Families in Stockholm
There are many motivations that bring emigrants to Sweden. Some move here to be with a Swedish partner, others relocate for work or study. Many emigrate within the EU to join family already here and others are granted asylum. So within this landscape of Swedish society, we find a multitude of young international families, calling Sweden home.
With an emphasis on equality, Sweden has remained one of the most socially democratic places in the world. It is little wonder that Sweden is a very attractive society to live in. Not only do mothers receive paid maternity leave, but ‘pappa´s leave’ is just as widely used. This is rarely a reason for international families to move here, however it may just tip the balance in favor of the move when all things are considered. ‘85 percent of Swedish fathers take parental leave. As other countries still tinker with maternity leave and women’s rights, Sweden may be a glimpse of the future’.
‘As of 2010, 1.33 million people or 14.3% of the inhabitants in Sweden were foreign-born’, a number that continues to grow. With this ever increasing number of immigrants living in Stockholm, we wanted to find out some of the community networks that are available to families growing up in the city.
We asked one family to share their experience of the journey so far …
Breigh Mattson lives in Stockholm with her Swedish partner and their 2 year old daughter Mia.
Tell us a little about how your family came to live in Stockholm.
‘David, Mia and I moved from Copenhagen to Stockholm in May last year. Before that we were living in Cheshire, England. We were ready for a new challenge, and to explore other parts of the world. Then David was offered a permanent position with a leading provider of airline catering, having the option to stay working in Copenhagen or move to Stockholm … we naturally chose Sweden’.
What was your initial impression of the Swedish lifestyle?
We moved here in May, the weather was glorious and Stockholm is worlds apart from where we lived in the UK. The lifestyle is far healthier and we found ourselves outdoors much more than we previously were. It was a necessity to own a car in the UK but now we commute without this hassle. Public transport is so reliable and living in the city means we have everything at our doorstep. David began work straight away, so Mia and I were left to our own devices. The move happened very quickly and we got stuck into our new life straight away. I soon found the online forum (Mums in Sweden) and planned our first fika.’
Was it easy to find child-friendly activities in the city?
‘It’s very easy to occupy our time here with children, there’s many museums, open preschools, and parks. Also, most cafes and restaurants are very child friendly.’
Was it hard making new friends and networking?
‘I had, and still have, good and bad days. Some days I’d rather hide under the covers but that’s not possible with a child. I am naturally a little shy, so had it not been for the Meetup group, I think I would have struggled. You really have to be confident and put yourself out there in order to make new friends. I have found Swedes are quite reserved and you need to be acquaintances for quite some time before you are considered a friend. I have lived in other countries before, but that was prior to having Mia, and never for more than a couple of years . This move is more permanent. My priorities are my family now and not just myself.’
Tell us why you had the idea to start up a Meetup group and how it has helped you.
‘When Mia was only 18 months old, we lived in Copenhagen for 6 months. As a mother with a young child, I wanted to explore the city with others and not only alone. After googling for playgroups in Copenhagen, I joined a mummy Meetup group there. It was very successful and I made a lot of lovely friends. It made our time there as foreigners, easier and more enjoyable.
Sweden is very much like Copenhagen, in the respect that most Swedish toddlers attend childcare. I understood there were many families that did not speak Swedish and would perhaps feel a little lost without a network of friends. I searched to find there wasn’t a family-orientated group which actually met face-to-face weekly. That was when I decided to start ‘The Stockholm International Mother and Baby group’.
I feel the group has been so beneficial to us. It has helped us find our feet and make amazing friends who we can relate to, and seek support from. Friends that are there to comfort when feeling homesick, and to share the sunny side of living in Stockholm, even in the Winter!’
What are the biggest challenges you have faced in Sweden so far ? Have you found any solutions?
As soon as I arrived I made a list of goals:
1. To enjoy exploring Sweden and Swedish culture
2. To provide a happy, fun and interesting environment for Mia
3. To make lots of new friends
4. To spend more quality time together as a family
5. To grasp something of the language
6. And finally, to kick-start a new career!
Knowing Mia would be home with me full-time, meant my main priority was integrating us into a social network and making new friends. I know from experience, that without a network of friends, you can quickly become unhappy. Being proactive with the Meetup group has helped us immeasurably. My biggest challenge however, has been the language. My understanding of Swedish has greatly improved though, and I am hoping to start SFI in the summer to improve my spoken Swedish’.
So finally, do you have any tips for other young international families moving to Stockholm?
`Take it a step at a time! Be prepared for some upheaval, disappointments and delays during the transition period. Don’t be afraid to approach people and say you are new in town, it really isn’t as daunting the more you try it.`
There are many wonderful activities and facilities for families living in Stockholm, which can provide us with fantastic opportunities for networking and linking communities. For Breigh and her family, finding the networks that helped them settle in, has meant they can relax into the scandinavian way of life. With a good social network now behind her family, Breigh can focus on her own visions and career, and by the look of things, that won´t be too far away!
Every experience is different. Our goal at Your Living City, is to continue to connect the community with information, resources, and networks that will help accelerate your settling in process, and make finding a community of your own … that little bit easier.
Mad About Meetups
‘Meetup is the world’s largest network of local groups. Meetup makes it easy for anyone to organize a local group or find one of the thousands already meeting up face-to-face. More than 2,000 groups get together in local communities each day, each one with the goal of improving themselves or their communities.
Meetup’s mission is to revitalize local community and help people around the world self-organize. Meetup believes that people can change their personal world, or the whole world, by organizing themselves into groups that are powerful enough to make a difference.’
To learn more or start a meet up group of your own! http://www.meetup.com/
There are 22 other Meetup groups in Stockholm! http://www.meetup.com/cities/se/stockholm/