Enticed by fresh opportunities and a sense of adventure, Laura Albregts moved from Amsterdam in 2014 with her husband and two young boys for a new life near Gothenburg.
And nearly three years after making the life-changing decision, Laura has no regrets about making her home on Sweden's west coast.
“The work-life balance is really hard to beat. Things are flexible in a way that allows you to spend time with family and pursue your career,” she tells The Local.
Hearing Laura tell the story of her family's move, it almost feels like relocating to Gothenburg was written in the stars long before the day she and her husband actually decided to make the move.
Laura Albregts near her Gothenburg-area home. Photo: Oskar Allerby Photographer
Both of them worked for companies with roots in Sweden – he for Swedish security company Gunnebo; she for AzkoNobel, the Dutch chemicals giant that still bears the name of the 19th century Swedish industrialist behind the Nobel Prize.
As a result, Gothenburg was more than a faraway dot on the map.
“We knew the city from a sightseeing perspective – we'd been out in the archipelago and taken day trips in the region,” Laura explains.
Learn more at MoveToGothenburg.com
But after the birth of their second child, the family yearned for more space than was available in crowded Amsterdam. And when a job opportunity in Gothenburg emerged for her husband, it didn't take long before Laura and her family set their sights on Sweden.
“We asked ourselves, ‘What are we going to do next?' And eventually decided, why not. The kids are small. This is the time for an adventure,” she recalls.
Finding home, sweet home
Despite a scouting trip and placing ads in a range of local newspapers, finding a place to live wasn't as simple as Laura expected.
“That was probably the biggest hurdle, to be honest. For one, we didn't know about Blocket,” she explains, referring to the popular Swedish buy-sell site which also features rentals and real estate listings.
Ultimately, Laura and her husband decided to buy a home rather than bother with the hassle of renting. “It feels like we've made a bigger commitment to the area, like we're more rooted. I think it will be a good choice in the long-run. We feel like we can make our home our own,” she says of the family home, located in Stenungsund, located about 50 kilometres north of central Gothenburg.
At first Laura planned to continue working at a distance for AzkoNobel, but eventually decided to leave her job and go ‘all to build a full life based in west Sweden.
“This was our adventure and I wanted to both spend time helping our children adjust and learning the language,” she says.
With their home and one career sorted, Laura's next task in the autumn of 2014 was finding a preschool for her children, aged two and three at the time.
“It took some time to figure out who to talk to, but after we got in touch with the municipality, things moved pretty fast,” she recalls.
Laura Albregts enjoys more time with family since her move to Gothenburg. Photo: Oskar Allerby Photographer
She thinks the process would probably go even faster today, thanks to MovetoGothenburg.com, a new online portal and associated LinkedIn page that provides foreign talents with a wealth of practical information and networking opportunities related to relocating and settling in Gothenburg and West Sweden.
“The site looks great and has all of the practical information gathered in one place. It would have been really helpful for us,” says Laura.
Of course, no website can alleviate certain challenges that come with moving abroad – like the “shock” for Dutch-speaking kids entering a Swedish-speaking school.
“It was tricky at first, but six months later they were speaking Swedish better than me,” Laura says with a laugh.
A new career
Indeed, life was moving in the right direction for Laura and her family – but the question of her own career remained unanswered. While comfortable with her decision to focus on her kids and learning Swedish, the thought of facing a second winter without the structure and stimulation of a job spurred Laura to action.
“I'd been looking passively, sending out the occasional CV in English, but after a year I decided it was time to get organized,” she recalls.
However, the task was “harder than expected” as Laura learned some of the subtle differences in marketing yourself “the Swedish way”.
“It wasn't so much about selling your skills, but demonstrating that you could fit in and be a part of the culture,” she explains. “And learning Swedish was also really important – that helped open a lot of doors.”
Connect with Global Talent Gothenburg/West Sweden on LinkedIn
Laura turned to the friends and connections she's made in the area, many of whom invited her into their networks and workplaces. As luck would have it, she stumbled across an online advert for an opening at Volvo Cars that was a great match.
Not wanting to let the opportunity slip away, Laura turned to the network she'd built up over the previous year – which included a few people who worked in HR and could coach her through the application process.
“In the end, I actually had interviews with four different companies, but Volvo felt like the best fit,” she says of the job, which she started in January 2016.
The ultimate work-life balance
Overall, Laura couldn't be happier with the new life she and her family have created for themselves in west Sweden. And while there were a bumps along the way, that's all part of the “adventure”.
“If you are a family with small children – take the plunge! The transition provided me with a chance to spend more time with my kids and learn the language,” she says.
And Laura still marvels at the range of things to do in and around Gothenburg.
Gothenburg offers big-city options with a small town feel, according to Laura Albregts. Photo: Per Pixel Petersson/imagebank.sweden.se
“Gothenburg has a small town feel but offers big-city options. The diversity is amazing – you have beaches on the coast that in the summer can remind you of Greece, and then lakes and mountains inland,” she says.
“There's nature, trendy restaurants, artsy districts, open-air markets, boating, skiing. It's like everything is possible, and I have more time with my kids than ever before. It's really the ultimate work-life balance.”
And Laura reckons that foreign professionals considering a move to Gothenburg will find the experience even easier than she did. The city's population of talented foreigners is growing – and the city and business community are taking notice.
According to Statistics Sweden, the number of university-educated foreigners living in the region has increased by more than 60 percent since 2008. The trend has prompted a number of initiatives, including the Global Talent project and major investments in housing and infrastructure to make Gothenburg and West Sweden more accessible and attractive to talented foreigners.
“There are so many networks and activities to help you meet more people – language cafes, parent groups, expat groups. They're great resources,” she says.
And the new MovetoGothenburg.com portal is another great resource that people can access even before they arrive.
“The new site is really good. I wish it had been there when I moved. It's got everything that I had to find out the hard way.”
This article was produced by The Local and sponsored by Global Talent Gothenburg-West Sweden.