Culture / Lifestyle

Oliver Gee: How I Took ‘The Earful Tower’ to Sweden

Australian podcaster OLIVER GEE started The Earful Tower in 2015, building a huge following through his discussions with Parisians and the city itself. When the second French lockdown hit, he was in Sweden, his wife’s home country. Though away from Paris, he kept podcasting. Soon he’d started an Earful Tower spin-off…

Oliver Gee

I arrived in Paris back in 2015. I was sent down as a journalist to cover the Charlie Hebdo terror attacks, and the first day I was here there was a march of two million people at the Place de la Republique. That was my introduction to France… many people say the first thing they did when they arrived was to go to the boulangerie and eat croissants. It wasn’t like that at all for me! In fact, that whole year was crazy. I started the podcast as something entertaining to get away from it. I have guests, but the main guest is Paris. There are an infinite amount of stories, many of which haven’t been told.

Before arriving in Paris, I’d lived in Sweden (mostly Stockholm) for five years, working for The Local Sweden. However, I never appreciated it until after I lived in Paris. Stockholm has similarities with Paris: Östermalm was based on Paris, and both the Swedes and French are nuts for coffee. So, it was cool seeing Stockholm again, but this time through the eyes of a podcaster. The big challenge was trying not just to carry all my listeners from the Paris podcast, which is much better established and has tens of thousands more listeners. I wanted people who are deeply interested in Scandinavia – and Stockholm – to pick up on it. There were, however, many people who did come over from the Paris show, and they said I’d really opened their eyes to this country. I think that’s true of most people. They think: ABBA, cold. That’s it. They’ve never dug any deeper. Which is fair enough… you’ve never dug deeper into about 150 countries of the 190 in the world. The UK, France and the United States are all up there. Sweden isn’t like that. It’s a small country. So it was really cool to hear that people were discovering Sweden for the first rime. All my jokes and observations were new to these guys.

“It was really cool to hear that people were disovering Sweden for the first time. All my jokes and observations were new to these guys.”

I arrived in Europe via England, and I spent a year there before moving to Sweden, then France. So, I’ve been in Europe about ten years now. The thing that really got me – and still gets me – is how old everything is. I still can’t really fathom it. I tell people the oldest thing in Perth (where I’m from) is the lady next door. Over here, I’m sitting on an island where two thousand years ago the Romans arrived and founded Paris… two thousand years ago! On top of that, there are other little things. Like seasons. In Australia, it’s always summer.

I’m also a huge fan of language, so it’s been nice as an English-speaking Australian to come over and experience it. I speak Swedish much better than I speak French. My wife is Swedish, so I speak it all the time. The difficulty is that Swedes will switch to English immediately, so you have to be quite forceful if you want to continue in Swedish. When they switch to English, you can say in Swedish: “Sorry, I’m from Poland. Do you speak Polish? … No, OK, we’ll have to continue in Swedish.” That’s a trick tha works. But, interestingly, I think it’s actually been harder for me to learn French. Because I’m with a Swedish wife and I work in English, I don’t get that much access to French people. I can speak French, but it’s not always in the background, unlike Swedish. My French interactions tend are with the guardienne or the doctor. I don’t find myself philosophising by the Seine… perhaps people think we do!

OLIVER GEE is a journalist and podcaster. The Earful Sweden is available via various streaming services.

This article is a Fika Online exclusive.

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