I think Sweden offers a great standard of living and lots of opportunities for everyone here, but living in Sweden does take some getting used to and you will need to be prepared for some cultural adjustments compared to some other European countries.
Here are my top 12 tips for living in Sweden and settling in.
12 Tips for Living in Sweden
1. Sweden (Stockholm) is a ghost town in the Summer
Swedes cherish their summer vacations and it is very common that most Swedes take between 4-6 weeks holiday at the same time over the summer. What’s more, since there are so few people in Stockholm, a lot of bars and restaurants close since demand is so low. This takes some time to get used to and even after 2 years I find this a little weird. Something to bear in mind.
2. You’re in good hands with the state
Whether it’s free Swedish lessons, healthcare or pensions, the Swedish state has got you covered. Taxes are high here but it all goes back into the country, so services have a high standard and even as an immigrant, the Swedish state will look after you from cradle to grave.
3. It’s not you, it’s them; meeting/socialising with Swedes is often tough
Most of the stuff you’ve already read is true. Meeting Swedes is hard and they are not very forthcoming when meeting new people and non-Swedes especially.
Learning Swedish really helps and making an extra effort to start a conversation, join in with what they are doing, and sticking with it are all important steps.
4. Get an ID Card
For any place where you need to prove your ID like Systembolaget or nightclubs and bars, or to prove your identity like banks, getting a Swedish ID card will make things a lot easier. I used my UK driver’s license for 2 years and the novelty of watching someone find the date of birth wears off after a while. Plus some places, like Swedbank, will only accept a Swedish ID card as proof of ID and not even a passport.
5. Learn Swedish early
Even if you never plan to be fluent or “become a Swede”, getting the basics of Swedish is key and will really help you meet others, gain access to new opportunities and understand what is going on around you.
6. Get used to Systembolaget
Systembolaget is the only place to buy “real” alcohol over 3.5%. It closes around 18-19 at night, 15 on Saturdays and is closed on Sundays. Plus the hours change around bank holidays (red days). The selection is good but it’s a little annoying to only have one place go to. Either way, get used to it.
7. Love to queue
Queuing systems are very popular. Banks, pharmacies, post offices…the list goes on. If you see a lot of people standing around at a place you need to go to but not in a straight line, they are probably queuing for something and have already taken a numbered ticket. Look out and don’t make the same mistake twice.
8. Learn the Language
Swedes speak great English but resent you if you don’t learn Swedish after being here for a while. Learn early, practice often and get involved with conversational speaking. This will really help you get integrated into society.
The government offers free courses at SFI (Swedish for Immigrants / Svenska för invandrare) and Komvux (adult learning college) to help you get started. You can also get student aid to help towards your learning costs/as an incentive.
9. Get used to Eurovision
Eurovision is still pretty big here. Plus, to pick the Swedish entry, Sweden hosts a national competition called Melodifestivalen. Therefore, you’re looking at Eurovision style television for a good 4/5 months, as well as the music all over Spotify and the radio. Be prepared.
Lagom is the essence of Swedish and Swedish society, taking just the right amount and not too much. “Lagom” is also a word that does not have a direct translation into English, but means “just enough” and comes from the Swedish Viking history. We’ve explained that in more detail in our guide about lagom.
11. Take your shoes off when visiting friends
Swedes love their apartments, so don’t find it weird if they ask you to remove your shoes when visiting them. You also know it’s a Swedish party when you open the door and there are loads of shoes by the front door.
12. Changing address is super easy
Since everyone living in Sweden is registered with Skatteverket (The Swedish Tax Office), your latest details and address move easily with you. When you are moving address, you just need to tell Skatteverket via their website and your latest details will be automatically updated. This means that the next time you order something with your personnummer or need to update your address, it’s already done.
It’s free to and this service is so much better than having to contact everyone and every company you’ve given your address to and get it changed. The service is called Flyttanmällan and more details and the online portal can be found at here.
What are your top tips for living in Sweden? Let me know in the comments.