1. The exchange student
These are probably the happiest of the expats. They're in a bubble. They drink at the student bars where a beer can cost as little as 20 kronor (it's true). They're not here long enough to appreciate the beautiful Swedish catch-22s such as needing a personal number to get a job, but not being able to get a personal number without having a job.
Sweden, to them, is a paradise of beautiful young people on bicycles and bizarre academic traditions. And then they're gone, taking their education and damaged livers with them.
See how happy they are? Photo: Magnus Liam Karlsson/imagebank.sweden.se
2. The reluctant love refugee
The reluctant love refugee hates everything about Sweden, from cinnamon rolls to Ikea furniture. Don't even get them started on Abba. They struggle to get their head around Swedish bureaucracy, are fed up with what they see as the Swedes' incessant focus on gender equality, and can't for the life of them understand why you have to take your shoes off at parties.
These people usually followed their Swedish partner here and received the first taste of the Nordic country at their inlaws' Midsummer celebrations. We're using 'followed' in a liberal sense. More appropriate words may be 'cajoled', 'coerced' or 'lured' – at least in the eyes of the reluctant expat. While many may remain convinced that their Swedish partner will move back home with them in the future, others find themselves hooking up with expats from their country of birth or simply booking a flight back to where they came from.
Darling, do we have to go to Ikea every weekend? Photo: Simon Paulin/imagebank.sweden.se
3. The international transfer employee
Sweden is a curious place in the eyes of many expat employees who are either transferred to the Nordic country or pick up a too-good-to-refuse temporary contract. Also known as the 'Ericsson employee' (since this is where you're most likely to find them), these workers spend their days speaking English. They never really integrate and never really need to, as they're not planning to stick around forever.
Their most similar relative is the reluctant love refugee in that they were both brought here without getting much of a say in the matter. However, the international employee does not usually have a problem with Sweden as such. Since they spend most of their time holed up in an office building in a Stockholm suburb, they just haven't seen enough of the place to have an opinion on the country one way or the other. Still, they would not mind being sent somewhere a little warmer next time.
Working nine to five, what a way to make a living. Photo: Susanne Walström/imagebank.sweden.se
4. The startup entrepreneur
This expat came here because they heard that the tech-savvy Swedish capital is the place to be for keen young people aspiring to become the next founder of Skype or Spotify.
There are different breeds of the startup entrepreneur: from the geek to the hipster to the slick Armani suit wearer. Their common denominator is that they all speak in jargon: keep an ear out for buzzwords such as 'ideate', 'unicorn', 'evangelist' or 'growth hacking'.
But the startup business is a global game, and after a few years the startup entrepreneur is on the move again, to a new gig in Berlin.
Staff working at Spotify in Stockholm. Photo: Lars Pehrson/SvD/TT
5. The trophy hunter
Trophy hunters can be found chatting up Swedes in their local bar, supermarket, Viking reenactment events and so on. These people are here specifically to mix their gene pool with a bit of Scandinavian blondeness. Some have been known to keep tallies of their conquests. Their goal: Well, it's obvious, isn't it?
But don't dismiss them purely as indulgent commitment phobes. Many trophy hunters are actually seriously looking for a foreign partner to settle down with. His or her goal is to one day have a blonde little multilingual child named Gudrun or Sven – which this expat understands are still common Swedish baby names – based on a book from the 1950s they found in their local library in their home country.
A typical Swedish child? Photo: Lena Granefelt/imagebank.sweden.se
6. The globetrotter
The only reason the globetrotter came to Sweden was because it happened to be next on the list. This the-grass-is-always-greener-on-the-other-side expat just loves living abroad and spends no more than a year in a country before moving on to the next. Used to learning new languages, they have no problem keeping up a conversation in Swedish (if you pardon the random French, German or Japanese words that will occasionally slip out).
The globetrotter dreams of a future when they can tell the children of “that time when I lived in Stockholm” or “that reminds me of my favourite cafe on Södermalm back in 2017”. Unfortunately they will never stay put in a single city long enough to be able to find anyone to eventually have those children with.
Where to next? Photo: Vegard Grøtt/NTB scanpix/TT
Article first published in 2015.