Brendon and Wendy became unexpected neighbors in Kåge

An unexpected twist of fate brought two Australian families together in Kåge, near Skellefteå. Brendon Dean and Wendy Lidman, separated by nearly 400 miles in their homeland, became next-door neighbors in Kåge within a week of each other in the spring of 2021.

The families' children have become good friends.

The families' children have become good friends.

Foto: Karin Israelsson

Kåge2024-02-22 11:10

Brendon Dean from Australia lives with his family at Jörnsvägen 1B. Next door, at Jörnsvägen 1A, is Wendy Lidman and her family. Both are from Australia, Brendon from Perth and Wendy from Sydney.

– We didn't know each other before we moved here, says Brendon Dean.

We meet Brendon, his wife Hedvig Stenmark and their three children. After a while, the next-door neighbors join in: Australian Wendy Lidman, her husband Marcus Lidman and their two children.

There is laughter, conversation and a relaxed atmosphere. The families spend a lot of time together, especially during the summer; their children are about the same age, have become good friends, and attend the International English School.

It was there that Wendy learned that her next-door neighbor in Kåge, Brendon, was also from Australia.

Brendon Dean and Wendy Lidman never imagined that they would become neighbors in Kåge.

– I am a teacher at the school, and I heard on the playground that another Australian had moved here, she says with a laugh, and Brendon continues:

– And I got a tip that there was another Australian living in Kåge.

In Australia, they lived almost 4,000 kilometers apart, so it's not surprising that they didn't know each other before moving to Sweden and Kåge.

It was about two and a half years ago, in the spring of 2021, that both families moved into the houses on Jörnsvägen.

– We moved in within a week of each other, says Marcus.

– It's totally crazy, Wendy adds with a hearty laugh.

The story of Wendy and Marcus' life together began in Malta while they were both on vacation. After a period in Skellefteå, they decided to settle in Kåge,

– We knew Marcus' parents were planning to move, and we wanted to live close to Skellefteå, Wendy explains. Marcus nods in agreement, but interjects:

– I could definitely see myself living in Australia.

Brendon and Hedvig, originally from Piteå, met in Australia while Hedvig was traveling around the country. She supplemented her funds with various odd jobs.

– I was backpacking around and working as a bartender, Hedvig says, and Brendon adds:

– I bought a beer from her and it was a done deal. Everyone laughs heartily.

Brendon is a geologist and works in the mining industry. He travels a lot for work and has worked all around the world, including South America. They also decided to settle in Sweden. After a time in Gällivare, they chose Kåge and the house on Jörnsvägen.

– It was when Brendon was on his way to a job interview at Boliden that he drove through Kåge and thought, "What a nice community," says Hedvig.

They both liked the house on Jörnsvägen and were registered as owners on May 15, 2021.

Now they both work within the Boliden Group: Brendon as a geologist and Hedvig in the engineering department.

– If we had chosen to live in Australia, I would probably have had to travel a lot for work and would probably have missed a lot of the kids' upbringing, says Brendon.

Hedvig Stenmark and Brendon Dean chose to settle in Kåge.

The two houses on Jörnsvägen are a stone's throw from each other, and 2023 was the third year that the two families celebrated Christmas together.

In Australia, Christmas is celebrated on December 25, and that's when the families got together for the festivities.

– We had a barbecue and ate kangaroo, says Wendy.

January 26 is also a big day for Australians, Australia Day, the national holiday commemorating the founding of the first European colony. They don't break that tradition, and Wendy is all for it.

– She loves to celebrate and organizes big parties, says Marcus.

Although the move from Australia to Sweden was huge - not only in terms of distance, but culturally, too - both Brendon and Wendy say they are enjoying Sweden in general and Kåge in particular.

– I miss my family a lot, but we have visited Australia, and it's good for the kids to experience both cultures, says Wendy, adding that there are significant differences between the two countries, especially the climate. She continues:

– I don't like the darkness here, and I miss the weather in Australia; on the other hand, I think it can be a bit too hot there.

–The winters are better here; it's wet and windy in the winter in Australia, says Brendon, who has tried skiing and likes it.

The painting behind Marcus Lidman depicts a spot in Australia where Brendon used to surf.

Before moving to Sweden, Marcus was worried that Wendy would not like it.

– It was good that we had my family here, he says, and Wendy interjects that she had some concerns about the language:

– How would it be learning Swedish?

So, how is it going?

– I understand quite a bit of Swedish, but it's harder to speak myself, she says.

They also agree that it's a challenge to make friends as a newcomer in a Swedish town, but that children "open doors" for acquaintances and that the mentality of people in general is quite different between the two countries.

– Swedes are harder to get to know, and Australians joke around more, says Brendon.

On one of the walls in the Dean-Stenmark family's kitchen is a large painting of the Indian Ocean - where Brendon used to surf.

– It's the beaches I miss a lot and Australian fruits and vegetables, he says. 

Wendy nods in agreement. 

– There's a huge difference in fruits and vegetables; they are fresh and juicy in Australia, she says. 

It's worth noting that her homeland is known for good, fresh produce across the board – meat, fish, as well as fruits and vegetables, are of very high quality. 

They both appreciate the housing prices in Sweden – houses are ten times cheaper in Sweden, and Wendy mentions the schooling: 

– Here in Sweden, the school is free, which is great.

Their story is a testament to the power of serendipity and the unexpected connections that can form across vast distances. 

In a small town in Norrland, two families from opposite ends of Australia found not only neighbors but also a piece of home in each other.

The Dean/Stenmark family enjoys living in Kåge.
The Dean/Stenmark family enjoys living in Kåge.
The families

Wendy and Marcus Lidman have two children, Lilly-Rose, three years old, and Daisy-May, three months old.

Wendy Lidman is a teacher at the International English School (IES). Her husband, Marcus Lidman, works as a copper/fiber technician at Eltel.

Hedvig Stenmark and Brendon Dean with their children Oscar, nine years old, Alfred, seven years old, and Naomi, three years old.

Both work within the Boliden Group.