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Sweden is ‘perfect fit’ for French fashionista

For this week's My Swedish Career we meet Faustine Rostand, who came to Sweden as an exchange student and fell in love - with the culture. But she told The Local she has found it tricky adapting to Sweden as a French woman.

Sweden is 'perfect fit' for French fashionista
Faustine Rostand. Photo: Private
It was never a given in Faustine Rostand's life plan to make her way to Sweden. The country was completely unknown to her, yet she somehow ended up in southern Sweden's Lund for an exchange year in 2007. 
 
"Right away when I arrived in Sweden, I was impressed by everything. It was like living in the future – that's how I got this massive crush on Swedish culture," she says. 
 
The crush didn't pass once she returned to France and in 2012 Rostand found herself in Sweden again – this time with plans to start her own company. However, things took a turn after she learnt about Virtusize – a Swedish online shopping start-up.
 
Virtusize, which was established in Stockholm and now has customers in 100 countries, allows online shoppers to find clothes that fit without having to try them on, by visually illustrating the size and fit of clothing. The outline of the prospective buy is overlaid on the silhouette of the garment you own in order to give you a better idea of what to expect when the parcel arrives. The company has over 30 retailers including heavyweights like Acne. 
 
Rostand joined the team last year working with sales for the French market and other continental countries. She considers her job in Sweden to be the perfect combination of fashion, technology, and ecommerce.
 
"Stockholm is like the Silicon Valley of Europe – so many start-ups – and I'm really happy to have the opportunity to work for one of these," she says.
 
Because of the nature of her work, Rostand has the opportunity to travel back and forth between France and Sweden and says she's become a combination of the two cultures.
 
"I'm becoming schizophrenic. The first day that I'm back in France I'm super happy and everything is very intense, but come day three and I miss the order and structure of Sweden."
 
 
Rostand has identified a few prominent differences between France and Sweden during her time in the country and with the company.
 
"The workplace hierarchy is flat in Sweden. In France it's about what you have on your business card, in Sweden it's what you've accomplished."
 
She considers the hierarchic structure of some organizations to be a barrier that not only slows down the decision-making but also disrupts the flow of communication between employees. And the Swedes and the French aren't at all similar when it comes to dealing with disagreements. 
 
"In France we don't fear conflict. If there's something on our mind, we spit it out, even if it creates drama. Here people avoid it," she says.
 
"I adapted by seeing things with another kind of perspective. But I haven't been confronted at work yet, probably because there are no barriers in the communication in the workforce. Come to think of it, perhaps the Swedes have found this way to communicate to avoid confrontation in the first place," she says.  
 
Settling into the Swedish lifestyle never seemed to prove much of a struggle for Rostand.
 
Though initially worried about how to greet people in Sweden, she says she never takes the initiative to hug her Swedish acquaintances, instead taking the lead from them. In formal situations she's learned to shake hands instead of kissing on the cheeks.
 
"When I'm back in France, I will shake hands with people I don't know. Some think it's cool, others think it's rude. So I have to explain that I'm living in Sweden."
 
Integrating into the Swedish culture happened automatically, Rostand says, believing that her reasons for coming here are to thank.
 
"I have a vision of the life I want to have and it kind of fits with Sweden. Maybe I was born in the wrong country from the beginning. But to people here, I'm still very French. I'm always a bit inbetween. But I can see the value of each culture. And I have become more tolerant on an everyday basis," she says.
 
Mimmi Nilsson
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READER QUESTIONS

Reader question: When am I eligible for a Swedish pension?

A reader got in touch to ask how long he had to work in Sweden before he was eligible for a pension. Here are Sweden's pension rules, and how you can get your pension when the time comes.

Reader question: When am I eligible for a Swedish pension?

The Swedish pension is part of the country’s social insurance system, and it can seem like a confusing beast at times. The good news is that if you’re living and working here, you’ll almost certainly be earning towards a pension, and you’ll be able to get that money even if you move elsewhere before retirement.

You will start earning your Swedish general pension, or allmän pension, once you’ve earned over 20,431 kronor in a single year, and – for almost all kinds of pension in Sweden – there is no time limit on how long you must have lived in Sweden before you are eligible.

The exception is the minimum guarantee pension, or garantipension, which you can receive whether you’ve worked or not. To be eligible at all for this, you need to have lived in Sweden for a period of at least three years before you are 65 years old. 

“There’s a limit, but it’s a money limit,” Johan Andersson, press secretary at the Swedish Pension Agency told The Local about the general pension. “When you reach the point that you start paying tax, you start paying into your pension.”

“But you have to apply for your pension, make sure you get in touch with us when you want to start receiving it,” he said.

Here’s our in-depth guide on how you can maximise your Swedish pension, even if you’re only planning on staying in Sweden short-term.

Those who spend only a few years working in Sweden will earn a much smaller pension than people who work here for their whole lives, but they are still entitled to something – people who have worked in Sweden will keep their income pension, premium pension, supplementary pension and occupational pension that they have earned in Sweden, even if they move to another country. The pension is paid no matter where in the world you live, but must be applied for – it is not automatically paid out at retirement age.

If you retire in the EU/EEA, or another country with which Sweden has a pension agreement, you just need to apply to the pension authority in your country of residence in order to start drawing your Swedish pension. If you live in a different country, you should contact the Swedish Pensions Agency for advice on accessing your pension, which is done by filling out a form (look for the form called Ansök om allmän pension – om du är bosatt utanför Sverige).

The agency recommends beginning the application process at least three months before you plan to take the pension, and ideally six months beforehand if you live abroad. It’s possible to have the pension paid into either a Swedish bank account or an account outside Sweden.

A guarantee pension – for those who live on a low income or no income while in Sweden – can be paid to those living in Sweden, an EU/EEA country, Switzerland or, in some cases, Canada. This is the only Swedish pension which is affected by how long you’ve lived in Sweden – you can only receive it if you’ve lived in the country for at least three years before the age of 65.

“The guarantee pension is residence based,” Andersson said. “But it’s lower if you haven’t lived in Sweden for at least 40 years. You are eligible for it after living in Sweden for only three years, but it won’t be that much.”

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