Sweden is not top of many people’s list when they talk about moving abroad. Perhaps it is the long, dark cold winters that deter people. Maybe it is a fear of the unknown. After all, how many people have you met who have lived in Sweden? However, Sweden has a lot of positive things to offer. It has the cleanest air and the biggest sky that I have ever experienced. Even the capital city, Stockholm, is charming, clean and bright. The standard of living in Sweden is high, and so too are the costs. It has a larger public sector than most countries (even in Western Europe) and residents pay high taxes, but in return they get a great education, infrastructure, healthcare and pensions.
Although Sweden is a member of the European Union, it did not join the monetary Euro. Its currency is the Swedish Krona. Sweden has low crime levels of burglary, car theft and drug-related problems, but surprisingly it does have higher victimization crimes than other EU countries such as assault.
Sweden is truly beautiful and warm in the summer months, and many people have holiday homes here. It is hard not to live by the water as the whole coastline is an archipelago of islands, inlets and bays. Inland there are many lakes and everywhere seems to be very green. The cities are beautiful with historic buildings and Swedes take a pride in their heritage and culture. The winters begin in December (November in the northern parts) with rain and snow. As Sweden is on a very northerly latitude, lying partly in the Arctic circle, daylight hours are very short in the winter. In the summer however, it has the midnight sun in the northern regions, which takes some adjusting to! If you move to Sweden you will need to take clothes that cover all these climatic changes. Be warned there are many small biting midges and mosquitoes in the summer, so you will need to use plenty of Deet to avoid being badly bitten.
Homes and real estate are relatively inexpensive to buy, particularly outside the cities. Holiday homes on sizeable lots with a boat dock are a fraction of the price of a London townhouse. Many homes are wooden chalet-type constructions with plenty of insulation. Sweden is very accessible from Europe. Cut-price airlines fly regularly to Stockholm making weekend commutes quite possible. If you are moving your household goods to Sweden, boat services are much cheaper than by air, but they do take longer.
Learning the Swedish language is not easy. The closest language (besides Norwegian and Danish which are for the most part mutually intelligible) is German. Swedish is a very sing-song language and is not widely spoken. The best way to learn it is to attend an intensive course at a language school when you arrive here. However, English is spoken everywhere. Probably the thing you will miss the most is books written in English. There are plenty of English TV programs and European music on the radio however.
EU residents find it easy to move to Sweden and work there. Industries include communications, engineering, timber, car manufacturing and pharmaceuticals. A good source of jobs can be found on www.thelocal.se/jobs website. There are social security agreements between Sweden and the UK and between Sweden and the USA so pensions and other benefits can be transferred between these countries if necessary.
One of Sweden’s gifts to the world is IKEA. What a wonderful store it is for modern household furnishings, mostly made out of pine and light wood. You can furnish and equip a home and garden completely from this store with their flat-pack furniture, neat gadgets and soft furnishings. Shopping in the cities is a pleasure. Although clothing, electronics and household goods are generally expensive they are extremely classy, high quality and beautifully designed.
Sweden is part of Scandinavia and the food is typical of those countries. Cuisine is largely based on smoked fish and shellfish and it is always fresh and delicious. Eating out in Sweden can be quite expensive. Supermarkets are well-stocked with a great choice of fresh foods, although alcohol is heavily taxed. It can only be purchased at Government controlled outlets which is quite strange for visitors.