How do your values change after moving to Sweden?

How do your values change after moving to Sweden?
Enjoying a daily fika is not the only measure of integration in Sweden, but it's nevertheless important. Photo: Emelie Asplund/
How do foreign-born people feel about their lives in Sweden? For the first time, a major study has mapped out the answer to that question, looking at the extent to which some of them feel at home, as well as how their personal values match up with those of native Swedes.

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“If we want to succeed with integration, first we need to understand where the migrants [in Sweden] are located, which values and social norms they have, and whether they even want to integrate – we call this subjective integration,” Bi Puranen, Senior Research Fellow at Institute for Futures Studies which carried out the Migrant World Values survey, told The Local. 

A majority of those questioned (57 percent) in the survey, which was carried out on the request of the Swedish government, reported feeling 'very at home' in Sweden. A further 32 percent felt 'quite at home' and only six percent didn't feel at home at all. Almost as many (55 percent) felt at home in the specific municipality they were living in. 

When these responses were broken down by nationality, people from Somalia felt most at home, followed by those in Eritrea and Turkey (only seven countries had enough respondents to be included individually: Syria, Afghanistan, Eritrea, Iraq, Somalia, Iran and Turkey). The majority of respondents came from Middle Eastern and North African countries, while around one fifth were from Sub-Saharan Africa, and others came from South Asia, South East Asia and East Asia, and from Central and Eastern Europe.

On average, people originally from Somalia also felt most satisfied with their life, followed by those from Eritrea and Iran.

For nearly three decades, values and social norms around the world have been measured by the World Values Survey, in which Sweden is an outlier. On the 'cultural map' created by these surveys, Sweden lies far removed from the countries of origin of many migrants in Sweden today, such as Iraq and Turkey.

Puranen explained that in the World Values Survey and two other major surveys (the European Values Study and the European Social Survey) carried out since 1981, only a tiny proportion of interviewees in Western countries have been Muslims who have moved to those countries (including Western European countries, North America, Australia and New Zealand) from overseas. 

“It's a democratic issue that we should have a better representation of these groups,” said Puranen, explaining the motivation for the study, which focused primarily on Muslim migrants.

Around 6,500 non-EU migrants living in 54 municipalities, from Piteå in the north to Vellinge at the southern tip of Sweden, answered questions about their personal values and how they felt in Sweden. The survey included people who had moved to Sweden for a variety of reasons: more than half or 52 percent had arrived as refugees, while 37 percent moved to join a partner in Sweden and eight percent moved for work.

Most of those questioned felt equally proud of Sweden and their home countries, with 72 percent saying they were proud to be Swedish and 77 percent proud to be from their country of origin.


Here's where Sweden's foreign residents live and where they come from
Photo: Ola Ericson/

Most of the people surveyed had a positive view of their experience in Sweden when compared to their experiences in their home country, for example in relation to economic conditions, housing, healthcare, and social life.

Areas where many said they had experienced an improvement in Sweden compared to their home country also included opportunities for education and freedom of speech.

Puranen said she found the high level of feeling at home in Sweden interesting, but was also surprised by the fact this was higher among lower-educated people and the elderly. One possible reason for this is that Sweden's welfare state affords more opportunities such as highly subsidized healthcare to people with a lower level of education or in old age.

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In general, survey respondents said they were satisfied with their level of contact with both their home culture and Swedish culture, reporting that they were able to practice their own religion and speak their native language while also having ample opportunity to learn Swedish and to learn about Swedish laws and society.

Respondents on average felt they had significantly more freedom when it came to choice of partner in Sweden than in their home country, and a greater opportunity to make themselves heard. But one area where many respondents felt Sweden had not lived up to expectations was concerning work opportunities.
Even though they generally felt at home in Sweden, there were still differences between the personal values of the migrants questioned for the survey and those of native Swedes, according to the World Values Survey.

The biggest differences were in attitudes to sexual and reproductive rights and honour-related oppression, Puranen explained.

“Homosexuality, sex before marriage, abortion, divorce are seen as 'never justifiable' to a much greater extent [among thosesurveyed] than among the majority-population in Sweden,” she commented.

They were also more likely to have traditional values surrounding gender and family, compared to Swedes' typically more liberal attitudes. For example, around two thirds of respondents said it was true or partially true that men were responsible for providing for their families.

One interesting finding was that respondents were typically closer to Sweden on the cultural map than their home countries, which could be due to people being more likely to move to a country where their values were similar, or could be a marker of integration of these groups.

“The relatively fast switch to some parts of the emancipated values also surprised, like acceptance of equality (but not segregated choices), acceptance of women's work, democracy, (making your voice heard, et cetera),” the researcher said.

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