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Where can you sleep on a bed of ice (and do you really want too??!) or meet some wolves? Sweden has some amazing winter activities that include:
Thursday 9th November at 18:30.
The English Bookshop, Södermannagatan 22, Stockholm.
Merlin – the man, the myth, the legend. Launch of Rhuddem Gwelin’s latest book ”The Wrathful Traveller – the Merlin Chronicles Volume 2”. Reflections by the author on the role of the legendary Merlin in the historical battle between magic and the ever-more powerful church. Presentation of the new novel, in which Merlin is cast into the madness of the Crusades. Reading, signing, drinks and refreshments. In English. Free.
We met German journalist Axel Halbhuber earlier in the year who was staying at Abisko Guesthouse in Swedish Lapland (250km inside the arctic circle) with his two really small children. He is the author of Reisen ist ein Kinderspiel - travelling (with children) is mere child's play. They had driven all the way up from Germany and were spending six weeks travelling around Sweden, Norway and Denmark before heading home again.
We thought - well, if he can do it, we could manage a four-night trip :D Armed with advice from him and two small researchers of our own (age 2 and 7), we tried, tested, climbed, investigated, opened everything and here are the tips we came up with:
- Book an apartment
We stayed in the 2-bedroom Fjällstugan at Abisko Guesthouse and it was perfect for the four of us (and would have been good with two more children). The flat is also tough enough for us parents to be able to relax - no amount of prodding and investigating caused any concern (though keep little kids out of the kitchen as it isn't toddler-proof).
There is space to eat in the living room and a proper table in the fully-equipped kitchen. The great big hallway is a perfect playroom and the shower and loo were just fine for us.
The Fjällstuga has two triple-bed rooms, meaning a double bed in each with single bunk over the top. Both rooms had plenty of space for a travel cot which we booked in advance from the Guesthouse. It came with baby bed covers and we took with us the littliest one's pillow and duvet.
As we talking about travelling with children, the TV works well and even had YouTube on it, should you 'need' endless episodes of Peppa Pig (or in Swedish, Greta Gris...).
The rest of the accommodation was also suitable for children, except for the top-floor 3-bed flat which you want children old enough not to need a stair gate. However, if you have children that won't throw themselves down the staircase, that top floor flat is fab, with three 2-bed rooms and the most spectacular views across the lake.
- Give the kids a camera. Each.
By having their own cameras (albeit cheap kiddy ones!), they looked at the landscape in a great way - in detail. We did end up with a huge number of photos of stones but there are some great shots among them!
- Exploring outdoors
* Walk to the lake: Lake Torenträsk is 700m gently downhill from the Guesthouse and is a wonderful place to explore. In the summer, take a fishing net with you or if you have old-enough children, take fishing rods with you. The lake has trout and arctic char as well as plenty of things to catch. Arctic char is yummy so if you catch one, take it back and cook it for dinner. You can fish all year round but will need help drilling holes in the ice in the winter so then take a guide with you! Guests at the Guesthouse can borrow sensible clothing for free.
In the winter (8 months of it...), you can walk on the frozen lake, despite how deep it is (very). The view is indescribably spectacular. Frozen lake opens all around you and is surrounded by low mountains, making it look like something out of Lord of the Rings (think Rivendell in winter). The mountains sparkle. The lake sparkles. There is certain to be someone walking a dog across it at some point, though they may be a long way away, as you can see the whole length.
If the lake isn't frozen, then look for fish, for bugs (not big ones, just ones small kids like to investigate) and there may even be a digger around, as repairs and building work to the small pontoons and houses there taken place in the few months with no snow. When we pottered down, a new pontoon was being built by a small digger.
* Chairlift up Mount Nuolja.
We took our 2-year-old up on the lift after asking around but would only recommend it if you are sure that they will sit absolutely still for the 20 min journey up and the same down. We used a BabaSling tightly around ours and it worked well but wasn't the most relaxing journey. However...the view is absolutely beautiful, very definitely worth it and is even better on the way down. Our 7-year-old thought it was amazing and took many, many video clips on the journey up and down and from the top. Check that it is open, it closes in the spring and autumn.
If you can and want to hike or ski down from the top, do. The hiking paths are well marked. If you don't, you can take the lift, just buy a return ticket.
There is a cafe at the top chairlift station that served a small selection of yummy food. We had tomato soup and waffles (not together!). Then we went out onto the viewing platform and filmed and photographed the amazing scenery.
* A bit of a walk:
There are all manner of hikes through Abisko National Park and with kids that are old enough, we would head to Trollsjön, a 'magical' lake that is entirely frozen most of the year so has no life in it at all. It is beautiful.
But...our kids aren't nearly up to that (yet...?) so Stornabben is a much better bet. A 1,5km trek up to the mound gets you great views of the lake and the landscape all around you and, best of all, it is only a 20 minute walk. It is magical to look across the lake and also see Lapporten - the gap between the mountains that is called the 'Gate to Lapland'. Visitors have reported it as one of the most amazing places to see the northern lights, if you fancy staying up late enough to see them (not in the summer!).
* Short hike:
If you have kids that might be interested in a busy beach full of bird-life, then head to the beach and delta where the river Abeskoeatnu meets the lake, 3-4km from the Guesthouse. Blue throats hang out there, sometimes singing a wide variety of songs, so listen out for them. Do check the time of year though - entrance to the area is restricted May-July to allow the birds some peace.
- Entertainment indoors (for when the weather isn't perfect)
* Naturum nature centre at the tourist station in Abisko
About 2.5km from the Guesthouse is a group of buildings that includes the Swedish Tourist Association hostel and the local nature centre, called Naturum. On one side of the nature centre, you can find out all about the history and wildlife of the area. On the other is a shop and a place to sit and rummage through the books they have. More importantly are there things to colour in and with, dough to make things out of, a microscope to thoroughly investigate (including trying to take it apart...) and lots to look at, touch and press. The bird-song buttons were, of course, great entertainment. Sometimes, there are organised activities for children at a very simple level but ours loved investigating the hides of local wild animals that the guide assured them had all been killed by natural causes or by getting in the way of a train.
Every day, they show a couple of films in English and one in German, about the national parks and about reindeer herding. The one we saw seemed to have been filmed an extremely long time ago but it included showing the arrival of huskie puppies and our 7-year-old was fascinated The room where the films are shown has a model of the area which was a) very useful to see and b) had a million buttons that kept our 2-year-old busy right through the 15 minute film. The films are free to see and you can ask them if they'll put them on at other times too.
If you are in need of refreshments, the centre itself doesn't have any but the really big hotel next door (STF Mountain Station) certainly does. A rather fancy restaurant is there but the shop, equipped with everything from very expensive hiking gear to tins of food, has tea and coffee and snacks. You can sit in the lobby with them, together with a fair few others in varying degrees of hiking attire.
- Where to eat
* The Guesthouse is self-catering so the most important place to start is the supermarket. Sited inside an enormous sweet shop, do not take the kids in with you unless you can keep them from putting their hands in the huge barrels of sweets or you have managed to bribe them to behave with something else. I'd even recommend giving them something to eat right before you go in! Apart from that, it is a perfectly well stocked little supermarket (the sweets have more space than everything else) and we managed to find all that we needed but don't expect much choice or that they'll have baby things. However, you can get frozen reindeer meat and we highly recommend trying it. The kitchen we had (and the others we investigated) were fully equipped and we didn't need to ask for anything.
* As we mentioned, the hotel at Björkliden (about 10km from Abisko), Hotell Fjället, has a restaurant that serves a really great lunch buffet. There seemed to be just one thing on the menu but the days we tried it out, there was a vegan option too (meaning allergies were easy to deal with) and then small hotdogs and meatballs for the children - who eat for free...! Seriously, that is unheard of in Sweden! The Restaurang Lapporten has windows that look out right across the lake, back towards Abisko. The 'app on an ipad' you use to get tap water or squash from the machine was a big hit with our little travellers.
* The restaurant at STF Mountain Station looked very smart and we didn't try it but will another time. It also lists a playroom which we didn't find and forgot to ask about!
* If you head up on the chairlift, the cafe at the top is very nice and, although not a huge selection, had very nice food. Think warming soup and sticky buns.
- Do you need a car?
We wondered how we would manage without a car. You can book tours and transfers with the Guesthouse, they have a mass of minibuses. We arrived on one occasion by bus but there is only one bus a day from Kiruna airport and you'd be stuck if you missed it. On reflection, we think it would be tough there with little kids and no car, especially if it isn't warm and sunny all the time. We hired a car from Kiruna airport and that worked well.
- Have you been to Lapland with small children? -
Let us know if you've been up north into the arctic circle with children or if you'd like to go. We'll be going again so let us know if you want to know about anything!
Nursery school places are sometimes hard to come by in the Danderyd area but, after a few families have moved on to other countries, the wonderful English-speaking Lilla Montessori has space for this autumn. It is a tiny nursery school and wonderful in many ways (we know from personal experience!). Here is the info:
Lilla Montessori Djursholm International Preschool
We are a small private nursery and preschool for
one to five year olds that caters for families
who appreciate the benefits of a small group.
We offer a homely and peaceful setting,
experienced staff and a Montessori influenced
English speaking environment.
Our premises are on Danavägen 3 only a few
minutes from Djursholm Center.
For more information please call
0708-52 55 55. International 0046-708 52 55 55.
1. When it snows – it pours
Winter weather is discussed often in Sweden. The fact is, snow is pretty well dealt here. There are systems in place for getting it off the road to temporary storage points and then moving it from the temporary storage points to permanent storage points. When this system works, which it does almost all the time, all is well.
However, when a larger-than-expected amount of snow decides to show up, things do break down. Please bear in mind that this is not the same as the few flakes of snow that fall in the UK and everything grinds to a halt. We are talking extra, unexpected meters of snow here!
Plows and tractors will be in much demand and roads are cleared in priority order, which means that residential side-streets can get clogged up with snow. You should be prepared for situations like these though they should be few and far between.
2. It's not the temperature that decides how cold it is – it's the moisture in the air
This is something you will learn intuitively, we certainly have. At -16 degrees Celsius, you will often feel warmer than at -1 degrees Celsius. Strange but true, in our option! Lower temperatures drive the moisture out of the air and keep the snow frozen. Warmer temperatures thaw the snow, releasing moisture into the air and this is when you might start to feel chilly. When it is around freezing, you’## find gloves and scarves help.
3. Make sure that the name on your ID matches the name on post your receive
Anything bigger than your post box flap will sent directly to your local pick up point, which is often in the local supermarket, with convenient and long opening hours. In most cases, you will have to provide ID in order for the clerk to give the mail to you. Here there can be a problem. Let's say you have a nickname that's not on your ID. If the mail happens to be addressed to your nickname, the clerk may not give you the mail. It unfortunately depends on how picky the clerk is but many of us have had problems with it, so it's something you should keep in mind.
4. The Swede is informal – even in a formal setting
You will notice this quickly, especially if you compare it to the American style of customer service. You can expect all manner of emotive responses from store clerks and administrative personnel if you complain about something, although they will almost always speak quietly. The customer is not always right here.
5. There is a right answer, just like there is a right way to do everything
Swedish culture dictates that there is a right way to do most things and therefore most people will do things that way. If you push Swedes to answer awkward questions, you may see them try to find that 'right' answer too.
If you'd like help with your move to Sweden or even to Danderyd, join our membership group. We help our members get settled in. Fast.
It is easy to confuse the very formal, organised Swedish state with the very informal nature of society. Being new here almost guarantees you’ll get them confused at some point! Here are eight things you can do that should help you avoid the most common mistakes:
2. Never forget to remove your shoes before entering someone’s home
Shoes are strictly worn outside and in certain public settings. For instance, if you happen to find yourself in court – do NOT remove your shoes. However, if you're in a library or hospital, you will notice that certain areas are no shoe zones. Look out for helpful signs and strange blue plastic things in baskets on the floor – they are for covering your shoes with if you don’t want to take them off.
3. Avoid chivalry
If you happen to be male, maybe even a southern gentleman and decide to hold the door for some unsuspecting woman, she might consider it to be an insult. Sweden has come a long way when it comes to gender equality and the current generation of young to middle aged women do not want to be treated differently at all. However, holding doors and offering to help someone who is carrying something (especially a buggy) is fine.
4. Expect to use on-line banking
Physical banks are becoming a thing of the past in Sweden and cash is disappearing. Do not expect to receive much service even if your bank happen to have such a location and do not expect them to handle cash, except if it is coming out of an ATM. Getting used to on-line banking will help you.
5. Don’t judge Swedes by your first impression
One of our resident Swedes says: “Swedes are like coconuts – hard shells with fluid insides. Sort of.” You may well notice that when talking to a Swede that you don’t know that the person usually reacts to your communication with a perplexed look. That's just the Swedish default mode. Keep on talking and you'll see them relax and get into the swing of chattering.
6. Don’t think that people expect you to understand tradition
Things such as surströmming, nubbe and crayfish are sometimes presented as being part of mythical traditions that must be dealt with in accordance with strict regulations. Not even swedes know how to deal with crayfish and most of them hate nubbe. Go with the flow, it's not an exam.
7. Avoid riding your bicycle on the side walk
Doing this is actually illegal, unless the pavement has a sign marking its dual nature. It will also awaken the rage of the Swede, causing some seriously angry looks to be hurled your way.
8. ...and don’t walk on the bicycle path
This is just dangerous. Let's say you're walking in the bicycle path and a bike rider turns a corner and hits you. You will be to blame. Even to the point of being responsible for paying his or her medical bills. It's called negligence and the Swedes don't mess around. Plus it will hurt.
If you now have even more questions about life in Sweden, get in touch with us :)
Recent developments have caused much attention in regards to the Swedish model and the possibility of living and working in Sweden. If you're a citizen of EU, you're in luck. You can essentially travel to Sweden and start looking for a job. However, those of you who are on the outside of the EU have to keep a few things in mind:
1. Make sure that your employer is the real deal
This might not seem like a big deal. As long as someone says you've a job waiting, you're in the clear... right? Well, the situation is unfortunately a bit more complicated. Before jumping to the next step of actually obtaining a work permit, you should make sure that your employer is registered as such. If this is not the case, your supposed employer doesn't even have ability to pay you a formal salary. This could jeopardise your ability to receive a permit and also cause you to put a lot of energy into something that will turn out fruitless.
Luckily, this is easy to check. Just visit one of these websites:
Look up your potential employer and, with a little help from Google Translate, make sure that the company is active and formally registered as an employer.
Also, make sure to save all correspondence you have had with your potential employer and a copy of the job advertisement. Wait, job advertisement? Yes. In order for your employment to be considered valid when applying for a permit, your employer must have had the position advertised so as to have been available in EU/EEA countries and Switzerland.
2. Apply for a work permit
When it's time to apply, you should gather all relevant information such as your correspondence with your employer, a copy of the job advertisement and your passport. Bring everything to the immigration office, Migrationsverket.
If possible, apply on-line.
This will guarantee that your application is dealt with as soon as possible. The wait can be excruciating and there's unfortunately no way to speed it up. You just have accept the due course and try to enjoy yourself while waiting!
3. Register yourself at Skatteverket
Once you have a valid work permit, you will also receive a residence permit card. This enables you to obtain a personal identity number. This number is your key to being a part of the formal society. It enables you to open a bank account, pay taxes and deal with all administrative issues.
You should, as soon as possible, register yourself at the tax office (which also handles anything to do with the population of Sweden, including personal numbers) - Skatteverket. Do not delay this is step – it is probably the single most important one! Pretty much everything in Sweden revolves around a personal identity number, and not having one will act as a barrier between you and an easy life!
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Interesting bits and pieces about life in Sweden, including all-important song words.