For many Brits wanting to relocate, a move to Sweden is the European ideal: beautiful scenery is complemented with a highly efficient society, egalitarian values and the 7th happiest population in the world.
Why Move to Sweden?
Moving to Sweden from the UK is a dream come true for many; the perfect compromise between a happy life and an efficient one.
Nestled between Norway and Finland in Scandinavia, Sweden’s scenery is absolutely incredible, even in the major cities: fresh air, clear skies, clean water and acres upon acres of green space and rolling hills.
The opportunities for outdoor adventure in Sweden is never-ending: whether you’re a skier, a sailor, a runner, a cyclist — you name it, you can do it here.
The country is also very environmentally conscious: Stockholm was designated Europe’s first ever ‘green capital’ in 2010, and the country is aiming to abolish use of fossil fuels by 2050.
And when it comes to getting things done, the Swedes have got it right: public transport is efficient, politics is transparent and involving, and bureaucracy is minimal and progressive.
Some people incorrectly label Sweden as a Socialist state — it actually follows the Nordic model of free market capitalism and a comprehensive welfare state. Everyone is looked after in Sweden: there’s universal healthcare with payment only due when you actually need that healthcare, university is free, and egalitarian values are at the forefront. It’s one of the most gender-equal countries in the world!
Sweden Visa Requirements for Brits
British citizens do not require a visa to enter Sweden and, as citizens of the European Economic Area (EEA), have the right to work, study and live here without a residence permit for 6 months — providing you can financially support yourself.
If you’re moving to Sweden for over a year, you will need to register yourself on the Swedish Population Register and apply for a personnumber, which is used for all transactions, taxation and governmental matters.
You will be granted a personnumber provided that you can prove:
- You are employed or self-employed in Sweden
- You are studying at an approved institution in Sweden and have comprehensive health insurance
- You have sufficient funds to support yourself (and any family members) and have comprehensive health insurance
Way of Life in Sweden
As one of the happiest nations in the world, Brits wanting to move to Sweden won’t be surprised that quality of life is very high here.
Men and women are genuinely viewed as equals, and the comprehensive and efficient welfare state means that the poor, elderly and disabled are generally treated fairly and with compassion. In small, non-sensational ways, people look out for each other and build communities.
Swedish residents often talk about how things just work here — services are quick and efficient, public buildings and spaces are kept well maintained, and that which is broken is fixed immediately.
One aspect of Sweden that knocks British expats off guard, however, is just how early the shops close — often by 5pm!
Thanks to being such a gender-neutral nation, women are able to climb the career ladder in just the same manner as their male counterparts, and Swedes consequently often define themselves by the jobs they do, day-in and day-out. Work is taken seriously and the idea of being a housewife is much less common here than in the UK.
Sweden is a sociable nation, and bonds are often cemented through regular fika – coffees and snack breaks with friends, family or colleagues. Many companies will have a dedicated fika room, in fact!
The Swedes love their coffee — in 2012, they consumed an average of 7.32 kilos each, compared to the EU average of 4.83 kilos, according to the International Coffee Organisation.
While English is widely spoken throughout the country, it’s worth mastering Swedish if you really want to assimilate and make Swedish friends. It’s also a very useful tool to have if you want to start working for a Swedish company.
One thing to seriously consider if you want to move to Sweden is the weather and often brutal winters. Winter tends to last about 7 months of the year and can be unforgivably cold — particularly when you go a little further north. While the summer sees often 20 hours of sunshine a day, winter is the opposite and can be quite depressing if you’re adversely affected by bad weather and darkness.
Cost of Living in Sweden
It’s worth noting that moving to Stockholm is much more expensive than the rest of Sweden, although wages in the capital are comparatively higher to absorb the impact too.
Generally, the cost of living in Sweden is quite high, with reasonably high income taxes and a 25% sales tax to contend with too.
Eating out and entertaining yourself, particularly in Stockholm, is expensive — alcohol is controlled by a government monopoly, which sees the average bottle of wine clock in around 200 SEK (£18), for instance.
Housing is also expensive and is generally expected to eat up around a third of your take-home wage. This is especially pronounced in Stockholm, which enjoys a very competitive rental market. It’s best to ask your employer to help you find find accommodation if you’re feeling overwhelmed, and remember to look at the suburbs too.
The average rent for a 1 bed apartment in the city centre costs around 7,000 SEK (£625) a month, rising to 11,550 SEK (£1,032) for a three bed. For those used to London rental prices, this may not be too unpalatable.
Transport costs are also quite high with a single ticket starting around 26 SEK (£2.30) and petrol costing around 13.50 SEK (£1.21) a litre.
Popular Areas for Brits
Most expats live in the major cities in Sweden’s southern region — life tends to be more isolated (and much colder!) the further North you go.
As with many European cities, you will likely have to get used to apartment living.
As the capital of both the nation and the whole of Scandinavia, Stockholm is generally where most Brits live when they move to Sweden.
It has the most ‘going on’ in terms of entertainment, housing and the job market, and will be the easiest place for you to make friends and assimilate with locals and fellow expats — over 20% of the population live here.
Stockholm is actually set over 14 small islands in the Baltic Sea, and boasts beautiful scenery and glorious architecture and culture.
The economy here is innovative and resilient with a strong start-up scene and hordes of established larger businesses. It’s a world apart from the economies of Southern Europe.
Found on the Southern tip of Sweden, Malmø is emerging as an alternative city to Stockholm, with a thriving, diverse culture and a welcoming ambience towards international visitors. It’s only a 30 minute jaunt away from Copenhagen too!
It’s a great city for young people, and has a brilliant tradition of outdoor concerts. Remember to check out the annual Malmo Festival while you’re there.
Also in the south is Gothenburg, often considered Sweden’s most progressive city, and again, a great place for young and eager Brits to move to. It’s on the West coast, just north of Malmø.
Just like with many other Swedish cities, it can be difficult to secure accommodation here, but it’s generally of a very high standard, and all the better if you can live close to a tram line.
Gothenburg is a great compromise between city life, green space and the coast — it’s beautiful!
British Communities in Sweden
If you live in Stockholm or another major Swedish city, you should be able to make friends and join communities relatively easily — particularly if you manage to find a job here.
But if you need a helping hand, check out some of these online communities, forums, blogs and resources that Brits in Sweden may find useful:
- The Swedish-British Society
- InterNations Sweden
- British Expats Sweden Forum
- Official Sweden
- Helene Jones’ Blog
- Move To Gothenburg
- Living in Sweden
It can be difficult to find good work in Sweden, and is normally recommended to secure a position prior to moving, if only because your new employer will be able to help you with the paperwork of relocation and finding housing.
You’ll be a reasonably attractive employee prospect if you’re at least able to speak at a conversational level of Swedish, or if you’re qualified in a profession on the labour shortage list — which includes industries like construction, architecture, midwifery, biomedical science, civil engineering, podiatry, teaching, medicine, mechanics and more.
Check out The Local for listings of English-speaking jobs on offer throughout the country.
Sweden is regarded as having one of the best systems of public healthcare in the world, which allows equal access to everyone.
People moving to Sweden from the UK should take their European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) with them and apply for a personnumber as soon as possible in order to allow them to access the healthcare here.
If you’re working in Sweden, you only need to pay for your healthcare when you actually require it — and fees are nominal and low when you do.
There is private healthcare in Sweden, although you will need to take out specialist health insurance to cover this.
Bringing Kids to Sweden
Sweden is a great place to raise children thanks to high-quality and free education in the public schools system.
Voluntary preschool starts at age one as both parents generally work full-time, while maternity and paternity leave — ‘parental leave’ — is generous for local workers.
Public and private schools (the latter generally funded by local contributions from home municipalities) generally teach lessons in Swedish, which may not be suitable for older children. Younger children may be better equipped to attend these schools as they will be able to develop their Swedish language skills alongside their native peers.
There are a number of international schools in Sweden which generally teach in English, and follow either the UK curriculum (if a British international school) or the International Baccalaureate.
International Schools can be prohibitively expensive, however, with many institutions demanding 100,000 SEK (£8,900) a year and more.
The Swedish government is widely regarded as being dedicated to the development and protection of their nation’s children.
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