Visitor industry

The Dutch who found their way home

Egbert Venema and Sandra Hilbrands, both 45 years old, did what many dream of - emigrated abroad. But family and friends in Holland want them to move back home. They themselves don't understand their wish, as they have just found their home.

Burträsk's new campsite owners did exactly as they say on their website: 'Find a place where you can get lost'. There is something beautiful about a place with large areas where you can avoid crowds and instead find silence, solitude and beautiful nature. While the variety is also there.
- Burträsk really has everything we dream of in Holland, there are big contrasts if you compare it to how we lived over there, Egbert notes.

Over there was the city of Apeldoorn, an hour from Amsterdam. Siblings and parents are still there, and last summer loved ones saw Egbert and Sandra pack up and move to northern Sweden to become campsite owners in Burträsk.
- They don't understand why we moved here, many think it's too far. We think it's enough to look out, it's fantastic, and it's not so crowded. In the Netherlands there are 17 million people living in one tenth of the area of Sweden, says Sandra.

She pauses, takes in what she herself has said and turns to Egbert:
- Meanwhile, your father is coming for the fourth time. He probably doesn't think it's so bad after all.

A perfect start

A crowded Holland has meant that house and land prices, for example, are sky-high. When we meet, the couple have just bought a house in central Burträsk.
- It's cheaper than renting a house and we have a lot of stuff that needs to fit somewhere. It's a lot of house for the money, a lot compared to what we're used to, and we can get to work at the campsite within minutes. There are a lot of advantages," says Egbert happily.

The couple got off to a perfect start in Burträsk. The first week Norran wrote a report about the new campsite owners and the following weekend there was a market. Of course Sandra and Egbert were going there.
- Lots of Burträsk people came up and shook our hands and welcomed us. They were happy! It made us feel welcome, and it warmed us up," says Sandra.

Out for the lifestyle

As early as 15 years ago, plans to become campsite owners took hold for both of them. Not hotel owners, but campsite owners, that was important.
- One of the advantages of running a campsite is that we work hard in the summer and can take it easy in the winter. It was the lifestyle we were after and having our own business to decide for ourselves. We like working with people who are happy, it's uplifting, and working outdoors in this environment is so satisfying," says Sandra.

Three years ago, they hit the ground running. Egbert had grown bored with his job as a municipal manager, while Sandra lost her job as an administrator.
"Then we realised we had to take the plunge and try something new," says Egbert, and Sandra nods in agreement.

Eyes open

The couple had long been on the lookout for possible properties and had even travelled around a bit. Austria had the advantage that they knew the language and liked the country, but nothing that suited them was for sale. Egbert and Sandra camped through Germany, Belgium and Luxembourg, but also Holland.
- The prices are very high in relation to what you can earn. By chance we ended up in Sweden and eventually landed on a campsite in Värmland. We immediately started to like the people, the nature and the quiet traffic. Then we realised that Sweden was in a good position," says Egbert.

The journey went north from Värmland. Sundsvall, Örnsköldsvik, Vilhelmina - and always with an eye on Blocket. In January 2017, they visited the campsite for the first time and saw Burträsk in its winter glory.
- We saw the potential in the whole place and we liked the location by the lake. So in May we returned, in June we signed a contract and on 1 July we started the campsite," says Sandra, laughing at the memory of how quickly everything went.

The whole chain of Västerbottensosten

But the idea of taking it easy in winter was an illusion that was quickly shattered. The first winter, a travel agent in Holland got in touch and booked a package with alpine skiing in Bygdsiljum, snowmobiling and ice fishing.
- The guests had had a fantastic time and were very happy. We were going to do all that ourselves this winter, but had only had time to snowmobile for the first time a week before the guests arrived," says Egbert.

Burträsk doesn't just have great scenery. The Västerbotten cheese is of course a big plus, and now they have managed to make contacts with local partners and put together a cheese tour.
- Many people come here to see the cheese museum, but we want to give tourists the whole chain, so we know a Dutch farmer in Flarken who supplies the milk for the cheese, plus we visit the cheese warehouse in Ånäset. This gives the visitor a clear picture of how everything around the cheese looks and works," explains Sandra.

Now it may sound like Sandra and Egbert want to create a Dutch colony in Burträsk, but that is not the case.
- Our goal is not to have a lot of guests from Holland. Our guests are 85% Swedish and we want to keep that. We want it to be a Swedish campsite and that's especially important for the homestead next to us, says Egbert.
- There may be a little Dutch touch to it all, but we don't want to create a Dutch campsite in Sweden. Everyone is welcome, but we won't specialise in our old homeland," emphasises Sandra.

No complicated bureaucracy

In the cosy café, Sandra sells homemade coffee bread, apple pie and, of course, a meatball sandwich with Swedish meatballs. The campsite was in such good condition that they could go straight into operation without having to launch major refurbishments. Not only have they been well received by the cage dwellers, but also by the municipality, and contact with the authorities has gone smoothly.
- We managed to set up a limited company in July in the middle of summer, just one of those things. In advance we had the image that it was a bit "mañana mañana" but that was not true. The permits and paperwork have gone smoothly, the licence to serve beer only took a morning," Egbert says with satisfaction.

After less than a year in Sweden, they both speak Swedish impressively well and understand almost everything.
- It's good with SFI, we learn a lot while the caged people are happy to speak Swedish with us to help. But when we do business, it's in English, otherwise we'll probably say yes to something we don't know about," says Egbert.

Biggest increase since 1991

SCB's population statistics for 2017 show that Skellefteå municipality has increased its population by 457 inhabitants in the past year. The last time Skellefteå saw a similar increase was in 1989-1991. This year, the total increase is again largely made up of foreign immigration, but in 2017, domestic immigration has increased faster than immigration. Behind two of the figures are Sandra and Egbert, who feel that Burträsk now feels like home.
- We have a future here, says Sandra.


Senast uppdaterad:
2 March 2023