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‘I invite Swedes to become more open’

US-born Jane Ruffino, 40, adores helping companies to shape their brand identities. She tells The Local that can be a challenge in Sweden, a nation famed for modesty and shyness, but insists she's relishing the journey so far.

'I invite Swedes to become more open'
Jane Ruffino. Photo: Private
 
Make no mistake, Jane Ruffino is one of those people who loves to talk. But listening to the communications expert reel off her recent projects, it's clear she has a lot going on that's worth talking about.
 
“I'm a content-designer-slash-editor, mostly working with startups,” she explains.
 
“I help people to get their messages across, from regular copywriting to content planning, reworking their websites or maybe helping them to refocus on just one business goal.”
 
Since moving to Stockholm two years ago, Ruffino has worked for a range of Nordic companies, collaborated with businesses in the UK, Ireland and Belgium and even done a stint in New York overseeing communications for the US launch of a Swedish app.
 
She currently spends three days a week based at a tech firm in the capital, while doing freelance consultancy work and writing a column for The Sunday Business Post, a newspaper based in Ireland.
 
A self-confessed 'Duracell bunny' (“people have been calling me that since I was about two years old!”), she's quick to recognize that while she's found plenty of work, not all Scandinavians know what to make of her tireless supply of energy.
 
“Sweden isn't always an easy place to be for someone as outgoing as me,” she admits.
 
“I feel like a social bull in a china shop sometimes here and I am trying to learn to pull back, to give people space (…) But the companies I have really clicked with know they can rely on me. Even though I might swoop into an office in my red cape talking non-stop about dogs or fashion or whatever, I also know how to get a job done,” she laughs.
 
“And what some people have said to me is that by being who I am, I also give Swedes a context in which to be enthusiastic and more open.”
 

Ruffino wants Swedes to become more open. Photo: Private
 
Ruffino initially moved to Stockholm after meeting her Swedish partner online while she was living and working in Ireland. But even though that relationship ended, she says she has no regrets about creating a new base for herself in Europe.
 
“It's a good place if you're prematurely middle-aged,” she jokes.
 
“I am okay with there not being a crazy night life and I love the fact that going for a coffee is a 'thing'. I like that there is a word – a verb – for going for coffee,” she smiles, referring to the Swedish word “fika”.
 
“I think it's really valuable and it says a lot about the culture. Swedes are able to relax and I love that everyone hugs each other, even the guys.”
 
Having grown up in chilly Boston, she also cherishes being surrounded by snow again during the winter (“in Ireland it just rained all the time”) and meeting so many people who share her passion for outdoor exercise (“no one here thinks it's weird if I go for a run!”).
 
Quick to add that there are nevertheless “plenty of things” that annoy her about Sweden, Ruffino argues that she's perhaps more accepting than other immigrants, having already done one long stint abroad in Ireland, where she first relocated to as an undergraduate archaeology student.
 
“I am always happy to listen to friends if they are unhappy about living in Sweden. But I am trying to see it [my experience] more as having a conscious relationship with the culture,” she explains.
 
“You should think about how much you can live with and how much you should change…allowing it to have an impact but knowing where your boundaries are.”
 
The 40-year-old is also keen to stress that she is well aware of the record numbers of people who have recently moved to Sweden fleeing conflict and oppression.
 
“If you are lucky enough to be able to choose where you live then you should be self-reflexive enough to accept it.”
 
“I am a white American woman so I know I am tremendously privileged. Most people don't have that luxury.”
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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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