When people ask me why I have moved back to Sweden, I realise there isn’t just one specific answer. In fact, there are so many reasons why my family and I wanted to return to land of forests, lakes and endless summer nights.
In 2011, I moved to Sweden with my husband and our three young children. After living in Stockholm for three years, we decided to move to East Africa. I’m not entirely sure why we moved to Tanzania, I suppose it was because we wanted to give our children a taste of adventure.
Our four years in Kenya and Tanzania were undoubtedly an amazing experience. But the longer we were away, the more we realised how much we missed Europe. Although it was not England we missed, but Sweden.
We missed the wild swimming, the work-life balance, the fact that everything works, the seasonal change, the vast open spaces where you can walk for miles and never see anyone, the safety and security, the fact that an entire culture is centred around children, the progressive political system and the fika. In short we missed everything, so a few months ago we moved back.
In no particular order, here are 10 reasons why we returned to Sweden.
10 reasons why we returned to Sweden
- Wild Swimming
There is nothing as liberating as wild swimming. And in the summer months in Sweden you can do this pretty much anywhere there is water. The water is crystal-clear and often you will have a beach entirely to yourself. For the true Scandinavian experience, couple your wild swim with a trip to a bastu (sauna).
Much as I love Britain, I am aware that it is still a society deeply divided by class. So it is refreshing to know that in Sweden there is an unspoken rule amongst most Swedes called ‘Jantelagen’, which is the idea that you are not any better than anyone else. In addition to this Sweden is considered to be one of the countries with the greatest gender equality, topping several international gender rankings, together with its Nordic neighbours.
Fika is a big part of every Swede’s daily life. Fika means ‘to have a coffee’, but really it is much more than just that. Swedish people love their fika, it gives them the opportunity to meet and hang out with friends, get to know new people, check out potential partners or even network with business folks. Fika has been described to me as a social institution or even phenomena. And the cakes are amazing too, especially the kanelbullar – which even has it’s own national day!
4. Work-life balance
Sweden’s flexible approach to working hours is one reason it was ranked best in the world for work-life balance in a recent survey. Once out of the office Swedes place a huge focus on a relaxed and comfortable lifestyle. Stressing less, spending quality time with friends and family, and developing personal skills are important values here.
5. The Right of Public Access – Allemansrätten
‘Allemansrätten’ is the freedom to roam and is the general public’s right to access certain public area. ‘Allemansrätten’ or ‘everyman’s right’, gives a person the right to access, walk, cycle, ride, ski, and camp on any land—with the exception of private gardens. And in Sweden you can walk and walk and walk and walk and never even see another person.
6. Seasonal Change
There is no other place that I have lived which has such a diverse seasonal change as Sweden. Throughout the year the weather alters so much, from endlessly warm summer evenings to bitterly cold snowy winter mornings. In summer the sun rises at 3 and sets at 10.30, with twilight and dusk blending into one. Autumn brings such rich colours, reds, oranges, yellows, and browns, it is as if everything has been kissed by the heavy northern sun. Then comes winter. The days suddenly become shorter, but because of the snow, everywhere is still bright and fresh. There is no more magical place than snowy Sweden at Christmas. And finally comes spring, when trees are heavy with pink and white blossom and the smell of lilac and honeysuckle fills the air and everyone seems out on their bicycles.
7. Paying Tax
This is something which many people will not understand why I am highlighting as a positive reason for being in Sweden. But, after living in countries that are riddled with corruption it is a blessing to live in a society where tax avoidance is an anathema. Although taxes in Sweden are considered higher than other places, you see the rewards in everything you do. But and perhaps more importantly, you see the benefits for all; from healthcare to education benefits, transport to public spaces. The Swedish social infrastructure, like everything else here, works.
8. Mys Sweden’s Hygge
Over the last few years Danish ‘hygge‘ has become a lifestyle trend. Hygge is a Danish and Norwegian word for a mood of coziness and a feeling of wellness and contentment. In Sweden they call it ‘mys’. Mys is translates to ‘coziness’ in English. In northern Sweden in January there are places which experience 24 hour darkness. Instead of wishing it over, the idea is to celebrate the winter. Mys is the act of relaxing with family and friends and eating delicious food. Nothing sums up mys or hygge more than spending a cold winter evening indoors sitting snuggled up with your tofflor (Swedish slippers) on, reading a book, sipping a hot drink and nibbling on a bar of Marabou chocolate while scented candles are flickering on your IKEA coffee table.
Lagom is the Swedish expression for ‘in moderation’, ‘just right’ or ‘not too much and not too little’. In 2019 people are living their lives either to excess or embracing minimalism. The Swedish concept of ‘Lagom,’ is the space between minimalism and excess. Many Swedes believe the myth that the word lagom comes from the old times when most Swedes were farmers or Vikings, and drinking from the same horn or bowl. When they handed it around in circles, they tried to make sure that everyone gets their fair share, laget om, around the whole team.
10. The perfect place to raise a family
Sweden regularly tops the polls when it comes to the best country to live in if you’re raising children. Some of the many parent-friendly perks include long parental leave policies, free schooling (including university) affordable childcare, child-friendly public spaces, amazing playgrounds everywhere and a system where the Government will pay 80 per cent of your wage when you are taking time off work to look after a sick child.
And I haven’t even mentioned Agnetha Fältskog, Björn Ulvaeus, Benny Andersson and Anni-Frid Lyngstad and Sweden’s obsession with the Eurovision song contest.