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‘Moving to Sweden was my quarter-life crisis’

He hates the cold and loves making money. So what exactly is 28-year-old American Greg Clayman doing in freezing, high-tax Stockholm? The Local's Maddy Savage finds out for this week's My Swedish Career profile.

'Moving to Sweden was my quarter-life crisis'
Greg on a trip to Gothenburg in west Sweden. Photo: Private
 
Clean-shaven and wearing a crisp dark red shirt along with a wide, white smile, Clayman is about as far away from the stereotype of a heavy metal fan as you can get. Yet it was his taste in what he describes as “really shitty music” that first brought him to Scandinavia in 2014.
 
While on vacation from a communications startup in California, he dragged his then girlfriend along to the Rockstad festival in Falun in central Sweden as part of a whirlwind of Nordic tourist hotspots. He fell in love with the country's green, clean capital along the way.
 
“I just really liked it out here, and being in my late twenties and having kinda that 'quarter-life crisis', I was like 'this is the chance that I have to move',” he explains.
 

Greg enjoys Sweden's outdoor lifestyle. Photo: Private
 
Eight months later, the US graduate had landed a job as a recruiter for online payment firm Klarna, one of Sweden's leading tech companies. 
 
“I was at a startup before this and there were 10 people when I started and 20 people when I left, and I wanted to be in a place growing a lot faster than that,” says Clayman, who previously worked in San Fransisco and Los Angeles.
 
His dreams came true after he sent a speculative email to a recruitment manager at Klarna, who got back in touch when a vacancy came up shortly afterwards. Clayman is among 540 people hired by the Swedish firm in 2015, which currently has 1,300 people on its books, after launching a decade ago. 
 
Now, he's helping to recruit the next generation of top talent for the Nordic business, and says he's loving almost every minute of it.
 
“It's a payments company. So it's not sexy like Spotify for example. But the thing is, what we are doing here is really, really unique and revolutionary for the payments industry. It really is disrupting online payments,” Clayman argues.
 
 
Klarna's technology is designed to help people to buy products quickly but pay up later, without the hassle of having to fill in rows of personal data or registering the card they plan to use. The company can approve customers based on a tiny amount of information, such as an email and delivery address, which is then used to trace their credit history. Only once the products bought online have been shipped and received, does the buyer have to pay an invoice.
 
“It's quick and clever and secure,” argues Clayman, clearly used to promoting the company's message.
 
But he is refreshingly open when discussing his own payment by Klarna, admitting that he took a “massive, massive pay cut” when he joined the firm in April and sometimes still longs for the Silicon Valley bubble he was initially so desperate to break out of.
 
“The biggest physical possession I miss is my car. I had an awesome car in the bay area, that was like the coolest thing I will ever own,” he says, lamenting the loss of his Mercedes SLK 350.
 
“Now I walk to work in the freezing cold,” he jokes.
 

Greg's old car, a Mercedes SLK 350. Photo: Private
 
However the former communications student, 28, says he is thriving in Klarna's working environment, which provides regular opportunities to meet and socialize with staff members hailing from more than 40 different countries.
 
“What's great about Klarna is that the average age is 31. Everyone I work with is awesome. And that's what they told me when I interviewed: 'we don't have any douchebags on the team', and so I was like 'cool, I get to be that guy now' Ha!”.
Clayman's goal for the New Year is to grow his network, candidly admitting that he currently has “no life outside of work”. The recruiter suggests that this is mostly due to putting in “very long hours” in order to prove himself in his new role. However, he is also incredibly vocal about his struggle to get along with Swedes.
 
“In the US if I go to a bar and watch an Amercican football game – which I would do by myself if my friends weren't available – I could meet people there and talk to them about things,” he explains.
 
“People just aren't super friendly here. You can tell the Swedes that I don't think they are friendly,” he laughs.
 
In the meantime, the former university track and field coach says he is filling his rare spare time with running, cycling, ice skating and dating and remains “super happy” he took the gamble to live and work in Stockholm.
 
However, Clayman admits that his opinion could easily change once he's seen out his first winter. He hates the cold so much that as a student he transferred from US Ivy league college Brown to Pepperdine University in Malibu after just one year, all because he couldn't cope with the freezing temperatures.
 
“I think yesterday was about the coldest weather I have ever been in,” he says, slightly nervously.
 
“It's getting cold and I don't know if I am mentally or physically prepared for it right now!”
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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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