This post was originally posted on the American Translators Associations Nordic Division Blog, but for those who do not read that blog, I thought I would share it here too.
Many have asked me to write about my sabbatical year in Sweden. It is actually not a “sabbatical” per se; I am just working from Sweden this year, instead of from Park City, Utah. But I have been calling it a sabbatical since my husband has a sabbatical year from teaching at the University of Utah. Professors can take these every seven years or so, and the intention is to create new contacts and projects abroad. When his sabbatical year was coming up he suggested that the family move back to Sweden for a year. We lived in Sweden in the late 1990’s before we moved to Utah for his work, and I have family and friends there. Being an English into Swedish translator, it is very important for me to keep up my native language skills, and spending a whole year in Sweden, reading Swedish news every day and speaking Swedish at home, certainly trumps going back there every summer when it comes to immersing myself in my native language.
In order to make it as easy and fluid as possible for my clients, and for me to maintain my business as usual, I decided to keep my all my official business dealings in the US. I hired a trusted friend to take care of my mail and deposit all check payments. In order to make this work, I had to open a PO Box since the US Postal Service will not forward some types of legal correspondence. I forwarded my business phone to Google Voice and use the app Talkatone on my cell phone to receive all calls and messages, and to call my clients in the US. With that program it appears that I am calling from my normal US business phone. I told all my regular clients of my move and my new time zone, and have the time zone posted in my email signature as a reminder to everyone contacting me. Since I dislike accounting, I was already using an accountant before I left, and she is taking care of all my accounting, plus all my business taxes. Since I am keeping my business based in the US, I can avoid doing business taxes in both countries.
I have certainly kept all my favorite clients from before, but have also gotten my foot in more with European clients. Having the language combination English into Swedish in Sweden means that the market is quite saturated, when reaching out to new companies, but I have gotten to know more colleagues here and through them received a few referrals.
I would say that the hardest part of keeping my clients from the US and working from Sweden is the time difference. I try to work mostly while the kids are in school, but most emails start coming in after 4 pm. This means that I am usually up past 9 pm in the evening answering emails and taking care of updates and such.
During my year here in Stockholm I try to do as much networking as I can. Last fall I went to the Nordic Translation Industry Conference in Copenhagen and next month I will be going to the annual conference of the Swedish Association of Professional Translators (or SFÖ). I also try to meet translators that I know, and that live close by, on a more personal basis. I have also been offered to do training for SFÖ and have held courses in websites for translators and about common errors and rules when translating from English into Swedish. I have attended several day classes in Swedish writing and modern grammar and style. I try to do as much networking as possible here, but find that both the cost and the normal family/work life poses the same impediments as back home. Two thirds of my year here has already passed, and I feel that there is still so much more to do when it comes to networking and training, and so little time left.
I think the hardest thing when considering a sabbatical year abroad, or a temporary relocation of your translation business, is to bring your family, if you have one. It is imperative to find a situation that works for everyone, and I was lucky that we could find a way. We started planning for our children’s integration in Sweden a year in advance. During the summer before, we visited potential schools in the area and started checking into the application process. That summer also sent them on a two week long summer camp in the Stockholm archipelago to immerse them in the Swedish language and culture. They were already bilingual, but their Swedish was weaker and needed some intense refreshing. They are now going to a Swedish speaking school here and doing well, but there is always the option of international schools for children that are not bilingual. We own our house in Park City and hired a property manager to find someone who could rent it furnished. He was really worth the money and took a lot of stress of our shoulders. We also found a furnished house for rent close to the school in Stockholm, and close to my sister.
Being a freelance translator really has its advantages, since we basically can work from anywhere, as long as we have an Internet connection and make arrangements like the above if we stay for longer periods of time. If you are considering doing a sabbatical or relocation period, I can highly recommend it. It is worth all the trouble and arrangements for the whole family. We even brought our large dog with. (Her ticket was more expensive than ours!) We are truly enjoying our year here and try to take advantage of it as much as we can and travel as much as our economy and time allows. The only drawback is having all our earnings in US dollars and all our expenses in Swedish kronor, and the exchange rate is not at all to our advantage right now.