21 Things You Should Know Before Moving to Sweden
Thinking of moving to Sweden? Well, you may have hit the jackpot – life in Sweden isn’t too shabby. The Scandinavian nation renowned as one of the best countries in the world for quality of life – you can look forward to lakes galore, and an endless supply of cinnamon buns!
Throughout this article, we'll cover a range of Swedish subjects. There'll be a mixture of serious talk about taxes, and some less serious discussion about caviar paste. But ultimately, we'll be covering all the things you need to know before moving to Sweden.
If you've already got your heart set on the land of ABBA and IKEA, head over to our shipping cost page, where you'll be able to work out how much it will cost to kick off the big move.
Let’s start off with everyone’s top priority: food! Sweden has so many tasty traditional treats to tantalise your tastebuds. And no, we’re not just talking about their world-famous IKEA meatballs.
Look out for:
- Raggmunk – A potato pancake that’s fried in butter. Swedes dress it up in various ways, but it’s usually served with bacon and lingonberries
- Gravad Lax – This is the Swedish name for smoked salmon, which is served with “hovmästarsås” on the side – a dill-scented mustard sauce
- Köttbullar – Perhaps the epitome of Swedish cuisine. Similar to Italian meatballs, but cooked in a rich, creamy gravy made with beef or bone broth and sour cream
Swedish culture also revels in all things pastry. Be sure to give these sweet treats a try:
- Kanelbullar (or as we like to call them, cinnamon buns) – These brilliant buns are celebrated every year on October 4th, but are also a common fixture of daily diets
- Lussekatter – A rich, sweet, spiced bun, flavoured with saffron and cinnamon
- Pepparkakor – This translates to ‘pepper cookie’, but it’s essentially a thin ginger cookie
- Chokladbollar – These chocolate balls consist of oatmeal, sugar, cocoa, vanilla sugar, and butter
It’s time to sample some Swedish delights!
A towering pile of delicious Kanelbullar. Swedish heaven!
Do you find yourself craving your daily dose of caffeine? Well then, Sweden will be perfect for you!
Sweden has been ranked sixth in the world for coffee consumption, with each person guzzling a sizeable 8.2kg of coffee annually. Two of Sweden’s closest competitors are Denmark and Norway, sitting at second and fourth. Scandinavians really do love their coffee fix!
Despite their modern day love for the exotic bean, coffee was banned in Sweden five times between 1756 and 1817. Carl Linnaeus, a Sweden botanist, was worried it would cause certain health defects. Some people were equally as worried that the beverage would have a negative impact on Sweden’s culture.
3. A fairly high cost of living
Sweden may be a beautiful country full of friendly faces, but the cost of living can be a little overwhelming. The cost of living in Sweden is actually 1.95% higher than in the United Kingdom, so it may be worth saving a penny or two before moving over.
Here is a comparison of how much you can expect to fork out for your weekly shop. We’ve converted Swedish krona into pounds sterling, to make it easier to compare prices:
Data sourced from Numbeo
On the surface, ‘fika’ means ‘to have a coffee break’ – but there’s much more to it than that. According to Swedish culture, fika is an opportunity to take a break from your day. More importantly, it's a chance to tap into your social life, chat with friends, and unwind. And of course, it’s an opportunity to try some of Sweden’s traditional treats.
Sweden’s conflicted history with coffee is the reason for this particular tradition. Whilst coffee was banned, a few people continued to meet up to drink it in secret. To add to the secrecy, they came up with a code word ‘fika’, an inversion of ‘kaffi’ – the 19th century word for coffee.
What’s not to love about a country that takes half an hour from their daily lives for some tea, coffee, treats, and a natter?
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5. Down on drinking
We all know that Brits like to indulge in the odd pint or two (or three). But if you’re planning on moving to Sweden, you might experience some culture shock when it comes to alcohol.
First of all, you’ll want to get familiar with the term ‘Systembolaget’. This is a government-owned chain of liquor stores in Sweden, created to prevent alcohol abuse in the country. It is in fact the only retail store that’s allowed to sell alcoholic beverages that contain more than 3.5% alcohol by volume.
As a general rule, systembolagets are open Monday to Wednesday from 10am-6pm, Thursday and Friday from 10am-7pm, and Saturday from 10am-3pm. So if you’re planning a party, or preparing for a holiday weekend, make sure to get there early – if you don’t, you’ll find yourself in a never-ending queue around the block. May the odds be ever in your favour.
6. Housing prices
Swedish people are not happy about their current housing situation. In recent years, the growing population of super-wealthy buyers have pushed Stockholm's rent prices upwards. This increase of wealthy buyers has pushed up the rent across Sweden an average of 1.9%, which is the highest increase in rents since 2013.
Though this might be bad news for the Swedes, compared to the UK, renting in Sweden is a dream. According to Numbeo, rent prices in the United Kingdom are 17.60% higher than in Sweden. But you might want to jump on the bandwagon before many more Brits cotton on – in the past five years alone, the number of people living in Stockholm has risen by 8%, with an increasing number coming from the UK.
Despite its wonderful, vibrant cities, Sweden’s most exciting feature has to be its nature. You can guarantee that its landscape will knock your socks off.
Whether you’re venturing out in the summer or winter, Sweden is truly magical. But what are Sweden’s most mystical areas? Check out our top five attractions below:
- Abisko National Park – The northern lights are one of the most other-worldly gifts that Earth has to offer, and this beautiful park has been voted as the best place in the world to see their glimmering green greatness
- Fulufjället National Park – Expect gorgeous wetlands dotted with waterfalls and forests as far as the eye can see, with an abundance of hiking trails – both easy and advanced
- Söderåsen – Trees, trees, and even more trees. This leafy delight is perfect all year round, whether you’re up for an autumnal trail, or just a simple summer picnic
- Vindelfjällen Nature Reserve – Take a hiking trip round the winding rivers and towering mountains of Vindelfjällen. You might even be able to spot the odd reindeer, if you’re lucky!
- Vänern – We couldn’t miss out Sweden’s best lake, could we? Vänern is the largest lake in Sweden, and the third largest lake in all of Europe
A handful of houses, perched on the bank of one of Sweden's many peaceful and picturesque lakes
As the home of eco-activist Greta Thurnberg, would you expect anything else?
When it comes to deciding which country is the greenest of the green, Sweden are up there with the top dogs. In fact, in the Environment Performance Index (EPI) worldwide ranking, they’re sitting comfortably in fifth place.
Sweden has even set the aspirational goal of having 50% of its energy sources coming from renewables by 2030, and an even more impressive 100% by 2040. So if you’re planning to move to Sweden, it’s time to go green or stay home.
If you’re planning on moving to Sweden, it’s common knowledge that you should research the areas you’d like to move to. Most people may gravitate towards Stockholm, but if you’re after a quieter lifestyle, Skåne could be the place for you.
One thing you should probably note: this quaint countryside region of Sweden hasn’t always been part of Sweden. It was linguistically, and culturally, part of the Kingdom of Denmark until 1670.
Due to this technicality, you can expect to encounter an entirely different culture (and accent) from your typical Swedish settlement. You should also expect a pinch of rivalry with the rest of Sweden – sort of like siblings.
So what are Skåne’s most spectacular sights to see?
Nature, nature, and more nature. You can treat yourself to a list of endless nature parks across the county, including Soderasens National Park, Stenshuvuds Nationalpark, and Klova Hallar.
Skåne is a county full of historical architecture that adds to the beautiful views – specifically in Lund. To top it all off, you can also soak in the sun during the summer months on the beach in Helsingborg.
10. Traditions galore!
Every country has its own traditional celebration that sets them apart from the rest of the world. Although we Brits have bank holidays and celebrations throughout the year, Sweden’s are somewhat unique:
- Christmas (24 December) – The tradition that will shock you the most is none other than Christmas, which is actually celebrated on the 24th of December, rather than the 25th. That’s right – one less day to sort your Christmas shopping!
- Midsommar (the Summer Solstice) – The British don’t have a huge amount of celebrations in the summer. Sweden, on the other hand, celebrate the longest day of the year by creating a flower-filled festival. You can dance and sing merrily around a pole, and drink as much flavoured schnapps until your heart’s content.
- Kräftskiva (8 August) – A crayfish party is a traditional summertime eating and drinking celebration in the Nordic countries, where you can eat as much crayfish as you wish!
- Santa Lucia (13 December) – Typically, girls dress up like the saint herself, wearing long white robes and leafy wreaths. Boys are encouraged to dress as “Star Boys”, carrying wands with stars on the end and wearing long hats decorated with stars. They perform a collection of traditional songs, and light candles in the darkest heart of winter as a reminder that not everything is gloomy and frozen.
- Valborg (30 April) – Every year, Sweden is set ablaze in revelry of the emerging spring. The celebration, known as Valborg, causes communities throughout Sweden to unite in spirit and gather around massive bonfires, singing songs to welcome spring to their northern shores
There are many more traditions to celebrate in this historical country, but these are the main attractions. Time to get your tradish-on!
11. Tubed caviar, and other questionable Swedish products
Caviar: food for the rich and wealthy, and a delicacy served only with proper etiquette. Well, you can throw that stereotype out of the window!
Almost all caviar (spelt kaviar in Sweden) is sold in tubes, which basically look like tubes of toothpaste (be careful not to get those mixed up in your weekly shop). About 60% of people eat it with eggs, while others prefer it with bread or cheese.
Surströmming – another debatable delicacy, surströmming is a lightly-salted, fermented Baltic Sea herring. It has been a fixture of traditional Swedish cuisine since at least the 16th century. The Swedish people love them on toast or with potato, but for much of the outside world, it can be a challenge to even smell them. The Swedish version of Marmite, perhaps?
“Start by opening the can in a bucket of water. That will reduce the smell and rinse the fish at the same.
Butter your choice of bread (swedes normally eat it with tunnbröd (similar to flatbread), then add sliced potatoes and sour cream. Top with bits of surströmming and finely chopped red onion. Et voila!
If your feeling creative, try adding Västerbotten cheese. chives. dill and tomatoes to your sandwich. Yum.”
— A warning from our resident Swede, Elsa.
12. Queue, queue, and queue some more
If you’re moving from Britain, this might not be so foreign to you, but get ready to queue for literally everything. Sweden is all about queuing – whether you’re at the bank, pharmacy, doctors, or phone repair shop, you can expect to wait in line. And whatever you do, refrain from cutting in!
What makes this so different from queue-fanatic Britain? Well, the orderliness is actually stepped up a notch, with ticket dispensers left right and centre. It’s not uncommon to even see queues for the ticket dispensers! Good things come to those who wait!
Sweden is the second most successful country in the history of Eurovision, having won the esteemed song contest six times. But despite narrowly missing out to Ireland, it’s hard to deny that Sweden is responsible for the most successful Eurovision contestant of all time: ABBA. We couldn’t possibly have an article on Sweden without mentioning ABBA, could we?
This dedication is also reflected in the viewership of Eurovision. Roughly 2.6 million Swedes watched the most recent broadcast on May 18, 2019 – that’s a massive 25.8% of the Swedish population that tuned in this year. Better ready to embrace the cheesy disco!
14. Expat schooling
Moving abroad can be daunting, but it always helps moving to a place that knows how to accommodate expats. Besides the copious upsides to Sweden, things like international schools can make the idea of moving to a non-English speaking country a little less stressful. Check out the top bilingual schools in Sweden below:
- British International School of Stockholm
- Futuraskolan International School of Stockholm
- Bilingual Montessori School of Lund
Furthermore, although it isn’t their first language, over 80% of people in Sweden do speak English. So you can be assured that making friends will be that little bit easier.
15. Work-life balance
You’ll be pleased to know that it’s rare to find a job in Sweden with hours beyond the normal 9-5. In fact, on Fridays, it’s even common to finish at 3pm! What's more, if you do find yourself working outside of these normal hours, you are rewarded substantially for it.
Obekväm arbetstid (which translates to ‘uncomfortable working hours’) are essentially any hours outside of the average 9-5, including any time on the weekends. If you find yourself working any uncomfortable working hours, you can even earn up to double your pay!
16. Sweden is very women-friendly
Sweden may be great for everyone, but it’s no secret that women thrive in this country, both at work and at home.
In 2017, Sweden came first worldwide for its commitment to lowering inequality, in Oxfam’s Inequality Index. And in terms of the Global Gender Pay Gap Sweden has never been placed any lower than fourth for its efforts.
As well as working life, parents receive 480 days of paid parental leave, which can be used up until the child is eight years old. Of these days, 90 of them are just for fathers to use, which is why the streets are laden with pram-pushing dads — leaving a massive 390 for women to use. Unlike much of the world outside of Sweden, this is an opportunity for women to be mothers and successful in their careers. The best of both worlds!
17. High taxes
Life seems pretty good in Sweden: decadent cakes, picturesque landscapes, and an abundance of beneficial policies for everyone – but of course, this all comes at a price. If you’re earning over £70,000 (SEK 863,000) a year, you can expect a hefty 69.7% tax charge coming out of your paycheck.
Horrifying, right? Some Brits might even stretch to the word ‘abomination’. Well, Swedish people will surprise you. They typically have no problem with this, and actually welcome tax. In fact, the Swedish word for tax – skatt – has another meaning: treasure.
18. Better benefits
‘But why?’, you may be wondering. Why are the Swedish population willing to give away over half of their earnings in tax? The reason is simple – they can see the results.
In Sweden, the work-life balance is appreciated and understood more than in most other countries. If you’re planning on moving to Sweden, you can expect to receive an average of 35 days paid annual leave. The UK’s average is 28 days, so you’ll be receiving an extra week of wholesome holiday time for you and your family!
The family benefits don’t stop there, either. Daycare is heavily subsidized, with a monthly child benefit from the government effectively covering the £120 per month costs. Compared to the UK, the typical cost of a full-time day nursery place is about £210 a week for a child younger than two.
Students are also living the high-life out there. Sweden has 53 universities and colleges, all with free tuition fees. There’s even better news if you’re a student moving to Sweden from elsewhere in Europe, as universities are also free for EU students.
As for healthcare, compared to the rest of the world, Sweden’s is up there with the best. There is universal healthcare in Sweden, which is funded by tax. Paying such high rates doesn’t seem so bad now, does it?
There are pros and cons to living in a country as sparsely populated as Sweden. On the one hand, the trains that run from city to city tend to go much faster than what you might be used to, mainly due to the fact that there are fewer towns to pass through. On the other hand, a smaller population leads to less regular bus and train services outside major cities.
As with most cities, the likelihood of you needing a car is slim. So if you’ve got your heart set on moving to Stockholm or Gothenburg, it’s best to scout out what the transport prices and availability are like.
In Stockholm, a single underground ticket is valid for 75 minutes and costs 44 SEK (£3.54). Meanwhile, a parent with a stroller can even get to ride for free on any of Stockholm's busses!
Public transport whizzing through the bustling city of Stockholm at dusk
20. Internet speed
Find yourself always complaining about the internet speed whilst working, at home streaming TV, or playing Playstation? Well, thankfully, this can now be a thing of the past.
Sweden is the fifth fastest country in the world in terms of internet speeds, finishing behind only South Korea, Hong Kong, Japan, and Switzerland. In a world that is so heavily reliant on technology, this doesn’t seem like the menial point it might have been a decade ago.
21. Strange Swedish laws
These aren’t laws that you’re going to come across on a day to day basis, but it’s always good to know!
- It is illegal to name your baby ‘Brfxxccxxmnpcccclllmmnprxvclmnckssqlbb11116’ – The basis for this goes all the way back to 1982, when Sweden created a ‘naming law’ which regulates what first names are acceptable for children born within its borders. A family decided to rebel against this law by naming their child Brfxxccxxmnpcccclllmmnprxvclmnckssqlbb11116 (pronounced ‘Albin’, naturally).
- It is illegal to post a picture of Swedish Krona – The currency is protected by copyright in Sweden. Riksbanken advise that the original authors of the works used on banknotes and coins may decide to sue if they feel their moral rights have been violated.
- It is illegal to paint your house without getting a license first – The rule of thumb is that if you live in a major city, you need to keep to similar colours as before, and not change your house’s appearance too drastically. This is to keep the look of Sweden’s cities consistent, and in touch with Swedish culture.
Feeling a bit more savvy about Sweden? Whether you’re moving there for work, family, or just for a new adventure, you’re now fully equipped with the must-have knowledge. Hopefully these points will have made you feel ready for the big move, and excited to be immersed in this wonderful culture.
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