“What is Littlebearabroad?”, “what does it do?”, “who is it for?” The best way I can explain it is by telling a story. Once and for all.
When was the last time you felt totally cut off from society? I don’t mean in the literal sense, out of contact with people. I mean in the sense that you felt like you were standing outside the front door of a party, staring through the window at everyone having fun, but couldn’t go inside? Sitting on the fringes of this really stonking good time but not able to read the instructions to make the door bell work and desperately trying to decode a cryptic message about party etiquette before you are asked to leave. Panic, frustration, confusion, “what’s wrong with ME?”, disappointment and finally resentment.
That’s exactly what it feels like to arrive in a new country, up for anything but find that you don’t really fit in anywhere, nobody is willing to take the chance on you and you’ve still not figured out why there are so many different types of milk to choose from. YOU JUST WANT SEMI-SKIMMED! You could say it’s naivety or even a privilege to feel like that. But, the experience is still deeply traumatic.
In 2015, I arrived in Sweden almost 8 months pregnant. In the space of 6 weeks I had bought a flat, moved my life abroad and had a baby. I was a love immigrant being brought to Sweden by my partner who had persuaded me that Sweden was the place to raise a family. Självklart!
BUT, the rapid changes and cultural upheaval left me reeling. I felt utter vulnerability and a loss of belonging. Anchorless and totally dependent on my partner, I was reduced to a needy spouse after 20 years of self sufficiency and independence. My whole self crumbled. I needed to find a space, a place or community where I could seek temporary refuge while I figured this new life out on my own.
I searched and google translated my way through the web to find anything that remotely seemed like a club or peer group that fitted the bill. In 2015 it was slim pickings. In the end I came up with an expat group that met infrequently and held drop in coffee mornings as a way to encourage new member sign ups. Once I finally mustered the courage to venture out into this foreign way of life the drop-in coffee morning was one of my first stops.
The coffee morning was pleasant enough, a bit odd and awkward but my attitude was ” well, if this is it, what do I have to loose?” At the end potential new members could sign up and I eagerly waddled (heavily pregnant at this point) to enquire about the sign up fee (money was tight, after all we were a single income family).
Me: Hi, I’d like to sign up to become a member please, how much does it cost per month.
Expat club rep: oh, what company does your HUSBAND work for?
Me: uh, what? Why is that important? This is for me, not for him.
Expat club rep: oh, well we only allow sign ups from spouses whose husbands work for specific corporate organisations. Are you really an expat?
And, the door hit my very pregnant butt on the way out.
I remember walking down Dalagatan, in Vasastan, shocked and in a daze about what had just happened. Surely my situation was NOT unusual. Surely I wasn’t the only person who had moved here, pregnant, under the same circumstances desperate to find something that offered a sense of belonging and comfort.
And, at that point the impetus to create Littlebearabroad existed. The vision to build a community for ANYONE with a young family, or expecting, who was an international parent living in a foreign city that needed support, comfort and a space to belong to whilst they rebuilt their lives and themselves. More specifically, a place to connect and feel included instead of on the outside looking in. A non-political, non-religious, but inclusive space.
At Littlebearabroad Community Studios there are no funky door bell instructions, it’s easy to get in, everyone is welcome. You don’t have to panic decode any social etiquette or have a spouse that works for a particular company. Nobody is too expat or too immigrant, or too native. In fact, let’s just be human, right? You can find human connection, a sense of in-it-together and in-person support as well as a tonne of brilliant activities, events and courses by members of our international community. We offer peer-to-peer support groups and one on one coaching. You can even join our Mother’s Meetings (sorry Dads) for a fun night out.
And, through Littlebearabroad’s website you can find information, local knowledge and sign posting to services such as social welfare, education and immigration.
Regardless of how you came to Sweden, who brought you, why you stayed, or left and came back, everyone is entitled to human connection, a sense of belonging and for someone to ask ‘how are you, can I help you?’ once in a while.