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EURES (EURopean Employment Services)
News article29 March 2024European Labour Authority, Directorate-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion3 min read

Belgium to Sweden: how one family moved for a low-stress life close to nature

Software developer Bram and nurse Kelly turned to EURES for advice on moving from Belgium to Sweden in 2020. Four years later, they and their two children are happily settled there – despite the challenge of emigrating during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Belgium to Sweden: how one family moved for a low-stress life close to nature
Photo credit: Bram Hendrickx & Kelly Van Roelen

Belgians Kelly and Bram fell in love with Sweden on a 2018 holiday with their children, Amber and Arno. They returned again and again, and by early 2020 were keen to make the move permanent, attracted by what they describe as “a life closer to nature, a less stressful life, with less pressure on the children and more time outside.”

Bram and Kelly, now aged 38, met at the age of 18. They married and had children. Bram worked as a software developer in Leuven and Kelly as a home care nurse.

Pandemic emigration

Their first step was to visit the Emigratiebeurs emigration fair in Houten, the Netherlands, in March 2020. There they met EURES Adviser Ingrid Hermansson, of the Swedish Public Employment Services.

Days later, Kelly and Bram emailed Ingrid with their initial plan to move in summer 2020. They didn’t want to live in a city and so Ingrid suggested Östergötland, a county in southern Sweden. “It seemed to check all the boxes,” they say. “Nature, university opportunities for the children, work opportunities, driving distance to Belgium.” In April 2020 they paused the process to reconsider, but in August that year decided to go ahead, with support from Ingrid and from the EURES Targeted Mobility Scheme.

Before leaving Belgium, the couple started Swedish language classes, sold their house, packed up and vaccinated their two dogs. Moving day, in April 2021, proved a particularly challenging moment. The family needed proof of a negative COVID-19 test to cross the border into Sweden – but the results were not yet back. “You can imagine the stress of driving through Germany with nothing to go back to and no documents yet,” say Kelly and Bram. “But luckily, about an hour out from the ferry, we got them.”

Finding work

Bram found IT work online before leaving Belgium, with an employer that he still works for today. But Kelly needed official translations for her Belgian degree and documents, and proof of Swedish language ability in order to work as a nurse.

Ingrid helped by contacting a local healthcare provider, where Kelly started a language internship and went on to cover staff absence. Three years later, she has passed her language tests and is awaiting the decision that will mean she can resume work as a nurse.

Moving with children

When the family moved, Amber was eight and Arno six. “They were sad to leave their friends behind, of course, but looked forward to their new life in Sweden,” say Bram and Kelly. “We moved before school ended for the summer so they had a chance to meet some friends before the summer break. They are under less pressure here and have more opportunities to be children again.” Now aged 11 and nine, they both have local friends and are involved in a local football club.

The role of EURES

Ingrid says this was the first family she had worked with eight years at the Swedish Public Employment Services. Now, she says, Kelly, Bram and their children are “living the dream they described to me at the Emigration Fair in Houten four years ago.”

She adds: “Being able to inform and guide people when small and big challenges and obstacles appear during the process and helping people to help themselves, is both inspiring and exciting. Everyone has their own journey – I get to contribute and never have a dull moment. It is a multi-winner process: those who move here, the employers, the Swedish labour market and me.”

Asked how they would advise others, Bram and Kelly say: “Starting to learn the language in advance is really useful. You can get a lot of official documentation in English as well, but it’ll be so much smoother if you have basic Swedish knowledge to start with.


If you are thinking of moving to a new country to work, contact the EURES Helpdesk for advice and support.


Related links:

EURES Targeted Mobility Scheme

Living and Working in Europe


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