"Feels incredibly safe here: so important for females"

Helda and Mario moved to Skellefteå from Brazil 11 months ago, just before winter bit hard. The winter was cold and snowy, but they still love northern Swedish life. And they value how safe Skellefteå feels.

Between a rock and a safe place: Mario and Helda love how secure Skellefteå feels.

Between a rock and a safe place: Mario and Helda love how secure Skellefteå feels.

Foto: Donna Richmond

Engelska2023-08-23 14:20

– It’s just silly cold. It doesn’t need to be that cold, and it doesn’t need to snow so much, laughs Helda.

Helda, 26, moved to Skellefteå from Brazil with her husband Mario less than a year ago, just before the onset of winter, a winter that was snowy and fierce.

– We Brazilians never really see snow so when we do we’re like, ‘Wow, snow is so beautiful, so pretty, everything's white, oh my gosh.’ 

Mario and Helda love having the forest on their doorstep.

She smiles her easy smile again

– But two months later, you’re just thinking, ‘when will this snow end? That’s enough snow, thank you very much.’And the cold! Did I mention the cold?

It’s an understandable reaction. The average winter temperature in her Brazilian native city, Ponta Grossa, is around 14c. In Skellefteå, it’s more like -10c.

Mario, 32, is less bothered by the vast difference in temperatures. 

– Yes, of course it’s colder than we’re used to. But the municipality is great at providing a load of different activities for each season, so winter can be as fun as summer. They take a really proactive approach. You should never be bored in Skellefteå.

But why did two Brazilians from a city, Ponta Grosso, a massive 11,402 kilometers away from Skellefteå, end up in north Sweden?

It’s no surprise that they both work at Northvolt, Helda in logistics and Mario in engineering, but they were also offered work with Northvolt in Stockholm, and chose Skellefteå instead. 

Mario and Helda, a friendly, engaging Brazlian couple who love Swedish life (apart from the cold!).

– Yes, but we decided against Stockholm, says Mario.

– We think we have a better quality of life in Skellefteå than we’d have had in Stockholm. For instance, it’s only a 20-minute journey to work for us here - in Stockholm it would be at least an hour. And also the competition for apartments is even more ferocious than it is here.

But why the move to Sweden in the first place?

– I’ve studied abroad before, but Helda hadn’t, and she wanted to experience living in a different country, says Mario.

– We wanted to try Europe but, because of the visa situation for non-EU citizens, it's very hard for someone from Brazil to find work in Europe. Luckily a friend of mine moved from his job at Renault to Northvolt, and he recommended us.

What was your first impression of Skellefteå?

– The Swedes are very different to Brazlians. Brazilians are very outgoing, but the Swedes like their personal space. And at first I thought the city was small, says Helda, before continuing:

– But then it also seemed big. It’s much smaller than the last place we lived in, population-wise, but Skellefteå has everything you need - a university, supermarkets, restaurants, sports facilities. Our last town had just one supermarket and that was it.

Mario, most probably heading to the forest for some berry-picking as Helda looks on.

Mario and Helda also really appreciate Sweden's much healthier work-life balance. Brazil is much more like the United States, when it comes to work, says Mario. You always have to be working and proving yourself otherwise you'll lose your job, explains Helda.

Mario says that Brazilian employers seem to trust their employees much less than Swedish ones.

– In Brazil, If you have a doctor’s appointment, for example, you need to come up with a million reasons why you should be allowed to go. Brazilian bosses don't seem to understand that you have a life outside your work.

– For example, I had problems in Brazil with anxiety and even ended up in the hospital three times, and was put on medication. But since we moved to Skellefteå, that anxiety has vanished. I’m not on medication anymore. So this balanced life in Sweden really helped me.

– The attitude here, Mario continues, is that work is not the most important thing in life. Your time away from work is valued too. Northvolt trust their employees - if you need to go to the doctor or pick up your kids, that's fine with them. You don't get interrogated.

But the ultimate luxury for Helda and Mario is something less tangible: safety.

– That's by far the thing I love the most about living in the north of Sweden, says Mario. 

– We feel incredibly safe. We can go for a walk at any time of the day or night and feel safe. I think that’s especially important for women.

Brazil wasn’t safe, says Helda.

– It didn’t feel safe at any time really. You had to protect your phone when you were out, and you couldn’t go for a walk at night at all. They have guns and knives there. It was very dangerous.

Between a rock and a safe place: Mario and Helda love how secure Skellefteå feels.

This feeling of safety extends to family life, too, something which definitely concerns the young Brazilian couple, as Helda will be giving birth to their first child in a few weeks’ time.

– Sweden seems to respect and value children, says Helda.

– We always see children out playing by themselves alone, or riding their bicycles, and we see this is a very safe environment to raise a child.

As my chat with these two very engaging people comes to an end, I ask them for any local secrets they’d like to share with newcomers. 

Mario suddenly becomes very animated and as keen as any northern Swede I’ve ever met to enthuse about his love of foraging.

- I think picking berries is amazing. I found some blueberries in the forest just 50 meters away from our house. Literally 50 meters . I came back after just 20 minutes with a kilo of blueberries. Now, that is amazing! And he beams with the excitement of his find. 

Welcome to Skellefteå life, Mario and Helda - you'll fit in nicely. Just wrap up well in winter.