Tag: moving abroad

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

 

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

 

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/   🙂

Moving Abroad – Leaving Family and Friends Behind to Follow Your Dreams

I have been umming and ahhhing about writing this post, as I don’t usually write about myself, and my blog is about the children and family life in general.  However, this is a big topic relevant to us moving abroad, and the only down side I have stumbled upon so far.  So, in the light of giving a balanced view on our moving abroad to Sweden and how it is working, this topic is something I feel needs to be written about.  When we moved, I always knew we were also making the decision to leave our family and friends behind in order to pursue a long term dream of mine and Dadda’s.  I don’t think I ever underestimated the enormity of this, but 6 months on, and after a recent trip to the UK, I am feeling it a little more than usual.  Definitely no regrets about returning back to Sweden though after the UK visit.

It is very common now not to have your family around you for immediate support when bringing up your children, and I realise this.  However, I did have a lovely group of friends from various eras and areas of my life.  People have been amazingly friendly here in Sweden since we moved, and hugely helpful, but it takes time to build up the sort of relationships with family and friends that we left behind in the UK.  As well as the relationships you leave behind moving abroad, for a long while you are leaving behind the option of you and your partner heading out together for some quality time as there is no one to look after our mad trio just yet. Not only that, but when the going gets tough (which it has been with the trio recently), there is no back up, no one to give you a break, and no one to moan to that knows both you and your children properly just yet.  I think that is why I am feeling it a little more recently, as the trio have been a little hot to handle in various ways, and being a stay at home mum, I am with them 24/7.  If you are thinking of moving abroad, this is something to seriously consider…how you would cope leaving behind your family and friends.  I am not saying I won’t make new friends here, I really hope I can and do, but you need to consider if you really can go it alone as a family unit, certainly for a good chunk of time near the beginning (perhaps one of the most stressful times too as everyone settles down into their new life).  I will attempt to explain why I am missing these important people.

Back in the UK over Easter I met up with some of my closest friends for a catch up and a hug.  The first one we met at Gatwick for breakfast.  This lovely person has known me pre-children, pre-marriage, whilst I was working as a nurse, and we have shared drunken camping trips together.  Then my little lady met her 2 BFF’s whose mums happen to be 2 of my BFF’s.  We have been together since our girls were 4.  They have known me with baby twins, they have helped me chase toddler twins on days out, they have never once judged my chaos, and we have supported each other through the ups and cliff dropping downs of life, as have our girls.  Then there are my 2 close friends that are fellow twin mums.  One supported me hugely when mine were newborns (she was a few years down the line, and could remember the calamity with clarity!), and the other one has twins a few months younger than mine.  They know what it is to have young twins, and to try and carry on with the chaos that twins bring, and survive others’ judgements and often open comments and criticism!  These lovely ladies know me as a person in my own right rather than just a Mamma and relocation planner!  However, they also know our children too and my other half, and can easily offer help, advice, support, or even just a mummys’ night out.  Being new in Sweden, and being a stay at home mum, means that I am struggling a little to make a groove for myself outside of being a Mamma and a wife.  Whilst our little lady and mini men settle into their school/förskola friendships, and Dadda has headed out a few times now with his work colleagues, whose company he enjoys, I am floundering a little on the friendship front.  I know it will all come as I have met some really lovely people that have made us all feel so welcome, and I know it will take time to build up relationships, and until then I’ve just got to settle in for the long haul, but it doesn’t make missing these special people that are family and friends any easier…..you know who you are, and I am so lucky to have you as my friends, and I look forward to welcoming you here over the summer 🙂

Leaving family and friends behind to follow your dreams. Moving abroad. Moving away from family and friends. www.mammasschool.co.uk

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