Written by Teenie Fung
Have you considered moving to Sweden alone? Are you worried about the language, culture, job opportunities, cost of living etc? It can be extremely daunting to move from one place to another. However, life is short but remember that preparation is key and adaptation comes next.
Do your homework, measure the risk and reward. If the risk is too high to lose, have a backup plan or improve your current situation before rushing for relocation. Nothing is impossible! Here’s how I relocated and settled in Sweden within one year. I hope you can find it useful!
Savings are essential to buffer unforeseen risks of relocation. Once you have a work contract, you will need to apply for a work visa from your home country. The waiting time can go from four months to one year depending on the job/ employer. There are jobs that are prioritized in the application process, be sure to check first with ‘Migrationsverket‘ before applying for any jobs.
1. Learn the culture
- Think long-term. ‘The sense of belonging’ is crucial when you move to a new country. Do you also have special connection to Sweden?
- Make some friends from Sweden in the country you are currently residing in. Join activities organized by the Swedish Chamber of Commerce and other Swedish-related organizations/meet-ups. Get to know the Swedish community!
- Learn the Swedish history and traditions! Sweden is full of heritage and rich culture. You will enjoy more Sweden if you know more about it.
- Buy a book to learn basic Swedish!
- Visit Sweden during short holiday breaks and meet up with your Swedish friends!
2. Line up job interviews
- The worst thing when coming to Sweden is to have no income and waiting for a miracle to happen. If you haven’t already done your homework, 70% of the population in Sweden are Swedes. The majority of jobs in Sweden require a very good level of the Swedish language.
- The best strategy is to prepare for multiple job interviews and be as prepared as possible.
- Set goals and stay motivated.
How to land job offers in Sweden?
Work out every possibility you can think of. Just do it! Don’t only submit your CV to Arbetsförmedlingen if you are a young professional with work experience and a university degree.
- Get referrals from your current network, don’t be afraid to ask! Network, network and network. This is how I got my first job in Sweden!
- Check if your current employers have offices in Sweden. If so, you can try to request a transfer wherever appropriate.
- Leverage your skill sets: Focus your job search on the industry that you have the longest work experience in (at least 2 years). Think from the employer’s point of view. Why they should hire someone from outside Sweden when they can hire someone close to them with the same skill set? Know your strengths. Apply to jobs where you are in a more advantageous position compared to a local.
- Apply to companies with international business exposure. They are the ones who are most likely to hire foreigners. Know the hiring season in Sweden. June to Aug and Nov-Jan are holiday seasons in Sweden. Job opportunities during these months are extremely low, hence it’s best that you don’t end up in Sweden without a job especially at this time of the year. The best way is to relocate just before the hiring season. Meeting employers in person will hugely increase your chances of getting hired than a Skype/phone interview.
- Create a long list of companies you want to work for on excel. Do your research on them and mark down your application status.
- Find jobs that don’t require Swedish in the job description. Don’t waste time applying for jobs where the Swedish language is a must.
- Try connecting with employees of the companies you want to work for on Linkedin by sending a short note to express interests and ask constructive questions. Speak to Headhunters if possible.
- Make international cold calls: Sweden is a very open and transparent country. You will easily find a phone number and email address on many company websites. Be brave and make a call to a decision maker for a job interview. Make sure you prepare before the call! Buy an unlimited monthly plan on Skype for 75 KR/ month (much cheaper than using roaming or calling cards) and get a Swedish phone number It shows that you have interests in moving to Sweden.
- Go to Career Fairs in universities (e.g. Stockholm School of Economics) and meet employers in person. Bring your CV. You can do that during your short holiday trip.
- Know the visa process from head to toe. Call ‘Migrationsverket‘ and ask all the questions you can think of. The queue on the telephone line is extremely long, but it’s worth it! Consult them about the work visa process and your nationality. Most employers don’t know the process. Knowing the process will get you one step closer to landing an offer.
Understand that Sweden is not as international as big cities like London, Hong Kong, Paris and New York. Yet, Stockholm is one of the most innovative cities in the world. The Swedish economy survives by exporting, so there will always be jobs here for foreigners. Locals are very welcoming despite the recent immigration problem. You just need to find like-minded people as everywhere else in the world!
Ring the bell with me in Nasdaq Stockholm when you are ready!
Watch out for scams! There are many scams online if you try to find accommodation before visiting the flat in person.
- Ask your friends and new colleagues for short term stay accommodation. Stay in a hotel or Airbnb.
- Find rental apartments on Blocket and visit the apartment.
- It’s great to experience living in different areas in Stockholm as an expat. Later on, you may want to buy an apartment to cope with the endless moving.
How to identify scams
The so-called ‘landlord’ might pretend to get to know about you. You may have even Skyped with the person. They might create multiple fake ‘flatmates’ to email you and try to ‘get to know you’. But this person can still be fake.
- Ask the person for a personal number and full name (This is a unique number given to all Swedish citizens). You can search the person’s information online on hitta.se as there’s no secrets in Sweden! If you don’t find a matching name, personal number and address of this person and its property, then it is a fake. If they refuse to provide you with their personal number, they are likely to be scams no matter what excuses they give.
- They only want you to send money to a bank account outside Sweden e.g. Spain. That’s because they want to cover up their traces in Sweden in case you reach out to the police.
- The person disregards you right away when you insist to visit the flat first in person. That’s because they don’t really have one!
- The contract is too simple – google “scam contract” and check if you have the same copy. Google what terms there should be on a normal contract.
Check for other warnings here on another newbie post.
After relocation: First year in Sweden
1. Welcome to Sweden! Now, get yourself into the happy circle of Sweden!
- Reconnect with your Swedish friends from the country you previously live in. Make new friends through group hangouts!
- Go to events organized by Meetup and Eventbrite
- It’s a modern world. Use different apps on your phone to enlarge your network of friends, but be safe!
- As everyone says, the fastest way to learn Swedish is to be in contact with a Swedish. And the best way to fall in love with Sweden! I met my boyfriend, John, in Sweden coincidently soon after I started my new life here. He’s a great person with a lovely family!
- Buy warm clothes! As the Swedish say: “Det finns inget dåligt väder, bara dåliga kläder.” Appreciate the darkness and snow. Get candles and make your home a nice and cozy place.
2. Register for SFI and attend as many classes as possible.
I work full time and I attend Swedish classes every Monday and Wednesday after work from 17.30 to 20.30.
- You need Swedish to live in Sweden. Everything is in Swedish except the airport and the main train station. Respect local culture and learn the language like you would also want others to respect your own when they are in your country. Eventually, this will open many doors you have never believed possible before. When you finish SFI, you can do this.
- You will meet like-minded friends with a similar background. They will most likely become your lifelong friends in Sweden.
- You are more likely to pass SFI exams when you set a goal with your classmates. Study with your friends and help each other even outside the course.
3. Travel to as many places as possible in/near Sweden.
- Take a trip to Sälen for skiing, Båstad for the beach, Visby for the medieval week, Copenhagen for city exploration and the 10,000 Swedish islands on the archipelago!
And here you go! You will settle in in no time! Lycka till! (Good luck)
About the author
Teenie is a Stockholm-based investment advisor and tech enthusiast. Inspired by the gigantic potential of Stockholm aka ‘Unicorn Factory’, Teenie left her job from a top-tier bank in Hong Kong and moved to Sweden in 2017. She’s also the creator of an online activewear brand (yogafriday.com) and the founder of a fashion community that is still active today in England. At present, Teenie continues to seek for emerging technologies in pursuit of improving everyday living and a better future.