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What’s life really like when you swap the city for the country?

There are many reasons more and more people are swapping city for country life. The Local meets an international family who followed their passion for Scandinavia and the great outdoors and moved to the Örebro region in Sweden.

What’s life really like when you swap the city for the country?
Nina and her husband, Ralph, made the move from a German city suburb to a forest in Sweden in 2017. Image: Jesper Anhede

“You have just one life. You need to go for it,” says Örebro-based coffee roastery business owner and nature guide Nina Borgmann-Kaiser, originally from Münster in Germany. 

After owning a holiday cabin in Sweden for eight years, spending a lot of their free time there, Nina, her husband Ralph, two children and dog, eventually gave in to curiosity and moved their lives to the beautiful edge of the forest in Tiveden, Örebro in 2017.

Swapping their “regular” jobs and a home in the suburbs, they bought a local cafe business and Nina pursued her coffee roasting hobby, which she has now turned into a full-time business, Tiveds Kafferosteri.

Today, Nina focuses on her coffee roastery, selling to local cafes and across Sweden via its webshop, and also works as a nature guide. Tived, in Örebro is a stunning nature area, halfway between Gothenburg and Stockholm – just three hours to each. The pace of life is slower, they have beautiful deep forest literally in their backyard, yet they are just 50 minutes from Örebro, which has all the big city essentials they need.

Find out about the region that’s a haven for outdoor lifestyle, halfway between Gothenburg and Stockholm

“We had a good life in Germany,” says Nina. “We had good jobs, it was all very standard and the same each day. We were not bored but it was more the curiosity of doing something totally different that appealed to us.

“We were looking for an adventure and thought it was a good idea for the kids to live in another country, learn another language, get to know another culture.”

Fika in the wilderness, anyone? Nina and Ralph combine their passion for Swedish nature and coffee with their latest venture, Outdoorfika. Photo: Jesper Anhede

As lovers of the outdoors, they were drawn to the Tiveden area because of its outdoor activities, where you can hike, cycle, paddle, go horseback riding. It’s a unique landscape of ancient forest and waterways, and rock formations from the Ice Age, explains Nina. “It’s just amazing here – magical! – and the nature is a little bit like north Sweden. But north Sweden is hard to reach and here we’re in between Stockholm and Gothenburg. It’s 20 kilometres to the motorway. That’s why we thought, when we have a chance to move, why not move to where we love it the most? So that’s what we did!”

During the pandemic, it was not uncommon for people living in cities, working from home and confined to their apartments, to dream of escaping to somewhere bigger. Perhaps a house close to nature but also to convenient services? Remote working options have only made this idea more appealing and it’s no surprise that more and more people are considering living life beyond the bright city lights. 

For Nina and her family, their work-life balance has improved and she says they appreciate the smaller, simpler things, like the magic of the forest on your back doorstep, not being surrounded by shops, the special qualities of each season – and the quiet. 

Naturally, moving to the countryside of a foreign country had its challenges, particularly when setting up your own business. “The first year was hard,” says Nina, adding that they have managed to integrate well, and put in the effort to learn Swedish right away. They joined their local förening and immersed themselves into the community as much as possible, finding their new neighbours warm and welcoming. 

“I think it’s important if you want to really experience living here that you start to integrate yourself. So first it was learning the language. I told everybody from the beginning: Don’t speak English to me.

“But also it’s quite a melting pot here. There are some families that have lived here for generations. And there are a lot of people who choose to live here who come from other countries and other parts of Sweden. Everybody’s a little bit different and everybody accepts each other. It’s pretty nice.”

Of course, it is not only Tived that is a drawcard of the Örebro region

For those looking for more affordable living, a closeness to nature, a better work-life balance, but good connections to the conveniences of the city, the entire region has a lot to offer. 

Could the charming community of Nora be the next place you live? Image: Visit Nora

Nature, interesting history, picturesque towns and incredible food abound in Örebro’s towns, all within an hour of the city. If life in a beautiful wooden town with cobblestone streets and a historic steam railway could be your thing, perhaps well-preserved Nora is for you. It’s just 30 minutes from Örebro, has a vibrant community and Christmas market, and a cool industrial heritage quarter, Kvarteret Bryggeriet, complete with micro-brewery, small shops and eateries. Or Askersund, at the northern end of vast Lake Vättern? It’s a mix of port city and small town ambience, and also has a lovely castle, Stjernsund. 

Or maybe you could see yourself enjoying your days by the shore of Lake Hjälmaren in Katrinelund. It already has a couple of restaurants that have earned it a place on Sweden’s culinary map. Could your foodie dreams see you moving here to add to the region’s culinary delights? 

And let’s not forget Örebro itself. This city is not only pretty, but is a hub of innovation and creativity, with a world-class university and tech research facilities, a thriving startup scene and all the cultural events, restaurants and nightlife you could hope for.

Looking for new work opportunities and a better lifestyle? Click here for everything you need to know about a move to Örebro

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OPINION & ANALYSIS

Living in Sweden has changed me in the strangest ways

On a recent trip back home I found myself rolling my eyes at my parents as they went around the house closing all the curtains the second it got dark. It was at that point I knew: Sweden has changed me.

Living in Sweden has changed me in the strangest ways

My attitude to light has changed

You may have noticed while walking around Swedish towns or cities that few Swedish properties have curtains. This can be quite a sharp contrast if you, like me, come from a culture where curtains are closed the second it gets dark outside, so that passers-by can’t see you through your windows.

During my first few months in Sweden – which also happened to coincide with the Coronavirus pandemic – I realised while I was mindlessly looking out of my window one dark evening at the block of flats across our courtyard that I appreciated being able to see the small squares of light in my neighbour’s windows.

Like twinkly fairy lights, they were reassuring, a small window into the daily lives of strangers which made me feel closer to other humans in a time where we were encouraged to be distant and socialise as little as possible.

I still think about that feeling when I look out of the window and see those yellow squares with tiny figures moving from room to room, even more so during winter, where they’re decorated with Advent candles and Christmas stars.

Becky Waterton spends much of the winter in Sweden under a blanket. Photo: Helena Landstedt/TT

I go into hibernation in winter

Another Swedish habit which I’ve adopted is going into hibernation in winter. Not literally, obviously, but more in a sense of taking part in fewer social activities and spending more time at home (usually under a blanket).

I’m not sure if this is due to arriving here just before the pandemic or the fact that I have a young child (so I don’t spend that many evenings outside of the house anyway!), but this hibernation period usually consists of eating comfort food, putting on warm and cosy clothing and spending a lot of time indoors looking out at the cold, grey skies that dominate Sweden for so much of the year.

There’s an old saying in Sweden, inga dåliga väder, bara dåliga kläder (no bad weather, only bad clothes), but this doesn’t seem to apply in winter, where it appears perfectly acceptable to just stay indoors. 

On the other hand, as soon as the weather is nice (which usually happens some time around March), the pressure rises to go outside and make the most of the weather, even if you’d actually rather prefer to stay at home.

Becky Waterton now thinks nothing of eating a “macka” for breakfast. Photo: Claudio Bresciani / TT

Changing your eating habits

Obviously, there are some things you stop eating when you move to Sweden as you are no longer able to get hold of them. Pre-packed sandwiches for lunch, small bags of crisps and fish and chips on a Friday are a few examples of things I naturally stopped eating when I first moved abroad.

Other things grow on you slowly. Since moving to Sweden, I rarely eat a sandwich with two slices of bread, instead eating a macka, a slice of bread with topping. I would never before have eaten a sandwich for breakfast, but I regularly eat mackor, whereas previously I might have gone for porridge or just plain toast with butter.

There is one Swedish foodstuff I will never accept, though, and that’s bread made using sugar or syrup, a throwback from when there was a flour shortage in Sweden so bakeries were given the green light to mix in extra sugar instead. It may make me look a bit odd checking the ingredients of every loaf in the supermarket, but I will die on this hill, and I have accepted that fact.

You’re probably expecting me to say something about how Swedes only eat sweets on Saturdays, and that I have also adopted this habit.

Although lördagsgodis has also become part of my weekly schedule, I have quite cunningly combined this with my previous sweet-eating habits, meaning that I not only can eat sweets on whichever day of the week I want, I can also gorge on them when Saturday comes around. 

I have, however, entirely embraced the habit of fika. Any excuse to eat one of Sweden’s many excellent pastries with a cup of tea (yes, I’ve not gone full-Swede on the hot drink front, either) is welcome, in my book.

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