My Oddest Swedish Job: Rooftop Frozen Water Technician

Moving to Sweden often entails a career shift of one type or another. But as The Local's Ben Kersley discovers, some immigrants to Sweden find themselves on career detours that take them to rather unexpected places.

My Oddest Swedish Job: Rooftop Frozen Water Technician

Sweden. New country. New language. New Experiences. New Job.

More often than not the humble immigrant finds him or herself in a line of work for which they are unqualified, unprepared, and to the folks back home, unbelievable.

Here’s a look at one of the many odd jobs new arrivals in Sweden have done to make ends meet in a country where jobs for the expat can be hard to find.

My Oddest Swedish Job: Rooftop Frozen Water Technician

Name: Ben Richards

Nationality: British

Job Title: Rooftop Technician (snow shoveller)

Moved to Sweden: October 2010

Work in home country: Ticket seller for West End musicals

What is your odd Swedish job?

I’m an altitudinal frozen water technician….. I clear snow and ice from Stockholm’s rooftops.

How did you get your odd job?

In the way that it seems most work is found here – through a friend of a friend. The interview process was quite simple. There are no language skills required, you just need to be able to recognise a hammer, a spade, snow and ice….. and not have a problem with working 100 feet above the pavement while suspended by a thin rope tied round a chimney.

So they basically just ask if you are afraid of heights and don’t mind the cold?

Pretty much.

What’s the best thing about your job?

The views. You get to see Stockholm from an angle that most people never see it from. There were times that you just felt so privileged to be up there, seeing things that only the pigeons normally see.

Your take on the city changes a bit too. You start seeing the urban jungle in terms of its roofs – “That’s a good bit of tiling…nice sturdy chimney, that…. look at the slope on that one”.

I also found myself looking at Globen one day and imagining what it would be like to work a domed roof.

And what’s the worst?

Apart from potentially falling to your death? It’s the cold. It can be a very cold job.

What kind of people did you work with?

All sorts…A lot of people who played in bands, who would shovel snow by day and rehearse by night. I was lucky as my team were all nice people, but I did hear stories about arguments between co-workers that led to safety ropes ‘accidentally’ being untied.

Any tips for new snow shovellers?

Dress warmly. It’s all about staying warm…and not falling, of course, but when you’re up there, it’s mainly about being warm. The key is a good pair of socks. A lot of people recommend double socking, but I found that just one really good warm pair was perfect.

What are you doing now?

I’m currently looking for more work. I loved being a snow shoveller, but let’s face it – It’s seasonal work… I’m probably the only person in Stockholm that’s praying for more snow.

Share your oddest Swedish job experience!

What’s the oddest job you’ve ever had in Sweden?

If you’d have an oddest job experience profiled on The Local, send an email describing the job with “Odd Swedish Job” in the subject line to [email protected].

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How to stay cool as Sweden experiences near record summer heat

Summer is here and the temperatures on Thursday have reached peaks of 35 C in parts of Sweden. Though you might find such temperatures pleasant when lying in an all-inclusive resort on the Red Sea, it's a bit less luxurious if you are working, or at home doing chores. But don’t sweat, we've put together a guide to help you keep cool, even without the pool.

How to stay cool as Sweden experiences near record summer heat

Drink a lot of water!

No news here, water is good for you especially when it’s hot.

Make sure to bring a refillable bottle with you if you’re going out and about. The good thing is that tap water is good for drinking in Sweden and that all restaurants, cafes and pubs serve it for free, on tap. This might be a given for many, but other parts of Europe, especially the south, only sell mineral water ‘in case the tap water gives you the runs’. 

Drinking beer or an ice-cold cider sounds like a good plan but if it’s really hot, it might be best to avoid it. Or at least go for the Swedish varannan vatten (“every other one a water”) technique, which means matching a glass of water to every alcoholic drink you consume.

If you have decided to drink a glass of wine or a beer with your dinner, remember to plan in advance and put your drinks in the fridge a few hours before. Branches of Systembolaget, the state-owned alcohol shop, don’t have fridges so you will need to add ice or keep it in the fridge if you want to enjoy a cool summer drink.

The Window dilemma

Keeping the windows open generally is a good idea, especially in Sweden where air conditioning is not too common. However, if there’s no wind and the temperatures are 30C+, it might be smarter to keep the windows shut during the hottest hours of the day. 

In an office environment another advantage of choosing windows over air conditioning, beyond the environmental impact, of course, is that by changing the air you decrease the chances of catching covid-19 and other viruses. Considering the increasing infection rates across the country, especially in Stockholm, this might actually be quite advisable.

Being forced to stay indoors with a fever when the weather is beautiful, is a punishment nobody deserves.

If you live on the sixth floor of a Swedish apartment block without air conditioning you might want to consider just embracing it.

Open the window, strip off, wrap a towel around you and keep a bottle of water handy – you have your very own eco-friendly sauna. This is not an ideal situation to be in if you have to work or do house chores. On really hot days it might be good to postpone the house chores and if you need to work, a café or a coworking space could be your redemption.

Fight heat with heat 

I hear you, “why would you go to a sauna when it’s so hot in summer?”. But saunas are popular in Sweden all year round. The combination of sauna plus swimming in a fresh lake or in the ocean is what you need. Sweating in a sauna is a great way to get rid of toxins, de-stress and get away from screens and buzzing phones.

It is also great to build up your tolerance of high temperatures. In a world of global warming, the likelihood of more heatwaves in future is high. 

Swim away the sizzle

Many Swedish cities are near lakes or the sea, the big exception being Uppsala. So it’s easy to find a spot to take a dip after work or spend the whole day out. 

Siesta por favor

Take a lesson from people in Southern Europe, and take a nap in the hottest hours of the day. In countries like Italy and Spain shops in the countryside, and some traditional ones in city centres too, still shut for lunch during the hottest hours of the day.

Think about it, isn’t it better to just save energy during the peak of the heat? If you have flexibility in your work hours, or even better if you are leading a team, could starting a bit earlier in the morning and then taking a two-hour lunch break be a good fix?

In Italy, shops are open between 9:00 and 13:00 and then from 15:30 to 20:30. Maybe working late is not the best in summer but starting earlier is easy, especially now that the sun rises at 4 AM.

Fruitful advice

Eat fruit, especially summer fruits that, as well as tasting great, also have a lot of juice and sugars to keep your energy levels up and give you the boost you need to keep on going. If you have a blender, frozen fruit smoothies are perfect!

Dress light

Sweden tends to be quite informal when it comes to the dress code at the workplace. Wearing a t-shirt or a polo shirt is considered totally normal in most offices. When it comes to showing off some leg, the general opinion is that skirts are more acceptable than shorts, but it is not too uncommon to see men wearing shorts to work too.

A safe bet would be to check with your colleagues to see what the consensus is, and if it is not common yet, ask your colleagues if there are any dress code guidelines! 

Ultimately, in very high temperatures, such as when crossing the Sahara desert, people put more clothes on to keep the sun and heat away. So if you pick the right materials and wear baggy clothes even long trousers and sleeves can feel quite pleasant. 

Take it easy

The English expression “don’t sweat about it” is often used in the context of telling someone “not to stress”.

This is sound advice, especially in summer. On a hot day allow more time for moving from A to B, walk or cycle a bit more slowly than you would and if you’re running late to meet a friend, just call them and apologise.

Disclaimer: the person writing this is not Swedish and the stereotype of Swedes loving punctuality is often true. However, if you agree in advance to meet at around a certain time and then give a more detailed update when you are on your way, this could be a way to have a less sweat-full experience.