Today sees us celebrating one year since I flew all three children, myself, 3 car seats, and four overweight suitcases, over to join Dadda to start our new lives together living in Sweden. It seems a good time as any to weigh up the pros and cons of this move, and to look at whether we feel we are here for good (hopefully, barring any silly Brexit shenanigans!).
First off, living in Sweden, we gained 4 seasons!! The photos depict us losing/gaining various layers as the year progresses! We love being outdoors, and immersed in nature, and now we have the chance to experience all the seasons fully. It also makes you appreciate the summer quite a bit more. When the cold and snow came, life needed a little more planning (like digging the car out), but living in Sweden it does continue (unlike back in the UK where it stops just because it “might” snow!). The children have embraced everything that has been thrown at them weather wise, and we live with the motto “there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing”….we have a whole outdoor shop’s supply of outdoor gear now 🙂
The great outdoors, and the Swedish ethos of outdoor living, was a huge attraction for us and for living in 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. We have got to grips with outdoor fires, and 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!! I need to let them run, climb, and explore. 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. Over 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, or twin 2 to be found dangling upside down precariously from a high bar, whereas in the UK those were a definite no no. They are outdoors in all weathers, not cooped 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, when children are just being children.
Living in Sweden we have all left lovely close friends behind. Only yesterday I opened a lovely parcel for the family from some close friends in the UK that made me a little weepy…..of the happy sort! A year on though and we have met some very special people here who have helped us to settle in and go out of their way to help us. They have become very good friends. Also, our summer was very busy with close friends from the UK visiting, and the whole year has seen many friends and family coming. There are five more sets of visitors booked for the next four months already! It was hard leaving family and friends behind, and we do miss them a lot, but we are so grateful for those who have offered us friendship here in Sweden 🙂
Having left a pressure cooker education system behind that has children exhausted, in tears, and feeling a failure, we are more than happy to embrace the Swedish positive approach to learning. School is important to us here as a place for the children to meet others their age and learn the language, coming from an English speaking household, so it serves us well too. It’s such a lovely environment….oh, apart from the no shoes indoors policy….I have to keep a better eye out for the holes in the socks situation! But on the flip side they love running and sliding down the corridors 🙂 The lovely island school has turned out to be just what we wanted for our trio, and more.
With three children, life can easily start feeling like a hectic race from the moment you get out of bed, until the moment you collapse into it at the end of the day. A huge reason for moving here was to slow right down, and commit to a much simpler way of living. It just seems a lot easier to do here. We have moved to a small island community, you can’t just pop to the shops to spend frivolously (the nearest are about a 30 minute drive), and there are no other material distractions, so life is lived at a more leisurely pace. We’re no longer sucked into things like a weekend chocca full of children’s parties, activities, or shopping. Instead it is full of family time, hiking, exploring, and lots of play!
The language is another harder aspect of living abroad. Our trio are now immersed in it during the week at school, but they are still on a very steep learning curve. Dadda and I are trying to teach ourselves. We are making a little headway, understand a lot more than we used to, and can make ourselves understood…albeit with a lot of gesticulation too. It’s hard learning a new language, but we try and at least begin to speak to the locals in Swedish (we’re lucky that so many are great at speaking English). The trouble starts when people then respond in Swedish, and we sometimes lose the thread of the conversation, but at least we have made some baby steps. With this comes other things that are very hard…school homework, when it does come home, takes twice as long as we have to understand it before we can help her with it. Everything takes longer due to translating along the way (very slowly) and sometimes this can be very frustrating. Something that is usually an easy task can seem to take forever.
Learning to drive on the other side of the road, in a car set up the opposite way, was another challenge too. You’d think a year on we’d be OK, but the other night I drove about 500m on the wrong side before realising, so some habits are hard to kick.
There has been a huge downside though, and that is the lack of grown up time for Dadda and I. There are no baby sitters here (yet, cross my fingers!), and we have moved abroad knowing there would be no one-night escapes to get a yearly lie in, or no time alone without the presence of our three cheeky monkeys. As much as I know the younger years fly past in the blink of an eye, I wouldn’t ever say no to some peaceful calm time together, enjoying something as a couple outside of our four home walls. However, for now, we will have to take the evenings collapsed on the sofa once we’ve tucked the trio up in bed.
If this family adventure does end up with us returning to the UK, at least there will be no “what ifs”, and so no regrets. We will have tried living in Sweden, and given it a go. The children will have experienced the world classroom, and a different culture, language, and lifestyle. Although I really hope we are here to stay now, as this was how we planned it. I think we have all adapted pretty well so far. We seem to be integrating a little. I can’t say enough though about how much we love living here, and I feel that maybe we have found our place in the world that we can call home 🙂