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One  Year in Sweden - moving countries with older children

One Year in Sweden - moving countries with older children

Gabrielle Spang
8 minute read

One Year in Sweden

Can't believe we've already spent one year in Sweden, and that is has been 12 full months since we left London, UK to move to the south of Sweden. 

Has it been hard?Definitely, yes.

 Am I glad we moved? Had you asked me a few months ago, I would have been unsure. Now, after many ups and downs, many tears and feelings of desperate loneliness (sorry to be so open and raw but there is no way around it. It has been very lonely) I would say yes.

The hardest part, easily, was moving to a place where we had no family or friends. We wanted to try something new, a place where we could both imagine living or at least try living after so many years abroad, but as a highly social/extroverted person I found this very, very hard. 

So why move in the first place?

Maybe you think it was Brexit that made us move, but not really. In short, I wanted to give my children the opportunity to become Swedish. To give them the freedom I had had, to be closer to family and to have less stress at school; I really didn't like how many people back in the UK obsessed about primary schools and secondary schools and who got in where, who had been tutored and who hadn’t. As if your children's school status were what truly mattered to have a succesfull life. 

I was also keen for my husband and I to reconnect to the country we had once left and were once pretty sure we would never return to. There was this feeling that I had left something behind that I should rekindle.

So, here we were, with our moving boxes, no friends, no family and in an area in Sweden we had never set foot in before apart from some trips to a small shopping mall in the area. You may know that we have a family summerhouse 20 minutes away in Falsterbo, but there is no family there apart from in July and August every year. And we are 6 hours away by car from Stockholm, my hometown, and where all our Swedish friends and family are currently living.

Höllviken, where we now live, is a small village close to Malmö with 16,000 people. We are surrounded by trees and big gardens, and a 5 minute walk to the beach. I've never lived like this before.

Adjusting to Life in Sweden

It's not an understatement to say that we weren't quite prepared for life back in our home country. Sweden had changed a lot in this time, and so had we. 

And big changes are incredibly hard, for anyone.

It was definitely hard that we didn't know anyone, apart from some friends 20 minutes away that we hadn't hung out with for years. I really do think you can live anywhere if you have some kind of community, however small it may be. Whether that is your work colleagues, a family member or just one good friend, but we didn't even have an office to go to, as we both work from home.  Our sense of community was nil from the beginning. 

In Sweden, children walk to and back from school on their own, so there was no great way to get to know people that way either.

Not to mention the Swedish culture which is very much focussed on independence, with hard work and financial abundance as the highest forms of success, where 'lonely is strong' is a communal mantra, and being free from one another is seen as a positive. There is a lack of community here, in my opinion, and very few opportunities to come together apart from at work or when your children are small (when you take them to daycare etc) that I never experienced in London.

Swedes are generally known for being hard to get to know and it's a country were many feel lonely (that's a whole different post so let's not get into that now). 

And then there was the digitalisation of everything that we hadn't kept up to speed with, and the long queues. Just registering back into the country as Swedish residents took 5 months, and before we had resident status we couldn’t do anything, not even get a Swedish phone number. You need 'bank-id' for everything as well (an app, with which you identify yourself) but you can't get it, unless you have a valid Swedish residence number. I have also applied to 'Försäkringskassan', the social security bureau in Sweden 9 months ago, and still haven't had a decision from them.

In summary, moving here has downright been one of hardest experiences of my life. Even so, a year in, I am happy we did. Because when things are difficult, you grow. You grow as a person, and you grow your awareness of how you want to change it for the better.

How have our children adjusted?

It was very hard at first, leaving all and everyone they knew behind. They missed London, their friends, their football teams, their teachers and schools, the English language, yes everything and everyone. My then 10-year old daughter cried in the evenings for 2 months. My son, who was 13 at the time, missed his London friends every single day. They couldn't read or write in Swedish either, and that is still something they are both working on.

A year later, and my daughter loves living here. She has made the best friends, has joined a big football academy and adores the freedom of biking everywhere on her own.

My son is a little bit more hesitant still. He loves golf and tennis and can do these sports in abundance in the area but he is more like me, he needs a buzz and lots of people. He misses both London and Stockholm, and his friends and family there.

Experiencing Sweden: From the hardest times come the biggest change

A year on and I have grown so much. I haven't been this lonely ever before. But it's also brought about lots of growth and change for me, and all in all, that has been quite the journey.

This year, I have grown as a person. I've learnt to like solitude, to embrace the quiet and to be comfortable approaching and reconnecting with my more introverted side (it exists, although my extroverted side is more dominant).

I've learnt even more about what I want out of life, what has held me back before and what I need to change to achieve more.

I've taken care of my health better than ever before and I've embraced nature and the quiet. I go on daily morning walks in nature to try and catch the sun rising. Would I ever have done that in London? Nope. I would have been busy taking the children to school (but I actually miss that, ha).

I have also gotten to know lots of people and some have become dear friends. So, yes, there is that too.

Do I still prefer cities and lots of people? Yes! And now I know that for sure.

What happens next?

Well first of all, I would like to say that I am approaching life here slightly differently this year. I am starting a university degree in a couple of weeks in neuroscience and neuropsychology. I am so excited! 

I have also got involved as a mentor in an academy for teenagers from disadvantaged areas in Malmö called Drivkraft Malmö. I am so happy I got to take part in something that can make a difference to someone's life, and I can't wait to mentor these students whilst also meeting lots of exciting businesses in the area.

I have also started a new digital marketing consultancy agency(called Scandi Minimal. Why change? ;) and will start marketing it as of now (September 2023). 

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When it comes to continuing to live here, we are just not sure yet what the next steps are, but we will keep you posted. My goal is to make the very best out of living here, and embrace what it has to offer rather than always think of what it doesn’t have. I’ll keep you posted ;)

Gabrielle, Scandi Minimal

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