Making life in Stockholm easier: The Local’s A-Ö guide

If you’re moving or recently moved to Stockholm you might be feeling a bit lost (that’s also probably a huge understatement).

Published: Wed 15 Nov 2017 08:11 CEST
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You may also be thinking “Wouldn’t it be helpful if I had a comprehensive list of information to make settling in easier?” Well, today must be your lucky day! Here’s The Local’s first attempt at pulling together an all-in-one list for of useful information about Stockholm and how to find it.

From finding somewhere to live to getting around the city and even making friends, this list is for those of you who still might not know your Å from your Ä.

A - Apartments

There’s good news and there’s bad news. The good news is the Stockholm Housing Agency (Bostadsförmedlingen) helps you to find vacant rental apartment in and around the city.

The bad news is there’s a housing shortage, and the average waiting time is between 7 and 11 years (although it’s not unheard of for people to wait up to 20!). If you plan on being in Stockholm for the next decade or so, it’s 200 kronor a year to stand in “the queue” and you can register here.

Otherwise, your best bet of finding an apartment is looking for a second-hand rental. You can find useful links here.

B - Banking

Unless you like being charged every time you make a payment, you should think about opening a Swedish bank account.

Most banks are obliged to give you a bank account provided you’re able to identify yourself. So take along your passport, a letter from your employer vouching that you work for them, your tenancy agreement as proof of address, and your Swedish ID card to confirm your personal number.

Once you’ve opened an account you can start “Swishing” (making instant mobile app payments) -- a must if you want to pass for a true Stockholmer!

C - Cycling

Perhaps the easiest way to get around Stockholm is on a bike. There are bike paths and lanes all over the city, and you can easily cycle between islands.

If you live centrally and want to try cycling before you commit to buying your own bike, you can pay for a service like City Bikes -- members get a rental card which allows them to pick up a bike from one of the company’s many bike stands before dropping it off again at the end of the day.

D - Disabilities

Sweden aims to ensure people with disabilities enjoy the same access and rights as everyone else. And over the last ten years, Stockholm has been working hard to improve accessibility in the capital.

For example, over 5,000 pedestrian crosses have been converted to include a ticking sound when the lights turn green; the curb height of roughly 360 bus stops has been increased to facilitate boarding; and the accessibility of more than 80 sports facilities has been improved in collaboration with Stockholm City’s Sports Administration.

You can read more about Stockholm’s welfare services on its website.

E - Erik

Erik - it’s not just a popular name in Sweden (sixth most common male name as of 2016), one particular Erik, St. Erik, happens to be the patron saint of Stockholm.

So who was he?

St. Erik was born in 1125, becoming king in 1156 until his death in 1160. He gave name to the House of Erik, a family that ruled Sweden on and off until 1250. Not much is really known about him, but you’ve may have seen his likeness on statues around the city in Stockholm’s official coat of arms -- he’s been there since the 1300s.

F - Family

If you’re reading this you’re probably already aware of Sweden’s generous parental leave benefitssystem, which provides 480 days of leave per child, with 420 of these days paid at a rate of 80 percent of your salary. And don’t forget state-subsidised daycare and free healthcare for children under 19.

Stockholm is also a very family-friendly city and an excellent place to raise children. The city has an excellent network of parks with playgrounds and playing fields, as well as lots of kid-friendly museums and attractions. You can ride the bus for free if you’re pushing a pram, and the city’s main cultural hub, Kulturhuset, even has it’s own ‘Room for children’ (Rummet för barn) with weekly storytelling sessions in English.

And here’s a handy guide to other practical things to consider when bringing your family to Stockholm.

G - Green

It’s no secret that Sweden takes looking after the environment very seriously, and Stockholm is no exception -- the city launched its first environment programme way back in 1976, and each line of programmes since has been more ambitious and challenging.

The European Commission recognised the role that the government played in improving the environment, and in Stockholm was named the first ever European Green Capital in 2010. The current programme has six main goals -- you can read more about them here.

H - Healthcare

Swedish healthcare can seem pretty difficult to navigate, but here’s the basic gist: it’s mostly tax-funded and annual costs are capped so you won’t pay over an amount set by your county. This covers most healthcare, apart from vaccinations, missed appointment fees, and dental care.

You’ll need a personal number to register with your nearest healthcare centre, which can find through Vårdguiden, an online and telephone service run by the local counties and regions. If there’s an emergency and you need urgent care you should call 112 or visit the emergency room in one of the city’s major hospitals:

Karolinska University Hospital, Solna; 08-517 700 00

Astrid Lindgrens Children’s Hospital: 08-517 700 00

Karolinska University Hospital, Huddinge: 08-585 800 00

Danderyd Hospital: 08-655 50 00

Södersjukhuset (Stockholm South Hospital): 08-616 10 00

For more information and tips, check out this healthcare guide published by the City of Stockholm.

I - Integration

Sweden may have a pretty bad rep when it comes to making friends. However, it just means you may have to change your strategy a bit. Try to get out there and meet new people through Meetup, for example or Duo Stockholm, a programme managed by the city that helps match newly arrived residents with established Swedes.

There are also lots of Facebook communities for expats, as well as The Local forums which are always buzzing with activity. And here’s a whole list of links to groups and organisations that can help you meet new people.

J - Jobs

A good place to start is The Local’s regularly updated jobs board, where you can find listings searching for English speakers. There’s also this handy guide that offers gives a nice overview of different portals and networks.

Another important player in the employment scene is Arbetsförmedlingen, the national employment office, which offers listings and runs a number of job support programmes although you may have to queue (we’ll get to that shortly).

K - Kul

Kul is the Swedish word for “fun”, and there’s tons of it to be had in the city. Just check out the Stockholm City Calendar to find something kul to do in your free time!

L - Language

Like the rest of Sweden, Stockholm provides free Swedish language lessons. SFI teaches you to speak, read, and write in Swedish as well as giving students more insight into Swedish culture. It’s also a good place to meet new friends in the same boat.

To apply for SFI you need to first go to the Adult Education Centre of Rosenlundsgatan 52 on Södermalm. You must be aged over 16 and have a personal number. Once you’re registered you can pick a centre in a location that suits you.

M - Museums

Stockholm has a rich culture scene, with museums and art galleries all over the city — many with free admission. Whatever you’re interested in, you’ll find something to quench your cultural thirst -- just take a look this guide from the city’s tourism office. Make sure not to miss the Vasa Museum which features a stunningly preserved 17th century warship and was recently named one of the top 25 museums in the world.

N - Nightlife

Like any capital city, Stockholm has a vibrant nightlife with trendy rooftop bars, chic cocktail bars, traditional pubs, and some of Europe’s best nightclubs. Listen to live music at Debaser Strand on the waterfront in Hornstull, sip on a house cocktail at Story Hotel in Riddargatan, or dance ‘til dawn at fashionable Berns where Stockholm’s elite while away their Saturday nights.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg, you can browse more ways to spend your evenings here.

P - Politics

All politics is local, right? Well, if you’re living in Stockholm, it’s probably a good thing to come to grips with the city’s politics and governance. The City of Stockholm is governed by a mayor, an executive board, and a city council. Stockholm’s current mayor, Social Democrat Karin Wanngård, assumed office in 2014 and also serves as Chair of the City Executive Board, a 13-member body representing both the majority and opposition.

The City Council consists of 101 members who are elected every four years when national elections are held (the next election will be September 9th,2018). The Council meets every third Monday and its sessions are open to the public. Sure, the meetings are in Swedish, but why not check it out -- what else are you going to do on a Monday night?

For more information about how Stockholm is governed, check out this useful brochure.

Q - Queues

In Stockholm, and in Sweden, queuing can be considered an artform. We’ve already mentioned the queue for housing, but that’s just the beginning. And if you have preschool aged children you will also need to put your child in the queue for dagis, or preschool, which you can do here.

And if you need help in a shop, bank, or a take-away counter, make sure to keep an eye out for a number dispenser. If you forget to take a number, you may find yourself waiting in vain.

R - Residence permits

If you’re an EU/EEA citizen you have the right to live and work in Stockholm without applying for a residence permit.

Non-EU/EEA citizens will need to apply for and obtain a work permit, as well as a residence permit which you will get at the same time. In order to get a work permit you must have an offer of employment and have been granted a work permit before you arrive in Sweden. 

The permit is valid throughout your temporary employment or for two years, after which you may be entitled to apply for a permanent residence permit. You can find out more about how to apply and the associated costs right here.

S - Schools

Whether you have kids already or end up building a family during your time in Stockholm, chances are you’ll have to think about schools at some point. From nurseries to high school (gymnasium in Swedish), here’s a nice overview of how things work. It’s good to get your child registered early to increase the chances of getting a spot at the school closest to your neighbourhood. Learn more about the application process here.

Stockholm also offers school choice via publicly funded, privately managed ‘free schools’ (friskolor), some of which have an international profile. There are also several international private schools that charge tuition fees. You can find a complete list of international schools in Stockholm here.

T - Tunnelbana

Elsewhere, it may be called the metro, subway or underground, but in Stockholm it’s the Tunnelbana, with entrances marked by the iconic ‘T’ signs dotting the city. Truth be told, much of Stockholm’s subway network is above ground -- and collectively the stations are considered the longest art exhibit in the world. It’s all run by SL (Stockholms länstraffik), which also operates buses, commuter trains (pendaltåg), trams, and several ferry lines in the city and surrounded areas. You can learn more about Stockholm public transit system on Stockholm’s website.

U - Universities

Stockholm is an academic hub with 18 universities and university colleges. From KTH Royal Institute of Technology which specialises in natural sciences and engineering, to Karolinska Institutet where the next generation of doctors and nurses are learning their trade, and the Royal Institute of Art which does exactly what it says on the tin.

Studying is free for citizens of EU/EEA countries, although there may be an application fee of around €100. Students from non-EU/EEA countries will have to pay tuition fees, which can vary from between 80,000 SEK to 270,000 SEK ($9,800 to $33,000) per academic year.

And universities aren’t the only game in town -- check out the the City of Stockholm website for a handy overview of different education options in the Swedish capital.

V - Volunteering

When you arrive in a new city, one of the best ways to meet new people and fill your spare time is through volunteering. Volontärbyrån is an online tool that matches you to local volunteering opportunities in English. You can browse and apply to the latest opportunities on the organisation’s website.

W - Water

Situated where Lake Mälaren meets the Baltic Sea, Stockholm is probably associated with water more than just about anything. Water is always close, no matter where you are -- from Brunnsviken on the north to Hammarbysjö lake in the south. There are plenty of beaches and a fair number of public pools as well.

X - 10

Yeah, well, so this is a bit of a stretch, but we promised an A-Ö list, didn’t we. So we’re thinking ten, as in top 10, as in top 10 lists. No, we’re not going to bore you with the top 10 top 10 lists, but here a few worth checking out:

Top ten places to take a visitor in Stockholm

Top ten: Stockholm’s best city swim spots

Things to do in Stockholm - Top 10

The 10 free apps you need for your trip to Stockholm

Top ten: Best Stockholm subway stations

Z - Zumba

Stockholmers like to work out. And if you want to integrate into city life, you really should start to like it too!

There are several different clubs to choose from, like the reasonably priced Friskis & Svettis where you’ll get all the regular equipment and gym classes, and the slightly swisher SATS which is a bit pricier but looks the part.

Bear in mind you’ll need a personal number or proof of residence to join -- if you don’t have this you could always opt for one of the outdoor gyms you’ll find in many parks, although they aren’t exactly winter friendly!

Å - Återvinning

That’s Swedish for recycling, and believe us when we say that recycling and rubbish are no joke in Sweden — in fact, it’s taken so seriously that the country has to import waste from other countries in order to have waste to burn to turn into energy!

Unless you want dirty looks from your neighbours as you cram a plastic bag full of cardboard into your communal garbage bin, you should get up to speed on the recycling system

You can use this website to find your nearest recycling station -- there are plenty all over the city so you can discreetly dispose of all those empty wine bottles. The website is in Swedish but all you have to do is pick “Stockholm” from the dropdown menu and you’ll be shown pins to find your local station.

Ä – Äktenskap

It’s the Swedish word for marriage … and Stockholm is a great place to tie the knot. There are many wonderful spots to tie the knot in Stockholm. Did you know you can even get married at the control tower of Stockholm’s Arlanda Airport?

Of course, the iconic City Hall is also very popular for weddings -- you can even have a ceremony performed in English or Swedish. Click here to find out more as well as how to get the documents that are required for the ceremony.

Ö - Islands

Unless you speak the local lingo this probably makes no sense, but it will if you know the Swedish word for “island” is just one letter: Ö!

The Stockholm archipelago is made up of some 30,000 islands, and the City of Stockholm is situated on 14 islands. While you’re in the city (and if weather permits) don’t miss the chance to rent a kayak and paddle between the islands. It’s one of the best ways to see some of the city’s main attractions from a very different angle!

This article was produced independently with support from the City of Stockholm.

Click here to learn more about different types of sponsored content on The Local.



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