‘Getting work in Sweden is about contacts’

Briton Deri Thomas makes his living from the running industry in Sweden and is pushing for more free events designed to unite amateur athletes in the Nordic nation.

'Getting work in Sweden is about contacts'
Deri Thomas and his five-year-old son. Photo: Private

Deri Thomas moved to Sweden 10 years ago, when his Swedish girlfriend Anna finished her degree in the UK. But their love story started back in 2001, when the couple first met in England and made an unusual decision to try to share their lives between both countries. 

“We actually tossed a coin back in 2002, to decide which country Anna would study in…She came and studied in the UK for three years and we moved to Sweden in 2005 when she finished her degree,” Thomas tells The Local.

A decade later they have a house, kids and jobs in Sweden, and have realized they are here to stay.

Thomas has forged his career in the running industry, drawing on one of his biggest passions.

Until recently he was the managing director of Urban Tribes, a company that mostly provides fitness training to around 40 businesses, largely in the Stockholm area and Gothenburg. It also organizes running courses, classes and races for the general public.

When it comes to advice on how build a career in Sweden, he says it depends on what skills you have when you arrive in the country and what area you want to work in, but he is convinced that one thing is vital whichever industry you're part of. 

“Make contacts and get yourself a little bit into the local environment,” he says.

Thomas has spent much of his time in Sweden playing for the football team Långholmen, which mainly consisted of native English speakers. He says this helped him create a lot of contacts and friends, which made it easier to make other connections with the Swedish community.

“It is really hard when you first arrive and you have not mastered the language, and the Swedes can often be a little bit reserved as well,” Thomas explains. 

Thomas has recently stepped down from his managerial position at Urban Tribes and is currently working in operations and sales for the company while he focuses on his goal of encouraging more Swedish residents to pick up their running shoes.

He hopes to use the connections he has forged to introduce more free running events to Sweden as part of a movement known as Parkrun.

“I’ve seen it grow enormously in the UK the last few years. I just think it is an fantastic concept,” Thomas explains.

Parkrun organizers put on five-kilometre runs that take place every week and are completely free. Those who sign up get a unique barcode, which they can use to track their time each time they participate as well as chart their improvement over time. The events are popular around the world with over 120,000 people participating every week in 13 countries, with Australia one of the biggest markets alongside the UK. All the runs are managed by volunteers with the backing of sponsors.

A few minutes before a parkrun go off at Barry Island. Photo: Private

But while Swedes are famously sporty, Thomas argues that formally organized runs (rather than coaching events) are often expensive and irregular in the Scandinavian country.

“There is still a real running boom in Sweden, so it’s very much a good time for something like Parkrun to come along as well.”

He aims to organize the first Parkrun in Sweden in the summer of 2016 in Hagaparken, one of the largest green spaces in the Swedish capital. 

The Briton hopes that runners will share the experiences he gets from pounding the parks and pavements of Stockholm, arguing that it is a fitness pursuit that allows people to push themselves physically, meet new people and clear their heads as well as being an easy way to train.

“It is such a simple and uncomplicated form of exercise. Put your shoes on and then you go. There is nothing more uncomplicated than that.”

Article by Emma Lidman

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.”