Saturday, April 26, 2008

Six steps to starting out in Sweden

Now, about four months down the line, I thought it a good time to offer a round-up of what I have learned during the move here and initial weeks of settling down to life in Sweden. 

1. I think the most important tip I can give is to learn the language. I know that everyone says this over and over again, but the importance of being able to join in a conversation and not be left standing around like Billy-No-Mates cannot be overestimated. If you are able to, sign up for language classes before you leave, as this will give you a good grounding for your arrival. This is one piece of advice that I did follow – although I did not stick with it so well after I got here – but it certainly helped that when I arrived I could handle the basics of conversation.

2. Sort out immigration issues as early as possible – even if you have the easier time of it as a citizen of an EU country. If you are, you can apply online before you arrive, and then you can make one more tick on your checklist. Once Migrationsverket have approved your application, you are on the road to beginning your new life in Sweden, because then you can…

3. …register at Skatteverket for your personnummer (folkbokföring). Nothing, and I mean nothing, can happen in Sweden for you until your have these magical 10 digits. So get thee to a Skatteverket office with your papers and apply for this as early as you can.

4. The first door that opens when you have a personnummer is the ability to order “personbevis” on the e-tjänster area of the Skatteverket website. These documents are sent to you through the post and allow you to set up a pension, apply to SFI language school, or order an ID card…

5. …which is the next step. I went to Nordea to apply for mine, taking a friendly Swedish citizen (my boyfriend) to vouch for me. Unfortunately, you will need to get yourself back down to a Skatteverket office beforehand for your “sponsor” to pick up their special personbevis for this purpose. About four weeks afterwards you will have your shiny new ID card. My biggest piece of advice here is to use a photo of yourself that you like – you show the ID to so many people in so many places that you really want not to be embarrassed by it.

6. The final piece in the admin puzzle is to register with Försakringskassan, the state health insurance providers. The best way to do this is to phone them up, give them your personummer and ask them to send you an application form. Of all the processes and forms when I arrived, this was proved the most challenging. But now, five phone calls and two submitted applications later, I am registered. I think that means –crossing my fingers and toes – that I have now signed up, applied and registered for everything that I need for my life in Sweden. But hey, you never know…

Now that you have reached this stage, it’s time to take the SFI personbevis that you applied for and, if you live in Stockholm, to get yourself down to Hornsgatan on Söder for the SFI placement test. SFI stands for Svenska För Invandrare (Swedish For Immigrants) and is a free language course offered by the Swedish government. The classes, teachers and times vary by location, by all accounts, but it is free, making it a good place to catch up with your Swedish after practising on all those application forms.

Of course, some stages of the process will be easier than other, and some were simpler for me because I come from an EU country. I heard horror stories about immigration from my Australian friends living in Denmark, but Sweden does not seem to provide the challenges for newcomers. Or perhaps I am just blissfully unaware of how challenging it can be? Has anyone had a dramatically different experience?

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Saturday, April 19, 2008

Death of a laptop

Been offline for what has seemed to me to be a very long time because of computer woes. My laptop decided to go out in style last week, so we had to scramble to extract all the files from it in Safe Mode. Despite being pestered for many months, I still had not backed up the hard disk onto our spare hard drive - I mean, was that really necessary? After all, the laptop was only three and a bit years old...

But three years marked the end of the warranty and so it has been in slow decline for the past few months. Then on Tuesday, I came to do an update of iTunes and it had a funny turn. Its punishment is to have been packed into a box destined for the basement - we'll see how it likes that.

Anyway, the upshot is that I am now transferring my many, many files onto the boyfriend's lovely HP (not quite two years old). But I think I am making myself at home on here now. I am just now sure how I have managed to accumulate so much in just a few years.

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Thursday, April 10, 2008


Despite the snow in Stockholm earlier this week, it seems as if spring is truly on its way: today one of my colleagues had a punnet of strawberries on her desk - mmm, delicious! 

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Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Hard work

On the website of Swedish business daily Dagens Industri this week is an article (in Swedish only, I'm afraid) entitled "Drygt arbete att få jobb i Sverige", which (very) roughly translates as "Hard work to get a job in Sweden".

It quotes three highly qualified Europeans who came to Sweden for varying reasons and attempted to find work.

One of the three, an English woman who spent two years seeking a job to suit her IT consulting background, makes what I believe is a valid point when she says that she believes even Swedish companies whose business language is English would rather employ a Swede who speaks English than an English person who speaks Swedish.

A second says that, in her view, Swedish firms mistakenly say that they want people who think differently and think outside the box, but that when it comes down to it they don't, and I can see that this is an area where any people from outside Sweden can lose out on jobs. I think that often our cultural differences are most apparent in the way in which we work and how we handle situations that arise in our working lives.

I am glad to see a widely read newspaper (at least in Sweden) taking up a story like this and I only hope that things begin to change.

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Sunday, April 06, 2008

Book Mooch

Book Mooch is a site that I stumbled across some months back and it proved incredibly useful when I was living in Denmark.

The idea behind the site is that you list the books that you are willing to part with on the site, stating whether you are happy to send them anywhere in the world, or just within your own country. Each book that you register on the site earns you one point. People interested in a book you have listed contact you through the website to "mooch" the book. If you agree to send it to them, two points are deducted from their total and are added to yours - or three points if they do not live in your country. You then post the book to them, paying the postage costs yourself. But with the points that you have earned first from listing the book and then from sending it, you can "mooch" books from others on the site.

The joy of Book Mooch is that no money is involved between members, eliminating the disputes that can arise on other sites For me in Denmark there was another, quite considerable advantage: VAT in Denmark is 25% and books are liable for full VAT, whereas in Sweden, which also has 25% VAT, books are only taxed at 6%.

Having now been a member for more than six months and had total success, so far, with all my mooches, I can highly recommend the site.

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Thursday, April 03, 2008

Spring is in the air

It seems as if spring might have arrived - even if only temporarily. The temperature is rising, the sun has emerged again and all the cafes along our street have their tables and chairs outside... with rugs included!

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