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‘Being a Taxi Santa in Sweden is the happiest job out there’

With Christmas fast approaching, Stockholm resident Erkan Arapi will be delivering Christmas cheer – and presents – across Sweden's capital in his role as a Taxi Santa.

'Being a Taxi Santa in Sweden is the happiest job out there'
Erkan Arapi. Photo: Taxi Stockholm

Since 2004, Taxi Stockholm have offered a Santa Claus door service which allows Stockholmers to book a Father Christmas to visit their families and drop off their Christmas gifts direct to their homes.

Kosovo-born Arapi is one of a fleet of 25 Taxi Santas who have the enviable job of visiting houses across the city dressed in the famous red suit and white beard, with the goal of inspiring festive delight among the parents and children he meets.

Initially, it was the pull of romance which brought him over to Sweden: “My girlfriend back home in Kosovo was Swedish, so I moved over to be with her. This was all the way back in 1994! The relationship didn't work out in the end, but by that point I'd got a real soft spot for Sweden, so I stayed here. And nearly 25 years later, I'm very settled and happy in my 'new' country.”

READ ALSO: Santa Claus should live in Sweden, researchers calculate

Being a Taxi Santa for the past 10 years has given him a unique insight into the Christmas habits of Swedes. “In terms of celebrating Christmas, Sweden feels quite different from Kosovo, particularly in the fact that Sweden has a tradition of celebrating on the eve of the 24th of December. Once it snows in Stockholm it really feels like a traditional winter wonderland. Kosovo is a multi-ethnic country, so it's a bit of a mix of traditions. You can't compare Christmas in Kosovo with Christmas in Sweden. They're worlds apart; both beautiful in their own ways.”


Old Santa meets modern transport methods. Photo: Taxi Stocholm

“Over the holidays I love the Swedish focus on family – spending time with those closest to you is really what the season is about. That, and the fika culture – it's a brilliant way to approach taking some time out to enjoy a treat with those around you.”

When it comes to work, Arapi is equally enthusiastic. “I think being a Taxi Santa in Sweden is the happiest job out there. I love the energy of it – and it's so rewarding working with the kids; they're the high point of what I do. Some of the children are very clever, they ask so many questions, like how old are you, Father Christmas?. I have to tell them, 'So old that I can't remember my age!'”

READ ALSO: Seven reasons why I will always love Christmas in Sweden

“You end up meeting lovely people in this line of work. Once I delivered gifts to a guy who I ended up chatting to and getting on well with – I stayed for a quick drink after dropping the presents off and it was like chatting with an old friend. I had lots more gifts to deliver that evening around Stockholm, so I couldn't stick around – the busy life of Santa at Christmas!”

 

Klockan 24:00 inatt är vår mest älskade tradition, som kommer ge er den där magiska julkänslan, tillbaka – våra taxitomtar! ? Se till att tomtesäkra er jul redan idag och var ute i god tid med er bokning!

A post shared by <a href="” style=” color:#c9c8cd; font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; font-style:normal; font-weight:normal; line-height:17px;” target=”_blank”> Taxi Stockholm (@taxistockholm) on Nov 13, 2017 at 6:43am PST

Outside of the Christmas holidays, Arapi pursues work as a (non-costumed) taxi driver, transporting some of the great and the good across Stockholm and beyond. Don't expect him to spill stories of his famous passengers, though – he takes the privacy of his clients very seriously: “I've been driving taxis since 2001 – three years ago I became a VIP driver, which I enjoy hugely – it's the gold standard taxi in Stockholm. Sometimes we even pick up celebrities – but I can't tell you who! Being discreet is a very important part of the job.”

READ ALSO: Sweden cancels Santa World Cup in Lapland

Arapi is keen to stress the value of learning Swedish in helping him to settle in the country he now considers his adopted home.

“When I arrived, I was really keen to assimilate, so I learnt Swedish quickly, through SFI (Swedish for Immigrants). That helped a lot. I really believe that it's so important to learn the language of the country you're living in, so you can get under the skin of the culture. It helps you understand why people are how they are – Swedes are innovators, open to new ideas and pursuing alternative ways of doing things. The fact that it doesn't cost to study here means that people are liberated; able to become who they wish to be.”

“It is a beautiful country – particularly Stockholm; I see it as the capital of Scandinavia. Sweden is truly the perfect country for foreigners, you're free to be whoever you want to be. And the air is so clean and crisp – it's a literal breath of fresh air!”

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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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