and what’s not. I was like wait deh (there), no, dem (they) caa kno (can’t know) Jamaican music an wah a gwaan ova mi (what is going on other me), so I ensure that I always know what is going on always. Xavier When I moved to England mi (I) deh pon (on) top a things, for politics, music, everything. Mi affi deh pon top a things (I have to be on top of things). Because you know, I mean, I don’t want anybody to come and be like hello! dis a gwaan wid (this is going on with) Jamaica and I don’t know. No, so I try to keep abreast all the time.

Xavier: You Andrea.

Andrea: I have every week… Every week there is a family zoom especially since the pandemic so then, you know, we keep each other sort of abreast of what is going on and then we always get news from Jamaica, still have family from Jamaica, we always get news from there and you know, my daughter is into music so she is always listening to whatever is coming up and stuff so yeah you know, we are always trying to keep on top of it.

Xavier: Alright. Winding things down. If I were to visit Sweden or anyone wants to come and visit Sweden, what is the one place, thing or experience you would say, listen if you come here you have to go see this? It could be anything from as simple as listen the sunrise, even though there is not a lot of sun. The sunrise at this place is awesome you know or this particular restaurant. Tell me that one thing you would say, you know, hey! you have to experience this when you come to Sweden. I am going to start with the vet.

Andrea: There is one thing I still want to experience like really well, I experienced it a little bit…Which is like the northern lights you know like the Aurora Borealis. I have seen it when it comes down in Stockholm but then there is so much like, light pollution from the city that I am really planning to go north and just see the northern lights so I would recommend that.

Xavier: Okay. Tasha you have anything that you… I gave you a break, I gave you a little break.

Tasha: I needed that.

Xavier: If you don’t have anything that’s fine also it could be anything like look listen… Some people have said the club light at this place or this…, or the night life here, you know, anything that you like, anything that you experienced. You are not doing it from a people perspective.

Tasha: Yes, but there are so many, there are just so many. Sweden is like just so awesome, amazing to be honest with you. There is the Abba Museum, I love the Abba museum because it was so interactive and it was so much fun. Also, the Vasa Museum that big ship that sank in the seventeen century; I think it was. It’s still there you can go and see that ship in real life. There is just so many things, Skansen which I think is one of the oldest open air museums in the world. There is just so many things to see in the town.

Andrea: Yeah, the museums here are really good. Actually, I am bias because I work in a museum.

Tasha: Yeah the Royal museum and its free and oh my gosh I love the museums. I also like the experience of the crayfish parties or mid-summer I think those things are absolutely amazing as well. The lakes, the archipelago, so many tiny islands. I think they are the prettiest in the world.

Xavier: Andrea was there thinking through this and you have come up with all this stuff, you know.

Andrea: She can write a tourist guide.

Tasha: I have visited these things too you know, Xavier so when you ready come in.

Xavier: Yes, I am definitely coming in. My last and final question is this one, you land in Jamaica, you get off the plane what is the first thing that you are doing? It could be food, it could be I am going to the beach, it could be… What is the first thing that you are doing, I am starting with you Andrea.

Andrea: You know Xavier if I land in Montego Bay I will go straight to Scotches. I don’t know if I can mention names but, otherwise I would go to
Doctors Cave Beach direct. Xavier watch mi (my) suitcase.

Xavier: Ok, alright. Tasha, what about you?

Tasha: Me, the first thing I am doing is I am grabbing a piece of cane and I am going straight to Brown’s Town on my mada’s (mother’s) veranda where she is going to be having a big bowl a stew peas wid (with) pork and that’s what I am having first thing.

Xavier: Ladies, I want to thank you both for telling us and telling our viewers you story about Sweden and you know, your experience there. Any closing thoughts before you have to teach me how to say bye in Swedish and in the most informal way. You are going to give me your closing thoughts first and then you are going to teach me how to say bye.

Andrea: Closing thoughts, I don’t know, just you know, I always encourage people to travel see the world. I think you become a better person when you see the world, you become more tolerant, you become more open, you become, accepting, you kinda learn how to know yourself as well, because you know, suddenly you are in a position where maybe you don’t know everything now so it makes you humble, I would say yeah go, travel the world like the rest of your Jamaican cwabs dem (people them).

Xavier: That’s good words of advice. Tasha!

Tasha: For me I would say um, from a Jamaican perspective speaking to other Jamaicans I would say just really, really visit Scandinavia, it doesn’t even have to be Sweden, it could be Norway could be Finland, these countries, they are doing something right. They they’re taking care of their people. They there’s just a better quality of life here. And I would say as Jamaicans I don’t… nuh bada (don’t bother) look to America, Canada and Australia and those places, you need to visit Scandinavia, these are the countries you need to be visiting (Unclear Audio 32:19-32:22)

Sweden Cityscape

Xavier: Okay, love it. Now I dint know who is going to start but I…

Andrea: But it’s easy, it’s the easiest one, it’s not like German or anything.

Xavier: Alright, how do you say bye, bye?

Andrea: Hej då!

Xavier: Hej då!

Tasha: Hej då!

Xavier: My ascent sounds good?

Andrea: Yes!

Tasha: Yes!

Xavier: Alright so ladies, thanks again and Hej då!

Andrea: Hej då!

Tasha: Hej då!

Photos  – Deposit Photos

About the author

Xavier Murphy