Tag: living abroad (Page 1 of 15)

Skåne’s Outdoor Viking Museum – Fotevikens Museum

Over the summer holidays, I took the trio over into Skåne county for a camping adventure.  While we were there we visited a fantastic outdoor viking museum, called Fotevikens Museum.  The viking museum is an open air museum, which is depicting how life could have been in a viking village.  It is so good for the children and their imagination because apart from usual exhibits, they have reconstructed a whole viking town, showing various different buildings.  As is common here in Sweden, a great importance is placed on being able to interact with the museum and exhibits, therefore climbing up stairs, exploring inside the buildings, and picking up exhibits to examine, is encouraged.  A perfect way for children to learn and remember their experience.

 

We arrived for when it opened, although as we have found over the past year of living here, nothing really seems to get too busy!  However, I wanted the children to be able to bimble around at their own pace, and not feel rushed.  I paid 110 sek for me (just over £10), and 40 sek (around £3.60) for the little lady, and my 5 year old twins were free.  I get quite excited about reasonable entrance fees to places, as to take a family of 5 anywhere usually costs a small fortune!  The children excitedly headed into the viking museum village under the town wall and through the gates, the village’s protection.

We saw and explored a lot of differing types of buildings.  There was a blacksmith’s, a poultry house, tanner’s home, the guard tower (which we climbed to the top of several times to enjoy a stunning view), fishery cottage, a smokehouse, lawman’s home, town hall, weaver’s house, and a baker’s home and bakery.  Not only could we explore these buildings in the viking museum, but there were people dressed authentically, working away in their respective trades.  So, for example, at the bakery they were baking various goods and you could taste them too.  If people didn’t have a trade, they were going about their village life…chopping fire wood, making clothes, or maintaining homes.  There was even a “punishment area” complete with stocks, and a post with neck weight and chain.
The trio had such an amazing time, full of questions, and letting their imaginations run riot!  I would really recommend this viking museum as a place to visit if you are ever over this way in the world 🙂 Even after living here for nearly a year, I am still amazed by the Swedish attitude that children should be allowed to touch, feel, and climb over everything.  Of course this is by far the best way for them to get the most out of an experience and create memories, but it is such a refreshing change of attitude to be able to live with on a daily basis!

Fotevikens Museum, viking museum, outdoor museum, vikings, skane, sweden, www.mammasschool.co.uk

 

 

Cost Of Living In Sweden – Risk & Reward

When we first heard about the possibility of moving to Sweden, there was a lot of research we needed to do.  One of the main things to look into was the cost of living in Sweden.  It is OK to think you need a certain income coming in, but how would the cost of living in Sweden compare to the cost of living in the UK.  We researched as best we could from a distance, and in a very short space of time.  However, since hitting the ground here (running!!), there are a few things we now know about a lot better, so I thought I would put together some main points and differences about the cost of living in Sweden.

Housing:

There is no doubt about it, you can get a lot more for your money here than back in the UK.  Yes, prices around the main cities can be comparable to ours in the UK, but once you move only a few km’s away from there the prices drop significantly.  Whereas in the UK, you can live a good distance from a main town and still be paying a lot for very little (and yes we did used to live in the south of England so prices were also higher there).  We now live around 15km from a big town with amazing transport links in and out, considering it is a Swedish island too.  We have what can be called a proper garden, not a postage stamp.  This was an amazing bonus point for the cost of living in Sweden, as it was by far our biggest outgoing.

Home Insurance:

This seems to be around double what we would have paid back in the UK for a similar sized home, with contents.  I am not sure if it is because we are living in a wooden house now (the insurance comes complete with free fire extinguisher), but this is a cost that needs to be borne in mind when budgeting.

Groceries:

I have found a weekly shop for 5 people roughly balances out, but if you are big meat eaters you need to budget more for this household expenditure.  We have one vegan in the home and I tend to eat that meal too, and the children get a main meal at school every day, so we do not buy meat so much for everyday use.  Expect to pay double for meat than you would in a standard supermarket in the UK.  Cheese is also another constantly pricey item.  Otherwise most things are comparable in price.  You get the odd randomly higher priced item; raisins, washing powder, and hot chocolate are a few! But generally, our outgoings on food are very similar.  I was pleasantly surprised when we started buying alcohol.  I had thought it would be a lot more than the UK, but it is around the same for a bottle of wine.  Four cans of beer would perhaps work out a pound or two more, but it is not a deal breaker.

Eating Out:

Whilst we don’t really get to do this (I can’t take credit for the photo, that is a friend’s mouth watering meal), it is more expensive.  Two coffees, a hot chocolate, and 2 small pieces of cake will easily set you back over 200 SEK (around £20), while a meal out will be similar in comparison.  Thank heavens McDonald’s and IKEA compare similarly!!  So you can always downgrade to those options, although I do love a good meal at IKEA!!  As for drinks, you can easily pay double for a glass of wine or a pint (half litre!) of beer.

Cost of Running A Car:

We have a Volvo V70 (yes I know, very Swedish, but we were limited with options as we had to fit three car seats across the back seat).  The cost of buying this was similar to if we had bought one in the UK the same age etc, and insuring it is similar too.  Here though you insure the vehicle (so anyone qualified can drive it), rather than a person.  You also mustn’t forget to include your wild animal cover for those deer and elks that like to give you heart failure as you are driving along.  Fuel is also about the same price as well.

Utility Bills:

We are paying a little more over the course of a year for electricity than we did in the UK for both electricity and gas, we only use electricity here.  Bear in mind though it is on 24/7 over the Swedish winter, whereas in the UK we got away with a couple of hours twice a day.  Water costs are about the same, but what is significantly cheaper is everything that comes under the title “council tax” in the UK.  We pay for bins separately and you chose a plan that suits you and your rubbish production.  We are a family of five and have alternate week collections for food and combustible waste. Similar to UK and costs around £20/month.  Everything else (cardboard, metal, plastic, glass etc) we take to the recycling places which are found all over the place. Our nearest is about a 5 minute walk, or no time at all in the car.  Don’t think big recycling centres like in the UK (“the tip”), think a group of metal skips like bottle banks, that you just pull up, sort, and go again.  The rest of our home tax is around £48/month compared to over £170/month for our council tax in the UK.

Public Transport:

Dadda uses the busses daily for his commute into town about 15km away.  He pays £60/month for his travel card for busses that turn up on time, for a regional area for up to around 25km radius away from the main town, for as much travel as he wants (or anybody else, as anyone can use the card), and up to two children under 7 go free with a paying adult.  It is also very reliable.

Children’s Activities:

This was a big outgoing for us in the UK having 3 children.  We don’t over schedule them, but we insist on swimming lessons. Then if there is something they want to do, we let them within reason.  Swimming is hard to compare as the lessons here are 40 minutes, plus our older one can actually attend twice a week if she wanted to.  It averages out to not being too much more than we were paying in the UK.  Our little lady is a member of the (sea) Scouts here and her scouting membership is around £32 for the year.  Back in the UK we paying around £24 for a term for Brownies.  We pay £40/year each for the boys to do a local gymnastic class, plus twin 1 does an hour of football a week too for that price.  Twin 2 could, but he chooses not to.  It is a pass to do whatever is on offer.  The little lady’s modern/jazz dance class works out a lot cheaper….half the price of what we paid in the UK, which was around average price there. But when she and twin 1 did do ballet that was at least double.  So, it can depend on what your child enjoys, but on average it is comparable to the UK and not a shock to the system when you move.

I hope this little insight into the cost of living in Sweden has been helpful if you are thinking about moving abroad. If not, it may have been fun to have a little nosy at how we have found it!  If you are thinking of moving abroad, but not to Sweden, I hope it can give you some direction to research in terms of budgeting.  It was so hard to get a picture of what the cost of living in Sweden would be before we moved.

Let me know in the comments below what your thoughts are about the cost of living in Sweden, especially if you have moved here too, and let me know if there is anything you have found living here 🙂

The cost of living in Sweden, Sweden cost of living, Cost of moving abroad, cost of living abroad, www.mammasschool.co.uk

 

Moving To Sweden – Tips For Your Arrival

We were very lucky when we moved, Dadda had been in the country for 8 weeks before I and the three children arrived in Sweden.  This was due to the time it took us to find, purchase, and move into a house.  However, if he hadn’t been our “advanced party” a few things may have tripped us up moving to Sweden.  However, with no children or family logistics to distract him, Dadda was able to get himself sorted out, get paperwork done, find out what needed to be done, and settle into a new country, before the rest of us landed and we needed help.  He sussed out what was needed to be done ready for us.

Photograph: Sonia Cave

So what would be my top tips for moving to Sweden?

Get A Personal Number ASAP:

This is your top priority when moving to Sweden.  It really is a magic number that is the key to unlocking your life in Sweden.  Without it you can’t get a bank account, library card, supermarket membership (even for self scanning), the list goes on….

Sit Back And Wait:

Be prepared for things to take time, from paperwork to home WiFi being installed.  Nothing is done in a rush here, and as frustrating as that can seem when you are still waiting for Försäkringskassan to sort out your child benefit payments a year after your move (they prefer to write a letter to you and send it via Swedish snail mail when they hit a snag), you need to accept this pace of life with good grace, and plan for it 🙂

Photograph: Sonia Cave

Don’t Plan To Get Things Done In The Summer:

Sweden is on holiday in the summer.  Yes, that is right, the whole of Sweden (or so it seems when you trying to get things done).  One reason for moving here was the Swedish work/life balance, but when the full force of this hits you during an international move/immigration process, it can be a little frustrating.  Dadda arrived in Sweden in the middle of August.  He needed to make his arrival in Sweden official, settle into a new job, look for a house, and buy one, sort out purchasing a family car…..and everything else that goes along with all that.  However, during the summer months it is very hard to pin anyone down due to the fact that they are far too busy enjoying the Swedish summer months….fair enough, the summer life is fabulous here, but just don’t try and do your moving to Sweden then 🙂

Be Punctual:

We are English, we need to arrive 5 minutes before an appointment time or if we are meeting someone, it is polite.  It’s bred into us English people that that is the right behaviour.  Or if like me and you have three small children to drag out the house, you are always running, stressed, and late!  Either way, that is not Swedish.  In Sweden, there is a time for something, and you arrive bang on that time.  We once were viewing a house and had arrived 5 minutes early.  We looked around the property a little confused as to why no one was here from the estate agents.  Then, bang on the allotted time, a deluge of cars arrived, both other prospective buyers and the agent.

Photograph: Sonia Cave

Sign Up For Supermarket Membership:

Obviously this is only after you have your personal number!!  See the first point made.  In the UK, you load your shopping onto a lovely long conveyor belt, wait your turn, then pack it up as it is gently passed down the other end, and then you pay.  Moving to Sweden, I suddenly found the whole packing a weekly food shop up for a family of 5 very stressful.  You can only load a small amount of shopping as the conveyor belt is very short.  This means that you have to keep loading it on, while it is being whizzed through by the cashier.  You don’t get a chance to pack anything before you must pay.  A barrier goes down so the next person’s food goes off down a different lane.  However, in the blink of an eye, their transaction is done, while your food is still needing to be packed and getting so squished as the conveyor belt is still moving everything to the other end in one big pile (handy tip….never put eggs, biscuits, cereal, or milk through first!!).  You now get all hot, sweaty, and stressed as the barrier lifts and the next person’s shopping hurtles towards yours! In short, get membership, get scanning as you go along, and make the food shop a lot easier to deal with 🙂

Embrace The Sauna:

These delights are everywhere, and you need to leave time to use them.  After going swimming you will head into your changing room (male or female), to be faced with everyone casually sitting naked in the sauna, drying after their shower…..mind boggling for a reserved Brit!  You will discover saunas floating in the fjord, so you can leap right into the fresh water afterwards.  You will wander round your little Swedish island discovering them in all shapes and sizes in gardens.

I hope, if you’re thinking of moving to Sweden you will find these tips helpful (if you have already moved you may have experienced them).  If you are not moving to Sweden, I am hoping you will have gained a little insight into what it is like to move abroad!  If you like my photos of Sweden in this post, hop over to Instagram where you can view more photos of  beautiful Sweden 🙂

Click here if you want to read more about moving and living in Sweden.

Moving to Sweden, living in Sweden, Moving abroad, living abroad, Sweden, www.mammasschool.co.uk

Photograph: Sonia Cave

I have had a similar article published by the Newbieguide.se and it can be found by clicking on the following link http://www.thenewbieguide.se/moving-sweden-tips-arrival/ 🙂

Expat Grief – The Ugly Side To Moving Abroad

I recently did an article on top tips to help children moving abroad.  That post was designed to help them settle in and make the move a smoother experience for them.  However, even if you follow all of these and more, you are likely at some point, for someone in the family to experience expat grief – the mourning of the loss of their old life.  For the adults who made the decision to move it may happen to them as well, but in this post I want to talk about the children, who moved because of their parents’ decision.  It is a scary and traumatic life changing event for any child. But generally, the older the child, the more they stand to lose, as the more they have built their little lives up where you were originally living.

What Is Expat Grief?

Expat grief is the mourning of the things you have lost by moving away from one country to another.  This might be friends, old homes, their hobbies, or family amongst other things.  Twin 1 desperately misses a certain play park we used to go to near where we lived.  It may be something totally unexpected and less obvious.  It is very important that these losses are worked through, and that time and energy is put into doing that, as and when it is needed.  From our experience with our eldest child, this doesn’t happen when there is a space free in the diary, it happens when you are up to your eyeballs in everything. But at that moment, the most important thing is to drop all the balls you are juggling and focus on that child grieving…be present right then.

Why Do Children Differ In Their Expat Grief?

Children manifest any grief in a different way from adults.  They live in the here and now, so while they play and laugh still, it would be easy to misinterpret that to mean that everything was rosy and the move had not provoked any emotional issues.  However, the sadness might still be there.  Their sadness is not as consistent as an adult’s, and we mustn’t forget it will still need handling sensitively and delicately even though it isn’t present and making its presence known all of the time.

Tips To Help A Child With Expat Grief:

  1. Recognise that they feel isolated in that moment.  Don’t say “but”, or try and remind them they have made new friends.  Their feelings of isolation are very real in that moment, and so trying to point out positives is not what is needed.  That is needed later, when they feel a little more positive, and then you can discuss what you do like about where you have moved to.
  2. Let them know they are not alone dealing with this, and that you are totally there with them 100% at that time (hence dropping everything for them there and then).  Be fully present with them.
  3. Tell them, that whatever feelings they are experiencing, whether anger, confusion, or sadness….(with our little lady at the moment she gets bouts of being very sad for her 2 best friends in the UK) that they are totally normal.  Don’t make light of their feelings or brush them under the carpet.  You need to be open and responsive to them.
  4. Be non-judgemental with your listening.  Be quiet and just LISTEN.  Don’t try and reason, justify, or explain. Just listen.
  5. Look for behaviours that flag up that your child is perhaps not coping as well as you thought.  This might be not wanting to do activities/hobbies they usually enjoy. They may be retreating away to their bedrooms and being less interactive with everyone else in the family. Or they may be suffering from mood swings that are unusual for them.
  6. When they are feeling a little bit better, and you have chatted about the losses that have happened, talk about the things that are not changing together.

It is so important not to leave expat grief unresolved or brush it under the carpet.  It will only rear its ugly head at a later date in the form of behavioural issues or emotional difficulties, or both.  Then as adults they may even suffer from difficulties connecting with others or depression.

I hope this post sheds some light on what your child/children may be going through after an international move (or even a move within the same country can have the same effects), and gives you some ideas of how to handle it.  Whilst I am not a psychologist or a counsellor, I am a Mamma that has three children that go through this in various ways or intensities.  I have felt the guilt all too strongly of taking them away from friends, family, much loved bedrooms, play parks, hobbies, and an area they loved when they hit a bout of sadness at their loss.  After all, I miss family and friends too, but at least it was mine and Dadda’s decision to move.  The children had very little say.  We have now been living in Sweden for over a year, but grief has no timeline and we are still coping with it and will be for a while.  Don’t get me wrong, they are very happy in between, but remember children live in the moment.  I can only hope that what we are doing when episodes do occur is helping our children to deal with their losses and come to terms with being an expat living in Sweden, and not giving them more issues to contend with as they grow into adults.

I would love to hear any comments or thoughts you have on this subject in the comments below.  Maybe you have made a move, international or otherwise, and you have some tips you can share on handling the grief when it arises.

Expat Grief - The Ugly Side of Moving Abroad, grief, expat grief, child grief, childhood grief, grieving child, www.mammasschool.co.uk

 

Allemansrätten – Our Impact On Nature & How To Minimise It

Allemansrätten is a unique Swedish concept, of the right of public access to roam freely almost anywhere in the countryside.  However, a few responsibilities come with this privilege.  We need to take care of nature and wildlife, respect landowners and others enjoying the countryside, respect the land and leave no trace that you have been there, and do not disturb and do not destroy.  It is a very rare concept, allowing you to enjoy the Swedish outdoors (which is important here in Sweden and I have written more about it http://mammasschool.co.uk/living-abroad/enjoying-outdoors-in-sweden-get/ ) in its full glory.  Despite not all countries having allemansrätten, there is still an impact of us enjoying activities such as camping, hiking, and cooking outdoors, so I want to discuss how we can minimise the impact and why.

Outdoor Cooking:

There is no doubt cooking outdoors on a campfire adds to the outdoor experience and memories, but it must be done safely and respectfully.

  1. Use fire pits where you can, or carry a light and portable stove with you.  Allemansrätten means we have the ability to cook on campfires on our outdoor expeditions. However, by using provided fire pits (we are lucky having a lot here in Sweden), or carrying your own stove, you are helping to protect the habitat of creatures in the area you have decided to cook in, plus reduced the risk of fire spreading. 
  2. You need to consider any fire dangers for the time of year (e.g is it very dry?) and bear in mind any local restrictions.  You don’t want to spread your fire.
  3. Take only wood from the ground, never from the trees, and gather it from a wide area.  You don’t want to remove everything from one small area as it has a job to perform in the ecosystem providing nutrients and habitats.
  4. Allow your wood to burn completely down to ash, and then spread them out when you are extinguishing your fire.
  5. Put out a fire with water not dirt,
  6. Avoid building your fire on rocks as it will scar them.  Also, if near coastal water that covers them after you’ve been and gone, when the water rapidly cools the rocks it may cause them to crack.
  7. Never leave your fire unattended, it is a fire risk and a hazard to any inquisitive animals.
  8. If you have moved any rocks, for example to make a bit of a wind break, make sure you return them to where they were.
  9. Make sure you take all your rubbish home again, to avoid harming animals and the countryside.

Pop over to my Outdoor Cooking category for some delicious outdoor recipes on my blog.

 

Hiking:

Hiking is good for us for so many different reasons.  Allemansrätten here means virtually nowhere is out of bounds.  I have written many times about the actual benefits of being in nature and the great outdoors .  So, I won’t go into detail about that here, but feel free to click on the links to read more 🙂  However, collectively enjoying the countryside means we will have an impact on the environment.  So here are some tips to help reduce that impact:

  1. Be polite and leave room for others.  Don’t take up the whole trail or path, so passers by are pushed off it.  People need to stick to them as much as possible…….
  2. Following on from my last point, trails are there for a reason, so use them.  It prevents us from trampling over the rest of the area and destroying vast quantities of the environment with our boots and feet.
  3. Be aware of wildlife, it is their home and they can be easily spooked.  Try and view them but not too close, give them some respect.  You don’t want to scare them as it could have disasterous consequences like mothers running off and leaving their young.
  4. Take all your rubbish home, EVERYTHING! Personal rubbish (I carry dog poop bags to clear up after us) as well as fruit peelings, and the usual more obvious rubbish clutter.  It can harm and injure animals, as well as look unsightly and harm the ecosystem.
  5. Don’t take anything…..only photos.  Each thing is part of a complicated ecosystem and has a function.
  6. Try and move quietly (we really struggle with this one!!).  You are going through someone’s home.
  7. Keep any pets you take with you on a lead.  It not only avoids them spooking the wildlife, but stops them veering off the trail too.

Wild Camping:

Allemansrätten means you can enjoy a “wild camping” experience.  We’ve enjoyed a wild camp , but you need to think carefully about how you go about it, and remember you are making a home in someone else’s home…you are a visitor.  Here are some tips to lessen your impact on their home:

  1. Avoid loud music and activities.
  2. Keep your group small.  Not only is it better for the environment, you’ll see and hear more too 🙂
  3. Try and leave any pets at home, but if they do come, keep them on a lead.
  4. Leave no trace you were ever there.  Tidy your campsite up after.  This not only means rubbish, but return nature to how it was…those boulders or rocks you moved to sleep more comfortably?  Pop them back.
  5. Bear in mind how you treat campfires or toileting activities as we have already mentioned above.
  6. Give animals space to use any natural water supply, especially early morning and evening.
  7. Do not leave any food out.  Not only does it attract animals (and some may be unwanted, especially for us living in Sweden), but it can also harm them.  Containers can injure, and some food can make them ill.
  8. Use biodegradable dish washing soap (or as we do, wipe them after a meal and save the proper washing up until you get home).  Spread any dish water out over a wide area.
  9. Only camp for a short time in any one place.

 

I hope you have found all these tips helpful as to how you can get into the great outdoors and enjoy it responsibly.  Do you think it’ll help you on your next trip out to be more considerate to the environment?  Comment below and let me know, especially if you think I have left something vital out 🙂

Allemansrätten, Our impact on nature and how to minimise it, allemansratten, every mans rights, Sweden, outdoors Sweden, impact on nature, hiking, camping, bushcraft, www.mammasschool.co.uk

 

Children Moving Abroad – Top Tips

There is no doubt about it, any moving house event is stressful. So add into that the fact that your children are moving abroad, and you have a very stressful event for them to handle.  However, there is also no doubt that moving abroad can be beneficial too.  It can provide a broader perspective about the world, whilst giving new experiences, and seeing a different culture, language, and way of living.  This is learning outside the classroom at its very best! In this family we love a bit of learning outside the classroom 🙂 Children moving abroad needn’t be a recipe for disaster, but a wonderful experience.  I have a few tips that may help anyone with children moving abroad.

Photograph: Sonia Cave

 

Before You Move

  1. Learn about the country together.  Make time to read books together, maybe make a scrapbook, and have a little look at the language with your child before you move.
  2. See if you can find any stories about children moving abroad.
  3. Discuss their feeling and emotions.  Allow all emotions to be vented.  Keep the communication channels open, so if something does crop up at a later date, they know they can come and chat it over with you.
  4. Before your move, make sure that they say a proper goodbye to their friends.  Take photos or swap little presents.  We had a little forest school party too as a way of getting everyone together one last time before we left.

Photograph: Sonia Cave

Photograph: Sonia Cave

On Arriving

On arrival, life could easily run away with itself if you let it.  There is paperwork to be sorted, maybe a car, a house etc.  For the children moving abroad, they could easily get left to fend for themselves for a few days (understandably) while the grown ups deal with what is being thrown at them.  So, here are a few tips to help you during that immediate arrival period.  We were very lucky in that we hired a cottage (stuga) for 2 weeks before our lorry arrived.  It gave us (and especially myself who had packed up the house single handed while looking after 3 children) some breathing space to adjust a little first.

  1. With the arrival of the hugest lorry load ever of wordly possessions, that have taken 6 days to arrive, it is very easy to get caught up in the task of unpacking it all.  The grown ups, as well as the children, need a break from this.  Make sure there is designated time in the day set aside for connecting time with the children.  Whether this is a walk or a play outdoors (maybe exploring the new neighbourhood), or collapsing with a drink and a story together, it needs to be done.  The children need to feel they are remembered and not a hinderance in this extremely stressful time.
  2. Try and maintain some of your usual routines.  This will help make the children moving abroad feel a little more secure and less anxious.
  3. Talk, talk, talk.  Allow them input in the unpacking (especially their own areas).  I know it can be frustrating as we could do it in half the time, but they need to feel useful, and that they have had input into the move too.  Let them bring up what they are feeling when they need to.  They have a lot of emotions to work through, maybe mirroring a grieving process.
  4. Get out exploring!!  Make it exciting for the children.  Go and find new play parks together.  Go on walks or bike rides to discover what is in the area.

Photograph: Sonia Cave

Photograph: Sonia Cave

Settling Down Into Your New Life

It’s an ongoing process for a long time, helping settle children moving abroad into their new country, in our case Sweden.  Issues will crop up from time to time, and when you are least expecting them, and about something you would have never even thought would have been an issue.  It might be triggered by a telling off, which then brings something to the surface (that has ambushed me before).  When the children are tired, they can often pop out with something you hadn’t realised was a problem at all.  However, it is important to value them all.  I have a few little tips that have helped us along our journey so far.

  1. Get the children started in a Swedish school asap.  This will help with language and making friends, and ultimately settling them quicker.
  2. Find clubs/activities they enjoyed where you lived before in your new place, so they do not feel they have had to give up their lives/interests fully to move abroad.  This again helps with language and making friends as well.
  3. Allow for FaceTime to their friends and family back home.  This one takes a lot of parental commitment, especially with younger children, as firstly they need your device, secondly they need you to ensure it is set up and happens, and thirdly you need to find the time to do it with them.  But it is so worth it.  Our little lady has played games and performed magic tricks with her friends as if they were in the same room as her.  It has been a great thing to have.
  4. Play dates…set up play dates with their new friends and encourage them to invite people back.  This can be very daunting at first as your language skills need improving, but get the Google translate app and muddle through together…it is worth it I promise.
  5. Have lots of photos from your previous life printed and accessible to your children.  Then they can sit and peruse their memories, and again get talking about them.
  6. Continue to get out and explore your new area.  Go on adventures together and make it exciting for them.

Photograph: Sonia Cave

Photograph: Sonia Cave

 

I hope these tips have been helpful and useful.  I have written a lot more about our move to Sweden throughout the blog in the category about exploring Sweden as well as one about living abroad in Sweden

Children moving abroad to Sweden, living abroad, sweden, www.mammasschool.co.uk

Photograph: Sonia Cave

I have had a similar article published by the Newbieguide.se and it can be found by clicking on the following link  http://www.thenewbieguide.se/children-moving-abroad-sweden/   🙂

A Swedish Christmas – Learn How To Do Christmas Like a Swede

The Swede’s have no shortage of Christmas traditions, and living here we have been more than happy to embrace them, and mix them in with our British ones, for a multicultural Christmas celebration.  I’m going to share with you my top 13 Swedish Christmas Traditions.  Sit back and enjoy, and you never know, you may want to adopt a few for your family this year 🙂

My 13 Favourite Swedish Christmas Traditions:

  1. Outdoor lights:  These go up very early, and are put away a month or so into the New Year, well after the Christmas decorations have come down.  In fact last year we were getting a little nervous and kept checking out of our windows to see if others still had them on display.  The twelfth night of Christmas came and went and we worried about bad luck coming on our household!!  We needn’t have worried, we seem to have been OK!  It is a tradition used more to brighten up the long dark winter and they are on display for a a good few months.
  2. Candle Lights:  Again, these tend to go up at the same time as the outdoor lights, and again we have learnt that they stay up many weeks after Christmas.  You need to have a set in every possible window, and when we arrived from England with only one set, we very quickly bought up a supply, and now we are the proud owners of 5 sets 🙂 Heaven knows where I’ll put them all if we ever return to the UK!!!  It really is beautiful though to see.  Offices and schools do this too in every window and it all looks so cosy up at school at the moment.  Driving through town it is lit up with everyone’s candle lights in the offices and flats.
  3. Star Lights:  Staying with lights (are you spotting a common theme here?!), having oversized star lights hanging or as lamps in your windows is an absolute must too.  We had one when we arrived, and again that is just not enough.  We are now the proud owners of 4 hanging stars and one star lamp.  If I do return to the UK I think our home might be mistaken for the Nativity Stable by the locals unused to the sheer size and volume of star lights!!
  4. Christmas Eve:  The main festivities take place on Christmas Eve here.  We have a really lovely balance I think in our family.  We attend the Christmas Eve service at the island’s church late morning, followed by a mid afternoon huge Christmas meal.  Then after which our children open their “Norwegian” gifts (my side of the family has Norwegian background, and like Sweden they celebrate on Christmas Eve, so I have grown up opening my Norwegian gifts on Christmas Eve too).  Then on Christmas morning they will open their gifts from Father Christmas, and then in the afternoon their “English” Christmas gifts.  It allows us to pace the excitement a little too.
  5. Christmas Day Smörgås:  Just in case you are not stuffed full enough after the Christmas Eve celebrations, there’s a loaded table of cold fish, meats, and cheeses to attack on Christmas Day…..so gear yourself up for it (actually last year we all skipped breakfast and just had everything out all day and came and went as we pleased, around playing with Play-Doh and constructing a gazillion Lego gifts).
  6. Tomtar:  These lovely little men are all around you at Christmas here.  I have grown up used to the Norwegian version (nisse), but living in a country where I can now freely get hold of tomte things (serviettes, cloths, towels etc and of course little tomte themselves) still hasn’t quite hit home, and every time I come back from shopping we have another one added to our collection!!  Our little lady has started rolling her eyes at me every time she spots a new one perched somewhere….I know I probably need help but they are lovely 🙂  I think we have more than enough for our Swedish Christmas.
  7. Pepparkakor:  These delicious thin biscuits are indeed a must for every day in December.  Children’s swimming classes end….every one gets out the pool and dripping wet are served pepparkakor and coffee to celebrate. Visitors over…..serve pepparkakor with mulled wine. Watch the children for their little Christmas concert….your picnic basket better contain pepparkakor. Scouts’ Christmas party…..pepparkakor.  It’s the winter equivalent of korv med bröd (refer to my post about 15 things I have learnt living here)
  8. Glögg:  This is another essential throughout the month of December to get you in the festive mood, and we go through gallons!  It is perfect after a freezing afternoon hike in the Swedish outdoors, or on returning from an afternoon sledging.  We have had no problem at all adopting this tradition.
  9. Julmust:  This is a very sweet drink…think Coke, then think sweeter still! In fact, I can feel my teeth wanting to fall out when I drink it!  It is only available for the Swedish Christmas time (oh and Easter when it is the same drink but sold as Påskmust) and it is the non alcoholic Christmas drink for the little people (or those driving).  I do serve my trio this, but I have to say I cringe inwardly every time I do, thinking of the poor dentist!
  10. Risgrynsgröt (Rice Pudding):  No figgy pudding in this house now, it’s rice pudding with either jam or cinnamon and sugar on (or everything on!).  Extremely filling and sold in what looks like plastic white sausages!!
  11. Kalle Anka (Donald Duck):  On the 24th every Swedish household comes to a stand still to watch Donald Duck….since 1959!!  In fact it is so ingrained in their culture, whole Swedish Christmas festivities are planned around this TV broadcast.
  12. 20 Days Of Christmas:  It’s not 12 days of Christmas here, but there are 20 days to a Swedish Christmas…oh yes you need to be sweeping up those pine needles for quite a bit longer here in Sweden than in the UK.  Right up until the 13th January…then remember don’t put any lights away, they still stay out!!! (see points 1,2, and 3).
  13. Christmas Tree Throwing:  And finally when you do take the Christmas tree down, you are supposed to fling open a window and throw it out as a tradition……however, these days it is more common to see it being driven to the recycling centre to avoid being accused of littering!!

I hope you have enjoyed my little insight into some Swedish Christmas traditions, and if you decide to adopt some in your home make sure you let me know which ones in the comments below.  Have a great Christmas and don’t forget to follow us on all our adventures on FacebookInstagramTwitter, and Pinterest too 🙂

God Jul och Gott Nytt År

A Swedish Christmas -Learn How To Do Christmas Like A Swede, God Jul, Sweden, Swedish Christmas, Sweden Winter, Christmas, www.mammasschool.co.uk

Pepparkakor – Make A Swedish Winter Biscuit

Pepparkakor are everywhere throughout winter, at every celebration, end of swimming lessons, scouts’ Christmas party, or stockpiled in your cupboards.  Usually accompanied by a very welcome mug of glögg (mulled wine), these thin festively spicy biscuits are very moorish.  Try our recipe and let me know how you get on in the comments below.

These lovely little innocuous Swedish biscuits have a very unique taste with a small amount of fire, and something you can’t quite put your finger on.  It’ll be the presence of the cardamom, a spice that is put in a lot of baking in Scandinavia and gives things a very individual taste.  So, unless you want to head to your nearest Ikea (if you live in the UK), pop on your pinafore and get baking these delicious pepparkakor – I challenge you not to scoff the lot!!

Pepparkakor Ingredients:

1 tablespoon cardamom

150g butter

250g sugar

50g light syrup (for UK use normal syrup)

20g dark syrup (for UK use treacle)

1 tablespoon ground ginger

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

1/2 tablespoon baking soda

100ml water

450g plain flour

Pepparkakor Method:

  1. Mix butter, sugar, and syrups in a pan, and heat gently until the butter melts.
  2. Turn the mixture off and add in all the spices (cardamon, ginger, and cinnamon).
  3. Add in the baking powder.
  4. Add water
  5. Add flour.
  6. Put it all into a bowl once it is mixed well.  Leave it to rest at least overnight but up to a week if possible (we did a few days and all was well).  Cover it when it has cooled.
  7. When you are ready, roll it quite thin 1-2mm and cut the shapes in with cutters that you fancy (we did Elk and hearts).
  8. Cook at 200 degrees Celcius for 8-10 mins (you need to watch them!!)

Let them cool on a wire rack and then see how long the batch lasts!!  Don’t forget to let me know in the comments below how it went and if they were gobbled down 🙂Peppakakor - Make A Swedish Winter Biscuit, Peppakakor, Ginger Biscuit, Biscuit, Swedish Biscuit, Christmas Biscuit, Swedish Food, www.mammasschool.co.uk

 

 

St.Lucia – Discover A Swedish Winter Tradition

On December 13th, all over Sweden, the day of St.Lucia is celebrated.  There are costumes, candles, lights, buns, drinks, and singing 🙂

So who is St.Lucia?

Along with the celebration of midsummer, the celebration of St.Lucia is a very popular cultural tradition here in Sweden. The idea behind this mythical character is that she has the role of bearing light in the long, cold, dark, winters.  St Lucia was originally a young Christian lady betrothed  to a pagan gentleman.  She cut off their engagement, and he was not too happy, so he made the Roman authorities aware she was a Christian.  Consequently she was sentenced to death and became a martyr, and the saint of light.

How to celebrate St.Lucia:

  1. Dress up: The children are dressed in white gowns, with red sashes, and a wreath of candles is placed upon their heads.  There is often great competition for the role of St.Lucia, and whilst a lot of costumes will now involve electric candles, the main St.Lucia of the celebration is still known to have real candles on her head in most places.  She is accompanied by her handmaidens (tärnor) who wear white gowns and have tinsel in their hair.  She is also accompanied by star boys (stjärngossar), who wear white robes, cone shaped hats, and carry golden stars on sticks.  The processions now often include tomtar (santa like elves) and gingerbread people.  My double trouble are going to be tomtar this year. 
  2. Food:  No celebration would be truly Swedish without having a special bun or cake made for the occassion!  On this day you eat lussekatter.  They are made with saffron, so have a peculiar flavour to them, but are very tasty. Also on offer are the pepparkakor (small thin ginger biscuits), all swallowed down with yet more glögg!  Or if you are a child, the incredibly sweet drink of Julmust, or maybe just a coffee if you are driving.
  3. Sing Songs:  Most of these songs have a similar theme about the dark and about candles, but singing is a big part of the celebration.

We will be enjoying a little St.Lucia celebration in my twins’ class one evening around this time as they sing us some songs.  They are going to be a couple of tomtar 🙂  Comment and let me know your thoughts on this Swedish tradition and if you’ve enjoyed reading about it below.  Don’t forget to share the post to let others know!

St.Lucia Discover a winter Swedish tradition, St.Lucia, Sweden culture, Swedish traditions, Swedish celebrations, www.mammasschool.co.uk

I have had a similar article published by the Newbieguide.se and it can be found by clicking on the following link http://www.thenewbieguide.se/st-lucia-discover-swedish-winter-tradition/

   

A Sunrise Picnic – Don’t Wait Too Long To Watch One.

“There’s a sunrise and a sunset every single day, and they’re absolutely free. Don’t miss so many of them” – Jo Walton

The winter makes it a lot easier to watch a sunrise.  With it rising at the moment here in Sweden just before 0815, it is at quite a civil hour!  It allowed us more than enough time to wrap up warm against the freezing temperatures, grab our supplies for a breakfast picnic, and take a short hike to a little secluded cove – lovely to watch a sunrise with just us, but also on a Saturday morning we wouldn’t be waking anyone else up!

We have already seen many sunsets this winter (and they never fail to impress with their rainbow light shows), but not a sunrise together yet, or a sunrise picnic.  So, with the light just creeping into the day we did a 30 minute walk through the woods to find our secluded little cove.  The children set about playing with the ice, frost, and frozen sand, while I took charge of getting the Kelly Kettle going, and Dadda took charge of making a fire (so nice to split the chores for once and have him out with us too).  I had made apple and cinnamon porridge to eat from our food flasks, but we could have hot drinks and keep a little warmer with a fire lit.  We could also then toast marshmallows for a breakfast dessert.

We ended up staying for around 2 hours, just being together and connecting as a full family and enjoying the moment.  The children were happy playing, Dadda and I were happy chatting sitting on our rapidly freezing backsides, and the day had a really tranquil calm start to it – one of the best things in a hectic and loud large family life.  I have to say it was totally worth packing up the night before, wrapping up warm, and a mini hike through the dark woods to do it, and I thoroughly recommend this to anyone.  This is the second year running we have to done this, and I hope to do it for many more years.  We did it last year and it was lovely, but about 10 degrees colder!!

I have written a lot in the past about the benefits of getting getting outdoorsnature therapy, and nature play and you can click the links and have a read.  However, there are benefits to specifically watching a sunrise.

9 Benefits to Watching the Sunrise:

  1. It is a calm and peaceful way to start the day together.  It makes for generally happier moods all round and a better day.
  2. It is connection time together.
  3. It is physically good for our bodies providing melanin and vitamin D (especially good in the winter with the shorter days).
  4. We stop for a minute and intentionally notice the beauty surrounding us and appreciate it.
  5. We become more aware of our environment and surroundings.  It instils a sense of wanting to nurture it, and for our little people helps them foster a love of it.
  6. It teaches us and our children to live in the moment and enjoy the simple things in life.
  7. Certainly for my three it instilled a sense of adventure and awe.
  8. For everyone it provides memories that will be cherished.

This is a really easy mini adventure that I think all children should experience every so often as part of their immersion in nature.  So do you think you would do it?  With or without a picnic, set out to watch a sunrise one morning this winter?  Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

A sunrise picnic - don't wait too long to watch one, sunrise, sun rise, sunrises, nature, www.mammasschool.co.uk

 

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