Moving to Sweden? Lucky you. Yes, it can get a bit dark and yes, a bottle of wine might just cost more than your left kidney, but all in all, life in Sweden is still as sweet as a cinnamon bun. For foreigners, living in Sweden has its pros and cons. And who better than to tell all than an Expater living in Gothenburg?
Slovenian born Patricija moved to Sweden in 2013. Here she shares a slice of her life in the Scandi kingdom…
What was it like moving to Sweden?
I’m originally from Slovenia, but I moved to Sweden after I finished my studies in London. The transition was very easy, since I’m from the EU and didn’t need as many papers as someone from outside of EU perhaps does. I moved for love, so this country wasn’t necessarily my choice, but I’ve grown to like it and can’t see myself living anywhere else.
I’d say Sweden is better in terms of a career and opportunities and Slovenia is better in terms of everything else. The countries are very similar in terms of laws and the lifestyle, but I do miss the Slovenian weather a lot!
Tell me about life in Sweden for foreigners. Is it easy to settle and make friends?
I live in Gothenburg, which is the second biggest city in Sweden. I noticed quite fast that everyone speaks English here, the young and the old. So, settling in was definitely not as big of a challenge as it would be if no one spoke English. The cities have an international feel and Swedes are generally quite welcoming of foreigners.
Having said that, it’s easier to make friends with international people. Swedes are nice, but they won’t go out of their way to include you in their lives. I can say that in my seven years here, I only have a handful of Swedish friends.
What are the main pros and cons of living in Sweden?
Pros: it’s organized, clean and I love the flat hierarchy.
Cons: winter weather is miserable.
Tell me about the Swedish way of life.
A big one is to not stand out. People don’t mention their own accomplishments much and you’ll rarely hear something that will blow your mind. People also don’t *really* want to know how you’re doing or what your interests are outside of work. Swedes like to mind their own business.
In a way I like this way of living, because I like living in my own bubble. I do miss an occasional complaining session or honest talk with a Slovenian friend, though. That’s when I call my mom or sister and let it all out!
Are Swedes friendly?
Yes, very friendly. But most of them won’t really make a lot of effort to maintain a friendship. It’s very individualistic here, so if you want ‘true’ friendships, you’ll have to work extra hard.
Is it expensive to live in Sweden? What is a good salary in Sweden?
I’d say it’s not. But then again that’s relative. A good starting salary for someone with a university or master’s degree here is $3,000 USD per month. It’s possible to get that up to $4,000 USD in five years.
With this amount you can easily live comfortably, eat out, travel, treat yourself and still save around $1,000 per month.
Is it easy to get job in Sweden?
It depends on what area you’re working in. If you’re an engineer, developer, scientist or similar – then you won’t have problems. There are plenty of English-speaking companies here who’d love to have you on board.
For pretty much anything else, you’ll have to learn Swedish and be 100% fluent in it or you’ll struggle. I managed to learn Swedish quite fast, and I’m glad I did – I work in marketing and getting a job in this sector is definitely a big challenge.
Do you have any tips for anyone moving to Sweden? And for anyone moving with family?
Sweden is lovely and the people are nice. The country is organized, safe and beautiful. One of the biggest challenges you’ll face is finding a place to live. In Sweden it’s all about waiting in lines. And we also wait in lines for an apartment.
In Sweden, we have what you call ‘firsthand’ and then second- or even thirdhand rentals. A firsthand (förstahand) contract means that the apartment is in your name and you deal directly with the landlord. And these take ages to find! Meanwhile secondhand rentals (andrahand) are basically sublets, which may or may not have the consent of the landlord, and the agreement is usually for a specific time period.
If you want a ‘firsthand’ apartment in the city, be prepared to wait 10-15 years. A lot of the people decide to buy an apartment instead of renting, it’s much easier that way. Otherwise you’ll have to find a second or third hand apartment online and trust me – you won’t be the only one. So be prepared!
The other thing you need to ask yourself is how much you appreciate a warm climate. The weather here really does suck. It’s grey, rainy and windy for about six months every year. It’s not as bad further south, but worse further north. Swedes compromise in clever ways though, and the majority go on a tropical vacation in the winter, to get some much-needed vitamin D.
I think family-life in Sweden is great and I look forward to having my own family here one day. The country has very friendly laws in regards to maternity leave and holidays, so you’ll definitely be able to enjoy life with loved ones a little more here.
Follow Patricija at I, Wanderlista, a blog for travel lovers and photography enthusiasts featuring unique destinations, photography tips and travel stories from around the world. All photos copyright I, Wanderlista.
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