The other day I caught myself thinking about these first days when I just arrived in Sweden. And you know what…. It’s been one crazy ride until now! And some things could have been (for sure) a little smoother. Probably it would have been, if I would have gotten a few tips from fellow expats or students. Of course, not everything can be planned and arranged for you, but there are a few things to know before moving to Sweden. So, if you are planning on moving to Sweden soon, have a look at the below tips and the list of all the things to know and do before moving up here!
Flashback to August 2016. This was the first time I ever came to Sweden, without knowing that I would eventually settle in the country less than 2 years after. I moved to Sweden as an international student, starting a master program in Lund University. Back then, everything seemed easy as mentors or course coordinators would almost hold your hand to get your things done.
However, now thinking about it, about the steps passed, and looking at what is coming next, there is a bunch of things, I wish I knew before moving to Sweden.
1. Start learning the language before moving.
As easy as it sounds, it would have made my first months slightly easier before actually joining a Swedish language class. Before moving to Sweden, I thought, “come on, it’s Sweden, everyone speaks English there”… Which is a pretty accurate statement, but there is always the one situation where you wish you’d knew the language. Just to give you a quick example, if you take the trash out and meet one of your oldest neighbours, he might start screaming at you when you don’t answer him (this happened)….
I wrote about my Swedish level just here.
2. Register at your embassy when you arrive in the country.
I waited over one year to do so, however being registered there from the beginning would have definitely made my life easier. There are a few advantages of being registered at your embassy such as being on a mailing list to get all the important information and being aware of the events happening nearby. Growing your network is always good, or just voting without making all the extra paperwork back home. But most importantly, if something happens with your papers (or pretty much anything else), this is the place to get new ones.
3. Let your bank know you are going away.
I forgot to do it. My credit card got blocked. Applause. Yes it happened, no matter which type of card you have, better play it safe. Because when one is moving or settling in there is always more expenses than usual. On a similar note, opening a local bank account can be beneficial, especially if you’re planning on staying in the country for an extensive period. This way, you’ll avoid paying some extra fees or conversion rates every time you’re using your card.
4. Start looking for an apartment.
Depending on the city, it may be a challenge! But at the end, even if people are complaining about the difficulty, you’ll find a place. There are a few website that can be useful (blocket.se, bostaddirekt.se …) and a little scroll through won’t hurt. Most people will invite you for viewings in the next days, so just keep in mind, once you’re there, be available for intensive apartment visits! Another tip would be to write a text about yourself. Meaning that you send some basic information to your potential future landlord and show all the reasons why you’ll be the best tenant! It is going to take time, but all the time spent there, will be time saved in the future. Read our story about it here.
5. Winter is long, dark and cold.
You know it, and I knew it before coming. The thing here is that you think you know, but the reality is a whole new story! Because it is real cold, so get ready to put on some layers and you’ll be alright! The coldness is actually the easiest of all, cause there is a tangible solution for that, and after all it’s quite a good excuse to hang out in some cute cafés! Should we talk about the length of that season? Because that is no joke! My winter jacket was part of my daily outfit from late October till early May. Yes. It is long. And dark. Typically, the sun would go down around 15.00 (if not before that) in Stockholm, and it’s staying this way for quite some time. Just so you know.
Extra tips: You may need some vitamin-D pills to survive, but that’s okay, we’re all the same!
6. Plan when you want to travel.
Tickets can be expensive, especially if you’re planning on some specific activities like the northern lights, midnight sun or midsummer. It is also a great way to learn about the country you’ll live in, and the traditions there. And if you’re planning a trip to a warm and exotic place during winter time, that’s a good thing to keep your mood up! And on the other side, if you want to go home for Christmas or over the summer, the struggle will be the same, so get you agendas and let’s plan! Another trick, is knowing that SJ (the national railway company) is using revenue management, meaning that the price of a ticket can jump from 150:- to 2.000:- in a blink!
7. Get ready for the unexpected to happen.
You packed everything, printed your tickets, found a potential apartment etc. That is a great first step, but did you think about what could happen next? Yes, of course a lot of things could happen and usually we believe it will not do any good for our trip, but maybe spend an extra hour reviewing everything. Make a to do list to make sure everything is in the suitcase, check that your bank has all your personal information and that you took the most important papers with you. Did you also think about your medical and other risks insurance? Because that could help!
8. Personal space matters.
If you are in any type of public transport, and not during rush hours, no one should come sit next to you. Maybe the opposite seat if you’re lucky but that’s pretty much it. It is not something that should be taken personally, for sure, and at the end of the day it is quite pleasant to also have your own space. If I would have known this before moving to Sweden, I would have spared some looks!
⇒ You have any other ideas and tips? Just share them in the comments!
⇒ You want to see how Stockholm looks like when the sun is out? Check it out here!