When we moved here we were, and still are, foreigners. I really am one, and Rolf is from a different part of Sweden and nearly as much of a foreigner. We never expected to be thought of as locals but we hope to be accepted as a positive force in the local community. We wouldn’t want to offend anyone, or look as if we don’t care.

Sometimes, though, we do things differently. We don’t mean to. It’s just that it’s hard to change routines and assumptions. At the same time we guard against being critical of the differences. I think we’ve a lot to learn from our neighbours and others in Kiruna.

We try and follow the patterns. This is the day the rubbish is collected, and no, you don’t leave your bin facing that way or it won’t be collected. You don’t leave your car there in the winter because it will be in the way of the snow-clearing machine. If you want to go to the airport you don’t tell the local taxi company when to arrive at the right time for the flight, they tell you. Those kind of things.

Then there are local habits, which may be harder to follow. Barbecues, for instance, if you aren’t keen on barbecuing. The start of the spring fishing season, if you don’t have a snow scooter to take you there and don’t know one end of a fishing rod from the other. Classic American car cruising, and hobby tractors – well, enough said.

There are habits you just can’t see the point in following – for example, model windmills in the front garden, and Christmas decorations up for six month of the year.

So you can only go so far in trying to be a local. At some point and in some areas you have to say, well this is the way we do things and as long as it doesn’t offend anyone else then we’ll just carry on.

One of those areas is gardens. I love gardens, but that’s gardens in a warm climate. Here where the ground can be snow covered most of the year not only is it more difficult but it loses some of its appeal. I haven’t kept up the same high standard of maintenance of flower beds, and there has been nothing approaching a lawn out the back since we moved in.

This is partly because we refuse to buy a lawnmower. I know I know, it’s extreme, but hear me out. The grass grows super fast in the continuous light, and we’re often not here at the crucial time the snow melts, so by the time we arrive back it’s already too high for a lawnmower. We decided instead on a combination of a scythe, and a trimmer to deal with the heavy duty cutting back that is required. Having done that fairly early this year we are now left with grass which should be cut with a lawnmower to keep it in trim. But the truth is, we don’t like trim lawns. Never have. I ripped out the lawn at the back of our house in England and replaced it with earth and bushes. It has associations of suburbia, of caring too much about manicured lawns rather than other more important things. A neat lawn is not something we’ve ever wanted to see around our house, so we don’t have a lawnmower.

(We use a scythe, not a lawnmower.)

Not much of our land is visible to neighbours, so we hope it doesn’t upset them too much, our straggly grass. We thought this was a habit we might get away with.

Something strange has just happened though. We’ve begun to think about buying a lawnmower. The thing is, we always thought a lawnmower was to make nice lawns, but we see there may be another reason all our neighbours keep such neat suburban-looking lawns. Two words: damn insects. The more you cut the grass the less insects there are around. So soon we may have a lawnmower like everyone else.

We’re learning that behaving like a local is not so much a lifestyle choice, more about just doing what’s practical.

Another thing. As we were clearing away the low lying tree branches I so loved last year, having realised they’re a haven for biting flies, I had another revelation. If we put up our Christmas lights now, before all that obstructive snow arrives, then it will be so much easier to position them where they look best.

Mm, putting up the Christmas decorations in August. Slowly but surely we’re inching our way towards becoming almost locals.