When Lindqvist was first asked to tell Sweden's Migration Agency how long she was planning to live in Sweden, she wrote the words: “I hope forever”. A laughing official swiftly asked her to amend her comment to a more paperwork-friendly “permanently”.
“This is something I can't explain, there is no rational explanation, just an emotion,” says Lindqvist of her decision to move to Sweden, after falling in love with the Nordic nation during a number of vacations.
The France-born 32-year-old landed in Stockholm in 2011 without a job, friends or family. But since then she's more than fulfilled her goal of setting up home here, having worked, studied, met and married a Swede and most recently started running baby massage classes.
Glowing with passion for her new business project, Lindqvist says her core goal is to help parents bond with their newborns while seeking to build global awareness for her profession.
“When I tell people I am a baby massage instructor, for many it is the first time they have heard about it, although they are always positive and enthusiastic,” she says.
“It's soothing and very gentle care for a baby. It is just so healthy and it helps parents to connect with their children and to relieve among other things stress, crying and pain associated with colic,” she explains.
The programme includes Swedish and Indian massage techniques, yoga and reflexology. Lindqvist holds both private and group lessons for new parents to teach them how to massage their infants and is currently forging connections with health and wellness professionals and starting a collaboration with an international playgroup in the Swedish capital.
“In other cultures baby massage techniques have been used for generations – for example in India and Africa mothers teach their daughters and it is so natural. It would be beautiful if more parents could experience that here. The dads too!” she smiles.
“Touch is the first sense to develop – even when the baby is in their mother's belly – and it is the last one to die in our lives. Baby massage is a wonderful way to nurture your baby into our world.”
Lindqvist hopes to encourage both Swedish and international parents to try out baby massage. Photo: Simon Paulin/Image Bank Sweden
Originally from Bordeaux in south-western France, Lindqvist tells The Local she has long been fascinated by the wellness industry, despite enjoying a fast-paced career in marketing in her twenties which took her around the world.
After relocating to Sweden, she took a job as a teaching assistant and says her life was “truly enriched” by spending her days working with children. When contacts she made through her network at the school introduced her to the concept of baby massage, she was instantly hooked.
“It all came as a surprise to me,” she explains.
“I heard about this international diploma where you can become a baby massage instructor and I just thought 'wow this is for me, this is what i have been waiting for for years'. It connected two worlds that bring me so much happiness,” she beams.
Lindqvist says she was spurred on both by her supportive husband and help from the Swedish employment service (Arbetsförmedlingen) and ALMI, which offers business advice in English for startups.
“Ever since I had this idea, I really felt backed here in Sweden. I was able to go on courses in English – for free. And Arbetsförmedlingen is a fantastic resource for job research and support when you are establishing a professional project.”
Anabelle Lindqvist retrained as a baby massage therapist after working in marketing and teaching. Photo: Private
The French business woman says she's now sure she's settled in the Nordics for good, although there will always be a part of her heart that belongs to her home country.
“As French people we are maybe more extravagant, we like to enjoy life and to show this too (…) it's maybe not so much like that in Sweden!” she laughs.
Her top tip for other international Swedophiles planning a move: “Friendships and love can take a bit more time here, so really it's your job to open up a bit more and go to see people (…) But it's all really, really worth it.”