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'My advice to anyone moving to Sweden is to be patient'

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'My advice to anyone moving to Sweden is to be patient'
Charles Kruse in Stockholm celebrating his 30th birthday. Photo: Private
06:59 CEST+02:00
For Charles Kruse, moving to Sweden was about more than just work or a change of location. It was about meeting his father for the first time in over 20 years.

"My dad's Swedish and we didn't have any contact for our entire lives, then one summer one of my best friends who has a Swedish girlfriend mentioned 'you have a Swedish dad, don't you?'. One thing led to another and I started to look for him, and found him that same night," the Canadian told The Local.

Kruse was born in London, but moved to Vancouver when he was a toddler, and between the age of two and 23 the closest he got to seeing his biological father was through some photographs his mother kept. That all changed when curiosity sparked by a friend's comment led him to finding his dad online in 2010, then tracking down a phone number.

"When I got his number it took me about 20 minutes to dial. Making that first call was really hard," he recalled.

"It was surreal. Knowing it was his number…I naturally had fears, and it was a very emotional moment."

The call went well, and the two started speaking regularly. Then the next step came: a trip to Sweden that would prove to be more than just a vacation.

"Naturally he asked how I would feel about coming to Sweden for a visit. I was open to that, we both wanted to bury the hatchet and move forward. He bought me some plane tickets to come and see him at the end of the summer for what was supposed to be for two weeks, but after he showed me around I decided to stay here with him."

Kruse was living in Spain at the time and already had work lined up there, but changing plan and opting to make up for lost time in Sweden felt right. It helped that the Nordic nation felt familiar:

"Sweden was always in the back of my mind, I knew I was half Swedish, and it turned out to be a beautiful place. It reminded me a lot of Canada, so I didn't feel so homesick. There's similar nature, the water. I loved it."

"Coming from Vancouver the cold winters are easy to adjust to, we both love hockey. And Vancouver's also a very multicultural city – I've found Stockholm to be very international," he continued.


Kruse after running the Madrid marathon. Photo: Private

Settling in was helped further by the job he found. Working as a teacher at the International English School (Internationella Engelska Skolan) in Täby has naturally meant being surrounded by many people with similar experiences of relocating and all of the challenges that can bring.

"At the school it's amazing because so many people are in the same boat. The Swedish teachers are super supportive too and make it as easy as possible for you to adjust. And the kids are amazing – there's so much English used in the media that they're really bright when it comes to the language. It's very different to teaching in Spain, where the level was lower – here their English is already quite good."

He only has good things to say about his Swedish students:

"Swedish kids are extremely well mannered. Their parents are all really involved in their learning and are supportive of teachers. It feels like everyone is on the same team over here."

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Stockholm has been home for years now, and he has now decided to tackle the city's marathon this summer – but not in the most straightforward of ways. In an effort to stir up some attention and raise money for charity School Club Zambia, he and colleague Alastair Wither will run the race together while carrying a cumbersome inflatable canoe.

"People don't really understand the inflatable canoe! I originally wanted to do it in a fireman's suit, but naturally the organizers wouldn't allow me to," he laughed.

"I tried to think outside the box and one of my colleagues suggested it as a joke, so I looked into it. We did our first six or seven kilometre run with it the other day. The hardest part isn't really the weight, it's that it jumps on your shoulders when you run. It's very unnatural feeling. We still have to do quite a bit of training but we hope the adrenaline will kick in when necessary."


Training with the canoe. Photo: Private

Unsurprisingly, two people doing preparatory laps with an inflatable canoe on Stockholm's streets has provoked a few odd looks from pedestrians. "Running in novelty outfits is maybe not as big here as it would be in the UK, Canada or the US," he reflected.

It's worth it to raise money for the charity though, the 31-year-old said.

"Knowing it's an independent organization, knowing the money would be used well was important. It feels like it's going to something good."

"I found out about the charity through a colleague that works at the school, whose cousin works with them. It connects helps schools who have zero or low income to try to make them sustainable and generate revenue. That could be as simple as hiring a gardener so the kids can grow some vegetables then not only eat them but also sell them. Or raising chickens who the kids have to take care of then can sell the eggs. It helps the schools to survive and also gives the kids a sense of meaning and something they can adopt beyond their education," he added.

Kruse's own sense of meaning has changed in the years that he has been in Sweden. With a child and a partner here he now has firm roots in the country, and being granted Swedish citizenship has also contributed to a sense of coming full circle in reconnecting with his dad.

"I have no reason to leave Sweden now. I can't say I'll be here forever but I'm happy. Sometimes people complain about the weather being hard, and socially that it's hard to make friends, but if you can look past those points it's really an amazing place to live."

"It's easy to take for granted the things that work here. But you have so much freedom, so much time to be with your kids. You don't need a car and can rely on public transport. There's lots of little things that once you're in your routine you stop thinking about and turn to focusing on the sun or your old friends back home. But going back home puts those things into perspective," he continued.

That doesn't mean moving here is easy, but more often than not it's about riding out the difficult early period, he thinks:

"It can be a bit tough getting going, getting your personal number, and also when it's really cold. So the first couple of months are the hardest to adjust to, it can take some time to get your number and that has all kinds of consequences. My advice is to be patient, get through those months, and once you're in the system everything is great."

Find your next English-language role in Sweden here

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