Last weekend, a delegation from the central county came away from an emigration fair in the Netherlands with a registry of 200 Dutch families interested in moving to Dalarna.
With nearly 17 million people cramped into an area the size of Dalarna, which has only 250,000 residents, the Netherlands has become a more challenging place to live in the eyes of many citizens.
While Dalarna wasn’t the only Swedish country opening its doors to the thousands of Dutch interested in moving, its exhibit had a feature that no other potential destination could offer: Patricia van Trigt.
Van Trigt moved from the Netherlands to Dalarna nearly six years ago and is now serving as an enthusiastic spokesperson and friendly face in Dalarna for other Dutch looking to relocate.
“Beautiful pictures of trees and water aren’t unique—you can find nice places all over the world. But having a Dutch guide who could help orient new arrivals on how everything works in Sweden, from schools to healthcare, is something new and quite useful,” she said.
In addition to serving as a point of contact for interested Dutch families, van Trigt has also created a network of 50 volunteer “mentors” in Dalarna who have agreed to help those coming from the Netherlands. Her picture is featured on a special website set up by the county where people can register their interest in moving or in helping out.
Dalarna decided to participate in the Dutch emigration expo after counterparts from other Swedish counties told van Trigt that every year people wanted to know where to go to speak to someone from Dalarna.
She’s not surprised her former countrymen are fixated on Dalarna as an ideal place to move.
“Dalarna is simply the most beautiful place in all of Sweden,” she said.
“There are four distinct seasons with snow in the winter and pleasant summers, it’s not too far to the Netherlands, and it’s also easy to get to Stockholm. Everything you need you can find in Dalarna,” she added.
According to van Trigt, there are already “a few hundred” Dutch living in Dalarna, although she and the county are hoping to attract more.
“About one quarter of Dalarna’s workers are 57 years or older, which means that a 25 percent of our workforce is going to be retiring in the next few years,” said von Trigt, who has also worked for the local offices of the state run employment agency.
Already there are more than thirty career fields with a shortage of workers, from bus drivers to engineers.
“We need every kind of worker possible,” she added.
Van Trigt estimates that the county, with support from the EU and other regional agencies, plans to devote about 5 million kronor ($820,000) on the effort over two years.
There is also talk of replicating the approach in the UK, Belgium, and Germany.
But for now, Dalarna is concentrating on the Dutch.
“The Dutch have been moving around the world for hundreds of years. We’re curious about other countries and there are a lot of people who are just fed up with life in the Netherlands and want to go somewhere else,” she said.
And if all goes well for van Trigt, many of them will end up in Dalarna.