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Is it possible to live as an expat in Sweden if I don't speak Swedish at all?

September 13, 2015

Yes…and no.

If you are moving to Sweden and don’t speak Swedish, you are lucky. Sweden is one of the few places where English here is a second language and the standard is very high. Whilst there are clear advantages of learning Swedish, you don’t NEED to to get by here.

One thing you will probably want to learn is the phrase “kan du prata engelska” (can you speak English) or “kan vi gör det här på engelska” (can we do this in English). Its casual, polite way of making sure you don’t get caught out.

TV, Music, & Radio

The majority of TV here is your favourite USA and British shows, as well as the odd SVT (Sweden’s National TV Station) documentary.

Shopping

Most shops have someone working there that speaks English. I have only been caught once at a hairdressers in the suburbs, but everyday stores like supermarkets and bars are fine.

Transport

Yes and no, depending on where you go. Most workers on the SL transport network speak English, and a lot of the information is in Swedish and English.

However, most Swedes do expect that if you have been here for 6 months +, you do have a good command of the language. Being able to order in store, listening to TV and conversations, and reading a newspaper. You don’t need to be fluent, but just enough to get by is really appreciated. Plus is sets you apart from those that don’t.

Getting stared with Swedish is very easy and free. The government backs 2 programmes to help non-Swedes learn Swedish. SFI (Swedish for Immigrants) and SaaS (Swedish as a Second language – speak to the team at Komvux to get started) are basic and intermediate courses to get your Swedish skills up to scratch so you can integrate into society.

I am currently at the point where a team mate of mine speak English and Swedish to each other. She speaks to me in Swedish and I speak to her in English. Even though I need to improve my speaking, it really helps to get a working, professional vocabulary of Swedish in daily life.


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