Eline Alcocer and her husband both grew up in different countries to the ones their parents were from. As adults they couldn’t quite let go of that sense of wanderlust. The couple moved a few times before they met. Still, within a few years of meeting they had given up sensible corporate jobs and moved to Italy so her husband could pursue an academic career. Eline set up a freelance business as a textile designer, writer and a translator, for flexibility – it wouldn’t be their last move! Sure enough, 4.5 years on, an international wedding and one little boy (now almost 4), they decamped to Lund in the very south of Sweden. The family been living in Lund since August 2015 and in the Spring they’ll be joined by another little boy or girl.
What do you love about living in Sweden?
I think I love the sense of freedom we have here the most. There is just so much space – a complete contrast to the smoggy, concrete confines of Milan, where we lived previously. We get outdoors whenever we can, and I love how my son comes home from preschool so deliciously muddy every day. To think he was afraid of getting his hands dirty when we left Italy!
Apart from friends and family, what is it that you miss most about your home country and why?
As we’ve been away from England for almost six years now, this is getting quite hard to define! I think it’s an intangible sense of “knowing” – knowing where to buy this or that, what the equivalent of Calpol is when the little one gets ill, what is or is not appropriate to say in certain situations. Not knowing these things can really affect your confidence and particularly in the beginning it made me feel homesick. And then there’s a good mature cheddar cheese as well, of course.
What has been the most challenging thing about moving and settling in Sweden?
Having moved here from Italy – a country where perfect strangers will tell you their life story within 5 minutes of meeting you – we really had to recalibrate our “chattiness” levels. I was surprised to find parents you see on the school run every day barely greet you – everyone seems very wrapped up in their own little world. That made me feel quite lonely at first. With time this has got better though, and we realized people are actually incredibly friendly and hospitable once you get to know them.
Have there been any aspects of your move to Stockholm/Sweden that have been surprisingly easy?
As we were packing up to come here, everyone mentioned the long, dark winters. I don’t think I could ever love the Swedish winters (Lund doesn’t get enough snow for that), but seeing the ways people find to cope has been surprisingly fun. I love the little white lights everywhere, the pepparkakor, the markets… And when it does all get too dark and depressing, at least you know that Swedish summer is absolutely amazing and more than makes up for the winters.
What is your favourite thing to do as a family in Sweden?
In the summer we really got into picnics. At weekends we would just throw a load of sandwiches and fruit into a cool bag and set off for the coast or one of the small lakes you get in the north of Skåne. Just going for a wander somewhere and then eat wherever takes your fancy adds to that sense of freedom I described earlier, I think.
Where is your favourite place to go as a family in Sweden?
I feel like there is still so much to explore, having been here for only 15 months. That said, we’ve really enjoyed visiting the coast. There’s an amazing pier with a spa and restaurant at the end in Bjärred (where the pictures were taken), and in Ystad we found a very good Italian ice cream parlour. We discovered that many of the seaside cafes do all-you-can-eat waffle bakes on weekends in winter too. Can you tell we’re mostly motivated by food??
What place in Sweden are you really looking forward to explore with your family?
Where to begin?! I’d love to go to Gotland in the summer, and experience real winter in the very north (as opposed to the washed-out version we get in the south). Just one day, I’d like to experience having to dig through snow to get out the front door. My son gets out the spades and digger toys as soon as he sees a couple of flakes, so I think that’s added to the enthusiasm.
What do you wish Sweden had more of?
Fresh fruit and vegetables at affordable prices… I know it’s a silly thing to wish for as the climate really doesn’t support anything other than a short local growing season. However, I love to cook and I do miss going to the markets in Italy and loading up my bag with the most amazing produce.
If there was one thing you and your family could bring from your home country what would it be?
This is a very first-world complaint, but both my husband and I miss the UK’s highly developed internet commerce. It’s better here in Sweden than it was in Italy (way better), but knowing you can get absolutely anything you can think of delivered to your home when you don’t have a car is so useful. I get so cross when I have to go to town to get small parcels they’ve refused to deliver. We were spoiled, I know…
If you had the option right now would you go back to your home country or continue to live in Stockholm/Sweden and raise your family here?
Funnily enough, we recently did have to make that decision, and we committed to staying here. I think it’s an amazing place to raise a family. The healthcare system, great childcare provisions, the general quality of life… We feel very lucky to be here and so at the moment we’re working hard on establishing more permanent roots.
If you had one piece of advice for a family moving to Stockholm/Sweden what would it be?
Give it a year. Life changes dramatically from winter to summer and you really have to live through the full cycle to understand how Swedes function. Also, get decent coats and footwear. 80% of our Italian wardrobes haven’t even been unpacked, unsurprisingly.