We’re back from our holiday and while it’s nice to be home (despite the mountain of washing and sorry state of our cloakroom – see here), as always I feel like I’ve left a part of me behind. There is a saying in Sweden which roughly translates to ‘Away is good but home is best’, meaning that it’s good to go on holiday but the nicest part is often returning to your home and familiar routine. But what if the place you go away to is also your home or at least used to be?
I was ten years old when my dad was transferred from Stockholm to London and apart from a couple of years in the US and Ireland I have lived in the UK ever since. We were only meant to stay here for 2-3 years but once they were settled my parents didn’t want to leave and despite my father now being retired they still have no plans to move back.
When I was a teenager I had no desire whatsoever to return to Sweden as I thought (rightly or wrongly) that London’s fashion and music scenes where infinitely cooler than anything my home country had to offer. Now that I am older and have children of my own I find myself appreciating my childhood more and more – the fresh air and open spaces, being able to go ice skating and cross country skiing in the winter and swimming in the lakes in the summer.
In an ideal world I would like us to live in Sweden for a year or two so that the children learn to read and write in Swedish and, perhaps most importantly, really embrace the country and culture as part of their own identity. At the moment they definitely think of themselves as more English than Swedish which is hardly surprising as they were born here and have never lived anywhere else. And while they all understand Swedish it is a struggle to get the boys to speak it unless they’re with their cousins who haven’t learned English yet. One of the hardest things is that my sister and I have lived in different countries for the past 18 years as she moved back to attend university and ended up staying. We keep in touch via Skype and email but often talk about how nice it would be if we lived closer, especially now that we both have children.
For now, however, such a big move is not possible as my husband’s work necessitates him being near London. While that may change at some point in the future, I imagine that as the kids get older it will be more difficult to uproot them from their friends, not to mention disrupting their schooling at a crucial stage. I don’t want to relocate permanently though as I love our life here – our friends, our house and our lovely village with its great sense of community.
And it’s not that I want to impose my own nationality on my children but I would like them to feel that they could choose to study or work in Sweden when they get older (there are some benefits over the UK: further education is free and property prices are generally lower). At the same time I like the idea of putting down roots and creating a family home to encompass all their childhood memories from toddlers to teenagers. We have been in our current house for just over six years now and it’s the longest time I’ve lived in one property since I left Sweden.
There are no easy answers but for now I’ve resolved to carry on speaking Swedish to the children, even if they insist on answering back in English, and upholding traditions such as St Lucia and Midsummer. It would be great to visit more often but for a family of five plane tickets are not exactly cheap so at the moment two or three trips a year is probably all we can manage.
Maybe one day we can get our own holiday home somewhere on the coast of Sweden. Something like this would be amazing (a girl can dream can’t she?):