Sweden is an amazing place – brilliant nature, a healthy roster of world-leading companies, and a well-functioning welfare system.
So it should come as no surprise that the country attracts all sorts of talented foreigners who choose to relocate to Sweden for work, love, or any of a host of other reasons.
But the reality is that Sweden, for all its brilliance, isn't always that easy to understand if you didn't grow up there.
Sure, Swedes speak English quite well and most government agencies have at least some English-language content on their websites.
Even so, knowing what questions to ask and where to turn to find the answers isn't always obvious for anyone thinking about moving to Sweden or already living here who is not accustomed to doing things “the Swedish way”.
Sweden does things differently
While expat chat forums may provide lots of tips, there's no way of knowing for sure whether the advice you get actually applies to your particular situation or is still current.
And what about the ‘fine print' when it comes to sticky issues like child custody, tax laws, employment protections, and other matters where getting it wrong can have major consequences for you and your family?
“There are lots of areas where Sweden does things differently than many other countries do, and that may not be obvious to someone who moves here as an adult,” says Don Baldwin, author of Live and Work in Sweden, a new expat-friendly reference manual packed with information on just about every topic under the midnight sun.
“It's hard to know where to find information when you don't know for sure what questions to ask or which agency has responsibility.”
Originally from the US, Baldwin has lived in several countries throughout his career, but has been based in Stockholm since 1999 after being headhunted by a Swedish company.
These days he manages Aurenav, a group of business services and ICT consultancy companies, which puts him in daily contact with foreigners looking for help on matters ranging from HR, accounting, and payroll or how to find the right school for expat children.
“Over the years, we've worked with hundreds of consultants and several multinational corporations. They've had all sorts of questions and every time a new one cropped up we'd keep the answer on file in a knowledge bank,” he explains. “I eventually got the idea of compiling all the information in a book format so we could share everything we'd learned with other expats and professionals”.
A roadmap for expats and professionals
The result, Live and Work in Sweden, is a mighty tome, boasting nearly 500 pages of well indexed, practical, authoritative information drawn from more than 200 references.
“It's really meant to be a roadmap for expats and professionals – including lawyers, accountants, HR managers, and consultants – that lets them know what sort of questions they need to be asking and where they need to go to get the answers,” Baldwin explains.
“It helps you mitigate your risk and avoid pitfalls you may not have even known about.”
For example, if you as an employer want to fire a worker but fail to first notify the worker's union and offer to negotiate, the union can sue you for damages – even if your company doesn't have a collective agreement in place.
And if you're working in Sweden on a temporary contract, you can qualify for special tax relief or pension contribution exemptions – but if you don't apply for the benefits early enough, you can lose out altogether.
The book not only saves users countless hours surfing around dense, bureaucratic websites that have limited English language content, but it also can save them lots of money as well.
“In many instances, the information in this book can't be found elsewhere in English, meaning you'd have no other option besides hiring a lawyer – which can easily cost upwards of 10,000 kronor,” says Baldwin.
A membership portal
And at a mere 600 kronor – less than a fancy Lego set or a cheap meal for two – Live and Work in Sweden provides a lot of value to anyone with questions about “how Sweden works”.
With this guide in your hands, you get access to the information you need to navigate just about any administrative challenge in Sweden – be it related to family life, work, or housing – without having to rely on neighours or friends, or paying for expensive legal help.
Anyone who purchases the book also gains access to a special membership portal on the accompanying website, www.liveandworkinsweden.com.
In addition to the general information available on the main website, book owners with access to the membership portal will find additional information about new laws, helpful links, and other resources with insights from experts about specific issues. The membership portal also includes updates to the book, new references, as well as tax tables.
“If you are an expat, professional, or any sort of foreigner living in Sweden, this book is for you,” says Baldwin.
This article was produced by The Local and sponsored by Live and Work in Sweden.