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Members' Forum: Ten lessons I learned after moving to Stockholm

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Members' Forum: Ten lessons I learned after moving to Stockholm
Stockholm during the summer. Photo: Susanne Walström/imagebank.sweden.se
07:09 CEST+02:00
Before coming to Stockholm, The Local's editorial intern Nele Schröder had her own ideas about what she would find in the Swedish capital. Of course, everything went completely differently from what she had imagined. Some things were better and some were... let's say a bit more stressful.

This article is available to Members of The Local. Read more articles for Members here.

But those things especially are what make the experience genuine – and a time I will remember for the rest of my life. Here are the ten most important lessons I've learned.

1. Bureaucracy is tricky

Coming from Germany, I always thought I was used to a lot of bureaucracy. Applying for Erasmus then showed me that I actually had no idea how extreme it could get. One example: my application almost failed because I printed it out on two different kinds of paper. It was hard – and I actually started wondering if the Stockholm experience might be worth the stress. (The answer to that is a definite yes, by the way.)

To any potential Erasmus students reading this, remember that usually your university wants to help and support you, so there will be people to help you through it. And you can never ask enough questions – it makes people aware that you really want this.

2. Skype interviews can make you nervous – they shouldn't

When I had my interview for The Local, I was really nervous. So nervous, in fact, that I forgot everything I had found out during my research. A certain amount of nervousness is not a problem, but when it overwhelms you, it can be tricky to deal with, especially in a totally new situation, such as your first ever overseas job application. 

But for the interviewer, it's probably not the first time, so they'll know that people can be a bit nervous. Go in there prepared for spontaneous questions and don't over think your answers too long – often your first idea can be the best. And before the call, open your window, take a deep breath and you'll definitely manage.

3. Finding an apartment in Stockholm takes time and patience

I'm sorry to tell you, but finding an apartment in Stockholm is just as bad as people say. I only found a place to live about three weeks before I got here.

My tips are to start looking as early as possible, and to check local websites as they don't charge a service fee (as Airbnb does). And remember that Stockholm is smaller than it looks on the map, so try looking in the areas around Stockholm; the rents there might be lower and most suburbs still have good connections to the centre. But be prepared for not ending up in your absolute dream spot. 

READ ALSO: How to navigate Sweden's crazy rental market


Are there any free apartments here? Photo: Helena Wahlman/imagebank.sweden.se

4. Embrace weird situations

Before I came here, I always imagined myself in a beautiful apartment on Södermalm. It took me a couple of months and a lot of desperate bank account checks to realize that that wasn't going to happen. I eventually ended up in Trollbäcken, about half an hour away from Stockholm – in a house shared with 12 construction workers. But it's all a new experience and provides me with stories to amuse family and friends with when I tell them about my time in Stockholm (plus my housemates are mostly pretty nice).

5. Learn the language

Yes, Sweden is one of these countries where loads and loads of people are fluent in English. Especially in the big cities it is possible to manage everything without knowing a word of Swedish.

But that depends on where you're going. If you're more in the countryside, it might get hard to get along with the people without the local language – when you're in a big group, they might switch to Swedish leaving you unable to understand anything. Plus, even in Stockholm it's always appreciated when you make an effort. Even when you get an English answer in reply, at least you tried. 


Swedish might be complicated to learn but it's worth it. Photo: Ola Ericson/imagebank.sweden.se

6. Don't believe in stereotypes

Looking for Swedish stereotypes, I found this: all Swedes are blonde, blue-eyed, reserved, ABBA-listening, crime-writing Vikings who eat meatballs every night for dinner. Of course there are brunette and brown-eyed Swedes as well, Abba and crime fiction are not as popular as one might think and meatballs are all around but not eaten every day (and vegetarianism and veganism are rapidly growing in popularity in Sweden). Yes, some people might seem a bit reserved at first, but just take them out for drinks and they'll prove you wrong.


Just a typical Swedish family. Photo: Thomas Johansson/TT

7. Get used to not using cash

This was something I really had to adapt to after coming here: you can pay for almost everything by card. In Germany, where I'm from, that's rarely the case. Some restaurants and shops don't accept cards at all, while others will charge or have a minimum level of spend for using plastic.

In Sweden you can pay almost everything by card, from a bottle of soda to vegetables from a farmer's market. So if you see an ATM in Stockholm, don't bother. Chances are high that you will be able to pay your next fika by card or even app.


Swish is an app that lets you transfer money with your phone number. Photo: Christine Olsson/TT

8. Keep calm on the subway

As polite as most people seem on the streets here, when it comes to the subway, they forget their etiquette. When a train enters a station and the doors open, everything turns into chaos. Passengers inside try to exit, those waiting on the platform try to board at the same time, and in between them are others who aren't planning to get on or off the train, but don't think about moving out of the way either. In this chaos, it's just important to keep cool. Use your elbows if necessary and try to find your way through the masses – preferably with headphones on.

READ MORE: How to fake being a local on Stockholm's subway


Photo: Melker Dahlstrand/imagebank.sweden.se

9. Walk around and don't use a map

After the subway stress, here's a more relaxed topic: take your time. When you've got a free day, just walk around. Don't use a map. Get lost. Many of Stockholm's highlights are amazing places that can be discovered when walking around with no map. You might stumble across a small café, a shop with hidden treasures or one of Stockholm's great views, and often you'll be the only tourist there.

READ MORE: The best spots to enjoy Stockholm's panoramic views 

10. Be patient with the Swedes

As already mentioned, Swedes might seem reserved when you first meet them. Many people here don't really like small talk, so you probably shouldn't try to strike up a conversation about the weather when you first meet. It might take you a while to crack the code of talking to Swedes but eventually, it will work out. Going to a bar for drinks is one of the best ways to start a conversation, and helps most people to open up.

READ MORE: 7 tips for making firm friends in Sweden 


A couple of drinks will help you making new friends. Photo: Simon Paulin/imagebank.sweden.se

What lessons did you learn when moving to Sweden? Let us know in the comments below!

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