Toon and Carine Kaerts

Börjesjö, Bräcke kommun 

Toon and Carine's tips for moving (to another country)
  • Start learning the language as soon as possible, preferably while you're still living in your home country.
  • You need money to emigrate, but don’t let your finances prevent you from following your dream. It’s OK to feel a bit uncomfortable and nervous. Plan well and have some savings put aside, and everything will work out fine.
  • Get help from the local authorities, they have given us loads of support.
  • You can learn a lot from your compatriots. They can explain the differences they have observed between your former country and Sweden in terms of, for example, customs, culture or legislation.
  • Move to Bräcke municipality! 😀

Dutch couple sells stillness in Börjesjö

It was the Dutch reality television series ‘Ik vertrek’ (I’m emigrating) that helped Toon and Carine Kaerts take the step to leave everything in the Netherlands behind and move to the village of Börjesjö in Bräcke municipality with its 15 or so inhabitants.

“We took our motorhome and travelled around Europe to visit the series’ participants. We talked to them, observed how they lived and tried to get a sense of what life would be like living in another country. When we arrived in Jämtland’s Albacken, we realised that we could see ourselves living in this part of Sweden. And here is where we have been settled for five years now” says Toon.

A Swedish fika (coffee and an assortment of cookies) has been served on the large veranda with its view over Lake Börjesjön. In the pasture below the house, two horses – Flint and Wise Guy – are grazing and behind to the pasture lies the couple’s Swedish cottage. Today they make their living by renting out the cottage to tourists. In addition to the concept of fika they have also adopted the Swedish notion of lagom, which means something like ‘just right’.

“Jämtland is located just right in Sweden: not too far to the South and not too far to the North. Sweden’s distance from Holland is also just right for us to be able to visit our relatives once a year. And it’s a benefit that so many people speak English here, given that we didn’t speak a word of Swedish when we decided to move here” says Carine.

A tree came down during a storm a while ago, and destroyed the neighbour’s boathouse. Toon was asked to clear away the tree, which is now the couple’s bookshelf.

Life at a slower pace – somewhat

Carine now speaks Swedish fluently, and Toon is well on his way. They try to speak Swedish with everybody they meet and watch Swedish TV and films.

“Before we moved here we bought a couple of Wallander films. But the Swedish was hard to understand because they spoke a dialect” says Carine. “It was as different from regular Swedish as Jämtska, which is completely incomprehensible” Toon says laughing.

Moving to a new place is a big step, let alone moving to a completely new country, but Toon and Carine had their reasons.

“Honestly, we had just grown tired of life in the Netherlands. We worked all the time and there were people everywhere. We felt that life was all about stress, and not only at work. Our entire life felt like a rat race. We also felt that the regulations in the Netherlands were tough and complicated. For example, cutting down a tree you’ve planted yourself, on your own land, requires a permit from the local council. Plus the crime rate is high” says Toon.

Carine has taken up a new hobby, needle felting animal sculptures from wool. She now travels around to different markets to sell them.

The first years in Börjesjö were spent renovating and building, with the couple doing almost all the work themselves. Their own home was extensively renovated and the cottage on the lake was built especially for rental purposes.

“Even though we were living in the countryside, didn’t know a single person, and wanted a quieter life, we started our new life at the same fast pace as we were used to in the Netherlands. We pushed on with our building projects from early morning to late at night, every day. In hindsight, we realise that we had a hard time breaking old habits. It took us a couple of years to do that. But now we wake up in the morning, decide what we want to do and do it. At a slower pace” says Carine.

"Now we wake up in the morning, decide what we want to do and do it. At a slower pace."

Toon has renovated the couple’s home and built the rental cottage by the lake. He has a small sawmill on their land and uses trees from their own forest.

House advert hit the jackpot

Toon left his sole proprietorship in kitchen fitting in the Netherlands and Carine quit her job as an IT consultant. They also owned and operated a training and boarding stable and felt like they worked 24 hours a day. Brend the dog and Flint and Wise Guy the horses accompanied them to their new home in Börjesjö.

Today, Toon and Carine sell stillness to the Swedes, Germans, French, Danes, Swiss and Dutch.  Their guests come to get away from their daily lives and spend time surrounded by the quietness of the Swedish forests. And the couple are good at leading by example: they cherish the stillness and peacefulness all around them and sometimes feel like they have to pinch themselves in the arm over the place where they live and the house they thrive in.

The horses, Flint and Wise Guy, accompanied Toon and Carine to their new home in Börjesjö.

Even though rural Jämtland is very welcoming to anyone who wants to move to the area, it is sometimes hard to find a dream home; that one, special place where you can create a new life. And trying to find that while still living in the Netherlands was even more difficult. So after several return visits to Bräcke, the couple decided to place an advert in the local newsletter: “Vi är ett holländskt par som söker hus bredvid vattnet. Gärna med lite skog.” (We are a Dutch couple looking to buy a house by the water. Preferably with some woodland.)

“One day while we were at home in the kitchen in the Netherlands, an older man called and started speaking quickly in Swedish about his house he might want to sell. I didn’t understand a word! I managed to say “Thanks, we’ll call you back” in Swedish and hung up. Previously emigrated Dutch people living in Albacken helped us with the language barrier and the story ends with us buying the house!” explains Carine.

The house in Börjesjö is beautifully located, with the lake below and the charming rental cottage at a ‘lagom’ distance from their home.

Follow your dream

There are ups and downs to most things. Which is also the case for the couple’s move to Sweden, but the positive outweighs the negative and they are still very happy about their choice. Learning the language has been a challenge and Carine misses horse-riding, which she can no longer do with the two retired horses. Many of the practical aspects of life took a longer time for Toon and Carine in the beginning because they needed to learn how regulations and legislation work in Sweden. For instance, that it’s not OK to use your fireplace if it hasn’t been inspected and approved by a chimney sweep. But it’s clear that they are now living their dream, at a slower pace, with plenty of time for each other, and the chance to do what feels right for them. Toon switches from Swedish to English when he really opens up about why this move has been so important.

“If you have a dream you should try to fulfil it! Always follow your dream.”