Some days ago, we have asked you on Instagram, if you’d have any questions for us. One of these questions was “is it easy to be an expat in Sweden?”. It is something that we never really asked ourselves before and I found it very interesting. We started reflecting on this and, let me tell you, one Instagram story is not enough to answer it!
In this article, we are attempting to give you an answer, based on our experience, to whether or not it is easy to be an expat in Sweden!
As you might know, we both moved to Sweden in August 2016, and for 2 years now, we live in Stockholm. We got to know different cities in Sweden but also different statuses. We moved as international students, then graduated and started to work on local contracts for different companies in Stockholm.
In our situation, we are not expats because our companies back home decided to send us abroad. We just happened to find jobs in Sweden after graduating and settled here! So, based on the last 3 and a half years of living in Sweden, here is our answer to “is it easy to be an expat in Sweden?”.
Without thinking too much, this is the answer I’d probably give to “is it easy to be an expat in Sweden”. Many things are easy when arriving in Sweden. Here below are some of the points worth mentioning and keeping in mind if you are planning to move to Sweden.
Free language courses
Once officially registered in the country, it is possible to go to SFI (Swedish for Immigrants), and there you can get Swedish classes for free! Yes for free! I mean, your taxes pay them, but once there, a teacher will take you through the different levels of Swedish. Both Erikas and I have been part of these classes and passed all official exams, certifying our level. So not only the classes are for free, but you have national exams, recognizing your language level in the country.
Everyone speaks English
Bartenders, doctors or cashiers, you will never have a problem communicating in Sweden if you don’t speak Swedish. In over 3 years here, I rarely found myself in a situation where I had to speak Swedish. And for the few times I needed Swedish, the basics provided by SFI were more than enough!
You can survive without Swedish
To continue with the above point, not only everyone does speak English but you can also find all the information you need in English too. Whether it is about taxes, social security or doctors, all can be done in English. The same goes for jobs: it is possible to find a job when speaking only English. We are not saying it will be your dream job but there are options.
It might sound a bit weird but this is something good about Sweden. You can walk pretty much everywhere and even here in Stockholm, the city is not too big. It is easy to locate yourself, navigate and find your way just after a couple of days in town!
Ease to travel
Let’s not forget to mention that Sweden is in the EU and Schengen area, which means that you can easily travel or go back home. in our cases, we could fly or travel whenever we wanted, in a couple of hours and without having to have a passport! I never thought that this point was important but in the case of homesickness, it is always good to know that home is not too far away.
So, after talking about all the good and “easy” things when being an expat in Sweden, I think, it is important to mention some of the obstacles one can face.
The administrative nightmare
It is not only the case in Sweden, but also in many other places. However, here, you will need to get a personal number (social security number). This number gives you access to everything in Sweden and nothing can be done without this number. From having a discount card at your local supermarket to opening a bank account…
The integration is a struggle
As you have read earlier, we are living in Sweden for soon-to-be 4 years and despite learning the language and working for Swedish companies, we still are foreigners. It is not something easy and it can often be painful. There are many foreigners in Stockholm and Sweden, but feeling integrated when both you and your partner are foreigners, is far from being easy and peaceful.
Very few local friends
This probably goes with the integration struggle, but it is important to mention that having Swedish friends is quite a challenge! Of course, we do know some Swedish people, and we are lucky to call some of them friends. But clearly, they’re not so many!
You will have to speak Swedish
Ultimately, if you want to stay in Sweden, you will have to learn Swedish. Whether it is for your everyday life, or just because you want to grow in your job or have a family here… Knowing the language is a must. This is something that we do struggle with since we took classes and could speak the language but English remains a lot more comfortable to use!
The cost of living
This is something that we have to take into consideration before moving to Sweden. Everything is expensive. Everything! From your groceries, alcohol, and coffee to housing or having a car in town. We already wrote about this (here), but I think we need to stress this point. Life in Sweden is expensive and even more if you live in Stockholm. You need to be prepared for this and before moving to Stockholm, you should come for a visit and check out prices!
As you might have guessed, there is no straight answer to whether it is easy to be an expat in Sweden. And I believe there is no easy answer regardless of the country you live in. Some of these points are also easy for us to say as settling in Sweden was made easy since we arrived as students. We are both from other EU countries and we do not need visas or work permits.
And though the above points might seem obvious, it is very important to consider them. For instance, without getting our personal number early on, we might not have been in the situation we are in now.