Want to know how to be a super-successful immigrant parent in Sweden? So do I...

If there's no guide book to parenting, there's definitely no guide book to parenting as an immigrant in Sweden. Sure, there's tons of advice to be found. Practical resources are also usually available. And, of course, there are numerous groups for immigrants and expats. These are all great and valuable tools for some of the practical and emotional aspects of parenting, but when it comes to the immediate realities I am confronted with every day as an immigrant parent, I’ve found they have limited usefulness.

The integration tool you probably aren't using in Sweden

For immigrants in Sweden, it can feel at times like the normal daily routine offers precious few opportunities for cultural and historical immersion. This is doubly true for those raising a family. Between acclimating to new ways of doing things, learning the language, working and/or studying, setting up and maintaining a home, caring for children and prioritizing their needs, trying to squeeze in time with a partner, and maybe actually having a social life, it's no surprise that our knowledge of Swedish culture and history often goes woefully uncultivated.

How I embraced Sweden's second-hand culture (and why you should, too)

"My children need the newest and best of everything," said someone who was not me. Don't get me wrong, my children are my precious angels whose needs I put before my own on a regular basis. They are also precious angels whose exuberant love of life means that almost nothing passes out of their possession in "gently used" condition. Which is why I have happily embraced Sweden's vibrant second-hand and upcycling market.

Why America's gun culture made us raise our children in Sweden

I'm often asked why we have made the conscious decision not to live in the United States. Most people laugh at the first answer I generally give, which involves a certain person currently residing in a large white house in Washington, D.C. The laughter always stops when I give my second reason: I already worry enough about my children that I don't want to live in fear that they will be gunned down in a mass shooting, at school or anywhere else.

Battling nostalgia during Halloween and the holidays in Sweden

For my daughter's first Halloween in Spain, I dressed her up as Minnie Mouse and took her to a small local event hosted by another Spanish/American couple. She was absolutely adorable. Too adorable, in fact. All – and I mean every single one – of the other children were dressed as witches, skeletons, vampires, etc. Clearly, I had missed the memo that, in Spain – where Halloween is only just starting to catch on – "scary" costumes are de rigueur for even the youngest children.

How family-friendly Sweden opens up art and culture to all ages

There was a time when I thought that the incredibly diverse and enriching range of cultural, historical, intellectual, and physical experiences my parents provided me as a child had set the bar quite high. Perhaps so high that I would struggle as a parent to reach it. I also worried the traditionally non-kid-friendly cultural and historical activities my husband and I enjoyed so much would be off-limits to us until our children were older. That was before we moved to Sweden.

Paperwork and a blank page: A retrospective of our first year in Sweden

As my family celebrates our first anniversary of immigrating to Sweden, I realize how appropriate it is that the traditional gift for first wedding anniversaries is paper. Although we're not celebrating a wedding anniversary, paper symbolizes our first year in Sweden better than it did the first year of my marriage. Looking back, I realize that paper – in the form of paperwork and its close companion, bureaucracy – have been a major presence in our lives over the past year.

Being the 'too much' family in 'just enough' Sweden

The other day, I was closing my daughter’s bedroom window at the same time I was repeating something to her for the fifteenth time in a loud voice – some might even call it shouting. As this was happening, a neighbour was entering our building from the common entrance below and looked up a bit startled. When she saw me, her startled look turned into a knowing grin, followed by a friendly nod, and I could almost see her thinking, “Of course. I should have known it was the excitable American with the loud Spanish husband and the two wild children.”

Why being an immigrant parent in Sweden is not for the faint of heart

As an immigrant parent, I am also something of an alchemist. I have transmuted two of the most simultaneously difficult and wonderful things I've ever done – parenting and living abroad – into one big, simultaneously difficult and wonderful thing. In the great alchemic tradition, my discovery is remarkable, but not entirely what I expected. Sometimes it seems like it might be pure gold. Other times, it is as unpredictable as primitive gunpowder.

There's a light in every window, and other decorating challenges for non-Swedes

In the days before we moved in to our new home in Sweden, my husband and I couldn’t help but notice that nearly every window we saw here was not only beautifully decorated, but also featured at least one charming and hospitable lamp. There was naturally much appreciative gushing over this, and I was personally quite filled with brilliant decorating ideas. Admittedly, our reaction on realizing that privacy blinds were either non-existent or rarely used in most windows, even at night, was one of respectful bemusement.

Taking family vacations like native Swedes: Bringing our B-team to a Championship game

When you’ve moved to a new country, learning how to vacation like the locals can be a lot like going from playing baseball to playing cricket, or from American football to rugby, or – to use a good Swedish comparison – ice hockey to innebandy (floorball). The game is similar, but the turf is unfamiliar, some of the equipment is new to you, the terminology is a bit foreign, and occasionally you find yourself going in the opposite direction as everyone else.
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