The best thing about Sandra Andersson's job is speaking to people from all corners of the world and helping them to settle into the place she now calls home.
Having spent all her life in Stockholm, Andersson moved to Västervik, southern Sweden, in the summer of 2011 to become head of relocation services for regional development company Västervik Framåt. She now uses her own experience to provide practical help to newcomers to the area.
“Moving to Västervik from another city enables me to look at things with a certain perspective,” she says. “I can see things that other people who have lived here their whole lives don't. But we also have people in the team that have lived here their whole lives so it makes for a good combination.”
A new home from home
The relocation service supports anyone moving to the area from within Sweden and abroad. Janet Vloothuis left the hustle of Amsterdam in the summer of 2011 and now feels at home in Loftahammar, a small waterside village in the Västervik municipality.
“The countryside is a big reason that I ended up in Sweden because it's magical,” she says. “It really is an eye-opener to enjoy the freedom of nature – it's so big and impressive.”
Having first come into contact with Relocations Services in Västervik at a migration fair in Holland, she maintained contact and appreciated the opportunity to make connections on arrival.
“Socially, it was great that the relocation services organised a monthly after-work meet-up,” Vloothuis adds. “In the beginning, you feel a little insecure, you have to build a new social network and it was good to meet with people from other countries or other places in Sweden.”
Relocation services can help with contacts to find housing, jobs and schools but it can also be a support when sorting out the everyday tasks of moving to and living in Sweden.
Language and business life
“What I thought was quite difficult was dealing with institutions such as the tax and migration authorities,” Vloothuis says. “The formalities and paperwork are really important in Sweden.”
Her biggest piece of advice is to get to grips with the language. “Learning Swedish – at least at a basic level – is the number one thing,” she says. “And expect to take responsibility yourself. The Swedes will help you and you can get a network around you quite quickly but there is a lot to take care of and organise.”
Social media can play a key part in this. The Facebook group 'Ny i Västervik' (New in Västervik) enables people to connect independently for business or personal reasons.
Vloothuis moved to Sweden with her Dutch partner who had already set up a tourism business in Loftahammar.
“For a small town we have many varied industries,” adds Sandra Andersson. “ The job market is very diverse with a lot of medium-sized companies rather than one main employer and I think that is what is appealing for new businesses.”
The relocation service provides a network for businesses with free advice and guidance on setting up.” We are in contact with all the local companies,” Andersson says. “We know how the city works and we can find you the right person to talk to.”
Activities and jobs for all
Newcomers to Ludvika in Dalarna, central Sweden, receive a handbook on arrival and a whole lot more.
“We offer different kinds of activities, such as ski tours and fishing trips, to make integration go more smoothly and make the area more attractive,” says Lars Lindblom, CEO of regional development company Samarkand2015.
Within the local relocation service, there is an understanding of the need to support the whole family. “If one family member has found a job and has a husband or wife coming along, we also need to support the other partner in finding a job and feeling at home,” Lindblom adds.
“Otherwise they won't stay for very long.”
Such was the case for Ammar Batti, who uprooted from Stockholm to Ludvika with his family in 2010. The Battis had spent three years in the Swedish capital having previously moved to Sweden from their homeland in Iraq in 2007. “There were difficulties in finding jobs in Stockholm, simply due to more competition,” he says.
Ammar, a construction engineer and his wife Dunia, a dentist, sought opportunities to fill the skills shortage in Ludvika. Dunia was able to get a work placement and six months later was offered permanent employment. Meanwhile, Ammar managed to get his foot in the door with the local authority where he works full-time today.
“The children are happy and we have jobs within our professional fields,” he says. “It's a lot quieter than Stockholm here, and the shops aren't open as long, but it's a beautiful part of the country.”
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