In 2019, 161,029 people emigrated from the Netherlands, according to figures from Statistics Netherlands. A number that grows every year. A large proportion of the emigrants consist of people with a non-Dutch nationality who return to their country of origin. But there were also more than 50,000 people of Dutch nationality who decided to leave last year.
Germany and Belgium are the most popular destinations, but Sweden also manages to attract a lot of Dutch people every year. The provinces in central Sweden are especially popular. Not too far from the big city of Stockholm, but in the middle of nature.
“You could record a season of Ik Departure here”, says Christian van Dartel with a laugh. He himself has lived in the province of Dalarna since 2007 and has seen other Dutch people come and go during that period. “Many people have formed an ideal image while on vacation, but you just have to find work here to pay the bills.”
Importer of Dutch cargo bikes
In 2006 Christian organized a big skating tournament with his company on natural ice in the municipality of Borlänge. The Swedes saw the benefit of skating tourism and Christian was invited to continue with it. He and his wife Ilse left Rosmalen behind and jumped into the deep.
In the winter he still organizes skating trips, but the main source of income now is the import and sale of Babboe cargo bikes. “At first I doubted whether the Swedes would go for it, but they are becoming more and more popular.”
Christian and his wife have two children – aged six and eight – who feel right at home in Sweden. He is not homesick either. “I never had any doubts and never wanted to go back.
Of course it is sometimes difficult to be far from your family. Especially when someone gets sick. “But if something happens in the Netherlands, we can get there quickly. Sweden is not Australia.” And the family goes to the Netherlands every summer vacation. “Then we will be at the campsite in Vinkeloord for four weeks.”
In the heart of Brabant, because that is the only thing Christian sometimes misses: the Brabant atmosphere. “That spontaneously visiting each other to have a bowl, that does not happen in Sweden.”
Swedes are more on their own. Another striking difference, Christian finds, is the way in which Swedes adhere to the rules. “Let me put it this way; if you are allowed to drive 100 kilometers per hour somewhere, a Dutchman will drive 105 and a Swede 95.”
The way his children are taught is also different. They spend a large part of the school time outside and there is much less pressure on them. “In the Netherlands the focus is more on performance. Here the personal development of a child comes first. Scores are much less important.”
Christian likes that lack of urge to perform, although he could use a little more spice. “It is a bit sluggish here at times. Our children really stand out”, he says with a laugh. “They are more likely to speak up and say what they think out loud.”
Eline Warmelink certainly noticed the difference in education. She moved with her husband, their son (10) and daughter (12) to Sweden in the summer of 2017. “They learn here that life is about more than getting good grades. For example, they learn during a walk which mushrooms are edible and they learn how to work wood with manual labor.”
The fact that the children are not under pressure is certainly an advantage, but according to Eline it also has a downside. “They are not challenged to get the best out of themselves.”
In Sweden the word ‘lagom’ is often used, which means something like ‘good enough’. “Everything here is lagom. It is always quiet and calm. Nobody talks to outliers and shouts out your opinion unfiltered like in the Netherlands, Sweden absolutely don’t. There is little passion.”
Eline writes about these cultural differences on her blog SvenskaLien, where she tells what it is like to live in Sweden as a Dutch person. Because it really took some getting used to. “It all went very quickly. In February we went to have a look at the emigration fair without any concrete plans and five months later we moved.”
Eline works in healthcare and there is also a shortage of personnel in that sector in Sweden. So it happened that a week after a meeting at the emigration fair, she was already offered a good job.
“Our son thought it was a great adventure and was immediately looking forward to it, but our daughter was not happy with it in the beginning.” In the meantime, the children are well established, although the oldest still misses the Netherlands from time to time.
Eline herself misses the buzz. “Here in the countryside you cannot just go to a theater performance or an afternoon of shopping.” But she loves the place where she lives, in the small village of Vikarbyn in the province of Dalarna.
Sleep in log cabins along the lake
They have a detached house that overlooks the large Siljan Lake. A beautiful area, which Eline is still exploring. “This summer I walked 111 kilometers around the lake with our son. We were gone eight days and slept in log cabins at night. That was great.”
Space and nature are what make life in Dalarna so special. “This spring I thought: Suppose there is ever a lockdown in Sweden, then I am happy to be here and not in our old terraced house in Lelystad.”
Swedish nature also has a magical effect on Dennis Daselaar. He loves it so much that he made it his job. With his company Dalarna Outdoor he takes people to the Swedish wilderness. From snowshoe hikes to bushcraft & survival trips. “I want to make people enthusiastic about nature and the outdoors.”
That is also what he appreciates about the Swedes, their love for being outdoors and the way they interact with nature. “Here you have wooden huts in the forest that are free for everyone to use. People treat them very neatly. In the Netherlands, something like that would have burned down after a week.”
He likes to go out with his own family. Then we drive to a beautiful viewpoint, spot animals and grill a sausage there. “
“I really found my peace here in Sweden”, says the former soldier who said goodbye to his old hometown Baarn in 2012 and who came to live in Dalarna with his wife Annika. They had been coming here for holidays since 2003, because his in-laws already had a house there.
After their wedding, the plan was to make a tour of Scandinavia. The start was in Dalarna, where Dennis saw a house for sale. “We went to have a look and we were immediately convinced. So we spontaneously bought a house during our honeymoon.”
The rest of the trip was canceled, because they immediately started doing odd jobs. Now the couple has lived there for eight years and this summer they had their fourth child. The grandfathers and grandmothers miss little, because his own parents have now also emigrated.
Dennis sometimes misses the beach, but not much else. Although you can always make him happy with some Dutch snacks. “We have just had friends over and now the freezer is full of sixty croquettes, forty cheese soufflés and forty noodles,” he says beaming.
In that freezer is also self-shot elk meat, because, like many Swedes, Dennis goes into the woods to hunt during the hunting season. “The second week of October is the hunting week. Half Sweden is then in the woods.”
This is done according to strict rules that people adhere to. Besides hunting, there are also pleasant evenings with the hunting team. “It is not easy to get involved with a Swedish group of friends, but I have now succeeded.”
Those friends evenings sometimes get a little Dutch touch. “I once brought a box of frikandels and let them taste. They liked that very much!”