Gisela de Hollanda grew up in a remote Swedish village with no more than 20 houses, but now calls Mount Maunaganui home.

Ms de Hollanda moved to New Zealand in 2007, initially starting her Kiwi life in Nelson but the Swedish expat moved to the Bay of Plenty in 2010.

She spent most of her life in Sweden's second largest city, Gothenburg, but she grew up in an area much further north called Bergslagen.

The area is known for its natural beauty and Ms de Hollanda spent her childhood around lush forests, stunning lakes, rivers and wildlife.


"Moose and elk, little berries in the forest and the mushrooms you can pick. Lots of pines, birches and oaks."

Ms de Hollanda said she grew up in a little village with no more than 20 houses and went to a school with only 13 students.

It was very picturesque with red wooden houses and white trimmings and cobbled stone paths, she said.

At the age of 20 she moved to Gothenburg to study but returned to her home for summer journalism placements at a local paper.

In Sweden the darkest day, December 13 also known as St Lucia's Day, is celebrated throughout the country.

"It's when it is the darkest time so you celebrate the light. It's from an Italian saint, so she comes with light in her hair wearing a white tunic and red sash."

It had become a tradition to bring some light in somehow at the darkest time, she said.

Ms de Hollanda said they also had another "peculiar tradition" during Easter.

"We don't have the Easter bunnies. I suppose they have now with all the commercialism, but I used to dress up as an Easter witch.

"Kids dress up as witches and go house to house with drawings and give Easter drawings to people and get candy in return. It's a little bit like Halloween but you don't say trick or trick and you give something as well."

During mid-June, where the light never really faded, people would gather for midsummer activities.

Celebrated on the Friday between June 19 and 25, people began the day picking flowers and making wreaths to place on a maypole, she said.

The maypole was then raised when people sang and danced around it.

Ms de Hollanda said compared with her northern European home, people in New Zealand more were easy going and friendly.

"It's more important what you wear, what you say and do.

"In a way there is more tolerance here, in a way," she said.

Ms de Hollanda now lives in Mount Maunganui with her family and loved the "very friendly atmosphere" the Bay has to offer.

Having studied social sciences, international relations, journalism and teaching she now enjoyed doing private tutoring, dramatised story telling in schools and kindergartens called Mother Troll and teaching a small group of Swedish children their language and their culture.

There were now about 30 families living in the Bay with one or more parents from Sweden.