Blogging from New York: Swede Ebba Lövenskiold blogs about her life as a Manhattan gal and freelance writer for Swedish Cosmopolitan.
In “Englishman in New York,” Sting sang about taking tea and using a cane when walking down Fifth Avenue as the prototypical British émigré, but what attributes mark a legal Swedish alien in the Big Apple?
Swedes, it often seems, would rather die than be seen in anything that would expose their roots. Apart from a Kånken backpack here and some Lovikka mittens there, it’s hard to spot a Swede. Ebba Lövenskiold is no different. She looks conspicuously Village-chic in black leggings and a grey sweater, mixed with a bit of Upper East Side perhaps, but nothing that screams Swedish or even foreigner. For a year now, she’s been blogging for Swedish Cosmopolitan about her life in New York.
In “Ebba i New York” (Ebba in New York), she chronicles her days as a freelance writer and Manhattan gal, liberally illustrating her entries with photos of dog walkers, lunches at Café Gitane and cruises down the Hudson River.
“I left my job as Head of PR at Wayfinder, a Swedish technology company, to come to New York with my then-boyfriend, now husband (Sam Giertz) three years ago, and since I didn’t have a working visa, I had to find something I could do,” she explains. “While living in Sweden I'd already started writing for a couple of magazines, so a lawyer told me that I could obtain a journalist visa, and since I’ve always loved writing, it seemed like the thing to do. I slipped into this business on a banana peel.”
We’re sitting in Ebba’s home in the West Village, talking about her blog but also about the fact that Ebba, for the moment, has stopped blogging: She is 8 months pregnant and has been assigned to bed rest until the birth of her baby in November.
“I write about cultural clashes, and little everyday things that would never occur in Sweden," she says when I asked about the content of her blogs. "For instance, there’s this man who walks our street in a robe and cowboy hat preaching—that’s something you’d never see on Östermalm. Or when Russell Brand shows up to a movie junket wearing high heels. Or when a casual night out ends up with finding oneself standing in a venetian mask at Roberto Cavallis private birthday party, getting advice on dance moves from a body-painted stripper. I think this might be exotic to a reader sitting in a village somewhere in Sweden. But I am a rather private person, so I try to be personal without being private. I don’t like to reveal too much about myself.”
Every expat knows that when you leave your country, when you step over the metaphysical river that separates you from yours, something happens: You belong neither here nor there, and home’s neither fish, flesh, nor fowl. And suddenly you have to watch what you say and to whom. In one blog entry Ebba writes:
“Someone asked me, ‘What’s it really like to return to Stockholm when you live in New York …’ I turned quiet, trying to come up with an answer that wouldn’t take hours and a couple of peeved comments to get out of (Swedes don’t want to hear anything negative about Sweden, and they absolutely do not want to hear anything good about New York and one has to be careful not to become the ‘difficult’ expatriate Swede—after all, I’m coming back one day).”
As I ask her about it now, she seems to veer a bit, careful perhaps of saying too much.
“Well, that’s what it’s like,” she says finally. “I love Sweden, but there are negative aspects about living both there and here.”
There are positive aspects as well, and one of the positive traits of the Big Apple, she says, is how serviceable society is laid out here.
“You can get everything delivered to your doorstep. People are simply better at that here, and it creates a nicer atmosphere."
Good bread, long walks in nature (“wearing rubber boots”), family and friends—are some of the things she misses.
”The next best thing you can do is to go to Central Park pretending to be in a forest, but it doesn't really work,” she laughs.
Getting used to a system that doesn’t function as smoothly as the Swedish system has been another hurdle to overcome—one that many Swedes can relate to. When things don’t work, when you’re stuck in traffic in a taxicab, when the volume’s too high everywhere, when you've had no hot water for two days—then it’s easy to long for the order and calm that Sweden offers. Ebba finds it amusing that America, supposedly so front edge and ahead in the game, is sometimes just the opposite.
“But like moss on a tree, New York has a way of growing on you,” she smiles.
And after that first year, during which she did and saw everything one is supposed to, Ebba has settled into something that looks like everyday life.
“New York gives so much energy,” she says. “It’s inspiring, you meet so many interesting people, and something happens around the corner all the time if you only keep your eyes open.”
She says she likes to go out to eat, or have a drink, and she likes to explore the many cultural ventures. “I really like the Whitney Museum.”
But mostly her days have been filled with freelance writing (her articles have appeared in magazines and newspapers like Cosmopolitan, Passion for Business, King, Glamour and Sydsvenska Dagbladet, among others), film junkets, PR events, meeting people and blogging. She’s also been working on a personal, fictive writing project.
“The greatest thing with New York is that you don’t really have to adapt here. There’s something for everybody here, there’s space for everybody.”
You can find Ebba’s blog, in Swedish, here: