Presented by Invest Stockholm

International living: the secrets to settling like a local

International living: the secrets to settling like a local
Photo: Getty Images
Whether you’ve already moved internationally, you’re busy planning a move, or you’re simply imagining a whole new life, one thing remains the same: the need to tap into local knowledge.

You probably have some clear ideas about any country or city you’re willing to make your new home. But how do they compare with day-to-day reality once you’re there for good?

As readers of The Local know, getting insider knowledge from people who really know the location can make a huge difference to your quality of life. Here, we look at how you can take crucial steps towards integration in three areas: lifestyle, family, and the challenges of bureaucracy.

Learn to live like a local 

After arriving in your new home country, it takes time to shake off the sense of being a tourist rather than a true resident. But how can you start to feel at home quicker?

Beginning to adopt local lifestyle habits may help. But is eating dinner later in Spain or making punctuality a top priority at all times in Germany really enough? It can also help to get inside knowledge of a city’s best-kept secrets – the places where savvy locals spend their time and the ‘life hacks’ that save them time and trouble.

The pandemic has made it more challenging than ever to make friends with locals who might help you out in this regard. But it’s worth checking the online resources your city offers to help you find your feet.

People settling in Stockholm, for example, can benefit from a huge range of insights from local residents, now hosted on one website. Tips include top picks for food and drink, outdoor workout routes (much-loved by the locals), and places in the city where you can de-stress with mindfulness.

Insider knowledge: get top tips about living and working in Stockholm from the locals who know the city best 

Feel you’re missing out on the cultural highlights of your new location? If you’re in a major city, you’ll probably find many exhibitions are now available online. Big names such as Paris’s Pompidou Centre and the Tate galleries in London offer an array of options for digital consumption.

Learning the local language can help you and your partner adjust quicker in any country. Have a look for state-sponsored language classes near you, like Sweden’s free, national Swedish for Immigrants (SFI) course.

Key steps to family fulfillment 

People who make an international move to be with a spouse or partner who has a job offer face unique challenges to settling in. A new country and lots of free time may offer opportunities for exploring new interests or reviving old ones. It can also lead, however, to feelings of being unfulfilled and may damage the individual’s self-esteem.

But today many business organisations, cities and even private companies offer spousal support programmes. Some offer tours of businesses and cultural attractions to help relocated workers and their partners integrate more quickly and develop local networks.

The International Dual Career Network (IDCN) is an association of international organisations and corporations that supports the partners of people who move for work. It focuses on providing guidance and professional networking opportunities, including via events and webinars. IDCN has networks in 14 global locations, including nine in Europe – click here to find out more.

Photo: Getty Images

Many countries and cities have similar services: these include Switzerland’s Spouse Career Centre and Dual Career Network Berlin.

In Sweden, the non-profit Stockholm Dual Career Network supports the partners and spouses of international talent who are looking for work. Members have praised SDCN for helping them to find a social life, as well as a “social expectation” in Stockholm that everyone should enjoy quality, family time. 

As an international talent and tech hub, Stockholm is always seeking to attract skilled and creative people from around the world – from robotics engineers to fashion designers. Perks of living in Stockholm that many international people appreciate include a strong focus on work/life balance, generous parental leave, and large expanses of unspoilt nature to explore.

Find out more about Stockholm’s family-friendly credentials

Bureaucracy: go digital (if you can!)

Finding fun ways to adjust to a new lifestyle and helping loved ones to thrive are a big part of making a successful move. But ensuring your international relocation runs smoothly also means facing up to the inevitable bureaucratic side of things. 

Should this fill you with dread? Well, perhaps a little less than in the past (depending on where you’re headed!). Amid an international battle for talent, many cities are harnessing digitalisation to speed up administrative processes. According to the European Commission, the quality and usage of digital public services was increasing even pre-pandemic. In the EU, Estonia ranks top in this regard followed by Spain, while the likes of Italy and Germany languish below the EU average.

Sweden is one of the leading EU nations for digital performance as a whole, ranking second only to Finland. The Mayor of Stockholm recently told The Local that the capital city is now planning a “one-stop shop” International House that she hopes will make it possible to get a digital work permit in 15 minutes. As international people everywhere know, when it comes to making yourself feel at home, some things can’t come fast enough.

Want to know more about Stockholm? Click here to read more about the city’s appeal to global talent. Already in Stockholm? Find your way off the city’s beaten path with these personal tips from local residents.