Why Swedes ask Sheila
SHEILA LOFGREN never expected that when Swedish consul to Barbados, Titi Kerr, asked her to do a “little” interview with an editor from one of Sweden’s most popular newspapers on her social life in Barbados that she would become an informal online travel consultant.
Twenty-one-year-old Swedish-born Lofgren, who moved to Barbados 12 years ago with her Swedish father and Barbadian mother, was recently featured in the cover story of Resa travel magazine – which appears in Sweden’s Aftonbladet newspaper.
That story was read by possibly as many as 9.3 million people.
Now, Lofgren’s inbox on her Facebook page is hardly empty. People in Sweden who read the article seem to have fallen in love with the girl on the cover and the story she had to tell.
“Last year October the Swedish consul in Barbados called me and asked me if I could do just a little piece on [my life] here in Barbados.
So I met the gentlemen from the Swedish newspaper at the Hilton Hotel and we took a few pictures and he said the write-up was to cater to the young generation in Sweden.
“He asked me what are my favourite beaches to go to around the island and where I like to go to hang out . . . . Then he told me that it was going to be a little article, but he called me on the day it was published and said you made the cover.”
Within a matter of days after the magazine was published Lofgren’s “work” on Facebook began.
“I started getting Facebook messages from people in Sweden who read the article. I got things saying ‘I am not sure 100 per cent if you are the person but if you are I just want to ask you questions about Barbados.’
“One person asked ‘If I wanted to rent an apartment, where would the best place in Barbados be?’ . . . . so I started giving them the best possible answers,” Lofgren said.
She added that “one creep who thinks he was destined to be with me also left a message, but I took care of him.”
The former St Michael School student told the WEEKEND NATION that she had certainly been helpful to many in her homeland. But this new “job” has caused Lofgren, who at the age of nine attended nursery school “dressed in the uniform and sat next to four-year-olds” to learn English, to contemplate, “So what about the true Barbados?”
“Yes, it is fine and dandy to recommend all of these fine restaurants. But what about these small bars and shops that locals own – that is a true Barbadian experience and opportunity to mingle with locals.
“But they don’t have the sort of money to advertise in the advertisements that go around on the Internet or in magazines.
“It is all fine to advertise fine dining experiences but [the] reality is [that] people have fine dining in their countries,” said the unofficial Internet tour guide, who holds several CXC passes, among them English (with a distinction), and recently earned a Bachelor’s degree in social science with upper second class honours from the University of the West Indies (Cave Hill Campus).
The outgoing Lofgren pointed out that she had visited virtually all of the island’s tourist attractions, participated in most water sports and partied at many of the nightclubs.
“A lot of the younger generation in Sweden like to go to warmer climates in groups to go away from Sweden to party or to spend time,” she said.
“Because, it is really expensive in Sweden to go out at night . . . . if you want to go out it is probably BDS$50 entrance fee and then you still have to buy alcohol. . . .they have never heard of drinks free.
“And alcohol is something that is distributed by the government, so to buy alcohol, you spend like BDS$25 on one beer. And then it is illegal to drink and drive, so taxi fare is about BDS$150 to get home depending on how far you live,” she stressed.
Lofgren is now engaged in discussions with officials at Aftonbladet about her promoting Barbados on a regular basis and intends to take her informal career to another level.
“I have been thinking of creating a website, where I would be recommending things to do in Barbados based on what I know is good.
“I told the gentleman from the newspaper about the website and he thinks that it would be a wonderful idea. He told me that when I create the website he would promote it as a link.
“To start the website I need funds, but unfortunately I have been reaching closed doors thus far,” said the St James resident, who recently received an award from the Barbados Chamber of Commerce for being an outstanding business student.