Celebrating A Lagom Swedish National Day

Celebrating A Lagom Swedish National Day

Blue skies, swings hanging beneath leafy trees, blooming flowers, and a bright sun with a slight breeze—the setting was perfect for a typical Swedish holiday. The temperature was lagom—not too hot, not too cold—and the sun felt just right against our sunscreened, sunglassed faces. All of the doors to the house were open allowing all seven children and the breeze to freely circulate. Adults chatted in the white sunlit spacious kitchen as they prepared the food. A Swedish pop music Spotify playlist played in the background. Outside, the grill was fired up with cheeseburgers and hot dogs sizzling.     This year, Swedish National Day had extra special meaning for us as newly minted Swedish citizens. In comparison to US citizenship, Swedish citizenship had been very easy to acquire. I'd say, given our limited time (five years isn't that long), we deserve a B-B+ in integration. There's still room for improvement, but we're doing a good job. But we know that some things we can only learn with...
Read More
Here Come the Easter Witches

Here Come the Easter Witches

  When you think about Easter, you immediately think "witch." No? Me neither. Probably the funniest Scandinavian tradition is the Easter witch. In Sweden and Finland—young children hit the streets the Thursday before Easter dressed as peasants (or in their finest witchy costumes) that their parents bought during the post-Halloween sales the year before.   Is this like Halloween in the spring? Yes. Kids make handmade Glad Påsk cards (Happy Easter) and hand them out door to door in exchange for candy. This trick-or-treating type activity was new to me and caught me off guard when we first moved to Sweden. I heard tiny, gentle knocks on my door and not surprisingly, didn't happen to have any loose candy in the house to hand out. Having to improvise, I gave a few kronor as payment to each disappointed child. Don't be like Lisa. Be prepared and always have loose candy around your house at all times.     Last year, I swore I was going to get it right. After years of...
Read More
Why a Simple Vacation Beats a Luxurious One

Why a Simple Vacation Beats a Luxurious One

  Maybe I'm just a simple gal who enjoys the simpler things in life but in all of our travels, my favorite vacations have been the ones in which I can let go of all of my stress. I'm a casual jeans and T-shirt, comfort over style, laid back type of person and my most favorite vacations are the simple ones. Don't get me wrong. I've been incredibly fortunate and privileged to have seen the gilded ceilings of the Vatican museum, ridden in a private boat on the sparkling blue waters of Lake Como pretending I was Amal Clooney, and relaxed beachside at an all-inclusive resort in Puerto Vallarta. Those were all amazing experiences and I am so grateful to have experienced them. However, my favorite, most special moments occurred after everything went "wrong" and all of our planning didn't match reality. I think back on our trip to Tuscany and my heart aches to be "stranded" again in the middle of a tiny Italian...
Read More
Another Thanksgiving Holiday Abroad

Another Thanksgiving Holiday Abroad

As I hugged our friends goodbye at our front door, I heard, "Thank you so much," and, "This was wonderful," from every person as they bundled up into their jackets and slid their winter boots back onto their socked feet. Ending the night with these firm, warm, cheek-to-cheek embraces with friends new and old couldn't be a more fitting way to end the night. During each Thanksgiving we have celebrated abroad, there has been a brief respite in the chaotic day. A moment when I am quiet and I look around the room at the group of people who willingly cram into our tiny space because we asked them to share our tradition. I pause and listen. Conversations blend and weave with one another and the language shifts between English and Swedish depending on who is joining or leaving the conversation. In that brief pause of time, I am so happy and proud to continue the Thanksgiving tradition in our adopted...
Read More
Parenting Abroad: Freedom To Discard Unwanted Holidays

Parenting Abroad: Freedom To Discard Unwanted Holidays

Most days, I feel all alone. Geographically isolated from all that is familiar and linguistically isolated from what I know. The foreign language around me is easily tuned out and processed as white noise. It's soothing and I am alone with my thoughts. Parenting in cultural isolation can provide a new type of freedom in many ways. I have gladly discarded holidays and traditions that I never enjoyed. Without the cultural pressure to honor them, they quickly disappear. Anything that I am not willing to import myself will not get passed down to my children. It requires a lot of work to celebrate a holiday that isn't observed locally. Sorry kids, but Valentine's Day isn't going to be that important for our family. You'll survive. Some traditions, only the ones I hold near and dear to my heart, are kept. Celebrating holidays abroad is a bit like moving abroad—you discover that not so many things are important and you only take the...
Read More
How 9 Expat Moms Celebrate (or Avoid) Halloween Abroad

How 9 Expat Moms Celebrate (or Avoid) Halloween Abroad

BY JENNIFER MALIA Though widely known as an American tradition, Halloween has been adopted by other countries around the world. In many countries, trick-or-treating, costume parties, and spooky decorations have become popular ways of celebrating Halloween. I talked to expat moms around the globe and asked them what Halloween traditions they do (or don’t do) when living abroad. Their stories take place in countries as diverse as England, Sweden, the Netherlands, South Africa, Brazil, and the United Arab Emirates. Whether you are an expat family that celebrates Halloween abroad, a family that travels for the holiday, or a family that celebrates Halloween in the US, their stories are sure to entertain you, and might even frighten you in a G-rated sort of way. Kristy Smith, The Midwestern Repatriate “I’m American, and my husband is British. We spent many years in the UK celebrating Halloween, which seems more like an addition to the local village harvest festivals than a separately adopted tradition. Some kids...
Read More
Breaking the Mom-Guilt Cycle

Breaking the Mom-Guilt Cycle

"Please, Lucy. Mama went to six different stores to find that costume. Can you please wear it?" My heart crushed, my ears burning, and my inner self, the mother who promised never resort to guilt-trips, is disgusted that I am practically begging my daughter to wear this ridiculous outfit. Why do I care so much that she doesn't want to wear a costume? Why am I behaving like the type of mother I swore I would never become? Because Mom-guilt is a potent force and it takes an even stronger person to recognize it before it poisons your motherly influence. Don't ask me why, but Easter witches are part of Swedish culture and every spring, little children dress as witches and warlocks to hand out handmade Easter cards in exchange for candy. (It's basically like trick or treating, but no Swede would ever admit that.) After spending two days driving around town and frantically searching through six (or was it seven?) different stores, the...
Read More
Travel Like A Pro With Your Child

Travel Like A Pro With Your Child

  The holiday season is soon approaching and living abroad often means lots of travel! Traveling with kids can often be a stressful event for parents but, here are some travel tips to make the whole trip fun for the family. 1) Plan, plan, plan. If you didn't plan trips before having kids, it's time for that to change. Having a plan reduces the headache of trying to figure out things on the go. 2) Have a plan for when things don't go as planned! Stock snacks, games, books, or a mobile device so there are activities if your well thought out plan becomes derailed. 3) Don't over-schedule your family. Kids (and parents!) need down time. That's the whole point of a vacation, right?? Make sure there is a slower rest day among activity filled days. A half day of board games or baking makes for great rest-day activities that include an afternoon nap too. Having a rest day will reduce crankiness for everyone! 4)...
Read More