1 September 2016

Katie Metcalfe - Expat in Sweden

Katie Metcalfe - Expat in Sweden

We’ve had the chance to talk to Katie Metcalfe, 29, an English expat who has moved to Sweden with her boyfriend. Ms Metcalfe, who has been living there for five months, now works as a freelance writer, blogger, and poet.

Read more about her experiences in the full interview below.


Q: Where are you from originally?

A: Originally I'm from Ripon in North Yorkshire, though I was based in Billingham, a small town in Teesside before my move to Sweden.


Q: What made you move out of England?

A: It has been 'the dream' for as long as I can remember, to move from England to Scandinavia. The Nordic lifestyle is something I was introduced to - and became infatuated with - as a young child.

I went to a Steiner School, and it was during my years there that I encountered many aspects of Nordic culture, from the books of Astrid Lindgren to the ever useful  Ostehøvel or, as it's better to know, the cheese slicer. From the celebration of midsummer to dense, dark rye bread which I hated at first then grew to adore.

It became apparent that the Nordic lifestyle was miles away from the hectic English way of life, and I always knew that I wouldn't stay in the UK. In my mind's eye, I envisaged myself raising a family among pine trees and lakes, in a country where family comes first, nature is an integral part of everyday life, and the dark winters are celebrated.

I was in the process of making a move to Norway when I met and fell in love with my Swedish boyfriend in early 2016. Within a matter of days, my plans had changed, and my sights became firmly set on relocating to Sweden.


Q: Where are you living now? How did you come to choose this new country of residence?

A:  I'm living in Sweden, and it was love that brought me here.


Q: How long have you been living in Sweden?

A: I've been living in Sweden since March 2016, though I visited many times before settling.


Q: Are you living alone or with your family? If yes, how are they adjusting to the Expat Lifestyle?

A: I'm living with my boyfriend. His two and a half-year-old daughter joins us for half of the week. She is slowly adjusting to me being around. It nearly brings tears to my eyes when she says 'Godnatt Katie' or when she repeats English words to me after hearing me say them.  


Q: Do you miss home and family sometimes? How do you cope with homesickness?

A: I don't miss England at all. I feel like I've finally found 'home' here in Sweden, and I've never been happier. I sometimes miss my mother's hugs, but I talk to her and the rest of my family regularly through Facebook chat, and we plan to Skype with each other on a regular basis.  


Q: What do you think about the locals?

A: I'm based in Borås, and the locals are mostly lovely. Polite, kind and ready to greet you with hej hej and a smile.


Q: Was it easy making friends and meeting people? Do you mainly socialise with other expats in Sweden? How did you manage to find a social circle there?  

A: My circle of friends at the moment is twined with my boyfriend's social circle. I've come to know a few of his closest friend, and have managed to create tight bonds with them. I feel incredibly lucky because I'm well aware that making friends can be a struggle for many expats.


Q: How does the cost of living in Sweden compared to your home?

A: To be honest, the daily cost of living isn't that much higher than in England. Though I have to admit I do miss the English bargain shops like Pound Land and Bargain Madness. They used to save me a lot of money.

  • How much is a cup of coffee?

A: I don't drink coffee, to my boyfriend's continual horror! Though the price of a cup of tea is around what you would pay back in England - 22 Krona or just under £2.

  • How much is a meal in an inexpensive restaurant?

A: Well, if we're taking somewhere like McDonalds, you can get fed and watered for about 65 Krona. 

  • How much is a meal in an expensive restaurant?

A: We haven't dined out in an expensive place yet...saving that for a special occasion!

  • How much is a bottle of wine? How about a pack of cigarettes?

A: A bottle of wine sets you back about 80 Krona, or just under £7, and a packet of cigarettes starts at around 50 Krona so just under £5.


Q: Do you have any tips for future expats when it comes to opening a bank account in Sweden?

A: I haven't opened a bank account here in Sweden yet...though from what I've heard it can be a difficult, lengthy process! I'm preparing myself for when the time comes.  


Q: How will you describe your experience with government paperwork such as applications for Visa and work permits? Why is that so?

A: I'm currently in the process of applying for a personal number, and the experience so far has been stressful, but not as traumatic as I had imagined it would be. It's something of a complicated process, but the staff that I've encountered at Skatteverket in Borås (The Swedish Tax Agency) have been lovely, warm and as helpful as possible.


Q: Would you say that healthcare Sweden reliable? Any preferred clinics or advice for expats?

A: I'm still in the process of getting the correct healthcare papers from the UK government, so I can't be much help here, sadly!


Q: What was the most memorable about the packing and moving process to Sweden? Which was the mover you chose and how was your experience with them?

A: The most memorable part...well, the whole process was memorable for me. It was an extraordinary experience packing up my clothes and books, knowing that within a few hours they would be getting unpacked and put away in a new home, ready to start a whole new life.

I haven't used a moving company; instead, I've been back and forth to England a few times and filled up suitcases. What remains of my book collection will be hauled back to Sweden after my next visit to see my family.


Q: What is the biggest challenge that you have faced as a new expat?

A: The language is definitely the biggest challenge, but I'm slowly learning! I know a little bit of Norwegian...but I would say Swedish is more difficult to pick up.  The good thing is that I do love the language. It gives me goosebumps whenever I hear it, even if it's the cashier in the local store asking if we want to keep the receipt. I could listen to my boyfriend talking in his native tongue for hours.


Q: What do you think are the positive and negative sides of living in Sweden?

A:  Positives: Being so close to wild spaces (58% of Sweden is forested). The encouraging attitude towards healthy living. The inspiring balance of work and family life. The obsession with cinnamon and cardamom. The best baked goods on planet earth. Traditional and Swedish contemporary art, music and literature. The continuation of traditions. Sweden's commitment to preserving important parts of its heritage (Skansen in Stockholm is a beautiful example of heritage preservation). The attractive architecture...I could go on and on.

Negatives: I've yet to encounter any!


Q: What are the best things to do in the area? Any particular recommendations for future expats?

A:  If you happen to be in Borås, I highly advise making a trip to Kypegården. This gorgeous forested area offers countless trails to hike, a number of open air workout stations and a spectacular lake which, in summer, makes for a perfect swimming spot.

Borås Bibliotek is another highly rated choice, even if you just have a few hours to spare. It's clean, quiet and splashed with lots of natural light. The range of books - in both Swedish and English - is phenomenal. I always make a beeline for the children's section, to nourish my hunger for John Bauer, Astrid Lindgren and Elsa Beskow.

Brygghuset is a vibrant hub of creative activity, offering a wide range of creative events. I went along a few weeks ago and performed poetry at an open mic event.

It's also the home of one of the best vegan cafes that I've been too. Take a trip, even if it's just for the excellent tea and sweet treats. Another bonus is that it's close to a bronze statue of Pinocchio by American artist Jim Dine. It’s a landmark which you can't miss if you visit Borås.  


Q: Do you have plans to move to a different country or back home in the future?

A: Not at the moment! We might hop over the border to Norway in out later years, but for now and the immediate future, Boras is home.


Q: What tips will you give to expats living in the country?

A: Immerse yourself in the language in every way possible - watch Swedish TV, read Swedish children's books, tell your Swedish friends to talk to you in Swedish, practise at every given opportunity. Get out and about and go to events. See what's happening in your local community and get involved. Get to know your neighbours. Explore the areas where you live until you know it like the back of your hand. Sweden is a big country with lots of breathtaking scenery - so get out and see it! Make an effort to learn something new about Swedish culture every day. Eat Swedish food and don't just stick with what you know, you'll regret it if you do!


Q: Do you have favourite websites or blogs about Sweden?

A: Two of the sites which I follow almost religiously include:

The Local - An invaluable resource when it comes to job hunting and finding out about the latest news in Sweden.

Sweden - I love this official site of Sweden. It's simple to navigate and is packed with well written, fascinating articles about Swedish society, nature, culture, traditions and business.