Print
  • Hold down Ctrl key and select the sections you want to print. If using a Mac, hold down the Cmd key.
  • Use Ctrl + A or on Mac, Cmd + A to select all sections (if you are using the Chrome browser).
  • Click "Apply" and the site will customise your print guide in the preview below.
  • Click the "Print" button and a print pop up should appear to print to your printer of choice.

Moving to Sweden

An increasingly popular destination, expats moving to Sweden are attracted by the prospect of a balanced, prosperous life in a country that combines high technology with pristine nature, liberal values with respect for traditions, and abundant economic opportunity with extensive social welfare.

Sweden’s geography is defined by water. The interior is dotted with lakes, while the coastline runs for thousands of miles from the fragmented islands and fjords in the temperate south to the sub-Arctic "land of the midnight sun" in the north. 

Stockholm, the capital city and most likely expat destination, is built on an archipelago of 24,000 islands. Most expats moving to Stockholm thrive in what is one of Europe’s most attractive, vibrant and interesting metropolises. Each of the 14 islands at the centre of the city has its own character and range of entertainment options. Housing supply is under pressure, however; rental prices are high and decent, conveniently located apartments can be difficult to come by.

The country also boasts a reasonably healthy job market, with opportunities for highly qualified expats in specific sectors, such as IT, energy and media. Despite strict immigration laws, around a fifth of the Swedish population comes from a foreign background, especially in large cities such as Stockholm, Gothenburg and Malmö.

High tax rates mean that Swedish salaries are fairly modest, but expats with residence permits will enjoy the benefits of an extensive state social network which provides free and high-quality education, healthcare, childcare and security. Sweden is also a world leader in liberal values, pioneering LGBT rights, gender equality and providing extensive parental and maternal privileges for employees.

Expats moving to Sweden may find the language difficult to learn, but since Swedes generally speak excellent English and enjoy practising it, the language barrier is very easily overcome. Swedish culture may, however, be a little more challenging for expats to adapt to. 

A common thread running through expat accounts of living in Sweden is the difficulty in connecting with the reserved and introverted Swedes and integrating into local life. Expats who are prepared to enjoy their status as outsiders will be better prepared for the occasional awkward encounter.

Winters can also be a shock for expats who move to Sweden from warmer climates. During the winter months of December to March, temperatures drop below zero, snow falls in clumps, and sunlight makes a reluctant appearance for only a few hours each day. Winter also heralds Sweden’s biggest unexpected danger: falling ice from city roofs. It would be wise to heed the warning signs. 

Sweden balances ultra-modern cities with expanses of untouched wilderness, and the famously modern populace still takes great pride in its traditions. It is a safe, yet consistently surprising experience for expats; even for those who tend to complain about the locals before renewing their stay here time and time again.

Essential Info for Sweden

Population: 10 million

Capital city: Stockholm 

Neighbouring countries: Sweden is located in northern Europe and shares borders with Norway to the west and Finland to the northeast. To the east and south of the country are the Baltic Sea and the Gulf of Bothnia. 

Geography: Sweden is a heavily forested country with two-thirds of it being made of forest and woodland. Mountains and hills are dominant in the west and a small part of the country lies north of the arctic circle. The lowest elevation in Sweden is in the bay of Lake Hammarsjön and the highest point is Kebnekaise. There are also over 95,000 lakes in Sweden, many of which are used for water power plants. 

Political system: Unitary parliamentary constitutional monarchy

Major religions: Christianity is the major religion in Sweden. Islam is the second largest religion in Sweden but is only practised by around five percent of the population. 

Main languages: Swedish is the official language and is spoken by the majority of the population. English is also widely spoken, especially in the cities and within business circles.

Money:  The Swedish crown or krona (SEK) is the official currency in Sweden and is divided into 100 ore. Credit and debits cards are widely accepted. 

Tipping: Although service charges are built into restaurant bills, an extra tip of 7 to 10 percent is expected for dinners. It is normal to round up the fare when paying for a taxi. While not expected, tips are appreciated for good service in hotels.

Time: GMT+1 (GMT+2 from the last Sunday in March to the last Sunday in October)

Electricity: 230 volts, 50Hz. Standard European two-pin plugs are used.

Internet domain: .se

International dialling code: +46

Emergency contacts: The emergency number in Sweden is 112 and it can be used to access police, ambulance and fire services. Operators generally speak good English and the standard of the emergency services in Sweden is very good.

Transport and driving: Cars drive on the right-hand side of the road in Sweden. Sweden's public transport system is made up of buses, trains and boats. Swedish rail services are very good and the bus network is extensive.

Embassy contacts for Sweden


Swedish embassies

Swedish Embassy, Washington DC, United States: +1 202 467 2600

Swedish Embassy, London, United Kingdom: +44 20 7917 6400

Swedish Embassy, Ottawa, Canada: +1 613 244 8200

Swedish Embassy, Canberra, Australia: +61 2 6270 2700

Swedish Embassy, Pretoria, South Africa: +27 12 426 6400

Swedish Consulate General, Dublin, Ireland: +353 1 265 0888

Consulate-General of Sweden, Wellington, New Zealand: +64 4 499 9895


Foreign embassies in Sweden

United States Embassy, Stockholm: +46 8 783 5300

British Embassy, Stockholm: +46 8 671 3000

Canadian Embassy, Stockholm: +46 8 453 3000

Australian Embassy, Stockholm: +46 8 613 2900

South African Embassy, Stockholm: +46 8 824 3950

Irish Embassy, Stockholm: +46 8 5450 4040

Public Holidays in Sweden

 

2020

2021

New Year's Day

1 January

1 January

Epiphany

6 January

6 January

Good Friday

10 April

2 April

Easter Sunday

12 April

4 April

Easter Monday

13 April

5 April

Labour Day

1 May

1 May

Ascension Day

30 May

21 May

National Day

6 June

6 June

Whit Sunday

31 May

23 May

Midsummer Day

20 June

26 June

All Saints' Day

31 October

6 November

Christmas Day

25 December

25 December

Boxing Day

26 December

26 December

Working in Sweden

Expats planning on working in Sweden should stake less in the quantity of their monthly salary, and more in the quality of their life ahead.

Sweden's exceptionally high taxes and emphasis on welfare benefits means that even workers maintaining mid-level positions and moderate salaries can access a high standard of healthcare, reputable schools for their children, and retirement security for years to come.

With such obvious draws, it seems millions of expats would be marching on Sweden's entry points, but a highly-skilled labour force and a fairly insular economy prohibit easy entrance into the Swedish working world.

European Union (EU) and European Economic Area (EEA) citizens do not need a work permit to work in Sweden, but citizens of all other countries do need a work permit to be rightfully employed in the country. Work permits can only be applied for with a formal written offer of employment from a Swedish company.


Job market in Sweden

As can be expected from a country with universal social benefits, the workforce in Sweden is highly skilled, with roughly a third of employees having some degree of tertiary education. Nearly half of the country's output and exports are accounted for by the engineering sector, followed closely by the telecommunications, pharmaceutical and automotive sectors. 

Expats wanting to work in Sweden should have at least a basic knowledge of the language. Most jobs require fluency in Swedish, with the exception being large multinationals that use English as their corporate language, most of which are located in Stockholm.

It follows that these international companies are often an expat's most likely opportunity for employment. Many companies are more willing to hire expats who don’t speak Swedish if the potential employee shows an interest in learning and would at least be able to understand what is spoken about around the coffee machine. 

Expats who don't speak Swedish and who don't have any interest in becoming a member of the corporate world should consult the Swedish labour shortage list, a twice-annually published detail of the country's needs in the labour force. The chance of finding a job in Sweden is significantly better if an expat’s profession appears on this list.

There is usually a lack of skilled workers in areas of healthcare, trade work, engineering, teaching, and IT-related positions. Workers seeking a position in these and other areas with shortages should be able to apply for a job within Sweden rather than returning to their home country first. 

Sweden also publishes a regulatory list, a detailed account of professions which require some form of certification (such as doctors, lawyers and psychiatrists). If someone plans to work in Sweden and their profession appears on this list, they should check with the relevant listed regulatory agency to find out which certifications are needed, or whether or not the certification they already have is acceptable.


Finding a job in Sweden

Though most positions in Sweden require proficiency in the language, there is a wealth of English resources available to expats trying to find a job in Sweden, most of which are available online.

Recruiting companies and temp agencies can also be useful resources. Contractual and temporary work is on the rise in Sweden, and for many expats, a job of this nature may be a good stepping-stone toward a better opportunity.

When applying for a job in Sweden, it's standard practice to send a one-page cover letter and Curriculum Vitae (CV) that is succinct and to the point. It's common to be interviewed only when short-listed for a job. During July, August and December, due to the vacation times of the majority of Swedes, it may be difficult to find employment as many companies have put administrative matters such as hiring on hold.

If extended an offer, be aware that salary levels in Sweden are often subject to agreements between labour unions and employers. It is important to do research before accepting an offer and to be aware that tax in Sweden is astronomical.

Doing Business in Sweden

Sweden is known internationally for its history of entrepreneurialism and its affinity for egalitarianism. Nonetheless, expats may find that doing business in Sweden is anything but lagom – a concept at the heart of Swedish business dealings, which means 'just right' or 'in balance'.

Whatever challenges an expat may face adapting to the Swedish workplace, the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Survey for 2020 ranks Sweden at 10th out of 190 countries – a testament to the country’s advanced economy and transparent business practices. Sweden ranks particularly highly when it comes to registering property (9th), getting electricity (10th), and resolving insolvency (17th).

Despite its small size, Sweden has produced a large number of multinational companies and is the European headquarters for many others.


Fact facts

Business language

Swedish is the official business language but English is spoken throughout with a high degree of fluency.

Hours of business

8am to 5pm, Monday to Friday.

Business dress

Dress code is smart-casual and conservative, although suits are not expected.

Business Greetings

Shaking hands is the most common form of greeting in the Swedish business environment, both in and out of the office, for hello and goodbye. This is the case for both genders.

Gifts

Err on the side of caution when giving gifts to business associates in Sweden. They are certainly not expected and could possibly be regarded as inappropriate.

Gender equality

Women have full equality in Sweden. Women doing business in Sweden will usually receive the same treatment as men.


Business culture in Sweden

Business culture in Sweden is quite different from that of the US or the UK and may take some getting used to. However, if expats can become familiar with a few key elements beforehand, they are likely to find it easier to settle in.

Egalitarianism

Key to doing business in Sweden is the concept of egalitarianism – a belief in the inherent equality of people. Both organisational structures and management styles reflect this. Businesses utilise generally flat reporting lines and decision-making models that rely on consensus and compromise. For this reason, decisions can take a long time to be made, as many opinions need to be taken into account.

It also affects the way that business is conducted on a daily basis. Whereas senior associates in many other Western businesses are likely to have their own offices, it is fairly common to see a company CEO working alongside his or her employees in an open-plan office.

Collectivism 

Swedish egalitarianism also makes wealth or status redundant. Overt displays of wealth are likely to be viewed unfavourably. This is largely as a result of Jantelagen, or the Law of Jante, a Scandinavian tendency to emphasise collective wellbeing over individual success. For this reason, expat businesspeople would do well to try and blend in rather than stand out, and should not expect their new associates to automatically be impressed by their wealth and achievements.

Professionalism

Business conduct in Sweden tends towards rationality, calm and discipline, which has earned Swedes a reputation for being reserved and somewhat unfriendly. It is true that firm lines are drawn between business and social dealings, meaning that invitations to post-work socialising or being invited to dinner at a colleague’s house are rare. One opportunity to circumvent the famous Swedish reserve is the twice-daily coffee break or fika, when the normal rules of engagement may be partially suspended.

Punctuality

Business meetings in Sweden are typically informal, although governed by certain inalienable rules. The first of these is to be on time – punctuality is a point of pride and signifies professionalism and mutual respect. Another principle to follow is to keep one’s emotions under control, a business value shared by Asian cultures.

Transparency

Finally, transparency and honesty are vital attributes of any business dealing; it follows then that Sweden is one of the least corrupt countries in which to do business.


Dos and don’ts of business in Sweden

  • Do respect silences in meetings or conversation as this signifies an idea is being considered

  • Don’t stand too close; personal space should be respected

  • Do get down to business right away

  • Do be honest and forthright

  • Don’t be late; advise of delays with as much notice as possible

  • Do dress smartly when going out in the evening

Visas for Sweden

Depending on an expat's nationality, they may need a visa to visit, live or work in Sweden. 

EU citizens can stay in Sweden for up to three months without a visa, after which they will have to apply for a residence permit (uppehållstillstånd) which they can get free of charge. Nationals of Scandinavian countries such as Denmark, Iceland, Norway and Finland can work and live in Sweden indefinitely. 

Australian, New Zealand, Canadian and US passport holders can visit Sweden without a visa for up to three months, while Australian, Canadian and New Zealand nationals can qualify for a one-year working holiday visa. However, they must be between the ages of 18 and 30 years old.

Nationals of other countries will generally need to apply for a visa unless their country has an agreement with Sweden. A list of these countries can be found on the Swedish Migration Ageny website.


Tourist visas for Sweden

Expats who aren’t from the countries listed above will need to apply for a Schengen Visa to visit Sweden. This visa allows an individual to stay in Sweden for up to 90 days as long as they can provide a return travel ticket and evidence of sufficient funds to support themselves during their stay. It can also be used to visit any other country that is part of the Schengen agreement.


Business visas for Sweden

Individuals who want to conduct business in the country should apply for a business visa for Sweden. This is done via a standard Schengen visa application form, although there are a few extra requirements when applying for a Swedish business visa such as employer's letters and an invitation from the host company in Sweden. 


Residence permits for Sweden

A Swedish residence permit allows the holder to stay in the country for longer than the 90 days a tourist or business visa allows. Non-EU citizens generally need to apply for a residence permit for Sweden before entering the country. 

Both temporary and permanent residence permits exist. Individuals will need to submit their application and go for an interview at their local Swedish embassy. The process can take up to eight months. 

Temporary residence permits do not give an individual the right to work in Sweden; they will have to apply for a work permit separately. Permanent residence permits do, however, give holders the right to live and work in Sweden for an indefinite period.

Expats can get a residence permit for Sweden on the basis of a permanent move to the country because of family ties; employment; a period of study at a Swedish institution; or self-employment.

*Visa regulations are subject to change at short notice and expats should contact their respective embassy or consulate for the latest details.

Cost of Living in Sweden

The cost of living in Sweden is quite high and Stockholm, its capital city, is the most expensive place in the country. However, it's often the case that in Stockholm salaries can be higher than in the rest of the country. 

It's cheaper to live in Stockholm’s suburbs rather than the inner city, and the standard of living is just as high. After housing, goods such as food and clothing will account for a big part of an expat’s expenses. Alcohol and services, such as haircuts, are also quite expensive in Stockholm, even compared to the rest of the country. 


Cost of accommodation in Sweden

Accommodation in Sweden is quite expensive. Rent for a three-bedroom apartment in an upmarket location in Stockholm can be exorbitant. However, prices generally decrease steeply once one goes outside the inner city area of Stockholm. 


Cost of transport in Sweden

Transport is expensive in Sweden. Expats living close to the city are unlikely to need a car due to the excellent and extensive public transport network. This can be a pricey option but is generally cheaper than owning and maintaining a car. 

Expats can purchase an SL Access travel card which makes public transport slightly more cost-effective. Children, students and senior citizens will often receive a discount. 


Cost of schooling in Sweden

The cost of education in Sweden is low if children attend a public school. In Stockholm, where there are many expat families compared to the rest of Sweden, there are quite a few international schools. These can be very expensive with high annual fees as well as extra costs such as textbooks, uniforms, extra-curricular activities and school excursions.


Cost of healthcare in Sweden

The good thing about high taxes in Sweden is that much of one's healthcare needs are subsidised by the government. A large percentage of the cost of prescription medication and medical procedures and needs are taken care of. A visit to a doctor may require a minimal co-payment, or in some cases, even when seeing a specialist, can be free. 


Cost of living chart

Prices are for Stockholm in February 2020. Note that prices may vary depending on product and service provider.

Accommodation (average monthly rental)

Three-bedroom apartment in city centre

SEK 20,000

Three-bedroom apartment outside of city centre

SEK 13,000

One-bedroom apartment in city centre

SEK 14,000

One-bedroom apartment outside of city centre

SEK 10,000

Food and drink

Milk (1 litre)

SEK 12

Dozen eggs

SEK 30

White bread 

SEK 23

Rice (1kg)

SEK 25

Pack of cigarettes (Marlboro)

SEK 65

Public transportation

City centre bus/train fare

SEK 40

Taxi rate per km

SEK 15

Eating out

Big Mac Meal

SEK 80

Coca-Cola (330ml)   

SEK 25

Cappuccino

SEK 40

Bottle of domestic beer

SEK 65

Three-course meal for two at a mid-range restaurant

SEK 700

Utilities

Internet (uncapped ADSL per month)

SEK 300

Utilities (average per month for a standard household)

SEK 750

Culture Shock in Sweden

Expats moving to Sweden are likely to enter with some degree of comfort. Sweden is very Western and similar to its modern counterparts worldwide. It's fairly easy to find most products, but if not, there will be an equivalent to get by with.

However, there will inevitably be bumps in the road that any non-native will encounter. The country definitely has its quirks but expats who make the most of them get by just fine without suffering too much culture shock in Sweden.


Getting started in Sweden

Immediately upon arriving in Sweden, new expats should head to the local Skatteverket (tax office) and apply for a personnummer (personal identity number). Without this number, a person essentially doesn’t exist in Sweden, making applying for any type of service, job or account impossible.

After completing this, getting a National ID card is suggested, as using a passport for one’s main form of identity is risky and tiresome, whereas the Swedish ID card is easily accepted and much less stressful to carry.


Meeting and greeting in Sweden

Swedes are often described as reserved, introverted, serious, reticent and unfriendly. Small talk is rare, as is spontaneous laughter. There is a perceived coldness to social relations in Sweden that can be alienating and even upsetting to some.

To a Swede, however, this emotional detachment is simply an accepted way of minding one’s own business, out of respect and consideration for the other person’s personal space. If this can be understood going in and is taken without offence, getting by will be easy. In fact, after being exposed to it for a while, one may find visiting other less-reserved countries startling.

In the business context, Swedes tend to be formal, egalitarian and have little concern for status. They prefer to maintain strict boundaries between work and private life, so being invited to the home of a business colleague is very rare. Small talk is not generally done, and gift-giving is not an acceptable practice. Compromise, negotiated solutions and total honesty are considered to be important values in all business dealings.


Family life and raising children in Sweden

A good family life and healthy living are very important to Swedes. With some of the most generous maternity and paternity leave in the world, Swedes take great pride in raising their children properly. Even after the maternity and paternity leave is over, Swedish daycare is ready to step in at an incredibly low price to take care of children full-time.

Swedish children, at ages considered far too young in places like the USA, are permitted much more freedom than may be considered normal in other countries. With a low crime rate and having been taught how to be independent from a young age, Swedish kids learn to take public transport, walk or bicycle where they'd like to go early on. It may be surprising at first, but young pre-teens can be seen travelling alone throughout town. Sweden's public schools are also among the best in the world and the country is home to several of the world's top 100 universities.

In addition to this, vacation time in Sweden is off the charts compared to its North American counterparts. Swedes have an average of over a month of vacation time each year, being legally provided with 25 paid vacation days and 16 paid holidays, with some companies providing as much as 50 days per year. With such a focus on personal time, taking days off is actively encouraged by all – even bosses.


Dress code in Sweden

Swedes are very informal by most standards. Normal workplace dress typically includes blue jeans, unless specified otherwise. Converse sneakers are incredibly popular – although they should be purchased before arriving, as they're more than double the price in Sweden than many other places.

Swedes love their All-Stars and wear them with everything from a suit to a summer sundress. Along with Converse, Sweden's favourite colour seems to be black. At the same time, Swedish men also love colourful trousers. It's an interesting combination and can make for some fun people-watching.


Language barrier in Sweden

Swedish is a fascinating language that, upon arrival, will sound incredibly strange. After a while, the cadence and fluctuations in noises will become far more lyrical-sounding and over a longer time, easier to understand. Expats should investigate their local Swedish For Immigrants (SFI) course, which is free for all foreigners and offered at varying levels, including specific programmes for academics and various careers.

In most cases, English is perfectly reasonable to get by with, especially in bigger cities and tourist-friendly areas. An exception to this rule would be in smaller immigrant-owned businesses where Swedish is the second language of the owners, who may not speak English at all.

Being able to speak Swedish is typically essential for getting a job in Sweden. Of course, jobs with international firms or in specific fields may bypass this. It is important for prospective expats to consider the market they want to enter before jumping in, to make sure it will be feasible.


Bureaucracy and doing business in Sweden

Sweden is serious about privacy and, often times, this feels like unnecessary red tape. Things take a bit longer in Sweden, as a high level of identity documentation is often required. 

Customer service in Sweden is notoriously poor and only worsened by the language barrier. Staff can be abrupt and seemingly rude, and there is no effort to enhance the customer experience so valued in more enthusiastic consumer cultures. Only being able to communicate with the company in English will, unfortunately, further complicate things. Even long-term expats tend to remark on this aspect of life in Sweden.


Time in Sweden

Swedes are punctual to a fault. Many jokes are made about Swedes standing outside the entrance to a party, checking their watches for the moment that the clock strikes the hour to enter. If a party is from 7pm to 10pm, arrive promptly at 7pm. Showing up late, even though quite normal in other cultures, is considered rude in Sweden.

Everything in Sweden is punctual and efficient and it is expected that this rule will be followed. Buses and trains tend to be very on schedule as well, so expats shouldn’t necessarily count on a 5- to 10-minute buffer when viewing a schedule.


Religion in Sweden

Christianity is the dominant religion in Sweden. However, few Swedes appear to practice these days. Many have baptisms and church marriages for tradition's sake, but view themselves as agnostic or atheist. Swedes are tolerant of other religions, generally following the system of keeping such topics to themselves.


Cultural dos and don’ts in Sweden

  • Swedes are serious about recycling. Expats should take care to always sort through their rubbish accordingly and dispose of it properly.
  • Everyone should be considered an equal. Look up "lagom" and the "Law of Jante" online and learn them well. Swedes live by the theory that everyone is equal – especially men and women – and that all should strive for mid-level normalcy. 

  • Try not to show too much outward emotion. Swedes are private people and rarely express emotion outwardly.

  • Take a number. People rarely queue in Sweden and Swedes have a special affinity for the "take a number" system, from banks to hardware stores.

  • Groceries should be lined with the barcode facing up and towards you on the checkout conveyer belt – and should never, under any circumstances, be stacked in towers.

Accommodation in Sweden

Securing accommodation in Sweden can be one of the most difficult parts of an expat’s relocation to this Scandinavian country. It is important that they give themselves enough time to look for housing, especially if moving to a larger city such as Stockholm, which has a severe housing shortage.

The standard of housing in Sweden is exceptionally high. Many rentals come with high-quality appliances in the kitchen, central heating and access to high-speed internet.

Most expats who move to Sweden rent accommodation for the duration of their stay. The rental market in Sweden is regulated and expats will find that the prices are competitive compared to the rest of Europe. This depends, of course, on which part of the country a person moves to – the prices in a large city will be much higher than those in rural or suburban areas. 

Most expats settle in Stockholm but cities like Malmö, Jönköping and Gothenburg also have expat populations. 


Types of accommodation in Sweden

Apartments

Apartments are the most common form of expat housing in Sweden, especially for those living in Stockholm. Most apartments are unfurnished but basics such as bathroom and kitchen fittings are provided.

Houses

Expats will find houses for rent in small towns, rural areas and in some suburbs outside of cities. The best way to find a house to rent is through a Swedish estate agent or a relocation company. Expats can also use the internet and get in touch with other expats in the area who may be able to assist them.


Finding accommodation in Sweden

Local newspapers, estate agencies and personal contacts are all good ways of finding accommodation in Sweden. Unless an expat’s employer arranges housing for them, the best option would be to stay in a hotel or serviced apartment when first arriving in Sweden and then start looking for more permanent accommodation once in the country.

Expats should look online for private housing agencies. This is also a good way to find housing in Sweden. The ideal way to find accommodation would be to find another expat at the end of their lease and to contact their landlord directly. 


Renting property in Sweden

Most expats end up renting property in Sweden. Very few properties are rented directly by landlords to the tenants. Only certain properties are allowed to be rented directly and the rest are rented through the Bostadsförmedlingen, the government organisation that redistributes vacant housing.

Expats will have to pay the Bostadsförmedlinge a fee to place them in accommodation and the waiting list is usually very long. Because of this, many expats use private housing companies to find accommodation in Sweden.

These housing companies can find “second-hand” rentals that are not directly leased by the owner to a tenant. These are much easier to find than direct rentals and expats won’t need a Swedish identity number to qualify. The expat tenant will then sign a lease with the holder of the first-hand rental contract.

Usually, expats will have to pay one month’s rent as a deposit on the property. It is also expected that a tenant gives three months’ notice before moving out. Expats should ensure that they have read their lease agreements carefully before signing anything. 

Healthcare in Sweden

The system of healthcare in Sweden is widely regarded as being one of the best in the world. The tax-funded system provides equal access to everyone in the country, which has one of the best doctor-to-patient ratios in the world.


Public healthcare in Sweden

The Swedish government invests almost a tenth of its GDP into healthcare every year, providing excellent medical care for all citizens, including expats who have a residence visa. This means that everyone who is a resident in Sweden, no matter their nationality, is entitled to the same medical care that Swedish nationals receive. 

Fees for adults are nominal – among the most affordable in Europe – and medical care is entirely free for those under 20 years of age. The only problem with Sweden’s healthcare system is that there can occasionally be long waiting times before a patient is granted an appointment. However, urgent cases are prioritised and patients are guaranteed an appointment within three days. Non-urgent patients are guaranteed that they will not have to wait longer than seven days for an appointment at a healthcare centre and no longer than 90 days to see a specialist.

Dental care is not included in Sweden’s government healthcare system, but is partially subsidised. 

Expats who would like to benefit from Sweden’s healthcare system will have to apply for a personal identification number (personnummer) at the tax office. Expats who are not EU citizens and have not yet qualified for Swedish residency will have to take out private health insurance to cover their costs. 


Private healthcare in Sweden

Private healthcare is not commonly used in Sweden, but the number of private healthcare facilities in the country has increased in recent years. A small percentage of healthcare in Sweden is funded by county councils but provided by private doctors. Because private healthcare is not affiliated with the Swedish Social Insurance Administration, treatment is more expensive than in public facilities. 


Health insurance in Sweden

Private health insurance in Sweden is rare, although some companies do offer private medical insurance to entice senior level employees. The chief benefit of such insurance is not the quality of healthcare – treatment will be at the same facilities and at the hands of the same doctors as public care – but rather the privilege of circumventing waiting times.

Expats who are not EU citizens should take out private health insurance to ensure that all their medical treatment will be covered. Expats should check with their insurance company in their home country to see if their policy will be valid in Sweden.


Pharmacies in Sweden

Pharmacies in Sweden can be found all around the country and can be identified by the Apoteket sign on the front door. They are usually open from 10am to 6pm on weekdays and from 10am to 2pm on Saturdays. Every large city in Sweden should also have a 24-hour pharmacy for emergencies. 

Expats should note that many medicines which are available over the counter in their home countries may need a prescription in Sweden.


Emergency services 

The number to call in an emergency in Sweden is 112, the European emergency number.

Education and Schools in Sweden

Education in Sweden is compulsory and free for all children attending public schools between the ages of seven and 16. In addition to this system, expat parents also have the option of sending their children to a private or international school in Sweden.

The academic year starts in mid-August and runs to the beginning of June the following year, and is divided into two semesters; the autumn term and the spring term. There are several mid-term holidays during the school year.

Children in Sweden start school when they are seven years old. Primary school is divided into three stages, consisting of elementary school, middle school and high school. Primary school is followed by upper secondary school (gymnasieskola) which is not compulsory. However, most children do fulfil secondary education to be able to get good jobs in the future. 


Public schools in Sweden 

Public schools in Sweden are open to all and follow the Swedish National Syllabus. These schools are administrated by the local municipality in which they are located, are taxpayer-funded and may not charge student fees. When children turn seven years old they are automatically placed in a nearby public school. Primary school is compulsory for children up to Grade 9, when the student is usually 16 years old. At this point, if the student wishes to continue with their education, they go into high school. Local public primary and high schools are free and funded by local taxes.

Secondary school, which follows high school, is also voluntary, but each municipality is responsible to follow up on young people under 20 who do not study after high school. Pupils choose from 17 national programmes as well as a large number of local programmes, specially designed programmes and the individual programme. Unlike many other countries, Sweden lacks a formal matriculation; rather, there are secondary schools aimed at providing basic access to college.

Most children in Sweden go to public schools, but expats generally choose international private schools for their children instead due to the language barrier.


Private schools in Sweden 

There are a number of private schools in Sweden, known as friskolor. These schools are funded by local contributions from the home municipalities and notification, queue or registration fees may not be charged. Private schools are, however, allowed to accept donations.

Swedish private schools are independent and run by individuals, associations or foundations. In some cases, there are groups that have formed to run several schools. Private schools are, in principle, not obliged to follow the Swedish National Syllabus. However, most private schools do follow the national curriculum.

More and more private schools are opening in Sweden and this means more competition, not least because parents can now choose which school they want their children to attend, and funding follows the student to go to their chosen school. This is good for students because the competition pushes schools to perform better.


International schools in Sweden 

International schools in Sweden offer the curriculum of a foreign country such as the UK, the US or other qualifications such as the International Baccalaureate. These schools are primarily intended for students living in Sweden temporarily or under special circumstances. International schools expect a yearly fee and applications need to be made by contacting the school directly. Extra fees might apply if the children are not registered with their local municipality and do not have a Swedish personal number.

Children of all nationalities, including Swedish children, are welcome at most international schools. These schools may have long waiting lists, however, so it’s best for parents to plan ahead and apply for a spot for their children as early as possible.

Transport and Driving in Sweden

Public transport in Sweden is safe, clean and efficient. It is extremely punctual, making travelling around the country a breeze for any expat, even if they do not have a car. 

For those who do have a car, Sweden boasts an excellent road network and safe driving conditions. 


Public transport in Sweden

Public transport in Sweden is well-organised and subsidised by the government, although it can still be expensive compared with some other countries. 

Commuters use a system where one ticket is valid on both buses and trains. Public transportation in Sweden is nearly always on time and expats can use online journey planners to help them plan their trip. Journey planners advise users about the best and fastest combination of modes of transport to reach their destination, as well as calculate changeovers and waiting times. 

Trains

The national railway company in Sweden is called Statens Järnvägar (SJ), serving the major cities of Malmö, Gothenburg, Helsingborg and Stockholm with hourly trains. 

Regional trains in Sweden have first and second class carriages available, whereas certain trains have a family car with entertainment facilities for children. 

The Swedish railway network is extensive and trains are the fastest way to travel long distances. Expats travelling to the country’s northern parts might need to use a combination of trains and buses to reach their destination. 

Trains in Sweden make commuting from the suburbs to work in the city quick and easy. They are also some of the most environmentally friendly in the world, running on various renewable energy sources. 

The X2000 trains are Sweden’s fastest but are also the most expensive. Tickets for these trains cost twice as much as bus tickets for the same journey, but the trains travel at 124mph (200km/h) and are much faster than buses.

Buses

Sweden has a number of county bus networks as well as national long-distance routes. In the south of Sweden, the largest express bus network is Swebus Express. All Swebus Express buses are equipped with air conditioning, toilet facilities and free Wi-Fi.

Ybuss is one of the smaller operators that provide bus services in the north of Sweden. 

Expats are advised to purchase their bus tickets online, as this is the cheapest method, but they can also be bought over the phone, at a Swebus agent or at various convenience stores. Tickets cannot be bought on board a bus.

Sweden’s county buses are connected to the train system and one ticket can be used for both. The fares on local buses and trains are usually the same. 

Ferries

There is an extensive boat network in Sweden, especially in the Stockholm archipelago. There are also regular ferries in Gotland and near the fishing villages of the country’s west coast. 


Taxis in Sweden

Taxis are readily available in most parts of Sweden. Expats can reserve them via telephone, engage one at a taxi rank or hail one off the street. 

Taxis in Sweden have been deregulated, meaning that fares can vary from company to company. Expats are advised to agree on a fare with the driver before he starts driving, but it is the law that taxis must display their rates on the inside and outside of the car. Most taxis accept credit cards as well as cash as payment. 


Driving in Sweden

Driving in Sweden should be a pleasure for most expats, as the country has excellent roads and its highways are usually congestion free. Expats should note that all cars in Sweden are required by law to have winter tyres between December and March. All cars must also have their headlights on at all times of the day and night. Most modern Swedish cars automatically have their lights on at all times. 

Standard speed limits in Sweden range from 25mph (40km/h) to 75mph (120km/h). The standard speed for roads outside cities is 43mph (70 km/h) unless otherwise signposted. 

The legal blood-alcohol percentage in Sweden is 0.02, which is a quarter of the limit in the US, Canada and UK. Expats are advised not to drink at all before driving. 

Road hazards

Expats should be aware of animals when driving in Sweden. Deer and moose often wander out of the woods and into the road. A collision with a moose can be fatal. If a driver hits and injures an animal and it runs off into the woods, they are required by law to mark the spot where it ran into the woods and then report the incident to the police, so that tracking dogs can find the injured animal. 

Driving licences

Expats can use their national driving licence in Sweden as long as it is still valid in their home country, they have not been a resident in Sweden for more than one year, they do not also hold a Swedish driving licence which has been suspended and they have not already exchanged their national licence for a Swedish driving licence. 

Expats who have lived in Sweden for more than one year will have to apply for a Swedish driving licence. Expats will have to pass a series of tests, including an ice-driving test, in order to get a Swedish driving licence. Expats holding a Swiss or Japanese driving licence can exchange their licence for a Swedish one without taking any driving tests, but they must meet the medical requirements and undergo an eye test. 

Expats who have an EU or EEA licence do not have to apply for a Swedish licence, no matter how long they have lived in Sweden. 


Air travel in Sweden

Stockholm-Arlanda is the busiest airport in Sweden and many domestic airlines are based there. However, there are over 30 domestic airports in Sweden. Domestic flights can be very expensive, but discounts for students and those who book in advance are available. Sweden’s national airline is Air Sweden.

Keeping in Touch in Sweden

Living in one of the most technologically advanced and connected societies in the world means that keeping in touch in Sweden could hardly be easier. Expats commonly find that being able to stay in contact with friends and family makes moving to Sweden a lot easier on them.

Sweden has one of the fastest internet speeds in the world and over 90 percent of households in the country are connected. Most internet, telephone and postal services are also reliable and relatively affordable.


Internet in Sweden

Broadband is one of the most common types of internet connection in Sweden, and is serviced to a person’s home via DSL or a modem. Mobile broadband USB devices can also be purchased, although this service isn't quite as fast or reliable as a modem or Wi-Fi connection.  

Overall the connection speeds in Sweden are quite fast compared to many other places in the world, as it ranks in the top 20 for internet download speeds globally, both in urban areas and the countryside.

It can be difficult for expats in Sweden to get a contract for a subscription without a Swedish bank account and Swedish ID number. A customer may even be required to have had an ID number for six months before they can sign a contract with a company. In this case, buying a monthly prepaid mobile broadband USB device is an option, but expats will often find that the rent of apartments and houses in Sweden will have include an internet connection or have one available at a fair added price, eliminating the need to get a contract themselves.

Many public areas in Sweden have Wi-Fi available either for free or at a very low cost. In some cases, such as in train stations, expats should be prepared to pay with a debit card or credit card which is accepted in the EU. Many public buses and trains offer Wi-Fi during journeys between cities.


Mobile phones in Sweden

Smartphones are extremely prevalent in Sweden and the quality of service available, along with various applications such as Skype, make it easier than ever to keep in touch with people in other countries. If an expat has a phone from their home country which supports GSM, it can be used in Sweden. 

Electronics in Sweden can be expensive compared with the rest of Europe and many other countries, so it could be a good idea for expats to buy or bring their phone from elsewhere and then activate it for Sweden.

Getting a mobile phone contract in Sweden can be tricky for expats for the same reasons as getting an internet contract. Many things in Sweden, not just mobile phone and internet service contracts, become much easier and accessible once an expat has a Swedish personal number and bank account.

If an expat doesn't have those yet, or if they don't want to commit to a contract, prepaid phone plans work perfectly well. Credit for prepaid phones can be bought at convenience and grocery stores, as well as online.

Expats should be aware that directions for how to do this are always in Swedish, whether on the provider's website or on the credit receipt. The first few times an expat adds credit, they may need some translation help to ensure that everything is completed correctly.

It is common for companies in Sweden to provide employees with a mobile phone and a generous voice, text and mobile broadband plan, which benefits many expats. 


Postal services in Sweden

The Swedish postal service is generally reliable and efficient. Stamps can be bought at post offices, which are usually integrated with other shops, such as grocery stores, gas stations and kiosks. 

Sending packages abroad can be quite costly, depending on size, but this is made easier by the many international shipping services in Sweden. When receiving a package, an expat will often get a slip that directs them to pick it up the nearest postal service desk.

Shipping time is quite prompt, with packages from the US to Sweden taking an average of approximately two weeks. Over the holidays, when Sweden operates more slowly in general, packages will take considerably longer to arrive.

Banking, Money and Taxes in Sweden

The system of banking in Sweden is efficient and highly sophisticated. Nevertheless, there are several distinct features of dealing with money in Sweden which, combined with the language difference, can be challenging for expats.

Depending on how long they stay in the country, expats may be expected to pay tax in Sweden. The Skatteverket, the Swedish tax agency, plays a larger role than expats may be used to – it is responsible for everything from population registration to issuing burial certificates. It is, however, highly efficient, trusted and even popular with the general population.


Swedish currency

The currency in Sweden has been the krona (SEK) since 1873. One krona is equal to 100 öre, and the plural for krona is kronor. While prices in Sweden might be quoted using öre, they are usually rounded up as öre coins are no longer in circulation.

  • Notes: 20 SEK, 50 SEK, 100 SEK, 500 SEK and 1,000 SEK

  • Coins: 1 SEK, 5 SEK and 10 SEK


Banking in Sweden

Expats should be able to open a local account at one of the main commercial banks, such as Handelsbanken, Föreningssparbanken, Nordbanken and Skandinaviska Enskilda Banken (SEB). All of these offer full internet banking services, but most are only available in Swedish.

When opening a bank account in Sweden, expats will need a variety of documents including proof of address, passport, employment details, and a personal tax number (personnummer). A personnummer can be obtained from an expat’s local tax office and allows one to do everything from opening a bank account to getting a mobile phone contract.

Regular banking hours in Sweden are 10am to 3pm, Monday to Friday.

Major credit and charge cards are accepted throughout the country, and in many cases are more commonly used than cash. 


Taxes in Sweden

Expats moving to Sweden are taxed depending on the length of their stay. To be considered a Swedish resident for tax purposes, an expat must either have a permanent home in Sweden or have stayed in the country for more than six months in a year.

Taxes in Sweden are paid according to a sliding scale. Residents are taxed on their worldwide income, whereas non-residents who are temporarily working in Sweden are usually taxed only on their income earned in the country.

Expats may also be eligible for tax relief under certain conditions. Those who benefit usually include specialists, qualified scientists or experts with scarce knowledge and skills, and key senior employees. Expatriate tax relief reduces salary tax and relieves expenses related to moving, returning to one’s home country and school fees.

In order to qualify for tax relief, an expat must apply in person at the Tax Committee (Forskarskattenämnden) within three months of starting employment in Sweden. This can be done when the personnummer is issued.

Expats who intend on staying in Sweden for less than a year will usually receive a coordination number (samordningsnummer) instead of a personnummer. This is mostly for tax purposes and may not be accepted by local banks and businesses.

Given that the system of taxation in Sweden is so different from that in many expats’ home countries, they are advised to seek the help of a local registered tax professional.

Expat Experiences in Sweden

When considering a move to a new city, there is nothing more useful than hearing real-life stories and experiences from other expats who are living there. We'd love to hear about your expat experiences. Please contact us if you live or have lived in Sweden and would like to share your story.


Anne is an Irish expat who has spent time in the UK and Germany. She moved to Stockholm in 1998 along with her Swedish husband and newborn baby. Since then she has used her experiences to enable her to set up her own relocation service to assist other new arrivals to the country. Read more about her views in her interview with Expat Arrivals

Jamie Hull is an American expat who recently moved to Stockholm with her husband and two cats. She talks about surviving Stockholm's notorious rental market, enjoying the Swedish lifestyle and restraining her love for eating out. Read more about her expat experience in Sweden.

Pia is a Canadian expat who moved to Sweden in 2011 with her husband when he was offered a job there. They live in the rural area of Kungsbacka, not far from the southwestern city of Gothenburg. Although the area they live in is quite isolated, it reminds them a lot of Canada and they find it very peaceful. Read more about Pia's expat experience in Sweden.

Pia - A Canadian expat living in Sweden

Gregor Stalinski is a Polish expat who has been living in Sweden since 1985. Though the winters can be cold and dark, Gregor thinks there are few cities in the world that can rival summer in Stockholm. He believes the key to opening the door to the local culture and making friends in Sweden is to learn Swedish. Read more about his expat life in Sweden.

Gregor Stalinsky - A Polish expat living in Sweden

Amanda Wood is a Canadian expat living in Sweden. She moved from Vancouver to Stockholm in 2009 after meeting and falling in love with a Swede. Although the initial adjustment to life in Sweden was difficult, Amanda found Stockholm and Vancouver to be quite similar, and three years down the line, she is still living and loving in Stockholm. Read more about her expat experience in Sweden.

Corinne Pierce is an American expat who originally moved from California to Lund to complete her Master's degree. She now works in the capital, Stockholm, and loves the beauty that surrounds her and the quality of life that she has. Read about her expat experience in Sweden.

Corinne - An America expat in Sweden

Ray Yee is a Canadian expat of Chinese origin who is living in Stockholm. He is a seasoned expat, having lived in Australia before making the big move to Sweden. Ray finds the Swedish government and people quite similar to Canada, which can be comforting, but which can also sometimes make him homesick. Read more about his expat life in Sweden.

Ray - A Canadian expat living in Sweden