Rob Griffith-Jones has a thing for second cities. He’s born in Birmingham, Great Britain’s second largest city, and six years ago he decided to move to Gothenburg.
"Birmingham and Gothenburg are quite similar cities; they share the same personality. They are not the star, like London or Stockholm, and they’re used to being the butt of the joke, which has given them a good sense of humour. Also, people have this understanding that in order to be competitive they need to work together, something that makes the cities both creative and collaborative," he says.
Like many other foreigners moving to Gothenburg, Rob came here because of love. He and his Swedish wife met in Thailand ten years ago, lived together in Birmingham for a while but decided to give Gothenburg a go. As a freelance copywriter Rob could continue to work for his British clients while learning Swedish and establishing himself in his new hometown.
"I especially love the nature. It’s amazing that you can live in an entertaining city and also escape to beautiful, rugged nature just as easily. It is a huge luxury."
Another attribute of Gothenburg that Rob particularly likes is its size. On a personal level: small enough for riding a bike basically anywhere, but big enough to offer high quality facilities, culture, events and experiences. And on a business level: small enough to make connections and networking easy, big enough to play an important role regionally, nationally and even internationally. However, he has noticed that Gothenburg is bit anonymous and neither celebrates nor displays its best features. Something he has decided to help change with launching the independent website thisisgothenburg.com, a guide to the city’s known and hidden gems.
"There are a lot of great things happening in Gothenburg, but it’s difficult for visitors to find them. It’s strange; if you come here for a weekend, you could easily get the impression that you’ve seen it all. But when you move here, there are endless things to explore and experience. You only have to know where to look."
THINKING OF MOVING TO GOTHENBURG?
Here are Rob Griffith-Jones’ 5 tips on how to feel right at home.
LEARN THE LANGUAGE. “SFI, Swedish courses for immigrants, is free and very helpful. But start learning Swedish as soon as you decide to move to Sweden. The vocabulary is fairly easy but the grammar is hard! Try to avoid letting people speak English to you, they will otherwise. Speak Swedish as much as you can – it will make you feel that you belong – even though most workplaces and social settings don't require it.”
FIND A JOB. “If you’re not picky you’ll find a job pretty easily. But local contacts are helpful, so start building your network, for example via LinkedIn, before moving here. Sweden is a small market and many companies want to make business outside the Nordic countries and therefore appreciate people who know international markets, languages and cultures and are keen to employ them.”
MEET NEW FRIENDS. “A new town is not home until you get your own network and your own friends. Even if you don’t feel like it, make an effort to meet new people and say "yes" to all invitations. By going to watch a local football team with a friend (I was tired and very nearly cancelled) I met a guy in the pub who invited me to football practice – and I ended up training with them for six months. Thisisgothenburg.com arranges Secret Dinner Parties that you can sign up for as a way to meet new people.”
GET A BIKE. “Gothenburg is extremely bike friendly and it's a real pleasure to explore and experience the city by bike.”
DON’T WORRY ABOUT THE TAXES. “Sweden is known for its high taxes, but really – when you look at what you get, they’re nothing to moan about. Parental leave, affordable childcare, excellent healthcare, clean streets and fantastic public transport are just some of the benefits.”
Rob Griffith-Jones, 32.
Born in: Birmingham.
Lives in: Gothenburg since 2012 with his wife and 3-year-old daughter.
Works as: Freelance copywriter. Is the co-founder of thisisgothenburg.com. He has also written a play, The Sea Widow (inspired by a famous Gothenburg statue), which was performed at last year’s Gothenburg Fringe Festival.