Tag: living abroad (Page 1 of 16)

Discover Karlskrona – The Capital Of Blekinge, Sweden

We are lucky enough to live in southern Sweden.  Blekinge, our part of Sweden, has an archipelago made up of 1650 islands, skerries, and islets.  This summer we have taken you on our adventures around the Blekinge archipelago, and now we return to its capital, Karlskrona.  This post will complete the series I have done about the Blekinge archipelago by giving information on what to see and do, where to eat, and where stay in Karlskrona.

Karlskrona Background Information:

Karlskrona is the capital of our county that we live in here in Sweden, which is called Blekinge.  It is home to both Sweden’s only naval base, and the HQ of the Swedish Coast Guard.  It is built on many islands which are also part of the Blekinge archipelago.  The city was built in 1680 when the navy was relocated here from Stockholm, to have a better strategic location against Denmark, and less likely to be immobilised by ice this far south.  The city has kept its structure from its original design, and the streets are in a grid pattern.  This allows for the wind from the sea to blow right up into the centre of the city…..it is a very windy place most days!!!  But it is a beautiful place to visit and there is a lot to see and do here all year round.

How To Get To Karlskrona:

The city of Karlskrona can easily be reached via car, bus, train, ship, or even archipelago ferries from other parts of the archipelago.  It has very good transport links.

What To See And Do In Karlskrona:

  1. Blekinge Museum:  Here there are exhibitions about the county of Blekinge and its cultural heritage.  It also has activities for the children, an interesting playground area, and a cafe.  Entry is free, but check opening times before visiting.
  2. Wämöparken:  This a beautiful open outdoor area which is home to a small animal zoo (think farm animals), playground, old cultural replica buildings, a dog agility course, cafe, barbecue areas, large outdoor games (think oversized chess boards and pieces), and many trails to walk of varying distances through the woods.  Entry is free, but check opening times before you visit.
  3. Lyckå Castle Ruins:  The castle was built from 1545 – 1560 and is situated on the outskirts of Karlskrona.  What remains are the outer ground floor walls and the foundations of the 2 corner towers.  This is a lovely place to let children explore and use their imaginations as to what the castle used to be like in its heyday.
  4. Karlskrona Marinmuseum:  This is a museum about the naval history of Sweden.  However, the biggest draw might be the submarine exhibit, which you can explore inside and out at your leisure.  They have lots of activities they put on for children, as well as an indoor play area.  Opening times vary throughout the year (so check first, but it has lots of good opening hours), and admission is free.
  5. Saltö:  To reach this small island part of Karlskrona, drive through the main island of Trossö and out the other side, where you will find a lovely beach.  It is great for families, with a kiosk and a walking trail as well.
  6. Brändaholm:  This lovely little corner of the island of Dragsö is accessible by the archipelago boats in the summer or you can park nearby if wanting to take a stroll around it, and it is full of lovely little red wooden homes.  It is a beautiful area with the feel of the 1920’s.
  7. Take a stroll around Björkholmen.  This is where the first dock workers built their homes.  Explore and discover the old cottages and enjoy some calm in this old part of town with its narrow streets and colourful wooden buildings.

Karlskrona has lots of other islands to explore too, each outstanding areas of natural beauty with lots of trails to walk along and admire the Swedish scenery.  I have just listed a few of the main things to get you started on a visit here 🙂

Where To Eat In Karlskrona:

There are many places to take a good Swedish fika, both cafes and restaurants, to suit every style and taste (but expect to pay Swedish prices ).  I do want to share my three favourite ones with you though:

  1. Pinchos:  This is such a fun place to eat.  It offers tapas style food (think mini portions of burgers, fish and chips, risottos, garlic breads etc) that you order from a fun style app.  Brilliant for people like us who may not understand the menu 🙂 The drinks are fun too, there are alcoholic and non-alcoholic cocktails that involve being decorated with sweets!!  Right up my street.  You even get popcorn to nibble at while you are choosing and waiting for your meal.  Booking is needed (but you can do that online too).
  2. Sumo Sushi:  Now this place got me eating sushi for the very first time in my life and now I’m addicted!!  It is a very small lovely little light restaurant in the centre of Karlskrona, so you may have to wait for seating, but I really enjoy eating out here.
  3. Sjörök Spis Och Bar:  This a lovely family restaurant with a gorgeous view (especially in summer) of the marina and some stunning yachts that come in and out.  Sit on the decking and enjoy your meal while listening to the tinkling of sail boat masts, and really feel yourself relax.

Where To Stay In Karlskrona:

Around Blekinge there is lots of choice from stugby (little huts), youth hostels, B&B’s, various camping options, and hotels.  Here are a few options for Karlskrona itself;

  1. Camping:  Dragsö Camping and Skönstavik Camping both offer an array of camping options (including a few huts), with a whole heap of facilities and activities available.  Both are positioned beside the sea, so have lovely locations.
  2. Hotels:  There are number of hotels in central Karlskrona for differing prices. They are the Hotel Aston, Clarion Hotel, Scandic Hotel, First Hotel JA, Hotel Conrad, and First Hotel Statt.
  3. RV Parking:  On the main quayside in Karlskrona, you can also just pull up in your RV and plug into special spaces made available.  The parking isn’t so scenic as it is a car park. But get at the front, and you’ll have a stunning view of the marina, sea, and other islets out there.  You are also ideally placed to explore Karlskrona on foot or bike then as well.  Contact the harbour office for more details.

I hope you have enjoyed our whistle stop tour of Karlskrona and if you plan to visit, I hope to have given you a few ideas and starting points to get you going.Discover Karlskrona, Karlskrona, Blekinge, Sweden, Visit Karlskrona, visit Blekinge, Visit Sweden, Travel in Sweden, www.mammasschool.co.uk

 

 

Discover The Blekinge Archipelago – Explore The Islands

Blekinge, our part of Sweden, has an archipelago made up of 1650 islands, skerries, and islets.  Since April we have spent 4 months exploring the Blekinge archipelago and in total we have visited 16 islands.  We have caught many boats, and had a lot of fun in the process.  The fabulous summer weather made the adventures much easier for us, but it also meant that due to fire bans, not only in our county of Blekinge but around the whole country, the latter half of our adventures were without our trademark camp fires.

We have visited AspöHasslöTjurköLångörenHästholmen-Ytterön,   HanöSenorenSturköStenshamn and UtlänganTorköInlänganUngskär,   KarönÖstra BoköTärnö, and Tjärö.  We have hiked trails, done some wild camping, visited lighthouses, been to a British cemetery, explored old buildings, Viking villages and a lot of forts, played in nature, enjoyed the Swedish outdoors summer laid back life style, Dadda has done some very high jumps into the water (8m and 12m), we have swum in a quarry, and done a lot of beach/sea play and swimming. 

Lots of memories have been made, along with a lot of learning!!  The photos may show the shiny side of life, but don’t panic, we were not without squabbles, whinges, and strops.  Not to mention the overwhelming tiredness that hits you once you have returned from one of these adventures only to have to sort out all the kit that goes with it.  However, I think all five of us will say without a doubt, that these good and shiny photo memories are the ones that will be sticking with us, and overall the mission of exploring our islands of Blekinge turned out to be a huge success and well worth it! 

If you want to know about the background to these islands, how to get there, where to stay, where to eat, or about our adventures, just click on the links for that island.  I hope I have inspired you to want to explore our beautiful corner of Sweden one day, and I will leave you with some highlight photographs.  Enjoy the rest of the summer as we will be doing here in Sweden, and as my children’s ten weeks of sommarlov draws to a close, I can honestly say we have had a blast, but I may need some time to recuperate from having them home!

   

 

Discover The Blekinge Archipelago - Explore The Islands, Blekinge, Sweden, Southern Sweden, Archipelago, Skargard, Visit Blekinge, Islands

The Swedish Kitchen – Cooking Outdoors

The beautiful Swedish countryside is full of outdoor fire pits, making cooking outdoors very accessible to everyone.  They come in all shapes, sizes, and conditions, but there is no doubt about it, being able to do your cooking outdoors on a hike or a camp, safely and responsibly, adds to the experience and memories, especially for our three children.  

There is no knowing what you will find until you reach one.  Some are marked on trail maps, others are not, but they are little gems tucked away in the Swedish countryside, usually complete with a stunning view to admire whilst you eat your tasty treat.  Some are very basic, just a few rocks.  Others are luxurious, with the ability to set your grill rack at different heights, and complete with picnic tables.  Sometimes a kind person has provided wood for the fire and left it in a little shelter, and occasionally there is a bucket which you can use to collect water in (which we then have standing next to the fire as a safety precaution).  Due to not knowing what we will come across, and being out with three small children, I carry our fire wood (I’m getting quite strong!), just to be on the safe side.  As we get more experienced and the children get older, then we can think about rummaging around the ground for fuel supplies. There is something very special about being able to cook over an open fire, and we now have made a habit of doing this at least once a week, rain, sun, or snow…..in the winter it provides a well needed warming meal, and in the summer, a break in the hike to relax while the children play for a few hours.  If you need any ideas of what to cook (both sweet and savoury), I have lots of outdoor recipes that are quick and easy 🙂 The provision of the fire pits have benefits far more reaching than just being able to do your cooking outdoors.  They allow you to connect together, and pause a while from whatever adventure you are on.  Usually we are hiking.  The children either immerse themselves playing in nature, or are busy helping me, learning good bush craft and survival skills as they go along.  They have now all learnt what you need and how to start a fire, as well as looking after it, and putting it out safely.  Also, importantly, they have learnt how to behave around a lit campfire.

Top Tips for Cooking Outdoors

  1. Carry your food, water, and fuel for the trip
  2. Have a little fire starting kit ready made up.  You can see what is in ours here
  3. Allow lots of time.  This is not an activity that can be rushed, both for safety and enjoyment reasons.
  4. Be prepared to improvise, whether with cooking accessories, or fuel supplies.
  5. Let your children help.  It teaches them valuable skills.
  6. Leave no trace of you being there, so there is less impact on the environment.  If you’ve moved rocks to create a windbreak, put them back etc
  7. Use fire pits when you can, or a stove if there isn’t one.
  8. Take ALL your waste home.
  9. Put any fires out completely before you pack up and leave.  We don’t want wildlife hurt, nature harmed, or it to become a safety risk.
  10. If you are using firewood from the surrounding area, only use from the ground.  Don’t go chopping or tearing branches from trees and bushes.

We really enjoy eating our food cooked on a campfire, and I find the children tend to eat better too!!  Make sure you check out our outdoor cooking recipes, and next week I will go over campfire basics, and campfire problem solving here on the blog.The Swedish Kitchen-cooking outdoors, Campfire, campfires, outdoor cooking, campfire cooking, bushcraft, Sweden, www.mammasschool.co.uk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Swedish Easter – Påsk

I would like to share with you a little about what a Swedish Easter (Påsk) is like compared to back in the UK, and whether or not we have fallen in love with yet another part of Sweden’s culture.  Easter back in the UK for us, was always a mix of Scandinavian traditions and English ones, with me having my Norwegian background. So a Swedish Easter for us is only a little different, and not too much of a culture shock.

 

  1.  First of all the decorating of our home.  We have always hung little wooden, glass, or painted eggs onto branches around our home.  This is a Norwegian tradition I have always done in our UK home, but has become increasingly more popular the past few years in the UK as well. A Swedish Easter is no different.
  2. They adorn their branches in the garden with colourful and bright feathers.  This brightens up the outdoor space where spring is struggling to be seen, and adds colour whilst we wait for the natural colour of spring blooms.

3.  Eggs are hung in the windows, which are visible both from inside and from outside, and make the home look cosy and inviting.

4.  The Swedish Easter tradition with chocolate is slightly different too.  There is definitely still plenty of it, but instead of masses of foil wrapped Easter eggs, here in Sweden you have a beautifully decorated paper shell of an egg (available in various sizes, but beware they hold a lot more than you think!) filled with candy.  Although there is still a lot of candy available, I like this idea, as it is a lot more simple. Also, the children are less saturated with an abundance of chocolate Easter eggs, which you then spend the following months trying to let them eat without feeling guilty with them having so much chocolate!  They are very pretty, and best of all reusable 😉  Of course, we will have an Easter egg hunt in the garden too!

5.  Eggs (the chicken variety), and fish feature heavily on the food side of the Swedish Easter celebrations.  Eggs for breakfast, eggs on open sandwiches, and various fish dishes including pickled herring (one of my mother’s favourites I’ve never quite been able to adopt!), all washed down with some good strong Swedish snaps.

6.  Many children dress up as witches at Easter in Sweden, and on Maundy Thursday (skärtorsdag), you’ll spot children with face paints on and broomsticks. Some will be knocking on doors asking for treats, a bit like in the UK at Halloween.

7.  Swedish Easter is also the first long weekend of the year, with potentially warmer weather, that people head out to their summer houses.  The weather has to do a bit of a rapid turn around to make this come true this year!  We are lucky that our new home is in a place that people would consider is somewhere to have a summer house, so we can stay in the comfort of our home and enjoy our surroundings 🙂

8.  Påskmust:  For those of you who read our Swedish Christmas post  you may remember reading about the drink 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!  Well, it is wheeled out again at Easter when the same drink is re-branded as Påskmust.  I do serve my trio this, but I have to say I cringe inwardly every time I do, thinking of the poor dentist!

 

I hope you have enjoyed learning about a Swedish Easter, and have fun celebrating it wherever you are, whatever traditions you are keeping 🙂

A Swedish Easter, Påsk, Easter, Easter in Sweden, Spring www.mammasschool.co.uk

 

Bastasjö Friluftsområde – An Outdoor Family Haven

Bastasjö is a lake that is the centre piece of the Bastasjö friluftsområde, outdoor area.  It is very convenient being only about a 15 minute drive from the centre of the city of Karlskrona in the south of Sweden.  It is a huge area of hiking trails around the surrounding woods.  What makes this place so good for families are several things.  There are a lot of marked trails in a variety of distances, so you can pick what you think you can manage.  There are also good fire pits, surrounding the lake on all sides, allowing for you to build a campfire safely and cook in the great outdoors.  At the side of the lake where the main car park is, there is also a building, which houses toilets.  You can rent this out as well if you are running an activity in this location.  

We arrived at Bastasjö in the depths of winter during the Swedish sportlov holiday, and although we were doing our own thing, it was interesting to see they had a “drop in” campfire with sausages cooking, everyday this holiday week from 10am until 1pm.  They also had other activities, for example a night run and orienteering.  There are illuminated trails, as well as ones you can use for cross country skiing when there is enough snow on the ground.  We chose our trail, the blue one that skirted round the lake, spotting a fire pit that looked good at the half way point, and we set off.

We had travelled inland for about 20 minutes to reach Bastasjö, so there was still a fair amount of snow on the ground compared to what we had at home on the coast, so it made for a scenic walk.  The lake was truly frozen over, and there were even some intrepid people having a mini ice hockey game on it…..but keeping very close to the edge still.  They obviously did not trust the ice thickness that much.  My trio were keen to use their binoculars to watch them (see my other tips for hiking with children).  They have never known sea or lake ice so thick you can run, walk, or play on it.  They were memorised.  It all helped to take their minds off the fact they were hiking with backpacks, and were surprisingly perky!  They were even surprised to find themselves at our chosen fire pit thinking the first part of the walk had gone fast, and I was quite surprised to find us there without any whinges of “I’m hungry”!

The children dropped their backpacks, and although the little lady announced she was doing the Kelly Kettle, all three raced off and suddenly starting constructing a den in the woods behind the fire pit.  I was happy at my work in the peace and quiet sorting out a lunch of hot dogs and campfire toffee apples.  Whilst I was busy, a lady who had seen us light the fire from the other side of the lake where the building is, had walked round and started taking photos….apparently she needed photos of people out enjoying the area with their children during sportlov!  Once cooked, three hungry little den builders appeared and gobbled their food up.  There was a lovely wooden shelter at this fire pit, and although it was not windy today and not such a painful experience to eat outdoors, it was lovely to be a little sheltered while we ate.  I had not planned to stay at the fire pit for the whole 2 hours that we did, but the children were so happy climbing trees and den building, that I left them to it until they were ready to leave.  Instead, I amused myself by trying to keep the fire going by using twigs from the ground, and although they were covered in snow I somehow managed, so was feeling quite pleased with myself!  

Eventually the trio felt it was time to pack up and move off, and we set off to complete the trail and the loop around Bastasjö.  They tested the limits of the ice on the lake intermittently and tried to break it with large rocks……no luck in breaking it though, it was really solid ice.  

I would definitely recommend visiting this lovely outdoor area beside Bastasjö if you are in the area, and for us it will be fun to return in the summer and see a totally different looking place to the one we had experienced today.  There are also geocaches in the area, but due to the cold, my phone battery dies very fast, so we never got to look for them today, so we will save those for the warmer months as well.  Something to look forward to coming back for, as well as maybe different organised activities we could try next time.

Bastasjö Friluftsområde, Bastasjö, Outdoors, Sweden, Hiking, www.mammasschool.co.uk

Country Kids
 

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

 

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