‘Stockholm is the prettiest city in Europe’

In this week's My Swedish Career feature, we meet a Kiwi teacher who relocated to Stockholm and became a semi-professional globetrotter. The Local speaks to Joshua Goddard just after he completed his grand tour of Europe.

'Stockholm is the prettiest city in Europe'
Joshua Goddard has visited all of Europe's countries. Photo: Private

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Joshua Goddard has travelled to 47 counties during his stint in Europe. But no city, he says, comes close to beating the Swedish capital in summer.

“I always say I think Stockholm is the prettiest city in all of Europe, especially in summer time. The way the city is laid out with all the water, it's just fantastic. I find it interesting how in winter everyone seems to disappear, but there are around two million people living in greater Stockholm and in summer time I actually think you manage to see every single one of them,” he says.

Goddard, 33, was born and raised in Auckland, New Zealand, which remains one of his other favourite cities.

“I'm biased, but it's a brilliant place. I don't know if you know this, but it's also the largest Polynesian city in the world, so there's a large cultural diversity,” says the sports and science teacher.

“But as a lot of people know, New Zealand is on the opposite side of the world, almost isolated. And there are only so many times you can visit Australia before you get a bit sick of it.”

Goddard wanted to see more, travel more, experience more – and as most expats know, once the travel bug hits, it is difficult to let it go. So just before the end of 2009, the sports teacher packed his bags and moved to Britain, where his mother was born.

“But I didn't like the lifestyle, that everything revolved around going to the pub. And as a teacher I had certain issues with the education system. I had visited Stockholm before and when I saw there was a job opening I applied and moved here after the London Olympics.”

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We speak to Goddard just weeks after he completed what started out as a normal tourist desire to visit Europe's main attractions and developed into a quest to travel the entire continent.

He tells The Local he has been to “all the political countries of Europe. 47 including Kosovo (everything west of the Ural Mountains).”

“I don't know how long I am going to be here, so when I got the chance to travel overseas I just thought I'd make the most of it. I love Eastern Europe. You can meet someone there in the street, start talking to them and they will invite you into their home. And they've got a different approach to consumerism. In Sweden you always have to have the newest smartphone,” he says.

One of Goddard's favourite things about travelling is learning about different cultures and meeting new people. In fact, he says half of the places he has visited he ended up travelling to because he had met someone in another country who brought him there.

But in discovering new things, he has also learned more about himself in the process.

“I was never the kind of person who would strike up conversations with strangers. I had my own social circle of friends that I hung out with and was happy with that. But when you travel you have to overcome this. I has to learn to be more forward, to open up and share of myself. It was a nice learning experience,” he says.

For his next project, he is looking across the Atlantic.

“I will stay in Sweden for at least another year. I don't plan too much – I've decided to stop worrying and take things year by year. But I have friends who live in Chile and I like the idea of moving to South America to experience the different cultures there.”

For members


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.”