My name is David Carpenter. My wife and I moved to Jokkmokk in northern Sweden in 2004. We were looking for a less stressed and easier going community orientated lifestyle away from crowds, traffic and somewhere nearer to nature.
What challenges did we face during the move? Learning a new language was the most important and takes time, but is very rewarding. Swedes generally have very good English, but you need to learn the local language of your new home just to integrate on a basic level. Ordering a cup of coffee or going for a job interview really is much more comfortable using a local language when you live abroad.How did you find somewhere to live?
We were lucky in that we bought my wife’s grandparents house. We have however bought, renovated and sold a few properties ourselves and recently, helped others buy property. The process is very straightforward in Sweden. You can if you know someone well, complete a form in your own living room to buy a house. You simply send the completed forms off to the land registry department after you have paid the owner. We recommend using a bank to process the transaction and in more complicated cases, a solicitor. There are estate agents (realtors) in the general area, but also many houses are advertised on dedicated property websites and general sale websites. Houses are also advertised in local supermarkets and local newspapers. For those that want to rent, the process is also straight forward and in most cases will be an apartment.
Are there many other expats in your area?
There are three other couples from the UK, several Germans and quite a few Dutch families. There are also some Russians, Thai people, a couple from Poland and many other countries from all over the globe. In total, Jokkmokk can boast over 30 nationalities and we all live in relative harmony because we all came here for the same reason, peace and quiet.
What is your relationship like with the locals?
Very good. We have made some of the best friends we have had in our whole lives. One of my wife’s friends moved to our area 2 years after us and that relationship is still very solid, but on top of that we have made many good friends both locally and in towns quite some way away from our home town.
What do you like about life where you are?
There is an incredible amount of available space in the north of Sweden. Huge forests, Europe’s last wilderness (Sarek National Park) only an hour or two away by car, cheap property and a relaxed lifestyle. I love the snow. From December to April it is like Christmas and being able to ski and take a snowmobile out into the forests adds an incredible dimension to life, as you can reach places in wintertime that are near impossible to reach in the summertime.
The Swedes have an ‘all man’s right’ (allamansrätt) which basically gives everyone the freedom to roam where they want within the countryside if they take care and leave things how they find them. There is a community spirit which is missing in many countries and whilst the area has a low population, it is very cosmopolitan. As I mentioned before, people move here for the same reason, a peaceful lifestyle away from the hustle and bustle of modern life.
What do you dislike about your expat life?
Not much in all honesty. I miss some foods from the UK, fish and chips and Branston Pickle and you can’t buy malt vinegar in Sweden.
What advice would you give to anyone following in your footsteps?
Take your time. Plan ahead and make sure you have some money behind you when you move. You will need time to learn basic Swedish for interviews and to deal with the day to day aspects of life and having the freedom not to work for a year or two is ideal. If you want to make friends, put yourself out there. Swedes will respect your privacy and will not come knocking on your door to become friends, they will however react positively if you approach them.
What are your plans for the future?
We have been working for the local authorities and other organisations helping people move to the area. Jokkmokk Municipality has around 200 people moving into its borders every year. It is the size of Northern Ireland, so we have plenty of space, but unfortunately more than that number die or leave for work which results in a decline year on year. We know that many people would consider relocating to Jokkmokk if only they knew they could and how to find the information to do so. We offer free support to people who want to move here and can guide people through the residency applications, starting a new business, finding a job and a somewhere to live.