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Readers reveal: What it's like raising an international family in Sweden

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Readers reveal: What it's like raising an international family in Sweden
File photo of a mother and child taking an evening swim: Gorm Kallestad / NTB scanpix / TT
06:00 CEST+02:00
From playgrounds to healthcare, these are the best things about raising a family in Sweden, plus some areas for improvement, from those who know a thing or two about it.

After a report from Unicef ranked Sweden as one of the world's best places to raise children, we asked our readers for their experiences.

The response was overwhelmingly positive, but parents still highlighted areas where authorities could make it a more welcoming country for international families. Here's a look at what five parents in Sweden had to say.

For Cristina, 39, Sweden is the "best place without a doubt" to be raising her two children. Originally from Ecuador, she has lived in Västerås since moving there for her husband's job in 2013, even though the couple had no previous connections to the country.

Sweden's family-friendly reputation, which they heard of from colleagues, was a big part of the draw.

"When we moved in six years ago and went to different places to do errands, such as the Tax Agency, the Migration Agency, even the car dealership, it was stunning to find inside these offices a small place with toys and books for children," she remembered. 

In terms of how Sweden could be more welcoming to international families, she said that without Swedish family, it was hard to understand some of the social norms.

"As well as SFI, it would be nice to have an course that explain how the Swedish society works. For example, recycling and how and where to sort the garbage, and the school system," she suggested.

Dad-of-two Tyler has moved to Gothenburg with his Swedish wife in 2015 after having their first child in India. The family spent some time there and in New York before deciding to move to Sweden.

"Our goal before we had our first child was to give them the best environment to raise them in. We were lucky to have options and after our son was born we decided to move back to my home country of USA," he said. "Quickly though, cost realities set in with daycare, health insurance, longer work hours, very little vacation and no sick leave.

"We took the next leap and moved to Sweden. At this point my wife hadn’t lived in Sweden for 12 years so it was a big jump for all of us. But we could feel so many stresses slowly drift away. As parents we can be more present for our children without the stress from before. Our boys are lucky to get the feelings of both a city and a rural life," Tyler said.

File photo: Helena Wahlman/imagebank.sweden.se

Thanaletchumy, 27, was also happy with the state support system she found after moving to Varberg from Malaysia with her three-year-old.

"It's very good having help from the system like parental leave, daycare and more to raise a kid," she told The Local.

And one Swede who moved back to their native country after living long-term in South Korea also highlighted the ready availability of facilities public toilets with nappy-changing units, as well as  playgrounds and high chairs in restaurants.

"Swedes are generally understanding towards parents and kids and I have never experienced anyone getting annoyed and complaining when out with the kids. On our two-week visit to Korea when our daughter was one, people complained about our daughter crying, some restaurants had no chairs for kids, and 'no kid zones' were a thing."

Natalie, 24 moved to Sweden in 2016, from USA, and is now living in Uppsala county with her two children under three. She was already in the process of moving to Sweden for her partner when she found out to her surprise that she was pregnant, and said the choice to stay in the Nordic nation to raise her family was a "no-brainer", particularly from a financial perspective.

Natalie and her Swedish-American family. Photo: Private"

In the US, we felt that we’d have a constant struggle trying to make ends meet. Giving our children access to free healthcare and affordable daycare is something we are so thankful for," she told The Local.

"Right now I am mammaledig [on maternity leave] and the paid leave helps us enormously to be financially stable, as well as the monthly barnbidrag [childcare contribution] for raising kids," explained Natalie. "But, surprisingly enough, we do even better financially when I am back to full-time studies with the help of CSN [the Swedish Board of Student Finance]. I can’t even imagine how it will be for us financially when I actually have a full-time job here."

She says she feels "spoiled" to be raising her young family in Sweden, but admits that there was still an adjustment period. "International parents need to adapt to Sweden as best as possible to have the easiest time creating a life here. It wasn’t until I began to understand and speak the language that I started to feel like a part of the country," she advised. 

She also noted that moving to Sweden for love typically takes a long time, and said the Migration Agency could improve by speeding up this process and allowing families to be together sooner.

The Unicef study took into account national policies on paid parental leave for mothers and fathers, accessibility of childcare services offered up until school age (six years old), and breast-feeding rates. While the parental leave policy and childcare were highly praised by the readers who spoke to The Local, factors such as the access to nature and many playgrounds appeared to be equally important to family life.

Thank you to everyone who responded to our survey. Although we weren't able to include everyone's comments, everyone who responded helped contribute to the article. 

READ ALSO: 11 of the best playgrounds in Stockholm

 

 
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