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Grow Internationals | Expat Stories | Vol. 7
Reason for move:
An expat's story
Alison moved to Stockholm for work in September of 2018, but she was no stranger to the Nordics. While spending time in Finland on exchange in university, she fell in love with the Nordics due to the efficiency of society. During this time, Alison visited Stockholm on a whirlwind one-day cruise. All she remembers is that there was a huge snowstorm and the whole city seemed to be shut down. Soon, Alison returned to her homeland of Ireland and got the urge to travel again. Seeking adventure, she applied for an international job with Enterprise Ireland, knowing she could be placed anywhere in the world. Because of her previous exposure to the Nordics, she was assigned to their Stockholm office which promotes trade between Irish companies and Sweden, Finland, Denmark, and Iceland. Her work allows her to travel often to each of these countries studying consumer behavior and preferences. She recently returned from a trip to Iceland and has even visited Copenhagen during fashion week.
Alison has several things she adores about her new home. Like most people, fika is one of her favorite things about Sweden - especially when irresistible cardamom buns (kardemummabullar) are in the mix. She notes that cardamom is only used in curries back in Ireland, so she was pleasantly surprised when she was first introduced to the fika staple. Alison is also fond of Nordic nature and has been since she first visited Finland with her studies. She jokes that coming from the “Emerald Isle” she was quite surprised to see the grass turn brown here during the winter. Nevertheless, she enjoys exploring the rocky landscapes and dense forests, remarking that it evokes a sense of being in Narnia or somewhere simply magical.
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 is wise to point out that this life of travel and glamour is not without its challenges. Like most expats, she’s experienced her fair share of homesickness and found it difficult to make friends when she first arrived since social norms were so different than back in Ireland. She’s most thankful for the Swedish courses she’s taken with Grow Internationals because she gained a lot more than vocabulary and cultural knowledge. She also gained a core group of friends who still get together every tuesday for a pub quiz. She notes that it is important to have social outlets and ways to connect with others when moving someplace new. In addition to being involved with Grow, Alison is a part of the Stockholm Gaelic Football group and recommends that all newcomers check it out. About half of the members are Irish and the rest are a mix of all nationalities and backgrounds.
Like many expats, Alison is adamant about retaining ties to her home culture while forging her new life here in Sweden. She’s become involved in the Swedish Irish Society of Stockholm which has allowed her to simultaneously treasure old traditions and partake in new ones. She was able to volunteer at this year’s St. Patrick’s Day parade and sometimes visits the Old Dubliner when they have Irish Dancing performances every tuesday night. She doesn’t know how long she will stick around Sweden since she’s a self-proclaimed explorer at heart. Nevertheless, her admiration for Stockholm shines bright as she raves about the environmental policies, lack of corruption, social benefits, and of course, cardamom buns. In the meantime, we’re happy to have Alison as a cheerful and enthusiastic member of our Grow Community here in Stockholm!
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Grow Internationals | Expat Stories | Vol. 6
Fergus, Ontario, Canada
Reason for move:
Surviving the winter
An expat's story: From North American museums to Swedish
Boudicca traded in her Canadian lifestyle full of hunting, wilderness, and rural quiet for an apartment in the city center of Stockholm
Boudicca moved to Sweden and Stockholm after her boyfriend, Phil, accepted a new position in Sweden with his job. They made the move in the middle of the harsh Swedish winter and Boudicca says she’s glad she gave it a chance because the Swedish summers are pure magic.
Before coming to Sweden, Boudicca was no stranger to living abroad. She has spent time working in the museum industry in both Washington, DC and Los Angeles, California, as well as several other regions within Canada. Reflecting on her many expat experiences, Boudicca notes that coming to Sweden was the biggest culture shock and starkest contrast that she’s faced so far, which is no surprise since it’s an entire ocean away from her homeland. She’s struggled slightly with the language barrier, especially when she first arrived, 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
Boudiccas's Swedish Favorites
Swedish crayfish party
“Still hoping to get an invitation to the a traditional Swedish crayfish party”
“I'm amazed by the variety of exhibits in the different museums around Stockholm”
"Connecting with other expats has actually been easier in Stockholm than what I experienced in other places I lived in the U.S."
For those considering the move to Stockholm or who are looking for a change of scenery and international experience, Boudicca recommends doing your research about wherever it is you’re relocating to and maintaining a positive, but pragmatic outlook once you arrive.
As mentioned earlier, Boudicca has extensive experience as a museum professional in North America. 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 recent “Swedish Nature” permanent exhibit. Since she’s the expert, we asked Boudicca for her take on the best museums of the city. She’s 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 wintery, dark ghost town to a lively, festive, and curious one over the span of a few months as the sun gradually lengthens its daily rays. Boudicca is hoping for an invitation to a traditional Swedish crayfish
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Grow Internationals | Expat Stories | Vol. 5
Reason for move:
Long periods of darkness
An expat's story: Enjoying the outdoors
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."
After her partner was headhunted by firms in Stockholm and Spain, they had some deliberating to do. "We actually thought we go south where it is warmer" but ultimately decided on Stockholm. The job was the primary decision maker and second by the economy. Melanie has also managed the not so easy task of finding a job here where she speaks German all day, but still enjoys the slower work pace and weekly fika that the Swedish workplace has to offer.
Melanie and her partner found Grow Internationals very helpful in meeting other people, getting a lot of questions answered, and getting out and do some stuff. She is now learning Swedish by taking classes through Grow Internationals and is on level B1, which she is finding a little but 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.
Melanie's Swedish Favorites
Big City Life
“[It’s a] big city and then it takes like fifteen to twenty minutes to get into the woods”
“In Stockholm, I think it is nice that you have a lot of parks…all the people were outside, each park was like crowded with people…really looking forward to this when winter ends”
She likes Sweden in general and how she feels welcomed here. She finds the hustle and bustle of pushing at the subway just part of living in a big city.
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 her time in the United States, when they worked together. That friend has opened up her circle of friends to Melanie. She says it is also good to “use something like Grow or other options that are out there to just meet people.”
From pictures to football
After tearing her Achilles tendon she went out exploring the city and taking pictures. She enjoys taking pictures and finds that the city has many beautiful spots like "the old buildings with the different colors." Luckily her injury was not "that bad." She plays soccer but had to take a break due to her injury but has started slowly only playing once a week. "I want to play in a team again like in a real competition." In Germany she played in a league and she wants to go back to that. She found her current soccer training through Facebook.
Need my vitamin D
The move was not without challenges. Like most expats and even some natives, she 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 on plane.
Overall, she does not have a time limit or goal for her stay in Sweden and she says, “Right now we like it a lot.” If they continue to enjoy their stay they may stay here forever.
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Grow Internationals | Expat Stories | Vol. 4
Reason for move:
Starting over in a new country
An expat's story: From Dream to Reality
Margot was already an expatriate: coming from a middle-size city in the East of France, Margot’s only wish was to move abroad, which she did, as she established herself in London. There, in the British capital, this colorful woman and settled down for a while with her British husband. But the call of the north would soon be too strong to resist!
The Scandinavian Dream
Margot is a huge fan of Scandinavia and always had a strong desire to move here: “That’s the dream life… You read these articles about Sweden, Norway, Finland being the happiest places to be and it attracted me immensely”. Having travelled several times to Norway, this is the country she first wanted to move to: “I’ve been to Norway so many times, I love it, and my husband looked for a job there”. Unfortunately, after several failed attempts at finding a job in Norway, this project was put to sleep.
But Margot did not completely abandon her Scandinavian dream and eventually, it’s the dream which found her: “My husband found a job here, well actually the job found him”. As you can imagine, the announcement was received with all the enthusiasm in the world: “we didn’t hesitate one second”. Thus, the first weekend of November, the happy couple moved to Stockholm, and the fantasy became a reality.
Sweden, Sweet Sweden
Her opinion did not change since she has moved here, as she speaks about her current life in Stockholm with sparks in her eyes! Everything, from the weather to the Swedish lifestyle, everything delights her: “it’s actually even better than I was expecting so it’s awesome!”.
The couple was lucky to have a caring company behind them, helping them transition to their new country: “My husband’s company is really good with taking care of spouses”, which is how Margot and her husband became members of the Grow International community.
Margo's Swedish Favorites
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, I used to live in London, this is a massive difference”.
Sweden does make it easy for its inhabitants to live here. Margot has noticed that and cannot stop praising it: “it feels like everything was made easy for people […], internet everywhere, everything has been modernized bit by bit because they want to be ahead of everybody and it’s just so easy to be here”. Even when people do not speak Swedish it is easy to communicate as the vast majority of people speak English here “Everybody speaks English which is awesome”.
Settling in, both with language but also socially can be a bit of a challenge in Sweden. Fortunately, Margot got to take advantage of the Grow Internationals’ membership and it’s during her Swedish class that she met her first friends: “in there I got to start a social life”.
Learning the language
Margot’s will to learn Swedish is really strong, she started Swedish language class as soon as she could: “I took my first Swedish class about three or four days after I arrived with Grow Internationals”, which is quite impressive! However, she does find it challenging to learn, as she judges Swedish to be a “very hard” language.
The social factor
Although she loves Sweden and Scandinavia in general, Margot acknowledges that moving to another country is not always easy, and that lacking a social network can be quite tough. She confides that “it’s quite lonely at the beginning”. But as pragmatic as a Brit, Margot adds “But that’s moving anywhere, isn’t it?”. Nevertheless, she admits that it is quite delicate to make friends in general, and especially Swedish friends.
Now, like a real Swede, Margot is exercising! Between two Swedish classes, she runs: “I run a lot, I joined a running group”. The intrepid women even started her own business: “I’m starting my business which is not so easy because there is lots of paperworks and I’m having some papers that need to come from the UK so that’s taking a bit of time”.
Well Margot, we wish you the best of luck for your projects in Sweden!
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Grow Internationals | Expat Stories | Vol. 3
Reason for move:
Meeting new friends
Expat Stories: A Global Citizen
Serra knows the expat life pretty well, as she is born and raised in Vancouver but lived in Paris before coming to Stockholm. Her and her husband go with the flow, settling down where Serra’s husband job is taking them, not worrying about anything and taking advantage of every opportunity that is given to them. That’s how the couple ended in Stockholm about a month ago.
Serra is used to moving abroad. After living in Paris, she moved back to Canada, more precisely to Vancouver, where she had left her life. But Serra and her husband only lived 6 months there before another opportunity showed up and took the couple to another European country: Sweden. Happy to discover a new lifestyle, they embarked for their new adventure in Stockholm on February this year.
Serra's Swedish Favorites
Stockholm has so much to offer that even a simple walk can make wonders. As a real Canadian, she 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 water ways, different parks to explore that’s my favorite thing”. But definitely above all, she loves Djurgården!
During her different walks, Serra has had the opportunity of meeting a few swedes. And she loves them! “Everyone is very friendly I find, everywhere I go and everybody speaks English!”
The clean air
And what makes it even nicer to walk around in the city? A fresh air. “it’s very clean, very fresh, 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.
Everything is so easy!
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”.
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, which was really cool, at the beginning and they let me know the different times whenever I could take Swedish classes so it was good”.
Just the right job
Working for a tour operator for 11 years, Serra travels around in Europe for her job: “I work for a tour operator so we do tours to different countries, so I’ll be leading to couple of tours coming up in Malta and in Greece”. Therefore, working from Sweden can be an advantage: “it’s better for my company that I live in Europe in a way because then it saves us on airfare to send me to do European tours.”
This job allows her to work from wherever she wants in the world. This advantage played a big role in her decision-making process to come to Sweden: “it makes it very easy for us as a couple, like it’s very easy for me to follow him to his job, first in Paris and now here, because it doesn’t matter where I live really I can do my job from anywhere”. This nice organization allows her to go and walk around in her new cities between two reports!
This is only the beginning of this new phase of her life, and when asked what the future holds, Serra stays calm, as she always seems to be, and keep an open-mind with no set expectations or plans: “we go with the flow, we’re here indefinitely, we have no idea… […] I guess we’ll see!”
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Grow Internationals | Expat Stories | Vol. 2
Kimmie Van Pellecom
Reason for move:
Finding a relevant job
Expat Stories: An Expat Cat Abroad
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.
Typically, expat partners have a more difficult time transitioning to a completely new environment in comparison to their partner, who often has been set up with a job before even moving.
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 boyfriend, Diede, didn’t randomly stumble to the conclusion to move to Sweden’s capital.
Their move is a classic case of one partner getting a job. In this case, Diede got a dream job at the EA daughter company, Frostbite, and the pair made the move together.
Frostbite reached out to the young developer over email. Eventually leading to a long interview process - including phone interviews, tests and finally, an in-person interview at the Stockholm Frostbite office.
“We moved in September. Everything was arranged from moving our stuff from Belgium, to temporary housing, relocation services and Grow International subscription,” says Kimmie.
Relocating with a pet............................................. 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. His second favorite activity is gazing out of his 6th floor window. Now he keeps a watchful eye over his new home, Östermalm to Globen. 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 potential apartments, helping with ID-cards and giving a crash course on basic things to know about living in Sweden.
After the chaos of moving, Grow Internationals connected with Kimmie through the pairs subscription via Frostbite. Joining Grow Internationals has given Kimmie the opportunity for Swedish classes and workshops to help in the transition of 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. The engaging tactics are an appreciated method by the students.
What to Take Away
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.
“My boyfriend is more of a see-what-happens or go with the flow sort of guy. But time goes by fast and I could see myself staying in Sweden long-term.”
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Grow Internationals | Expat Stories | Vol. I
Expat Stories: From Ireland to Sweden
Reason for move:
Quality of living
Finding a relevant job
Turning down a breezy, beach lifestyle in San Diego, Leonard Scannell opted to test out the more stylish, more chilled climate of Stockholm. A pros and cons list, a job resignation and a plane ticket later, Leonard made a life-changing move to Stockholm for a long awaited chance to live abroad. We sat down together for fika and to pick his brain about his experience in Stockholm thus far.
“I work in the pharm industry. And the pharm industry is huge in San Diego. So it was 50/50 between there and here. It is goldie locks weather, not too hot, not too cold.” Leonard dreamily describes the beach lifestyle that could have been before explaining, “I made a pros and cons list between SD and Stockholm and Stockholm just beat out SD in pros.”
Leonard made the move to Stockholm alone in June last year and began his time by taking a much needed break. He rented out his home in Cork, Ireland and booked an Airbnb to start. While he plans to rent out his home in Ireland until he retires, take that money and live retirement comfortably in a villa in Greece. Not too shabby, if you ask me.
“In my 20’s I had an opportunity to do an MBA in Dallas, TX, but I chickened out and I regret that. This is my second chance to live abroad.”
Leonard says he plans to stay at least a year and see how it goes.
Leonard’s Swedish Favorites.............................................
“There are so many things I like. But I appreciate Swedes love of nature. They look after their nature & environment. Homes have lots of plants. Recycling is religion.”
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.
Fashion“I’m really interested in fashion. The first time I came to Stockholm, I was impressed by people’s attention to fashion & grooming. People make an effort. Stockholm’s fashion scene is a breath of fresh air compared to Ireland 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.”
- Networking is King
Leonard’s story in networking is somewhat of a fairytale scenario. One could say serendipitously sweet. However, the truth is as Leonard puts it, “I’ve been lucky and resourceful. Opportunity meets effort.”
Leonard found Grow Internationals initially on meetup.com. He credits networking to making the transition easier, much of which he has done via various workshops and classes at Grow Internationals. He even got both his job and apartment through contacts he made at the workshops.
“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.” The times have changed in terms of job hunting, LinkedIn was not a tool 15 years ago. Leonard explained how after his private career counseling, the coach contacted her network and knew the perfect job connection. The rest is history. Grow Internationals really helped navigate creating a business network and the job culture in Sweden.
Not only has he attended workshop, he is a regular student in a Grow Internationals hosted Swedish course. He emphasizes the difficulty of working in chemistry & environmentalism [what he will do now] without Swedish and how learning it is a way to create more opportunities in the future. Not to mention the social aspect. “Swede’s don’t talk English to each other. Swedes talk Swedish. It’s obvious but true,” he says.
He also credits Susanne, the Swedish 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.”
In regards to price, “it’s very reasonable. For all courses and workshops it’s reasonable. I mean included in the price, I sort of got a job and apartment out of it too. Everything is of value.”
Overall, Leonard emits a bashfully excited feel, thrilled by the opportunity that awaits and life in his new city. “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.”