Yeouido Hangang Park, December 2017.

You’re not alone in the winter. You are never alone. When you need help, someone is always just a phone call away.

Trust that person.

Remember that there is someone out there who loves you more than you love yourself. Even when you feel like giving up, someone is there to encourage you, to push you, to be the support you need. You don’t have to stand up alone. You can stand up with the support around you.

I wish you knew that earlier, Jonghyun. I wish you could have seen that. But you fought a good fight, and you tried your best. It may not have been the best decision, but you have made your choice, and I hope you find some peace in the choice you made.

May you rest in peace.


Ikea Museum actually exists.

So everyone knows what Ikea is. It’s that famous furniture store worldwide. But if you want a bit more information on them, or some products with colours that are not typically blue or yellow, then Ikea Museum is the place to go.

Not only did Ikea Museum have products with colours such as green, black, orange, and more, they also had special food items on the menu, such as salmon meatballs. Yes, salmon meatballs. I loved them so much I regret not buying the frozen packet at the Ikea there. There’s none in my town or anywhere else.

Ikea Museum is situated in a tiny town called Älmhult in south Sweden. The town has about 8000 inhabitants and it’s characterized by Ikea. ALL the Ikea factories, offices, warehouses, museums, stores, hotels and bargain stores are there. At least one-third of the people in the town work for Ikea. It’s an Ikea monopoly, to put it simply.

So yes, Ikea has an Ikea Hotell and a bargain store, at which I found really cheap items. Really cheap in Sweden, that is. And cheaper than all the products they usually sell.

It was like Ikea was the government of the town. Pretty unbelievable, I must say. I expect Billund in Denmark to be monopolized by Lego as well. After all, these are the places where these world-famous companies were born.  I even read somewhere that Swedish people trust Ikea more than they trust a religion.

It was really desolate for a Saturday when my friend and I went. We took a train there and it felt like I was walking in a chilly ghost town. Not a soul was in sight in the half an hour walk through town. It was just my friend and I battling the snow and the wind.

No one was at the Ikea Hotel either. The counter was empty and the whole Ikea place was quiet. Of course, no one was working on a Saturday, but I imagined that there would at least be people in a hotel. I’ve never seen such an empty hotel and town before.

At the Ikea Museum, I saw the set where they shot 2017’s magazine cover. There’s absolutely no window or daylight as you would have seen in their cover photo.

Image from the Internet

They allow tourists to take their own photos at the set. You’re able to produce your own personalized catalogue cover with you inside. There’s already a camera and a printer set up on the set so you can get your photos right away. Of course I took mine as well.

It was a quirky trip – from interesting designs and ideas from Ikea, to having cheap thrills of finding special products, food and cheap bargains. Also, the town bus was free. Can you imagine? Free of charge to take whenever. We were really amazed.

And to end off, here’s a short vlog I put together showcasing some of the things I saw at the museum. Enjoy!

There are firsts for everything and I took the first bold step I needed to venture out. As the title goes, I went for my first solo trip. There are two places that I’ve gone to alone so far, but I will cover them in different posts.

This post will be on the very first day trip I took to Linköping in Sweden. You might not even have heard of it before so it’s okay. And people ask, why Linköping? That little town is just like the small town I’m in now and there’s nothing much to do. It’s not big or special. Why so random? Why Linköping?

I’m not that random when it comes to spending money. There’s a reason I chose Linköping. Have you heard or read the Malin Fors series? It’s a series of books under the crime genre, written by Mons Kallentoft. It follows the female detective Malin Fors as she solves cases against time as well as battles with her own issues. It’s a Swedish crime novel that I happened to pick up off the shelves a few years ago in Singapore, and the rest is history. I became hooked and I’ve read all the books in the series. There’s another book that’s yet to be translated into English, so I’m waiting for that.

And yes, you guessed it – the book’s setting is in Linköping.

So of course I had to see the actual place for myself. It’s my favourite book series and I couldn’t miss out on seeing the actual place for myself when I’m so near it. Since nobody else was interested in Linköping I set off on a solo trip on 10 February, 2017.

At first, I was scared and excited all at the same time – filled with trepidation because it hit me that I was all on my own and nobody really knew that I was going on a day trip, and exhilaration because I was finally being free and doing something I really wanted to do. I felt independent and empowered. There was a rough plan ahead, and I make all the decisions. It was a self-discovery process.

My first stop: the Trädgårdsförening Gardens. In the book series, it’s known as the Horticultural Society Park.

This place was massive. I didn’t know a city park was this big. The kind of parks I imagined in my mind were the small, can-look-over-the-whole-park-from-one-point kind of open-air park that you can find in Singapore. I thought that it was a small park for me to see.

I was not expecting such a big park with fields of snow, streams, hills and bridges. That day happened to be particularly snowy and the entire park was just white and cold. Also not the kind of park I imagined because in Singapore, it’s all green.

I spent an hour or two there. I simply wandered through the thick snow and watched a few people push their babies slowly, enjoying the little sunshine available during the day. The playground was empty and void of kids screaming and running around. It was such a tranquil place.

But the second stop I went to was even more peaceful. Gamla Stan Linköping is basically Linköping Old Town, where the buildings are old and preserved. It’s also known as Linköping Open-Air Museum. They have it in Stockholm as well, which also visited.

It was quaint, quiet and beautiful. When I went there in the afternoon it was snowing really heavily and I was the lone soul trudging in thick snow and freezing my fingers taking photos. Most people were indoors because these houses had shops, cafes and people in it. I imagine that a lot of people enjoy this place in summer, but since it was a bitterly cold and snowy day, there were few people to be seen. I was pretty much left all alone and to my own devices, which included finding my way around and keeping track of time.

The museum was beside some woods, and a short walk through that would lead you to a farm, which is part of the open-air museum as well. This was my favourite part of my trip.

It took my breath away. Upon emerging from the woods I faced a field so vast it stretched beyond my line of sight and seemed to disappear into more trees and snow. The sky and the snow were the same colour. So far and empty was this field that I simply wanted to walk towards it and walk on and on and on.

Beyond those trees in the picture are more fields and snow. 

I saw a small boy no older than six years old tend to a few goats on the farm. He was alone with three to four goats who pranced around him and simply walked around. I wonder where everyone went. It was like a ghost town.

Train tracks that were no longer used and covered in snow; fences that did not protect or keep in (or out) anything or anyone, abandoned playgrounds and houses, and a road that led on and on till God knows where. I couldn’t finish walking that road because I had to go back and catch my bus, but my curiosity was piqued. I followed it as far as I could. Who knows what amazing place I could have discovered?

Life in Sweden has been extremely fun.

Making new friends, getting out of my comfort zone, experiencing tons of new things – it has spiced up my exchange life here, and coupled with the beautiful nature and winter that Sweden has to offer, I’m feeling really blessed here. I’ve found nice communities and I’m enjoying it while I can because I know that it won’t last and, as the saying goes, all good things come to an end.

I’ve thought about moving to Sweden. It’s a question that floats around during gatherings – people can randomly ask you that question. And giving it some thought, some people said no.

For me, it’s not about parental restrictions or anything like that. I’d love to move to Sweden if I could. I love the slow-paced environment, the vast nature I’ll never ever get back home, and a lot of freedom and space. It’s everything I’ve ever wanted. It’s beautiful.

But thinking hard about it, life now is fun because I’m on exchange. I’m surrounded by students and international students. They, or we, are the life of the party. All the fun parties I’ve attended and every fun event that’s been organised is all run by the students.

But if I were to live in Sweden just to work, I think that life wouldn’t be as fun. You wouldn’t have such frequent happening parties. No language cafe, food safaris, frequent overseas trips, and many of the fun events organised by the student union. No frequent gathering at random times because work is everyday. No jetting off to cities because it’s not like I could skip work like I skip school. No such fun.

In fact, life in Sweden as a worker makes life just as normal as everyone else everywhere. Going to work every day, coming home tired, and then maybe doing your own things, resting or hanging out with friends. Definitely not as wild or adventurous as it is now. Definitely not the exchange life I’m living – it’s going to be a lot calmer, a lot quieter, a lot like back home.

Exchange life is really different for me. It’s different from Singapore. It’s way more happening than Singapore and I like not having to care about my grades and how well I do. I like being free of that pressure and that competition that’s worrying me all the time back home. I like experiencing life, experiencing Western culture, and doing all the different things I’d never have the chance to back home. It’s refreshing.

But working here would not be like that and while I don’t mind that kind of life, not everyone likes it. Some people need fun in their life and this city can be boring with nothing to do. Some people wouldn’t ever live here for a long time. Exchange? Fine, because there are always activities to do. But work for years? Maybe not.

For me, it’s fine. I like serenity and I like having big spaces and having time to myself. I like tranquil moments where I can spend time with myself and with God. I like having quality time to do things properly and not just rush through life like back home.

So do I love Jönköping? Yes. Would I love to come back? Absolutely.

Life, in general, is simply a road of opportunities. Take up the different ones that come your way, and you experience many different things. It’s really up to the individual to decide what kind of life he or she wants to lead. This is something for you to consider if you really want to move overseas to work and live – what kind of ‘fun’ life are you looking for, what kind of environment, and what kind of people would you want to be surrounded with? Know what you want, and then go for it. Many people think that living overseas is thrilling. It may not be. Exchange is exciting, yes, and I would definitely recommend it to everyone. But working overseas in certain areas may not be everyone’s cup of tea.

To me, this is everything I’ve dreamed of. And I’m living it fully while it lasts, because I don’t really see myself coming back to live here. I will come back for holidays again, but I’m unlikely to come back here to work.

We’ll see, ay?

A compilation of random things that I’ve heard and learnt about here in Sweden. This by no means represents anyone in particular, or an entire Swedish culture as a whole – it’s just probably a part of the city I’m in. I do not mean to discriminate against anybody.

Exchange is such an entirely fresh experience that it’s eye-opening if a bus comes on time, or I get a free bus ride. It’s strange to be able to eat on trains. It’s even more uncomfortable calling a teacher by her first name. There are things I try to avoid, quite naturally; I avoid eating on a train because I think people will judge me, and I avoid calling a teacher unless I absolutely have to.

So these are some of the little stories I’ve compiled over a few weeks so that I have a memory of it.


1) Anything strange is not Swedish. They like to know that they have their things in order. For example, there’s a roundabout here in Jönköping that’s neither round nor just a circle. There’s a random road that cuts across the middle of the roundabout.
What it’s for, and how it should work, was really hard to understand. It was a really strange roundabout.
What did the Swedish call these strange things they couldn’t fathom?


2) “There’s something like no littering and chewing gum in Singapore right? I don’t know much about it. It might be just a rumour I’ve heard.”
“Oh, yes!! That’s very true, it’s a fact that you’ll get fined for littering in Singapore, and chewing gum is banned there as well. You can’t eat it, buy it, or smuggle it in.”
“HAHAHA. Smuggling in chewing gum. It sounds strange.”

A very common understanding of Singapore from someone who’s not familiar with the country. Not just Swedish people, but many people in general. It’s quite amusing to learn that the things people know about Singapore are its ‘pretty silly’ rules, according to everyone else who can hardly believe there’s such a law not permitting chewing gum.

3) “Sweden is a small country.”
Oh yeah. Two Singapores can fit into Lake Vättern.
Response: 😳
How can a country be so small???

4) Contrary to popular belief, most people don’t know what language Singapore speaks. Because we’re an Asian country, and literally all Asian countries have a native first language except for Singapore, people think that Singapore speaks a language that’s not English. But they have no idea what.
Many people ask me what language Singaporeans speak. We explain that English is our first language and everybody speaks that so that we understand each other in a country of many different races. Then we tell them that Chinese (Mandarin) is our second language. Different races will learn different languages as their second language.
And that Cantonese is my dialect.
Also, that Singlish is used extensively in Singapore – basically the English language with many additions of slangs, and Chinese, Malay and Hokkien words we commonly use. We also like to mix the languages together – for example, lapsing into Chinese in the middle of a sentence.

It’s difficult to explain Singapore to people. We’re not a country of ‘one race’ and it’s a new concept that people have to grasp. Most people are surprised that we speak English and when they ask why, we explain that it’s because Singapore used to be ruled by the British.
Then it clicks.

5) It was lunch time and a group of Singaporeans, Swedish and a Canadian happened to sit together at a table. One of the Singaporeans, F, FaceTimed her mother back in Singapore.
A little way into the conversation, F turned her phone to another friend, Z, who had been drinking her pumpkin soup.
“Hi auntie!” Z greeted F’s mum happily.
“Hello!!” Her mum very enthusiastically greeted back.
It was a light atmosphere, the cold seeping into the rather large and empty dining hall, when one of the Swedish guys spoke up.
“Hey, are you two related or something?”
“Huh?? No we aren’t.”
“But you called her auntie…?”

This was the lightbulb moment. All of us Singaporeans burst out laughing at the confusion we hadn’t realised we’d caused.
“Oh, ‘auntie’ is just a way of calling someone who’s older than you. In Singapore, we use ‘auntie’ and ‘uncle’ very loosely – basically anyone who’s older than you and who looks old enough can be called ‘auntie’ or ‘uncle’. It’s our way of greeting or calling people. We’re not related at all.”
“For example, if we were at a coffee shop and we wanted to order some food or drinks, we’d just call ‘Auntie! Can I have one ice lemon tea?”. We also greet each other’s parents like this. It’s our way of respect.”

They found it very interesting. Yes, Singaporeans do call their aunts and uncles as ‘auntie’ and ‘uncle’ as well. But we also use ‘auntie’ and ‘uncle’ for just about anybody who’s old enough (usually above 40 years old). We use ‘jiejie’ (older sister in chinese) and ‘gorgor’ (older brother in chinese) for the younger people who are still older than us. It’s just our way of addressing people, strangers or not, with respect.

In Sweden, they call everyone (not their family) by their first names. In classes, we have to call our teachers by their first names, without any ‘miss’ or ‘mr’ or ‘mrs’ in front. It’s the same in the workplace in Sweden – they address their boss by their first names. It’s a very informal setting even though the lines between teacher and student, and boss and employee, are still respected.

I felt really awkward and uncomfortable going up to my teacher and saying, “Hey Carina”.