After two years of studies in Gothenburg, she went back to China in 2011 with not only a master’s degree in Supply Chain Management, but also a desire to encourage more Chinese people to come here – despite the weather. That’s why she wrote her own tourist guide to Gothenburg. “I don’t want them to just find the usual tourist traps,” she says. “There’s so much more.”
Sweden has become an increasingly common destination for Chinese travellers. The past decade has seen ever greater numbers of Chinese visitors to the Nordic countries and other parts of Northern Europe. The guide Zhang wrote is available free online (in Chinese only), along with several other guides to other countries.
“After I wrote about Gothenburg, the guidebook company wanted me to write about more places in Sweden,” she
says, “ so I did. I wrote one on Läckö Castle, which I think is really beautiful. And cities like Stockholm, Kiruna and Malmö.”
The Gothenburg section of the guide takes up everything from nature experiences like the lovely walking trails around Härlanda Lake and the archipelago, to the art museum and the theme park Liseberg. And of course the food.
“I wrote about restaurants like Heaven 23 and several other nice places, but my friends from Gothenburg told me that most people can’t afford to eat at such fancy places every day, so they gave me tips on other places, too.”
To be honest, Zhang doesn’t really care that much for Swedish food. But she did really like “the fika”, she says. “Cinnamon buns! That’s something I miss here.”
But what really appealed to her about Gothenburg and Sweden was hard to capture in a guide book – the people and how we treat each other. “I felt respected. I knew I could trust the people I met. People were friendly and always willing to answer any questions I had.”
Zhang also speaks warmly of her Swedish classmates. They were always there to support her if she thought something was difficult. She’s still in touch with several of the people she met at Chalmers.
The attitude to studies and learning was also somewhat different, she says, describing how much she appreciated the fact that Chalmers offered so much practice combined with the theoretical studies. She benefited greatly from that.
Now Zhang works for the French service and utility company Veolia in Shanghai. Asked if she’d ever consider moving back to Sweden, she says, “Yes, I’d like that.”
Despite the weather.
Text: Siri Reuterstrand Photo: Private