It is now nearing 6 months that we have been living abroad in Sweden. I felt that it was about time I reflected back on the move and the reasons behind them, and whether our dreams have become a reality. I’m going to reflect back in four parts, so sit back and enjoy the update over the next few days! It is quite a good point to be reflecting back on the move and the decision to be living abroad, as in a few short weeks we will be returning to the UK. We will have a brief stay visiting friends and family, and then we will return back to our newly adopted place that we now call our home, in Sweden.
Since long before we had children, Dadda and I have always had the dream of living abroad in Scandinavia. We had many reasons for wanting to do this, reasons that became more important after we had our children. Suddenly our lives affected them, as did our choices, and for us, our dreams were to bring our children up with the experience of everything Scandinavia can offer them both in terms of ethos of living, and experiencing this wonderful part of the world. Luckily for us, in the Summer of 2016, an opportunity finally came our way, and a move to Sweden was in the making….all I can say is never give up on your dreams as it took a lot of years, and a lot of goes to get here!
Dadda had left 7 weeks ahead of us four, as we needed to find somewhere to live, pack up our UK house, and then ship everything over. Those 7 weeks were hard, not just because I was home educating, packing up a house, and trying to keep some sort of normal routine going for the children on my own, but also because at times it felt like we would just never make it over there. House buying here in Sweden takes the form of a very difficult bidding process, and there were often so many people bidding for one property. It was the one thing that was stopping us living the dream together (rentals aren’t really an option here like in the UK). Dadda was over in Sweden, but we were stuck in the UK, with no sign of progress on buying a home. Finally we got lucky, and found a gorgeous home. So, early one morning, with four massively overweight suitcases, three car seats, four hand luggage bags, and three children, I herded us to Gatwick, and onto the flight that would start the next chapter of our lives. So, why did we do it, and has it lived up to our expectations so far?
The great outdoors and the Swedish ethos of outdoor living was a huge attraction for us and for living abroad and moving to Sweden. Don’t get me wrong, we did live in a beautiful part of the UK, but over here it is all much more natural, wild, and rugged. Being a larger country, with fewer people in, the natural spaces and wildlife are left well alone and thrive without such a heavy presence of mankind. There is wildlife and space all around you. You know that while you are sleeping, the local älg (moose) are checking out the golf course up the road, or the deer are stealing the carrots from your children’s snowmen in the garden! The public right of access allows everyone to roam freely, as long as they respect the land and nature. Most of the population lives very close to a nature reserve or conservation area (we have four within a 5 minute drive in various directions!), and the Swedes have sussed that spending time in natural spaces reduces stress, lowers blood pressure, and helps improve mental health. They also learn to appreciate nature from a very early age. The more time you spend in nature, the more time you will want to care about it 🙂 We have definitely adopted the Swedish approach of “There is no bad weather, just bad clothing”, and we have enjoyed exploring the local countryside around us. We have got to grips with outdoor fires, and have started to enjoy using the regularly placed outdoor fire pits on our hikes. The beautiful landscapes, the freedom to roam where we want to adventure, and the provision of fire pits in the wild, have definitely fulfilled this reason for moving here. I think it is fair to say we have been taking full advantage of it all so far!
Let children be children!! That was another reason for moving and living abroad. When we had no.1, we thought we’d got parenting pretty well sussed out. She was as good as gold, did what she was told, and wasn’t overly noisy. That was until the hand grenade landed that is non identical twin boys! They are a totally different story (but just as lovable!). They were physical beings from very early on. They can’t walk anywhere, they have to run. They NEED to climb on and up everything. They are extremely noisy in their play, and they move very very fast! I rapidly learnt that I needed to change my parenting style with these 2, and it was probably no bad thing, as I was a little conventional. I needed to let them run, climb, and explore, and have the courage to do this. In the UK, this got me a lot of frowns (especially in parks) when I deliberately made a choice not to helicopter parent any of them, as well as letting them use apparatus how they wanted to (provided no one else was affected!). Plus in the UK there are a lot of expectations of how children should behave, often making them suppress a lot of their childhood instinctive behaviours, and in turn dampen down their spirit, curiosity, and excitement about life. Out here it is a lot different. Children are expected to want to make a noise, run around, and climb. It’s quite common for my little lady to climb the trees in her playground , whereas in the UK it was a definite no no. They are outdoors in all weathers, not couped up because of some wind and rain. The Swedes have clocked onto the fact that children don’t want to, and won’t sit still like statues, but instead they expect them to be moving. The best bit….no one’s looking at your parenting skills or your child and seeming to be criticising them, as children are just being children. The children have a lot of “down time” too. School finishes at lunchtime (having had 2 big play times as well), and there is no real parental expectation of children to do clubs. Our little lady has started sea scouts and loves it, and now does just one dance class. The boys let off steam every other weekend at a gymnastics class. This makes everyone happy. The children get a lot of play time and the chance to just be, as well as a little bit of socialising, and I’m not a mum taxi! Although back in the UK it is definitely your own choice whether children do activities or not, there is the fear of them missing out that makes a lot of us seek these activities out. We worry that our child will be at a disadvantage if we don’t get them involved in things. That is not the case here. So, 6 months on, our children are definitely being just that, children. And I would say thoroughly enjoying the time, the freedom, and ability to follow their natural curiosity!
Tomorrow I will be looking at schooling and slowing down the pace of life, and I hope you will join me to see how things are different, living abroad here in Sweden.