Emilio and Eva, in their Swedish shop in Nerja. A . M. S.
A Swedish-Spanish love affair
National Day of Sweden - 6 June

A Swedish-Spanish love affair

The story starts in the 1980s when Emilio Ruiz left his native town in Jaén province and settled in Gothenburg, the home city of Eva. Ten years ago, they started a new life on the Costa del Sol and now provide the local Swedish population with a taste from home

Alekk M. Saanders

Monday, 5 June 2023, 20:45


Swedish residents in the Nerja area can find a regular taste of home thanks to a story that began in Gothenburg in the 1980s. Emilio, now 67, left his native town in Jaén province and settled in Gothenburg, the home city of Eva, 57. The couple fell in love at first sight.

Among other reasons Eva was attracted by Emilio's way of seeing the world; she had always been aware that enjoying life is something to be learned from Mediterranean people. Mutual attraction led to a wedding and later two children arrived - Kim and Bianca, who now are 34 and 29 respectively.

The couple worked hard. In Sweden Eva trained as a shoe designer though later she became a teaching assistant in a school. Emilio easily found job at an eco-refinery. Holidays were something they would especially look forward to: the chance to spend some time in Emilio's native sunny Spain.

“Every summer holiday we visited Emilio's home region in northern Andalucía, as we missed the sun and the warm weather. There was no sea there, so we visited Nerja,” Eva told SUR in English.

The Costa town became a favourite destination during their Spanish holidays. The couple even started thinking about settling in the area. In autumn 2012, Emilio and Eva came across a hotel in Nerja and were offered the chance to take it over. Without hesitation, the couple seized the opportunity.

Eva and Emilio resigned from their jobs in Sweden. Their beloved cosy house on the outskirts of Gothenburg was sold. Some bigger possessions were shipped with a trucking company. Their daughter Bianca moved with Eva and Emilio, but their son stayed in Sweden.

“Through a Spanish property website we rapidly found a house on the outskirts of Nerja. It was to rent. To my surprise, in comparison to Sweden, most of the houses on the Costa del Sol are to rent out totally furnished. So we just paid a month's rent in advance and a deposit,” Eva said.

In December 2013, they finally moved. They had originally thought they would move to Spain as pensioners, like many other Swedes do, but Eva and Emilio did not want to wait any longer. They were really tired of the Swedish winter and felt like doing something else.

Not as expected

However life on the Costa del Sol did not work out the way Eva and Emilio had planned. There was nothing wrong with Nerja, but there was something wrong with the hotel owner who in the beginning had promised so much.

"The owner started messing around with the contract and... all his actions didn't match our previous agreement. Finally, we pulled out. It was a shame. And it was my great disappointment but... we just had to move on and take new steps," Eva explained.

After a while, Eva and Emilio found another hotel, but when the contract was about to be signed, the seller changed his mind. Eva was already getting tired and wanted to move back to Sweden, but Emilio persuaded her to give Spain another chance. She stayed under one condition - getting into another hotel deal would be out of the question.

At that moment, the couple did not know what they would do in Nerja instead of running a hotel, until, that is, they had the idea of starting a shop with Swedish food. Other Swedes who had settled in Nerja gave them inspiration, by telling that it is not so convenient for them to go to the Scandinavian shops in Fuengirola or Marbella to buy Swedish food.

Books in Swedish on sale in the shop.
Books in Swedish on sale in the shop. A. M. S.

“As it turned out Nerja is paradise, but many Swedes who have moved here yearn for 'kaviar' [blending of salted cod roe, sugar, canola oil and spices] and 'falukrov' [a sausage made of a grated mixture of smoked pork and beef or veal with potato starch flour]. So we decided to start our own shop in Nerja, and thereby let local people avoid travelling so far,” Eva said.

Little Sweden

Finally, Eva and Emilio found a place for their shop in the very centre of Nerja, a stone's throw away from the main shopping street. In May 2015, the doors of Hemlängtan (meaning Homesickness) were opened.

”I remember that day when customers immediately 'raided the fridge'. Over these years we have sold a lot of Swedish cheese, butter, sour cream and filmjölk (a fermented milk product). We were right: it really was a long-awaited shop! For me it's great fun and an unexpected activity - being behind a cash register... What do you say? You never know what might turn up in your life,” Eva said, laughing.

Every week, deliveries come from a Swedish wholesaler, and more and more customers find their way here. The number of Swedes in the area has increased in the seven years since the first opening, which has been beneficial for the business.

Spaniards, English and Dutch people do also step into the shop to buy the products they tasted, often thanks to Ikea. Many people are curious about how broad the range of traditional tastes of Sweden is.

Eva and Emilio are a sort of bridge between sunny Nerja and delicious Sweden, as well as establishing contacts between Spaniards and Swedes in the Axarquía and among Swedish people themselves.

Some Swedish artists, singers and writers (settled in Nerja or spending winters in the mild climate) come to Eva and Emilio to leave informative posters and even ask to sell their books.

Local Swedes nickname the shop Little Sweden. In Hemlängtan you feel like you are in Sweden but with the permanent sun shining through the window all year round and an Andalusian smile from Eva and Emilio Ruiz.

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