Whenever we start a new project (big or small) preparation is key. In a time where information is abundant, finding everything we need to be prepared is relatively easy. Documents, contact information, prices, etc. For many of us, that ultimate new project has been moving to another country. And one very important piece of information we need when facing something life-changing like this is the first-hand account from someone else who has walked that same path before us. Knowing about someone else’s experiences gives us perspective, inspiration and hope.
There are many reasons why people decide to move to another country. Some are forced to, others are searching for adventures. There’s also everything in between. Every case is unique and faces its own set of challenges. Moving to another country means starting from zero and involves endless challenges. Little battles, each one as important as the next. It is a journey full of ups and downs, frustrations and achievements. One thing for sure is: it takes a brave and strong person to go through all this.
In this series, we’ll get to know first-hand how it has been for a particular newbie. Even when everyone’s journey is different, there are always some constants that we can all identify with.
Five years ago, Tina visited Sweden for the first time during a lovely summer holiday that left a very positive mark in her life. She loved her experience and knew in the back of her mind that she would like to live here. Moving wasn’t an unfamiliar thing to do as she had previously moved between cities, however it was always inside her own country. So, when the time was right, taking the decision to move to Sweden wasn’t surprising for her or her family.
Even though she and her boyfriend had steady work and weren’t struggling in Croatia, political and social circumstances made them take a leap of faith and try their luck in Sweden.
Tina has been living in Sweden for a year and a half now and as many Newbies, her story is one of hard work and success. Even though this didn’t come easy, she is now in a place where she wants to be and very much involved in the Swedish way of life.
“It was a Friday afternoon after work, at our favourite bar that we decided to move.” They felt that it wasn’t a place where they wanted to raise kids or have a better future. Once the decision was made, there wasn’t much time as things were laid out, so they had a small time-frame to pack and start their new life.
“The biggest struggle for us was to find a place to live.” As we all know, finding accommodation is a serious issue even for people already living in Sweden. Knowing this, she looked on websites and Facebook groups but nothing came up. She then remembered a girl that she met while on a trip in Belgium who was from Gothenburg, where Tina now lives. Tina contacted her and luckily, this girl did know of someone who was renting out an apartment. Even though the deal was originally only for 4 months, they ended up staying for a whole year more. Tina and her boyfriend found a place to stay after just two weeks of searching and before leaving Croatia.
“It was lucky. I can’t call it any other way” she says.
“I actually thought that things would happen fast for me” she answers after I ask what her expectations were before moving.
“Because of my education and professional background, I thought I would find a job very easily.” As many people who move to Sweden with English as a primary or secondary language, Tina thought that she would have no problem finding an international company where to work.
“I learned very fast that speaking English wasn’t a unique skill. I am glad I realized this very soon because this helped me to focus on my education and learning the language as soon as I arrived.”
After facing the fact that the job market competition was hard and that knowledge of Swedish was vital, Tina signed up to SFI where she was selected to be in the intensive course with lessons every day and at a fast pace.
“It was super hard, it was super long. Exhausting and demanding.”
“When we came here, we didn’t know anybody, we were completely on our own. We didn’t know anything.” Tina soon understood that the system worked very differently to the way it worked back home. Even though she thinks that everything works much better than what she was used to, the fact that she needed to start from zero and in another language was a struggle.
Once again, she found help in people. She connected with a friend of a friend who’s lived in Sweden for a while and this helped her find a way to get things started.
“Can we meet? We need help!” This is something most people feel the need to ask when facing so many new things. For Tina, this call for help paid off more than once when she started her new life.
“Having your personal number is the holy grail. Once you have sorted that out, everything falls into place.” Even though the process of getting a personal number can take a while, (it depends on many factors and the waiting time is different from person to person) Tina didn’t need to wait too long to get hers.
Did you ever felt like giving up, that things were too difficult?
“I actually did. I thought about giving up school.”
Learning Swedish wasn’t actually hard for her. She had started learning on her own before even moving to Sweden by using Duolingo. She even started to translate nutrition labels at the back of food packaging and everything she could get her hands on before starting SFI.
So, what was so hard about school?
“It was demanding. When you are an adult and have all those things to do besides homework, then it can be hard.”
Right as she started her SFI studies, Tina started to apply for jobs and internships. Both via her school (Folkuniversitetet) and on her own. And it didn’t take too long before she found an internship. Her time there helped her practice the Swedish she was learning at school in a workplace.
“This process helped with my language learning experience so much. At school, you get the theory but out there, you get to practice, to listen. At school, we are all foreigners and we all sound the same. It was very important to me to get to interact with locals to improve my learning.”
It took Tina one year to find her first paid job, just after her internship finished.
“Even when I wasn’t looking for a job 100% of the time because I was busy with school and the internship, I got a job considerably easier than I expected. “If you are open minded, if you are willing to look outside of your field, then you can find a job in Sweden. Even if you haven’t mastered the language yet. I have learned that making the effort of learning Swedish helps so much with your life in Sweden. It opens doors, it makes you more involved in society.”
Aside from studying and starting in the job market as an intern, Tina was able to do something that she loves. As a vintage clothes lover and expert, she found Sweden a heaven to find and sell amazing pieces. She opened an online shop where she can mix a passion of hers with business.
-Would this have been possible back home?
“Not really. People in Sweden are very open-minded and supportive of other people’s ideas. They don’t judge you if what you want to do is unusual. People in Croatia are not so open-minded to new ideas, is just cultural differences. Even when one can find vintage items and clothes back home, the demand is not so big as it is in Sweden so the possibilities are better. Freelancing works better here.”
“I love my country, it’s beautiful, but the quality of life is better here in Sweden. It’s not only about economic stability but also the mindset. People in Sweden cherish a healthy lifestyle. […] I think that that mindset affects new people. When you move to a new country, you observe what the locals do. What they are eating, what they do for fun. Their free time is spent outside, in nature, regardless of the weather. Life doesn’t stop if it rains. I started to enjoy rain and snow for the first time in my life. The city works normally regardless of the weather. When we came here we didn’t have any plans for the future. Right now, we can see what life could be like here and we like it. We would like to stay. Living and working here is allowing us to have also time for our projects, to save money. Buying a house can be in our future. I love that this place has seasons, I love the food. I love people’s curiosity and how active they are even when they are older. They have so much energy. I really hope that I can be like them when I’m old. Swedes attitude to life is contagious and I want that. I want to work to have that. My last years in Croatia, I was stuck. I had finished University, I had a good job that wasn’t offering new challenges. Quitting and finding another job wasn’t the best option because the economic situation wasn’t so good in general. I couldn’t afford to lose my job. Moving to Sweden changed all that.”
- It helps to be as ready as possible for the challenge. If you are thinking about moving, prepare by learning as much as possible about the new culture. Try to start learning the language on your own, every little thing helps.
- Once in Sweden, learn the language. It really makes a difference. It took Tina approximately 1 year and 3 months to go through SFI (intensive) and SVA 1-3 (intensive). However, school is not enough. Hard work on your own is required. Read as much as you can and most importantly: practice. Even if you say things the wrong way or it sounds terrible. Practice is key and is the only way to improve.
- Sometimes things move slowly. Finding a job can take a long time. Keeping yourself busy is very important. Find something you’re passionate about and try to get involved as much as possible in activities around the city.
- Reach out when you need help. There are always people going through similar situations that are able to help.
Tina has now a steady job and finished her Swedish learning process at school, however, she still works hard at improving her language skills. She also has her online vintage shop that you can find on Instagram here. The future can be as bright as you work for it to be.
Are you interested in sharing your story with us? If you do, contact The Newbie Team for details. We would love to hear from you!