I arrived to Sweden seven years ago and most of those years I lived in Umeå. This is the biggest city in the north of Sweden. But, before Christmas last year, my partner got a job for a company in Halmstad and we moved south. This time, we were not looking for to live in the city but in the countryside. Now, we are living in Harplinge, which is a small village in the countryside. Halmstad is the nearest city to Harplinge and Gothenburg can be reached in one and a half hour ride. All these places belong to the Halland region, located in the west coast of Sweden.
But you might wonder why the idea to live in the countryside and not in the city?
Even though we liked very much living in Umeå, this time we were looking for a different experience. We considered two main factors for taking that decision.
Sense of community
My partner grew up in a small neighborhood in Lund and I grew up in a small town in Mexico. Growing up in small communities gave us the opportunity to know better our neighbours and to make bonds with others that will last our entire life. So, we are looking for our kids to experience something similar to what we did growing up in a small community. The village where we are living now is mostly inhabited by families and some of these families have been living here forever. The kids go to the schools in the town and most of the teachers that work on those schools live here as well. All these, give me the feeling that most of the people living here know each other and that is something that we are looking for to get to know our neighbors and other families. Plus, we live in a peaceful and relaxing environment surrounded by crops and nature.
Size of the housing
We have two small kids of four and one and a half year old. So, we were looking for housing that had enough space for the four of us. Then the idea of renting a house seemed more appealing than renting a flat. Moreover, renting a place in the city or countryside were similar in cost, but the difference was the size of the housing. In the city for the same price you might get a smaller place than in the countryside. However, you have to consider that the bigger the space the more heat it will need to keep itself warm, and thus a higher bill you can get. We did a balance between advantages and disadvantages of renting a house instead of a flat. Once we were clear that we wanted to live in a village and a house, we focused on the location of the village and the house.
Location of the village
We were looking for a village that would fulfill our criteria for selection and we came across to a list of things that we considered for choosing the village that fulfill our needs as a family and individuals:
- Proximity to a city. This was important for us, either for job opportunities, studies or attending to any other activity that make us feel great. In my case as immigrant, it is important that I continue improving my swedish. So, my chances to attend a school seem higher if the village is near to the city.
- How easy is to reach the city either with public transportation or bicycle? I confess, I do not have a driver’s license, I am currently working on it, but it might take time. So, for me was really important to be able to reach the city using other ways of transportation.
The bright side
- I realized that most of the towns in the south of Sweden are very well connected to each other either by public transportation or bicycle roads.
- The distance from Harplinge to Halmstad is a bit more than 10 km and the city can be reached riding a bicycle. During the summer, my kids and I used to ride to the city without a problem.
- There is public transportation available that fulfills any requirement. For example, my kids and I can get in the bus with our double stroller and I do not have to fold it because there is space for it. It took me time to understand how the public transportation works, but once I did it was easy to move around.
- Plus, the public transportation in every region has its own application that you can download in your cell phone and from there you can buy tickets, check the schedule or map.
The down side
- Riding the bicycle is a good way of doing exercise, however sometimes here it is really windy which makes it hard to cycle. However, I have seen many people using electrical bicycles instead of the regular ones and this seems to help quite a lot when it is windy. But, this might represent an extra expense if you do not have one.
- The other thing to consider is the reduced bus schedule. For example every hour departs a bus from Harplinge to Halmstad and from 12 to 14 you have to call 60 minutes in advance to order the service.
- Services in the village. Here we looked for: how many daycares are in the village? and what other schools are available? is there a clinic in the village? in case of an emergency or for routine check ups, small kids have usually a lot of check ups. In Harplinge, there are all these services and the village has a small library, food store, gym, bakery, among other business.
Location of the house
Why I mention this? Some of the places for renting in the countryside are not located in a village but nearby and that makes a difference. For example, when we moved we rented a house nearby Harplinge. The house was located between two small towns Harplingle and Gullbrandstorp. Since I do not have a driver’s licence, my only options for going out or for reaching that house were either walking or cycling. The nearest bus stop was at around 30 minutes walk, but I did not take it there, because it was on the road and for safety I always walked with my double stroller 40 minutes to reach either Harplinge or Gullbrandstorp. I did not mind to do some exercise, in fact I enjoyed very much those long walks. Plus, we were living in the middle of nature and that was incredible, my kids enjoyed that time as well, we lived next to Fjelldalens slott (Fjelldalens Castle). During the summer I did not have any problem to move around, but during the winter it was sometimes a challenge for leaving or picking up my kids from the daycare in Harplinge. So, now I am thankful that we moved to the town.
Activities in the village
You might think that life in the countryside might be boring, but not necessarily. For example, the community is quite active and there is always something going on. The village has an account in facebook, “harplinge i våra hjärtan” (Harplinge in our heart) is called and there activities are announced. For example, I have seen advertisements for the christmas market, christmas events, a workshop to improve your health and to live a healthy lifestyle, charity initiatives organized by local people, among other activities. Besides, advertisements of activities for adults and children are placed at the entrance of the food store and at the clinic. Also, I have seen advertisements of groups for training in order to be more active or parents who wish to meet other parents and do activities together. The church is also very active and the people who work there arrages different activities such as dinners between parents that wish to meet other parents. They also run the open daycare, where parents with a child under one year can interact with other parents and their kids.
Harplinge is surrounded by crops and nature and that makes it attractive, besides the village is near to beautiful beaches such as Tylösand and Harvedal. There are also camping sites near Harplinge as well as Harvedal’s natural reserve, a golf club and horse riding clubs. Other attractions inside the town are the church’s garden and the Windmill which is a laboratory for sound art (Harp Art Lab). The library’s schedule flexibility has surprised me. I registered recently at the library and I got a card that I can use to get in, even when the library is closed. I can borrow or return books between 7am to 10pm all year around.
I have to confess that even though my partner and I did our research about the area, I did not know what to expect about living in the countryside, but one thing I was sure I came with an open mind. I have to say that this experience has been incredible and moving to the countryside has been the best decision that we have made.
Here are some suggestions for you who want to live a different experience.
If you are thinking in living in the countryside:
- Try to get as much information as possible of the area. How far is from the nearest city? How you can reach the town? What transportation is available? what services does the village has? where the housing is located? is inside the town or nearby the village?
- Try to visit the place.
- Check for a facebook page of the village and if you have questions regarding something in the village you can ask there as well.
- Remember that the more you know about the place where you are going to live the less stress you will feel. This might take time, so do not rush things and as my partner and I believe “it has to feel right”.
If you have been living in the countryside please write me your experience in the comment section, I would like to read about it. Do you have any other suggestions that might be helpful to others who are thinking on living in the countryside? Please feel free to share!