‘I’ve always said about Gothenburg that you can almost guarantee a good night out’

Who are the biggest fans of Gothenburg? David and Rob Griffith-Jones, two British brothers running an online visitors' guide to Sweden's second city, are definitely two of them.

'I've always said about Gothenburg that you can almost guarantee a good night out'
Rob Griffith-Jones, left, and David Griffith-Jones. Photo: Private

You are two brothers from the UK living in Sweden. Did you move here together?

Rob: I came here first in 2012. I met a Swedish girl, who is still my girlfriend, in Thailand in 2009 and we had a distance relationship. She spent some time in Birmingham with me and then we gave Gothenburg a go. We love it here and really think this is our home for the long-term.

David: I was living in Melbourne, in Australia, and had been there for about four years and it got to the point where I was either going to stay there permanently or move back closer to home. I wanted to be nearer to my family, but wasn't really ready to move back to London, where I have lived for about seven years. I was originally looking at the obvious places in Europe that are good for my work, I work in digital. So, I was looking at Berlin, Copenhagen, but when I came to visit Rob in Gothenburg, I just straight away loved it. It has got all the things that you would want from a big city with nightlife, restaurants, bars and business, but has got that smaller and friendly side to it.

What did you know about Gothenburg and Sweden in general?

Rob: To be honest, I didn’t know much about Gothenburg. I knew it was a city in Sweden, but it wasn’t on my radar for places to possibly live. If I’m completely honest, if I hadn’t met my girlfriend, I would have visited Sweden probably for a long weekend in Stockholm. Now I find it amazing that I could have missed out on Gothenburg, because for me it’s a real gem of a city. It was all down to life, coincidences and chances. Now I’m here and got to know the country and this city in particular.

Gothenburg was recently named the world’s most sociable city? Did that surprise you?

Rob: Yeah, it was kind of surprising. The term in the study, “sociable”, was very broad. I think Gothenburg is an incredible cool and understated city. There has been this bright, global superstar in Stockholm that everyone knows and it does overshadow Gothenburg to a large extent. In my opinion that is responsible for making Gothenburg what it is and I think it actually benefits the city. It is incredibly creative and a much friendlier place compared to Stockholm. I don’t disrespect Stockholm, but I think it is quite commonly accepted the big cities, like London, have a lot going on for them and are really exciting, but you lose some friendliness with that many people living in close proximity. I think there is an interesting comparison about Australia, right David?

David: Yes, Gothenburg really reminded me of Melbourne, because Sydney overshadows Melbourne but actually that gives Melbourne its heart. One thing I have always said about Gothenburg, is that you can almost guarantee a good night out. It doesn’t compare to London in terms of the numbers of bars or pubs. But whatever you are interested in you can find here. That was really part of the motivation for our website ThisIsGothenburg. When one of my best friends came over to visit before I moved to Gothenburg, I told her I was moving there and she gave me this funny face of “why are you moving there?” And I think that happens to some tourists, they come to Gothenburg, get off at the central station and then maybe stay somewhere in the centre. They don’t realize that a lot of the best things in Gothenburg aren’t obvious, they are not easy to find like they are in other cities. But if you know where to look, particularly the underground club scene, Gothenburg is a great party town and social place.

Rob: And the reason why many people don’t know where to go is that people in Gothenburg are modest and don’t like to shout about how great they are, which on a personal level I love. I mean, who likes arrogant people? From a tourism point of view, it is a problem that people come and don’t experience the city to the best.

You mentioned ThisIsGothenburg. What's that all about?

Rob: We knew people personally that had visited Gothenburg and they thought it's okay, but they didn’t love it. We do love it and think they would have too, if they had had more information. That was the incentive for the website. The plan for it is to be curated advice for new arrivals at the city. There is already a website run by Göteborg & Co., which is an extremely good, smart and informative website. However, it lists everything and must remain neutral. We don’t want to list everything and hope that being curated will be helpful. We have also really enjoyed Instagram as a channel to get publicity for the website. I think people are interested in seeing good content about a city they love too. Not only people living here, we get the impression that a lot of followers visited the city and enjoy reminiscing about their time there.

David: My background is in digital and I made a lot of websites for the Australian tourist board for example and we thought there wasn’t really an equivalent in Gothenburg. It’s a love-project, we haven’t done it for any commercial interest. It has always been a great way for us to meet new people who share the enthusiasm that we do for the city. One of the probably most common questions I get asked is “Do you like Gothenburg?” and I usually respond “Yeah, I love it. So much so that I created a website about it.” And that puts a smile on people’s faces.

What makes Gothenburg special?

David: For me it’s this idea of the Gothenburg spirit, this element of togetherness. That people living and working in Gothenburg are a community. I kind of felt that.

Rob: I think on a global scale Gothenburg is small and yet what the city has achieved is huge. You can’t achieve that without collaborating. I think that goes to the heart what has enabled Gothenburg to achieve what it has on an international stage.

If you only had one day in Gothenburg, what would you do?

Rob and David (listing things so fast they're almost speaking in unison): For us one of the best things about Gothenburg is that you can experience city living and also get out to real nature. So, we would recommend to start the day walking through Haga, get a coffee and a cinnamon bun. Then spend a nice portion of the day at a lake and have a picnic or barbecue. We would definitely recommend everybody staying a day or a year, to get yourself a bike. It’s safe, easy and convenient in Gothenburg to ride a bike. Then go home, refresh and get set for a night out. Maybe go to Tredje Långgatan, a street with great restaurants and bars. You can just hit the street and you are going to find a nice bar and great food. And if you here on a Saturday night and want to go out to one of the underground clubs, you kind of have to know where it’s going to be announced. It is not so publicly communicated. It took us a while to tap into it.

Two Brits loving Gothenburg. Photo: Private

The website is non-commercial, so what do you do to earn a living in Sweden?

David: I’m a digital service designer, I kind of help companies with digital transformation. I’m working with companies where we help them look how factories and products will work when everything is connected through the internet. I wanted to find and work in an area where Gothenburg and Sweden had strength. When it comes to business-to-business innovation, the Internet of Things, Gothenburg is great for it. That is what kind of appealed to me.

Rob: I’m a freelance copywriter and do work for mostly agencies in Gothenburg, occasionally some work comes from the UK. I specialize in business-to-business films. It can be a brand film, a call to recruit graduates, inspire existing employees or launch a product. There can be all sorts of reasons behind the films, but they are generally in the business-to-business space. Then I also do various other projects, lots of web content.

How would you say the Swedish work experience differs from the one where you are from?

David: One of the things I love about working for a Swedish company is that it tends to be a very flat structure. It doesn’t matter if it’s a CEO or the intern, everyone has the same right to have an opinion on things. I think that is a refreshing and innovative way to work and it leads to better outcomes and better moral within a company. In the UK it can be more hierarchical, so the flat structure is one of the things I really appreciate. There is also, which is a bit of a cliché, the work-life balance. I think when there is such generous parental leaves and more paid holidays, that just leads to a more sensible culture. People come in and really work hard, but there is the acceptance that your family life and what’s going on outside is more important than work for most people. You don’t have to fight for work-life balance, that is definitely a healthy way to work.

Rob: And if you combine this healthy work-life balance and flat structure, it is a very mature approach to working. People aren’t chained to their desks, people are trusted to do a good job and I think that leads to better outcomes.

Do you have any tips for people moving to Sweden?

Rob: I think when you are coming to Sweden, or anywhere in fact, I would recommend: say yes as much as possible. I have read this book “Yes man” by Danny Wallace, and the main character says yes to every question he’s asked. It’s amazing, in which situations you find yourself in and the benefits of just saying this simple word. The challenge of moving to a new city is not having a network. You always hear that it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. And I have really experienced that moving here. So, I just made it my goal to meet people. After five years I would say it has definitely been rewarded to be open and interested in people.

David: The Swedes have a reputation for being quite reserved. It is interesting for me to compare moving to Australia versus moving to Sweden. The Australians are on the surface friendlier and more inviting. But once you get through that initial reservation of Swedes, they can be so generous and giving. There are so many people you meet, who go out of their way to help you in a more authentic and genuine way than the Australian way. Like Rob said, say yes to things and push yourself through this kind of social awkwardness. Once you are through that ice you will experience so much warmth and generosity.

Article written by The Local's contributor Christian Krug.

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.”