Swedes are consistently ranked among the happiest people on earth. Factors that sociologists consider include life expectancy, income, the environment and balance between work and life.
The scenery in Sweden is breathtaking, the food is healthful, the air is clean and the social benefits are generous. It is no wonder that Sweden has seen a 67 percent increase in its foreign-born population since 2000. In 2016, approximately 150,000 immigrants made the move.
Steps to Making the Move
If you are serious about relocating to Sweden, follow these steps:
For permanent moves or trips exceeding 90 days, obtain work and residence permit cards. You may apply through the Swedish Embassy in Washington, D.C., or through one of the Swedish consulates in the U.S. Both permits must be approved before you enter the country.
- Once your application has been approved, hire a reputable moving company with extensive experience in international moves. Knowledgeable movers can assist with federal regulations, clearance at customs and other logistics.
- After you arrive in Sweden, register with the tax agency to get a personal identification number.
- Register with the Swedish Social Insurance Agency. This will entitle you to health care, disability coverage and other important benefits.
- You will need a Swedish ID card to open a bank account.
- Get a Swedish driver’s license. The network of public transportation is strong and reliable, but you may wish to rent cars for long-distance excursions.
- Enroll in a state-subsidized Swedish for Immigrants class. The natives speak excellent English, but a long-term stay or future citizenship calls for speaking the local language. Reasonable fluency will also help you to immerse yourself in Sweden's fascinating culture.
The Landscape and Culture
The physical features of Sweden are wildly diverse. There are majestic mountains and roaring rivers. There are rolling hills, lush forests and unspoiled beaches. The grand Stockholm archipelago boasts an astonishing 24,000 islands and sweeping views of the Baltic Sea. Head west to find a rocky coastline and Sweden’s only coral reef. Take in alpine peaks, idyllic valleys and vast glaciers. Visit Abisko National Park from November to April to witness the stunning northern lights.
You could dedicate an entire vacation to exploring the country’s numerous museums, libraries and art galleries. The Viking Age is just one element of Sweden’s rich history. There are rock carvings in Tanum that date back to the Bronze Age. In recent years, Sweden has emerged as a global leader in crime literature and film.
Newcomers must adapt to subzero temperatures and long stretches of darkness in winter, but summertime is quite nice.
- Swedes are known for promoting human equality in all aspects of life. They are extremely civic-minded; around 86 percent of the population turns out for elections.
- The natives are kind and courteous but famously soft-spoken. Silences are never uncomfortable for them, so attempts at small talk might be met with surprise.
- Punctuality is a core value of Swedish society. Being just a few minutes late, even to a casual shopping date with a friend, is taken as a sign of disrespect.
- Fika is an important part of daily life in Sweden. It is a late-morning break for coffee, pastry and socializing that is observed everywhere from bustling offices in Stockholm to remote fishing villages.
- Many establishments in Sweden no longer accept cash. Debit and credit cards are the preferred methods of payment. It is wise to do your shopping early in the day. Most banks and merchants close earlier than they do in the U.S.
- As for clothing, every day in Sweden is casual Friday. Faded, comfortable jeans are perfectly acceptable in most offices. If you attend a formal affair, wear what you would wear to a business meeting in the U.S.
- If you are invited to someone’s home, it is customary to remove your shoes. Not only will you leave dirt and grime outside, but you will show respect for your host.
- There is more to the cuisine than Swedish meatballs. You will encounter a lot of dishes that are quirky by American standards, but Swedish cooking is trendy right now.
- Head to a quaint fishing community for fresh lobster, oysters or herring. Try skagen, a mixture of chopped prawns, roe, mayonnaise, dill and lemon on a crisp piece of sauteed toast.
- Cinnamon buns, called kanelbulle, are enhanced with saffron or vanilla and are sold on every street corner.
- Many major foods and condiments are packaged in tubes. This should not raise doubts about their freshness or quality. Even caviar comes in tubes, and it is commonly used as a condiment on toast or eggs in the morning.
- You may order liquor in restaurants, but you will have to shop at a state-run liquor store to enjoy a martini or shot of brandy at home.
Cost of Living
- The difference in average salaries between Sweden and the U.S. is negligible. You will pay more in Sweden for utilities, groceries and movie tickets, but real estate prices and rental rates are comparable.
- One thing that is significantly more expensive in Sweden is clothing, so it is a good thing that no one dresses up.
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- Swedish citizens are entitled to benefits such as basic health care, paid maternity leave and financial allowances for the elderly and children. Parents are paid at nearly 80 percent of their salaries for up to 480 days after they have a child or adopt. Preschool is free, and lunches for children ages six to 19 are free.
- Employers must grant their workers a minimum of 25 paid vacation days each year.
- One other advantage is the Right of Public Access, which is guaranteed in the Swedish constitution. You may roam freely, enjoy the flora and fauna, pick berries or camp overnight even on privately-owned land. Swedes are so respectful of nature that there are rarely problems.
- In light of these and other benefits, most taxpayers don’t mind contributing, on average, 61.4 percent of their incomes.