PLENTY OF AIR AND SPACE
Some places are crowded and full of noise day and night.
Some places are full of life with a powerful silence.
Norrbotten has the space to let you breathe and fill your body with crystal clear air. You don’t have to be into extreme sports, you just have to appreciate the better sides of Mother Nature.
It’s a magical experience.
From the heat and sunshine of Greece to the cold and darkness of Norrbotten.
Totally perfect, think Vivian Iliopou- lou and Harrys Lytrokapis, two young university graduates who moved from Thessaloniki to Luleå.
Vivian Iliopoulou is doing her spe- cialist medical training in neurology, while Harrys Lytrokapis is a mechanical engineer. They have been living and working in Norrbotten’s largest city for about a year and a half.
FROM NORTHERN GREECE TO NORTHERN SWEDEN – WHAT WAS IT LIKE TO MAKE THAT MOVE?
– A fantastic experience. You really need to have done it yourself to under- stand, says Vivian.
– There’s so incredibly much in Norrbotten that you just have to experi- ence just here. Just take the winter: it’s like pictures from a book of fairy tales!
As Norrbotten’s largest city, Luleå has a rich offering of restaurants, bars and shopping. Kulturens hus offers concerts, plays, dance and other perfor- mances.
WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO MOVE HERE IN PARTICULAR?
– It’s almost easier to turn the question round. Why did we leave Greece? Many people probably know that Greece is a country where the economy is doing badly, and that was one of the reasons for our decision. But there were also other, even stronger reasons. We had both reached the end of our university studies and we were eager to travel abroad to experience something new, says Vivian.
“Have you ever barbecued in sunglasses at midnight?
– In other words we wanted to experi- ence something different, get to know another culture, make new friends and also learn a new language. What we knew about Sweden was that it has a well-organised social system, healthcare system, education system, equal oppor- tunities, work conditions and so on.
SO YOU CHOSE NORRBOTTEN...
– Exactly. I was offered a good job with good conditions as a doctor. It was a little more difficult for Harrys as an engineer to fid a job but he managed it in the end. It might be good to know that there are jobs in healthcare but it can take a little time to find work in other fields. There are also several good programmes for people who want to get into the labour market.
This couple from Greece are happy living in Luleå and Norrbotten. The advantages are many but what they in particular emphasise is that life here is simple, ideal for families or anyone who wants to form a family and have children and do so in a foreign country.
– People are happy and kind. It’s easy to meet and get to know new people – that’s our experience anyway. It’s also a magical experience for everyone who loves snow and winter sports, says Vivian.
WHAT PERCEPTIONS DID YOU HAVE ABOUT (NORTHERN) SWEDEN BEFORE YOU CAME HERE?
– Not many, actually, and particular- ly not about northern Sweden. Since we’re people who like new adventures, we decided to move and then discover everything ourselves.
WHEN YOU ASK PEOPLE ABOUT SWEDEN, THE COLD, THE DARK AND THE SNOW ARE THINGS THAT OFTEN COME UP. ISN’T A WINTER THAT LASTS FROM NOVEMBER TO MARCH TOUGH?
Vivian doesn’t think it’s a problem:
– There’s no such thing as bad weath- er, only bad clothes, she says, quoting a common Swedish saying.
– But the dark... that can be difficult at times. Swedes themselves say that the dark is difficult to handle and that they get depressed because of it. We see it a little differently. When you work and focus on other, more interesting things, you don’t notice the dark so much.
In Vivian’s opinion, it is a positive mindset that is most important when you come to a new country. Her tip is to work, make friends and practise ac- tivities. Then you have no time to think about the dark.
– And you mustn’t forget that after winter comes summer with lots of light and endless days. Have you ever barbe- cued in sunglasses at midnight? You can in Norrbotten!
It’s a magical experience.
Names: Vivian Iliopoulou and Harrys Lytrokapis. Born: 1991 and 1989.
Professions: Doctor doing specialist training and mechanical engineer.
The best thing about Norrbotten: The snow.
Here people have time to
live their lives.
Mihai Florera’s interest in northern Sweden began with a book he read as a child. Now he’s moved to Luleå, where he works in psychiatric care. He’s plan- ning to buy a summer home and thinks that he’s found his place on earth.
Mihai thinks Luleå, with its roughly 77,000 inhabitants, is like the city of Târgoviște outside Bucharest where he grew up. Just the right size and simple to live in.
After studying to be a doctor in Bu- charest Mihai Florera had had enough of big city noise, pollution and bureau- cracy. He longed for peace and quiet;
for a simpler life.
– I had started my specialist training in psychiatry in Romania but wanted to continue my professional life in Sweden. I chose Norrbotten and Luleå because I think I can mix my lifestyle and my work very well here. So now I’m continuing my education at Sunder- by Hospital and studying Swedish for healthcare staff at the same time.
His hobbies are photography and na- ture, which are highly appropriate just here. After just a few months in Sweden Mihai has taken lots of photos that he has published on Facebook. This has made some of his friends in Romania curious about Norrbotten.
Mihai already knew about Norrbotten before he moved here.
– When I was a young boy my mother gave me a book about animals and plants in Norrbotten. I don’t know why
“I can mix my lifestyle and my work very well here.
she gave me that particular book. But I liked reading it so you can say that Sweden and I go back a long way.
WAS IT SO THAT YOU LONGED TO COME HERE ALREADY AS A CHILD?
– Probably. I knew about Sweden’s countryside but what I’m discovering now is how society works.
AND?– Many people contact me and ask me if it isn’t difficult to live here. But it’s not. I would say that Norrbotten is like a miniature Sweden. Everything I’ve read about Sweden in books can be found here: a varying landscape, beau- tiful countryside, a good care system, a beautiful archipelago, and the quietness.
The Sami culture is also enriching, I think; it gives Norrbotten a special depth.
WHAT ABOUT THE WINTER AND THE SNOW?
– Better than rain. And I’m looking for- ward to the midnight sun ... but I prob- ably like snow and cold weather more.
Now I’m thinking of buying a summer home so I’ll definitely be staying.
Mihai’s summary of Norrbotten could be a slogan for the whole region:
– Here people have time to live their lives, he says.
Norrbotten County covers almost one quarter of Sweden’s surface.
Name: Mihai Florera.
The best thing about Norrbotten: The simplicity.
A FEELGOOD ENVIRONMENT
Nice surroundings are not enough for attracting people to Norrbotten.
We must also offer a good place to work. Region Norrbotten caters for the people living in Norrbotten County. We’re governed by the residents of the county through general political elections. We have about 7,500 employees, most of whom work in health care, all determined to make Norrbotten the best place on earth.
Norrbotten is a real Eldorado.
A holiday trip to Sweden 25 years ago made them long for more. Now, after more than ten years in Norrbotten, Slawomir and Katarzyna Liszewski have no plans to move back to Poland.
Sometimes all that is needed is a job ad to make you decide. Doctors Slawomir and Katarzyna saw a notice in a Polish newspaper about Norrbot- ten County Council looking for staff.
They applied for the jobs and moved to Piteå.
DID YOU KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT SWEDEN BEFORE YOU CAME HERE?
– Actually, my wife and I had been here on holiday. We travelled around Sweden for two weeks about 25 years ago. So we knew what it looked like here.
– But there are obviously differenc- es between holidaying and living in a country. Although they are not so great if you compare Poland and Sweden.
Purely professionally speaking I only worked in cardiology in Poland while here in Piteå I have a wider area of responsibility.
WHAT’S IT LIKE TO LIVE AND WORK IN NORRBOTTEN?
– First and foremost it’s quieter than in Schleisen, the area in Poland I come from. The region has several large industrial towns and cities and there are a lot of people in a relatively small area. There are fewer people here and nature’s not so far away, says Slawomir.
“One thing is that as a doctor you work a little less here.
Slawomir is right of course. Poland has a population density of 129 inhabitants per square kilometre. Norrbotten? 2.54 inhabitants per square kilometre!
IS THERE ANY DIFFERENCE IN WORK CULTURE BETWEEN POLAND AND SWEDEN?
– I’ve honestly never given it a thought.
One thing is that as a doctor you work a little less here. Because in Poland it’s common to work within the equivalent of the county council and also have a private practice outside working hours.
But that’s not allowed here.
WHAT DO YOU DO IN YOUR FREE TIME?
– I like the countryside, not least because I’m a bird-watcher. Mainly in spring and autumn there are a lot of beautiful birds to watch out for. I also like to fish; I do that both here in Norr- botten and in Norway.
Many mountain waters in Norrbotten are known for their fantastic opportuni- ties for char and grayling fishing. What is not so well known s that Norrbotten also offers opportunities for salmon fishing in mountain rivers. Norrland has the last of the major unexploited salmon rivers in the entire Baltic area and is the only part of Sweden where the salmon migrate all the way up to the mountain region on their way to their spawning grounds.
For Slawomir and all other fishing en- thusiasts Norrbotten is a real Eldorado.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO SOMEONE WHO IS THINKING ABOUT MOVING TO SWEDEN AND NORRBOTTEN?
– Remember that Norrland suits you best if you’re interested in nature rather than an intensive nightlife. Think about what you like to do in your free time; na- ture-lovers should definitely move here!
Name: Slawomir Liszewski. Born: 1969.
Family: Married with two children.
Profession: Specialist doctor.
The best thing about Norrbotten: The peace and quiet.
10 MINUTES TO EVERYWHERE
One of the things that strikes people who move to Norrbotten is the perception of time. Somehow it seems that we have more time up here. Though there might be some distances between home and work in Norrbotten, they’re a smooth ride.
The same goes for shopping, school, day care, restaurants and moose hunting.
Sunshine and snow a sheer delight.
Stephan Vermeul moved to Norrbotten from the Netherlands and thinks there is a big difference between the cold in the Netherlands and in Norrbotten.
Before Stephan moved to the small community of Hakkas in Norrbotten, he had worked as a nurse in both the Netherlands, German and Belgium. So it is not only the cold he can compare between different countries.
– The basis for healthcare and the work itself are the same whatever country you live in. But the stress factor is less, at least here in northern Sweden.
It would probably have been different further south but up here it’s quieter.
You have more time and more freedom at work. More time for your patients.
STEPHAN AND HIS FAMILY have friends who moved to Norrbotten in 2014. They said positive things about both the job situation – lots of vacant positions – and other aspects of living here. Stephan ap- plied for a position as an ICU nurse and after attending an interview and being given the job he was asked to start the next day.
– Things really moved fast. We were finally given six weeks to arrange everything: the paperwork related to immigration, find somewhere to live and so on. My international experience of adapting to new routines proved to be very useful in that respect.
And then there was the language...
– I had a private teacher in Swedish
“You have more time and more freedom at work.
More time for your patients.
for three months when I came here.
That gave me a good foundation but then I think you learn the rest while you’re working.
THE CALMNESS that Stephan talks about with regard to his workplace also ap- plies in the very highest degree to other aspects of life. This was what Stephan and his wife were looking for. They wanted to give their children the chance to grow up under such conditions.
– The children were 17, 16, 15, 13 and 10 years old when we came here.
They have acclimatised even though it wasn’t easy to begin with. But even before we moved here we’d already had discussions around the kitchen table at home and had agreed that everyone had to think it was a good idea to take this step. If any of us hadn’t wanted to move we wouldn’t have done so.
HAKKAS IS RELATIVELY SMALL and the people already knew about the Dutch people who were coming before the family arrived. Five new pupils in a school with only 55 children ... that nat- urally caused a bit of a stir. Stephan felt that the local residents were extremely curious, wanting to know why the Ver- meuls had chosen just their village.
– The first four months were a tough time for the children. They could speak English of course but you naturally miss quite a lot. Now they’ve learned Swed- ish and they’ve got lots of friends here.
About 370 people live in Hakkas. But Stephan doesn’t think it’s too small. On the contrary, there’s a public swimming baths, plenty of club activities and the village is also situated close to a main road, making it easy to get to both Gäll- ivare and Luleå.
On the subject of snow and winter, which many people might have mis- givings about, Stephan is reassuring.
In his opinion, there is a big difference between how people perceive cold up here and in Central Europe.
– Many Dutch people think it’s cold here but compared to the cold in Europe it’s not so bad. The cold feels ... well, more real in some way. Imagine a day with sunshine and snow: it’s a sheer delight!
Name: Stephan Vermeul. Born: 1965.
Family: Married with five children. Profession: Nurse.
The best thing about Norrbotten: The peace and quiet.
THE SWEDISH FIKA
Even if the surroundings are magnificent and the situation at work is great. There are times when you just want to socialize together with friends and family. Have a “fika”, a cup of tea or a nice looking cappuccino, go to the local indoor or outdoor pool or perhaps eat something at a local restaurant. Norrbotten is known for its great gastro experiences. Come and have a taste!
It’s special up here.
Midwife Susanne Felchner moved from Germany to Sweden in 2007. At Gällivare Hospital in Norrbotten she can work as she wants to: independent- ly and in a maternity department with deliveries and gynaecology integrated.
IT BEGAN WITH an idea about doing something different, a seed that even- tually grew into a concrete desire to experience another country.
– After finishing my studies I worked in Cologne and that was very good – it’s a beautiful city and all that. But at the same time I knew there were other things I wanted to experience: I had thoughts about Africa and Ireland. But then my husband and I began to think about Sweden...
Susanne Felchner discovered that she had relatives in Sweden; her maternal grandmother’s sister had moved here during the war. Perhaps a twist of fate that strengthened her decision to move to Sweden.
THE IDEA GREW and the Felchners tried to find out more about their new home.
They learned more about the culture, about how things worked in Sweden, what moving here involved and so on.
Everything fell into place.
– We were in touch with a doctor at the clinic in Mora in Dalarna. He knew they were looking for people, including midwives, and he put us in tough with them. So we went there in the summer of 2007 and it immediately felt like
“this is what we want to do”.
“Here I and my assistant nurse are a team.
The family’s children were small – two, four and seven years old – when they moved to Sweden. They prepared the children with audiobooks and other information. Susanne is still surprised at how quickly they were able to get into living in Sweden. They learned the lan- guage quickly; they keep their German alive at home.
After living in Dalarna for a while they moved to Norrbotten.
DO YOU REMEMBER WHAT YOU FELT WHEN YOU CAME TO GÄLLIVARE?
– It’s a bit special up here. We hadn’t actually planned to move so far north.
But the maternity department in Mora closed and we had to think again. I wanted to work at a hospital like the one I came from, where delivery and the gynaecology department are inte- grated – I like working like that.
HOW DOES YOUR WORK DIFFER BETWEEN GERMANY AND SWEDEN?
– The big difference is that you work even more independently as a midwife in Sweden. Here I and my assistant nurse are a team and I only need to summon a doctor if difficulties arise during a delivery. In Germany a doctor always has to be present and has the re- sponsibility, although he or she doesn’t do anything.
– Our skills as midwives are made use of here, we’re listened to; the hier- archy in Germany is also more tangible.
To get into Swedish society Susanne’s advice is to learn the language quickly.
“It opens doors,” she says and tells us that in the early days she had to tell her colleagues not to speak English to her.
It’s also good if you’re open. You have to have a bit of patience with the people in Norrbotten, who might not always take the first step.
– Try to subject yourself to different situations, check out what there is to do if you want to get involved and dare to meet people. I love handicraft for exam- ple, it’s my therapy, so I do it together with other people where we live.
– Be curious about new things, even if you naturally carry your own culture with you.
Thanks to the family’s dogs Susanne is often outside a great deal.
– The fact that the right of common access allows you to go anywhere, that’s really fantastic. I appreciate it very much, Susanne says.
Name: Susanne Felchner. Born: 1972.
Family: Married with three children. Profession: Midwife.
The best thing about Norrbotten: The countryside.
Norrbotten County Council is one of the leading County Councils in Sweden when it comes to IT-based solutions in healthcare and medical care.
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