Meet The Grow Community
Welcome to the Grow Internationals Community, where you can explore the expat experience in Sweden through the voices of our members. Dive into a series of interviews with our community members as they share their unique challenges and cherished moments of life in Sweden. Get a firsthand look at their journeys below.
Living most of her life in Antwerp, Belgium, 21 year old Kimmie Van Pellecom made a big move as an expat partner. After her boyfriend was hired in Stockholm, the couple made the choice to uproot their life to move to the heart of Stockholm. Kimmie took the move in stride. Embracing the move positively and quickly. The couple used expat relocation services with the basics of settling into an apartment and continues to use Grow Internationals as a networking base and opportunity to learn Swedish.
Kimmie and Diede didn’t move alone. Their beloved fur-child named Dollar, also made the big move to Stockholm. Dollar was adopted by Kimmie in Belgium and is now a expat cat in the big city. After getting his first passport to travel to Sweden, Dollar has found the transition fairly easy. He enjoys spending time on the sofa, keeping a spot warm for when his humans arrive home. Moving to Sweden with your pet? Discover all you need to know about bringing your pet to Sweden here.
Getting Started in Stockholm
Initially, the relocation provider was a key support system for the pair - finding an apartment, helping with ID-cards and giving a crash course on basic things to know about living in Sweden. After the move, Grow Internationals connected with Kimmie, providing her with access to Swedish classes and workshops to aid her transition into living abroad.
“For me as an expat partner, the courses allow me to get out of the house, learn Swedish and meet great people.”
Kimmie attends Swedish A1 at Grow Internationals in small sessions with a class of other expats. The class resonates with her saying, “Our teacher puts a lot of effort into the classes. We are a diverse group from China, France, Ireland, and Belgium. She does a wonderful job explaining so everyone can understand.” The class learns basics through lessons, reading and a class favorite, singing along with Swedish songs. A method appreciated by the students. In the beginning, Swedish was overwhelming sometimes. Now Kimmie notes her progression and enjoying practicing Swedish over dinner with Diede.
“With Grow Internationals, I’ve gotten an opportunity to learn new things and meet many people from different backgrounds. From networking, learning about Swedish culture and other immersion workshops on things like job hunting, Grow Internationals has made my time in Sweden so far great. It is comforting to have a nice group of people around, especially when you move to a foreign place,” says Kimmie about her experience in Sweden and with Grow Internationals thus far.
“In my 20’s I had an opportunity to do an MBA in Dallas, but I chickened out and I regret that. This is my second chance to live abroad.” Leonard made the move to Stockholm in June last year and began his time by taking a much needed break.
He found Grow Internationals initially on meetup.com. He credits networking to making the transition easier, much of which he has done via workshops and classes at Grow. He even got his job and apartment through contacts he made there.
“I went to a Grow Internationals career workshop and the host was so good, I booked a private session. Before Stockholm, I had the same job for 15 years after applying through a newspaper ad so I’m not really used to generating a business network.” He explains how after his private career counseling, the coach contacted her network and knew the perfect job connection. The rest is history.
Leonard is also a regular student in Swedish for Expats. He emphasizes the difficulty of working in chemistry without Swedish and how learning it is a way to create more opportunities in the future. Not to mention the social aspect. “Swedes don’t talk English to each other. Swedes talk Swedish. It’s obvious but true,” he says. He also credits his Grow teacher, for her skill and understanding:
“I like the student-to-teacher ratio. With a six-week course, it is faster and more fun. The teacher can pay more attention to students because of the class size. She is really, really good.”
“The whole world is here in Stockholm, in terms of nationalities. Stockholm feels long term cosmopolitan. I’ve met so many internationals, from countries I’ve never been. It’s very exciting.”
The Swedish Language
“Spoken Swedish is so musical, it sounds good to the ear. Along with Swedish being nice, it it weren't for Swedes being so great at English, I probably wouldn’t be here. Most Swedes have better English than a lot of Irish people."
“Stockholm’s fashion scene is a breath of fresh air, and seeing the different street style around the city is fun. What you wear is self-expression, about how you feel & want to be seen.”
Margot's lifelong dream was to live in the Nordics, drawn by their reputation as the happiest places on Earth. So when her husband landed a job in Stockholm, they did not hesitate for a minute and moved to Sweden. Their smooth transition was thanks to her husband's company, which supported both of them through the Grow Membership: “My husband’s company is really good at taking care of spouses”, Margot shares.
Margot is loving every aspect of her new life in Stockholm, and speaks about it with sparks in her eyes! She says, "it's actually even better than I was expecting, it's awesome!"
One wouldn’t have guessed that the Swedish weather could be someone’s favorite but apparently it can: “I love the weather, I like the cold and the sunshine nearly everyday!”
Margot has noticed that Sweden goes out of its way to simplify life for its residents. She admires how everything is modernized and easily accessible, with widespread internet access. "It’s just so easy to be here”, she adds. What's more, the vast majority of people speak English here.
Learning the language
Margot wasted no time in starting her Swedish classes with Grow Internationals just days after arriving. Though she finds Swedish challenging, she is determined to learn. Her commitment paid off and she also forged her initial friendships: “in there I got to start a social life”.
The social factor
While Margot has a deep love for Sweden, she recognizes that relocating to a new country can be tough, especially without an established social network. She admits that it can be a bit lonely in the beginning, but also notes"But that's moving anywhere, isn't it?" Margot also finds making friends, especially Swedish friends, to be a delicate task.
Now, Margot is embracing a truly Swedish lifestyle. In between her Swedish classes, she's taken up running and even joined a running group. In addition, she's embarked on a business venture, although she acknowledges that it involves some paperwork, which can be time-consuming.
From a small town close to Frankfurt to big city living in Stockholm, Melanie joins us as a result of her partner getting a job and their mutual desire to move and "do something new."
Melanie and her partner found Grow Internationals very helpful in meeting other people, getting a lot of questions answered, and getting out and doing different things. She is now learning Swedish by taking classes through Grow, and is on level B1, which she is finding a little harder. She tries to practice on her own by texting her Swedish friends and playing trivial pursuit but still finds it a little difficult to be understood when trying to order a beer. Her favorite word is "snälla" as it reminds her of a German word that actually has a pretty opposite meaning.
“It is nice that there are a lot of parks, and each park is crowded with people… I also love the fact that it is a big city but it takes only around fifteen to twenty minutes to get into the woods.”
She likes Sweden in general and how she feels welcomed here. For others considering the move, her advice is to start looking early enough for an apartment, as “it's hard to find an apartment.” Indeed the market for rentals is very competitive in Sweden.
She says the easiest way to get into the community is to have a job because then you meet people easier that way since it is hard to meet Swedish people otherwise. She was fortunate to already have a Swedish friend from the time in the United States, when they worked together. That friend has opened up her circle of friends to her. She says it is also good to “use something like Grow or other options out there to meet people.”
Like most expats and even some natives, Natalie finds the winters and periods of darkness extra long and is in desperate need of some natural vitamin D. “We knew this before so it is no surprise,” she says as she also explains that she is not hibernating and is enjoying some of the winter activities like ice skating. She misses friends and family but she has gotten many visitors so she has not gotten too home sick. She misses German sausages and kebabs and looks forward to her upcoming vacation back home. Luckily, it is just a couple of hours away.
Boudicca traded in her Canadian lifestyle full of hunting, wilderness, and rural quiet for an apartment in the city center of Stockholm. She and her boyfriend, Phil, made the move in the middle of the harsh Swedish winter. Boudicca says she’s glad she gave it a chance because the Swedish summers are pure magic.
Prior to her Swedish adventure, Boudicca was already well-acquainted with the expat life. Reflecting on her experiences abroad, she candidly acknowledges that Sweden provided her with the most profound culture shock. She also struggled slightly with the language barrier, especially in the beginning, but shortly after, she motivated herself to go to Swedish courses and practice with friends. Boudicca commends the expat community in Stockholm and shares that she’s actually found it easier to connect with others here than other places in the U.S. where she spent time living abroad. She says that it all starts with one single connection at a social event, course or a meet up gathering and a little bit of effort, then before you know it, you have a whole community to support you in your new.
Stockholm Museum scene
“I'm amazed by the variety of exhibits in the different museums around Stockholm”. Since her move here, she is been volunteering daily at the Natural History Museum (Naturhistoriska Museet) working specifically with conservation. She is amazed at the museum’s exhibits, specifically with the art of taxidermy and object staging in the “Swedish Nature” permanent exhibit. She’s also a big fan of the Vasa Museum on Djurgården because of their commitment to preservation as well as the grandeur of the namesake object. She also recommends perusing through the various modern art museums and galleries scattered around the city.
Boudicca recommends doing your research before relocating. But even so, you cannot prepare entirely for everything. In her personal experience, she recalls that there were good days and there were bad days, but eventually, the good days began to outnumber the bad ones and before she knew it, she no longer felt like a stranger in her new home. She wonders if the move might have been easier if they came during the spring or summer, since the city seems to completely transform from a dark ghost town to a lively, and festive one over the span of a few months.
Alison moved to Stockholm for work, drawn by her earlier positive experiences in the Nordics during a university exchange. Her job with involves promoting trade between Irish companies and the Nordic countries, enabling her to travel frequently and study consumer behavior.
Alison embraces her new home with a deep appreciation for Sweden's culinary tradition, particularly "fika" with cardamom buns. Her delight in discovering this sweet treat is heightened by the fact that cardamom is mainly associated with curries in Ireland. She's also captivated by the beautiful Nordic nature, which she fell in love with during her earlier studies. Coming from the lush "Emerald Isle," the transformation of the landscape in winter, where grass turns brown, was a delightful surprise. She relishes exploring the rocky terrains and forests, finding them akin to a Narnian wonderland.
Like many expats, Alison initially struggled to make friends due to different social norms. However, when she enrolled in Swedish for Expats, courses offered by Grow Internationals, she met a core group of friends who still gather every Tuesday for a pub quiz.
In addition to her involvement with Grow, Alison joined the Stockholm Gaelic Football group, an inclusive community with a diverse mix of nationalities. She firmly believes in retaining ties to her home culture while embracing her new life in Sweden. To bridge these worlds, she actively participates in the Swedish Irish Society of Stockholm, allowing her to cherish old traditions while embracing new ones. Her volunteer work on this year's St. Patrick's Day and visits to Irish Dancing performances on Tuesdays highlight her commitment to cultural connections.
For those considering a move to Sweden, Alison has some golden advice. She recommends that newcomers strive to “leave silence” during conversations. She notes that the Irish especially can be weary of silence in a conversation so they tend to talk quickly without pause. Swedes, on the other hand, actively conserve their words and don’t speak without taking a moment to think first. This may be off-putting to newcomers because it may seem as though Swedes are shy or rude, but it all comes down to a difference in communication between cultures.
Alison's future in Sweden remains uncertain as her explorer's spirit keeps her open to new horizons. Nonetheless, her enthusiasm for Stockholm is evident as she praises the city's environmental policies, transparency, social benefits, and, of course, the beloved cardamom buns.
Serra is used to moving abroad. After living in Paris and moving back to Canada, it took only 6 months before another opportunity showed up and the Serra and her husband moved to another European country: Sweden. Happy to discover a new lifestyle, they embarked for their new adventure in Stockholm.
Getting Started in Stockholm
Serra’s husband’s company provided both of them with memberships at Grow Internationals to facilitate their transition into the Swedish world. Thanks to this membership, Serra was able to start Swedish lessons quite fast: “they contacted me and let me know the different times whenever I could take Swedish classes, which was really good”.
Stockholm has so much to offer that even a simple walk can make wonders. Serra spends a lot of time walking and discovering her own environment: “I just love walking around in the city because Stockholm is a very easy place to walk around, it’s very friendly to pedestrian, it’s not difficult to get around on foot and there are so many cute little bridges and waterways, different parks to explore - that’s my favorite thing”. During her walks, Serra has had the opportunity of meeting Swedes. And she loves it! “Everyone is very friendly and everybody speaks English!”
The clean air
And what makes it even nicer to walk around in the city? Fresh air. “It’s very clean, very fresh air, no pollution, that’s amazing to me!”. We can see how this must have changed her from Paris!
Adapting was rather simple because leaving Canada to come to Sweden is not the biggest change one can have, both being cold climate occidental countries. Serra confirms: “I thought there would probably be some similarities and I knew that in Sweden pretty much everybody speaks English so it would be easier”. Having lived in France was quite different for her, as the language is required in order to be able to enjoy your life there. Therefore, there was no real apprehension before coming to Scandinavia.
Still in the “honeymoon phase”, Serra sees only the good in her new life. When asked if she has encountered any difficulties since she settled down in Stockholm, she hesitates: “No, no difficulties so far… nothing I can think of. Everything has been pretty smooth”.