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Written by Shari Monnes | Boston
on March 11, 2011

UP THERE, EVERYWHERE held a company launch meeting in the historic town of Sigtuna, Sweden, at the lovely Sigtunahöjden Hotel and Conference Center last week. Having lived in Sweden for several years more than half a decade ago as an ex-pat American, I was excited about the idea of visiting again. I hoped to recapture that feeling of “connectedness” I once felt to this foreign land.

Yet, even as I took the bus from the airport to the meeting’s host town, I realized that visiting a place, even if you once lived there, and living there are such vastly different experiences…emotionally. The sense of nostalgia one feels from seeing old friends, viewing pictures of the past, and visiting places once called “home” is an heart-tugging experience that can’t be translated easily into words. Then, it occured to me that conveying that exact emotion, and connectedness, is what companies strive for when they attempt to create brand relevance. It’s exactly the sort of thing destination brands, in particular, want to convey.

 

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Welcome to Sweden. It’s funny the things that trigger emotional memories when you visit a place from your past. Lights on the sidewalk, a common Swedish way to welcome patrons inside a pub or restaurant, hit me with a strong feeling of nostalgia.

But how did it make me feel? They say you can never go “home” and you can’t go “back” and I suppose that is true. But I think not living somewhere is just as important to understanding what makes a place special as living there is. As a visitor to a place, you have one set of impressions and expectations for it. As you return to a place you once lived, you have another set. You want to see what is the same, what’s changed. And whether your memories of what you liked and didn’t like about it still apply. How has your perspective changed the way you experience a place?

I did learn it’s rather easier being a foreigner visiting another land, than a patriot returning home as a foreigner. But that’s a topic for another blog.

 

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