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Living and working in Sweden: the ultimate guide

Got a question about living, working, or running a business in Sweden? A new guide for expats and professionals probably has the answer.

Living and working in Sweden: the ultimate guide

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.

Click here to get a copy of Live and Work in Sweden

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.”

Learn more about Live and Work in Sweden

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.

Get your own copy of Live and Work in Sweden

This article was produced by The Local and sponsored by Live and Work in Sweden.

EXPATS

For internationals, ‘reliance on social media is sometimes greater because we are more disconnected’

Over-reliance on social media can cause stress and loneliness, and is a particularly easy trap to fall into for those dealing with life in a new country, writes psychologist and The Local guest columnist Edita Petojevic.

For internationals, 'reliance on social media is sometimes greater because we are more disconnected'
If you're already feeling isolated, reliance on social media can make things seem worse. File photo: AP Photo/Jessica Hill/Ritzau Scanpix

Do you go about your day feeling overwhelmed by thoughts? Do you catch yourself feeling constant high level of anxiety, without being able to shake it off? Do you struggle to stay grounded in the here and now?

If you’ve answered yes to the questions above, know that you are not alone. The period we live in makes it difficult to stay still for any length of time, not to mention quieting the noise inside of us. We are constantly bombarded with information that creates pressure to keep up and that interrupts our focus on more meaningful things.

The fast-paced lifestyle, however, doesn't allow for deeper reflection. Instead it pushes us to scroll through feeds on our phones mindlessly. There is a near constant pressure to stay informed and updated, and a fear of missing out (FOMO) when we try to put our phones away.

As a psychotherapist based in Copenhagen who mostly sees internationals, I have spoken with many clients who experience these difficulties. The virtual world that we spend so much time in is causing people stress and loneliness, and often the very sense of disconnectedness we seek to avoid.

The purpose with this article is to bring awareness to the correlation between the digital world and mental health issues.

Moving towards good mental health requires that one is in touch with one’s own physical, emotional and intellectual needs. It doesn't necessarily mean that these needs are always met, but it indicates an awareness of them and an intention to meet them. This means tuning in to and striving towards taking care of oneself.

We live much of our lives in a digital world where the focus is on external validation. For instance, when you see something you want to take a picture of, it is less about engaging the subject and remembering, and instead is all about showing and sharing. The need to be seen by others and to share with others is immense and it forces an unhealthy focus on external validation.

Sharing with others has become more important than taking time to nurture ourselves. The focus is on informing the external world rather than being present and enjoying the moment.

You might be asking yourself, ‘Why can't we do both?’ Here's where the true dilemma lies.

When we try to think about who's liking our post or whether we received that email, while at the same time trying to be grounded in the present, we wind up with only a superficial level of attention on any one thing. Furthermore, due to splitting between thoughts and states, we seldom get to be in the moment and never truly allow ourselves to relax.

READ ALSO: The link between international relocation and depression

Katarina Gospic, one of the leading brain scientists in Sweden, explains it well by talking about the need to check our phones as a natural part of a system of rewards. Our brains are seeking the reward we get every time we get a like, a positive comment or anything that makes us feel good in the moment. It's an instant reward, an external validation that we are liked and okay in the world. However, these rewards are short-lived, so we keep checking our phones, hoping to receive another positive reassurance, again and again. 

It's all part of an “intermittent reward system”, as Gospic so well explains it. 

In my therapy practice, I have noticed that the number of clients who rely on their phone for repeated daily rewards is growing. As mentioned above, my clients are primarily internationals living in Denmark, and this appears to be making their over-use of social media even worse. Our reliance on social media for comfort and validation is sometimes even greater because we are often more disconnected. The outcome, however, is the opposite. Our clients report feeling more isolated, depressed and anxious when seeking connection in these ways. 

In treating clients with an overuse of social media, we gradually expose them to whatever might be difficult for the client. In this case, we create a treatment plan that helps clients engage more with people in person, and spend less time seeking the short-term rewards on their phones.

We have noticed a direct link between the use of the phone and avoidance behavior. The more we avoid engaging in real life, the more we retreat to the use of the phone, which results in more negative feelings.

In fact, the use of the phone resembles the use of alcohol and drugs in the sense that we use it to get an instant reward and to escape the reality we are in. This explains why more and more digital detox camps are being set up all over the world.

Another part of this reward system is the thinking process behind it. Every day we hear our clients share how they compare themselves to others on social media and the pressure they feel to meet the social expectations of good looks and successful lives. For some, there is a constant race to become better, prettier, and more successful, and those who don't pause to reflect get caught up in trying to meet these impossible and imaginary goals, slowly but surely moving the focus from thinking about what is important to us, and instead buying into the ideals we see around us.

 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 

 
 

 
 
 

 
 

A post shared by Copenhagen Travel Guide (@travel2copenhagen) on Nov 8, 2018 at 3:21pm PST

Furthermore, the virtual world often presents filtered versions, where the majority focuses on sharing only the most beautiful and most successful parts of life, leaving many who already have low self-esteem to become ever more insecure and stressed.

For some, it even leads to comparison and competition rather than sharing in other’s happiness or good fortune.

Externally, we are chasing to get more and internally we have never been lonelier.

READ ALSO: OPINION: A foreigner's attitude hacks for transitioning to life in Denmark

What can be done?

We have more ways to connect and communicate than ever before, yet we have never been more disconnected. The need to be heard, truly and deeply is huge. So, how do we get back to our true selves? Is there a way to find a balance between the external and the internal world? We believe there is. If you have read up to this point, you might be one of those who realizes the problem but lacks the tools to change the current state. If so, you are off to a good start.

Here are some specific steps you can take to begin finding the balance you need:

  • Awareness is the first step. Before we can make any changes, we need to acknowledge the problem.

  • Secondly, write down your individual needs. Try to make time for every single one of them during your week. Talk to your partner or friends or anyone who you trust about this process. Change can be hard as it requires you to challenge old ways of thinking and to step out from your comfort zone. Sharing with someone allows you to get support and to hear your own thoughts and feelings.

  • Limit the time you spend on your phone. For this, consider using one of the apps that reports back to you how much time and what you have used it on. Then set achievable goals.

  • Try to use the phone with intention rather than for mindless scrolling. Have set phone times and stick to those boundaries.

  • Spending less time in the virtual world will lead to more time in real life. Think of the things you have wanted to do for a long time but didn’t have time to do. Here is your chance! Read, study philosophy or astronomy, explore your local environment, develop new friendships, attend evening classes, learn to meditate.

  • Pay attention to all the things you get done when you limit the time on your phone and notice the effects it has on your mental health. Notice how you feel.

  • Evaluate before and after. Write down the results gained from restricted phone use and more time spent on your personal needs. This can be done as soon as a week after you start out.

One of our most profound findings from restricting phone use is a more peaceful everyday life. Freeing yourself from the need of external rewards allows you to get in touch with your internal needs. Once you become aware of your needs, you will also start thinking of ways to meet them. This opens the door for healthy habits such as physical activity, meditation, reading, playing and so on. 

We’ve also noticed a sense of regaining control over daily life once these boundaries were implemented. Our clients report a feeling of freedom to plan their days and follow through with activities, rather than getting sucked into talking or scrolling on the phone. There was an overall increase in satisfaction with the time spent.

To conclude, we would say that by not escaping reality, we are given the chance to notice what is going on around us, and to begin to more readily face some of the many challenges many internationals face when starting life in a new place.

Edita Petojevic has lived outside of her home country for most of her life. She received a B.A. in psychology from Jacksonville University in Florida, United States and an M.A. in Integrative Psychotherapy and Counselling from Roehampton University in London. She sees clients in English and Swedish at the MacFarlane Psychology Group, a Copenhagen practice offering psychotherapy for internationals.

READ ALSO: Why moving to Denmark can cause feelings of loneliness – and what you can do to feel better