Nine helpful hints to adjust to life in Sweden

Ann Törnkvist
Ann Törnkvist - [email protected]
Nine helpful hints to adjust to life in Sweden
Navigating rules of the Swedish tvättstuga (laundry room) is one of many cultural challenges faced by new arrivals

Failing to care for the families of foreign staff assigned to Sweden can cost globally-minded companies money, warns a Stockholm-based HR specialist who has launched employment and other services to help accompanying families find their way in Sweden.


"When I speak with executives, they always stress that their people are their company's most valuable asset," Claudia de Leeuw-van Wijk, president of Global Expat Partners, tells The Local. "But they don't all have HR managers who act accordingly."

De Leeuw-van Wijk says she's come across some truly appalling attitudes toward globally recruited staff and their families who have relocated to Sweden from abroad.

"Some HR managers tell me, 'Do we also have to care about how they feel? We already think they earn too much compared to Swedes'," she recalls, adding that many HR professionals in Sweden seem unaware of statistics linking failure rate of assignments abroad with partners dissatisfaction.

Since 2009, Global Expert Partners has worked with the City of Stockholm and industry heavy-weights Atlas Copco - whom de Leeuw-van Wijk credits alongside Absolut, EA/Dice, Sandvik, Klarna, and Oriflame as companies that are taking the opportunity to understand and make life easier for staff recruited from abroad. Their task? Not only finding talent overseas, but making sure they stay.

SEE ALSO: Nine tips for expats and families on adjusting life in Sweden

"Everything is well-organized in Sweden, but maybe even due to the fact that it is so well-organized, it means people who aren't from here don't fit into this beautiful structure," she comments. 
In addition to Swedish companies, Global Expat Partners and the city have also worked with international firms like Nike, Siemens, Novartis, KLM, and others to forge what has become known as "The Stockholm Model" of support for the families of foreign professionals relocated in Sweden. In 2011, they opened the Global Expat Centre Stockholm, which has since been recognized as a leading support programme in the Baltic Sea region.
Apart from the personnummer jungle, there are Sweden-specific challenges that need to be dealt with. Workshops in English and Mandarin form part of Global Expat Partners' core activities in Stockholm, which also include spousal support classes and good old-fashioned networking for a group of foreign professionals who, despite different backgrounds, have similar needs.
"If we are supporting a group of global talent nomads who travel the world for their work, we need this sort of 'expat embassy'," says de Leeuw-van Wijk, in attempt to describe Global Expat Centre Stockholm's role.
There are also cultural awareness lessons in English targeted at Indian expats and taught by an Indian woman. 
"There are many Indians who come to work in Stockholm, especially in IT, so it is very convenient to get your new culture explained through the perspective of your old culture," she says.
Add to that social events and the most recent initiative to help spouses find jobs, and the not-for-profit organization hopes to support expat families in all aspects of daily life in Sweden.
"We're helping them fill in the Maslov Pyramid of needs to feel good and be successful when in Sweden," de Leeuw-van Wijk tells The Local. 
For more advice and insights on making the most of you and your family's time in Sweden, have a look at de Leeuw-van Wijk's tips for expat families who've recently relocated to Sweden.


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