5 Reasons to Au Pair in Sweden
Ronesca Cloete had the opportunity to spend one year in Sweden as an au pair. Sweden is a kingdom in North Western Europe and forms part of the Scandinavian Peninsula. The official language is Swedish but most Swedes speak English. Here she shares 5 reasons why it is a good idea to au pair in Sweden…
Throughout your year as an au pair in Sweden you will be immersed in the Swedish culture from the word go; you will be sharing a home with the family after all!
Sweden has a lot to offer with regards to holidays and festivals. Walpurgis Eve, also known as Valborg is celebrated at the end of winter to welcome spring and warmer days. On the evening of Valborg, the Swedes say goodbye to minus degrees, frosty surfaces, dull and grey winter days and welcome the spring with open arms. Celebrating Walpurgis Eve entails the burning of dry left-over wood from the winter. Burning away the winter so to speak. It is a community affair and just before sunset the whole village gather around and a huge bonfire is lit. This bonfire is accompanied by music, singing and an evening of fun.
In the days leading up to Easter dried twigs and colorful dyed feathers are used to create a joyous atmosphere. This is an attempt to brighten up the environment and to chase away the dullness of the cold weather that is still lingering. Everywhere you will see trees adorned with these bright blue, yellow and pink feathers. Easter in Sweden is unmistakably a family occasion.
Midsummer, the longest day of the year, is celebrated during the height of the Swedish summer. People would gather at different places all over the country to enjoy the festivities and to relax in the summer sun (if the weather permits it!). This occasion calls for traditional Swedish music, picnics, and dancing around a maypole decorated with leaves and flowers. Children and those still young at heart participate in the dancing. Many girls and young women adorn their hair with flower wreaths. It is a time for feasting and every family would organize a picnic basket with all sorts of delicious goodies to enjoy on the day.
All of the events are planned around the family. Children and grownups alike participate in the festivities and needless to say the au pair is also invited to join. Celebrating with the family makes the au pair feel at home and gives her a taste of Sweden’s history and culture.
Sweden has many attractive destinations including, Helsingborg, Malmö, Ystad, Lundt, Halmstad, Gothenburg, Angelholm and Kristianstad to name a few. Who can forget about Stockholm the capital of Sweden?
These towns and cities are easily accessible by car, bus and train. Each town has something different to offer in terms of historic buildings, monuments, beautiful old manor houses, cathedrals, museums, art galleries, coffee shops, restaurants, shopping districts, castles such as those owned by the Swedish royal family, and many more. A city such as Helsingborg in the Skåne district has much to offer the traveller.
There you can find a stunning library with an in-house café, the Dunkers Kulturhuset with a museum and art galleries, Sofiero castle and gardens, playgrounds for the children, a shopping street where you can find the famous Swedish brand H&M, interesting coffee shops such as the Scandinavian coffee chain, Espresso House as well as restaurants, for example Roy’s which serves excellent seafood in a stunning setting. The promenade promises marvelous sunsets and a lounging spot for anyone who needs a break from the rushed city life.
The rest of Scandinavia is only a stone’s throw away from Sweden and you can choose whether your mode of transportation will be by train, ferry, bus or airplane. The best time to travel is with the arrival of spring in all its color. It is rather easy to cross the Öresund strait between Sweden and Denmark. A ferry ride takes only 20 minutes from Helsingborg Central to Helsingør on the Danish side. The ferry departs every half an hour from Helsingborg. Or you could travel by train to Copenhagen, the capital of Denmark.
There is also a chance that you might get the opportunity to travel with the family when they go on vacation.
3. The Countryside
Breathtaking is the only word that can accurately describe the Swedish countryside during springtime.
When spring arrives in Sweden the weather finally allows a bit more sunshine, a bit more warmth during the daytime while the evenings are still rather chilly. The ghostly forests suddenly transform into various shades of green and wild flowers are popping up everywhere in the countryside.
With every breath you take you breathe in fresh country air that feeds your soul. Fields of wheat and canola flowers covering the earth revitalize tired city-eyes accustomed to buildings and asphalt. When the canola fields are full in bloom the yellow flowers are beautifully contrasted with bright blue skies on sunny days. Nature envelops you with its colors and contrasts.
Almost everywhere in the countryside you will find a farmhouse with cattle grazing behind fences, a rider on horseback going for a ride in the quite afternoon or children playing in the backyard. Life is in no hurry and you can end the day watching the sun dips beneath the horizon leaving only a sky full of color.
It is always a good idea to sample the local food when you are abroad. The locals will appreciate your effort since it will show them that you are willing to learn about their culture and way of life. Sweden has an extensive coastline and it is therefore no wonder that fish and seafood form a big part of their diet. Salmon, served with boiled potatoes, is a regular dish on the dinner table.
Moose or elk is another Swedish delicacy. The Swedish enjoy meatballs either pan fried or baked and served with a sauce. Pickled herring and eel are also something worth sampling when in Sweden. Pea soup, given extra flavor with bacon bits and thyme, drives away the cold wintery days and is the perfect dish to serve after hours of frolicking outside in the snow.
Visiting Christmas markets during the festive season serves as a fun activity to experience Sweden when the sun goes down, which could be as early as 4pm in the South of Sweden during the winter. Linger about with a cup of coffee, hot chocolate or glögg (a hot, spiced red wine punch) and watch the Christmas lights come on to give the night a magical feel.
Or stop at one of the many Christmas stalls run by locals to sample amongst other things cheese, waffles, churros, brändmandlar which is sugar roasted almonds, and a bunch of other sweet treats. The Swedes love their pancakes, waffles and cinnamon buns (kanelbullar) so much they have special days dedicated to these treats. Semla is a traditional sweet roll filled with almond paste and vanilla custard eaten before and during Easter.
Fika has become a Swedish institution. It is part of the Swedish culture and lifestyle but what exactly is ‘fika’? It is a unique word which means a coffee break but it is much more than just an ordinary coffee break. Fika is a good reason to have a cup of coffee and a pastry such as cinnamon buns with friends, family or colleagues. It could take place almost anywhere; in a cozy coffee shop, at work, at home or in the garden when the weather permits it.
Friends and families come together to enjoy a cup of coffee or to nibble on delicate and delicious pastries. What could be better than a slice of homemade blueberry pie? Often those same blueberries were handpicked in the forests during summer. The fika tradition is observed almost every day because there really is no reason to wait for a special occasion to celebrate life.
Therefore, it is the perfect opportunity to socialize with friends, family or colleagues and to catch up with what is happening in their live. It is also not limited to the grownups the children often enjoy their treats with a glass of homemade raspberry juice.
By Ronesca Cloete
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