Did you move to Sweden on a temporary contract? Or for your studies? Do you see your time here in Sweden as a temporary phase of your life? Then stop what you are doing, and continue reading this!
When I moved 4.5 years ago to Sweden, I was the opinion that my stay in Sweden will be a temporary phase. With a clear expiration date. The date when I would finish my PhD. I know that after my graduation, I most likely would take a research position somewhere in another country and another university. As it is done usually in academia.
So I arrived here, with the mindset that there is no reason to get too attached to the country, to my apartment, to my belongings, to the people…
For the first two years, I had the time of my life. I got into a young and international working environment. So I had plenty of new friends that were in the same position. I had plenty of places to discover, plenty of bars to explore, plenty of people to talk with. Most people in my environment had similar to me limited contracts. All of them saw their time here in Sweden as a possibility to gain international experiences. We had a high turn over of people, but as everybody was in the same position, and it was just something we accepted. And there was a constant flow of new people arriving.
I assume there are other newbies out here that moved to Sweden on similar conditions, either for a research position, or some rotation or placement from their job. Do you recognize this situation?
From temporary to possible permanent
For me, things then took an “unexpected” turn, as I fell in love with a Swede. Suddenly, there was this possible future in Sweden. That may be the “temporary” could be changed into a “permanent”.
For anybody that never went through this change, this might seem not something to spend any thoughts on. But it is a big deal. Suddenly one gets aware that if all people you know are on temporary contracts. And it gets tiring of losing friends and making new friends. Or you realize that you maybe should have invested in learning the language…
Here are some points that I wish that I would have done differently, even if my stay would have turned out temporary.
Many people that only temporarily move to Sweden don’t make a big effort in learning properly Swedish. Maybe you learn the most common phrases, and try to keep a strick on Duolingo, but that’s it. And Sweden makes it very easy to have a comfortable life knowledge of the language. The TV is mainly in English. Most people speak very good English, at least in the bigger cities. Cinema movies are shown in English. You get the point.
So you need to make an effort, and this effort doesn’t necessarily seem to make sense if you know you only gonna stay for two years. But it does! Every language you learn will be easier, and it will help to keep your mind trained. Also, it gives you the chance to help to build up a more permanent social circle (more to that in the next point).
Building a social environment with locals or people with permanent positions
As I mentioned before, if all your social environment comes through your international workplace, there is a risk that many of your new friends are gonna leave over time. It is therefore with to build up a more permanent social environment. Taking Swedish classes could be a good start, as there you will meet people that most likely plan to stay longer. If you have some hobbies, try to not stop it for the time being. I did not join any sports team, because I didn’t feel comfortable enough with my Swedish. Very silly, because, that could have been the perfect setting to meet new people and practice Swedish. Two birds with one stone, so to speak.
Now you maybe think where the benefit is if you plan to really only stay for two years. Here it comes. It will give you a much more unique Sweden experience. If you get properly into the Swedish culture, you will much more understand their way of living. If you just interact with international people, how can you say you really lived in Sweden? 😉
Building up a local professional network
If you don’t plan on staying, your job search might involve all kinds of countries, possible countries you have lived in before. You might, therefore, prioritize in keeping in touch with your old network, and maintain those connections. Definitely, do that! But also try to invest in building up a professional network where you have your temporary job. It takes a little effort, but if you decide to stay, it hopefully will pay off. As you might know, most jobs are offered through networking, and starting from scratch is hard and takes time!
For how many of you did temporary become permanent? What would be the advice you wish to give to yourself looking back? Let me know in the comments!