Mia Svensson on moving from Sweden to Catalunya’s coastal jewel
We had the chance to fulfil our dream and we took it. We had been dreaming about moving abroad to experience a new culture and learn a new language since we met at university in 1992. We were so ready for a change! We wanted more quality of life and we wanted to give our boys the opportunity to learn Spanish fluently. We believe that languages open up a lot of opportunities in life. And Spanish is the second most spoken language in the world.
We fell in love with Sitges the first time we came here. The charming village, the beaches, the Garraf mountains. And so close to the metropolitan city of Barcelona. And only a 2.5 hour drive from Andorra, where we love to ski. We bought the first house that we looked at. Crazy! We really enjoy life so much more here and we have come together much closer as a family. And the climate is amazing!
Since we didn’t know anyone when we moved here, it was quite tough in the beginning. In Sweden everything is internet-based, here almost everything is manually filled in at an office. And for one task you sometimes need to go to 2-3 different offices. It was very time consuming and frustrating in the beginning.
The boys started at an international school, where we came to know a lot of expats and also some Spanish friends. Since many were in the same situation, it was very easy to find friends. After just a 5 minute chat you could be invited to a barbecue. We moved our 10-year-old to another international school, which we really liked. But it was located in another town and he only spoke Spanish 3 hours per week. Our teenager then started in a local escuela concertada school. After one year he spoke almost fluent Spanish and Catalan and he did really well with an average of 9.0 at the end of the first year. In 2014 they both started at a local institut, a public school. We rate this public school highest of all the ones we have tried. The level of education, the teachers are enthusiastic and really good in motivating the children, the ambience, the food, the playground. We are really happy with this school. Now that the boys go to a local Spanish school, and we feel very adapted to the local community.
If you are only here short-term, it’s easier to put your children in an international school. And also kids are different, some kids are more adaptable than others. The advantage of kids attending a local school is that they really learn the language and the culture. They also integrate into the community and make friends that they can walk/bike to school with. In many of the international schools kids come and go, and they are not “fully” there. They always have one leg left in their home country.
The 10-year-old adapted very fast. But our 13-year-old had a really tough start. He was not happy at all during the first few months. But he didn’t even give it a chance. At first he refused to make friends at school because all he wanted was to go home directly after school to play online games with his friends in Sweden. After three months we decided to challenge him. We said that we would move back to Sweden if that was what he wanted. We gave him one week to think through the decision. We also pointed out that if he chose to go back, he would have to live with the fact that he never gave Spain a chance. Not even a half-hearted one. One week passed and we were very nervous. Luckily he said that he wanted to give it a try. Two months passed, he stopped with online gaming, made friends and met a gorgeous girlfriend. He completely changed and said that he had no interest whatsoever in moving back to Sweden. It’s all about mindset!
We didn’t even know that Catalan was such a big language here and that it was mandatory in the local schools. It was a bit of a surprise! It is not essential to speak Spanish or Catalan before, but very important to learn, especially Spanish, when you live here. If you want to integrate into society and if you want to have a business or work here.
We feel very well integrated. Our sons go to a local school, we run two local businesses, we are engaged in the local basketball team and have a lot of friends.
My husband and I share the workload a lot. It’s easier now. My kids are older and very self sufficient. They go home by themselves from school, cook their own lunch and start with their homework. They do about 2 hours homework every day. When we come home, around 6pm, we go through the homework, drive the boys to their sport activities (basketball 3 times per week), I cook and then after dinner we all end up on the sofa to watch an episode of our favourite series on TV.
I don’t think we will ever return to Sweden full time. We have a summer house there and I can see us living there during the summers in the future.
I could not live without a beach walk. Garraf. The port.
My life in Sitges is fun, life-fulfilling, enjoyable. and also challenging!
Mia’s business is Original People (www.originalpeople.es), sticker decals for your computer, mailbox, car and other gadgets.