Things are never black and white – Interview with Erik Lund
With his love of Eurovision music and traditional salty candy, Erik is a pretty typical Swedish man; but as an expat, he is one of the unique few who actually took the time to learn at least a bit of our language – and he even wrote a song in Hungarian. Let’s get to know him better!
Where are you from? How would you describe yourself?
Sweden, specifically the northern part of Gävle. Generally, nature is where I go to find tranquility and peace in life, but I also enjoy larger cities for a more active social life.
What is day to day life for you?
I’ve been moving between Sweden and Hungary for the last 5 years. The latest move to Budapest was in October, so I’m still developing a routine. A normal day includes cooking and/or baking something; then I’m sitting down to write either music or work on my novel. I also go to the gym and take long walks to clear my thoughts and burn calories from all the sweets I eat.
What did you know about Hungary before moving here?
Not very much in particular. Although, when I saw Wolf Kati, who represented Hungary in the 2011 Eurovision, I was curious about Hungary and visited Budapest that same year. Coming from a flat part of Sweden, I fell in love with the Buda hills.
Have you experienced culture shock?
Yes, I was surprised that you’re supposed to give 2 kisses on the cheek when greeting women. I always took this literally in the beginning and gave real kisses (not just air kisses). In Sweden, we never do that. We just hug one another, regardless if it’s a guy or a girl.
But Hungarians are similar to Swedes in that they’re a bit reserved at first, but after a party and a few shots of pálinka we become best friends. It was important for me when I first arrived to be introduced to Hungarians and not only other foreigners. The gay community tends to be more open to new people, so it wasn’t that hard.
Favorite things about Budapest?
Despite the population being 2 million, the distances between places are always short. One can take a quiet walk up the Gellért-hegy and 15 minutes later, be in the heart of the city. We have the best of two worlds. The architecture is so beautiful and I am grateful that you can feel the history in so many places. Hungarians are proud of Budapest for a good reason.
Name one place you would recommend a traveler to see or do?
The Párisi Nagyáruház on Andrássy Avenue because of the architecture: it feels like you’re traveling back in time and it’s like a movie set. There is also live music.
Any tips for a foreigner moving here?
Firstly, try to learn the language, this is will help in truly getting to know the people. Not all locals speak English here, so this will be quite helpful in day-to-day life as well. Getting to know native Hungarians helped me understand the culture and feel more connected. You will have a reason to return and visit them, too.
Where have you traveled within Hungary?
I’ve been to Debrecen (visiting friends), Miskolc (cave baths), Szentendre (sightseeing), Visegrád (bob sledding/hiking), and the Balaton several times during the summer months. There are beautiful landscapes surrounding the lake, perfect for a day trip outside the city to rent a bike and cycle around.
What do you think of gay life in Budapest and how do you take part in it?
I go out to gay clubs every now and then. There are plenty to choose from, but they never play Eurovision music which is sad. What I also miss is a good gay-friendly café where people of all ages and sexual orientation/identities are feeling welcome. The community seems to be a very homogeneous, good-looking young crowd, yet I miss the variety of people. I think that in Northern Europe the places are more relaxed generally.
How is gay life in Sweden?
Sweden has less gay clubs – since the society is quite open, there isn’t a big demand for them. It’s more accepted to hold hands or kiss in public. Although I think gay people will always want to have places where you are sure to find other gay people. So many Swedes take the train to Copenhagen or fly to Berlin or Barcelona over the weekend just to have a good gay party.
What do you think of Hungarian men?
They’re upfront and honest. I had several Hungarian boyfriends, the current one for two years now, so I think that says a lot of what I think about them.
What do you miss the most from home?
Clean air, grocery stores with greater variety and better quality due to my frequent baking. Also salt licorice. Sometimes I’ll bring salty candy for my friends here but usually they spit it out within a second.
What kind of hobbies do you have?
I’m a hobby singer/songwriter and I have a YouTube channel for my music. I recently posted a song in Hungarian called “Ha holnap elmegyek” which translates to “If I leave tomorrow” and it’s a tribute song to everyone I know in Hungary, since I’m moving and saying goodbye so often.
I love to create, whether it be writing or baking. One idea I have is to open a gay café downtown with pink cakes, but for this I would need capital and insight for the business.
Sports are another hobby of mine. I mostly enjoy team sports, e.g. badminton (in pairs) and volleyball.
What is something that you’ve learned from living in Hungary that you’ll take with you?
Things are never black and white; there’s always pros and cons to all places and societies. We all have a choice to see the positive or the negative things in life. I still need to remind myself of this often.