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MY SWEDISH CAREER

My Swedish Career: How an ultimate frisbee league is creating community in Sweden

After moving to Sweden from the UK hoping to find a better work-life balance, Erin Brownbill initially struggled to meet people and strike up friendships in her new country. However, she found a community through a sport she loved – ultimate frisbee.

My Swedish Career: How an ultimate frisbee league is creating community in Sweden
Erin Brownbill during a game of ultimate frisbee. Photo: Illia Shypunov Ultimate Photography

Many who move to Sweden experience an initial reservedness or difficulty to make friends, with the country often named in surveys as one of the worst places to make new friends. For Erin, her ultimate frisbee league was a way to connect with other people after her move.

“I think it’s difficult moving countries anyway, but it does feel sometimes in Sweden that you have to really put yourself out there and make the first move, so joining this club meant that we met tens of people and quickly got invited to a drink after a training session,” she tells The Local.

Erin moved to Sweden with her partner two years ago looking for a change from their busy London lifestyle, being attracted by the Swedish work-life balance.

“It feels very quiet compared to London which has loads and loads of people all the time so there is a sense of peace which is good. That being said, there are less things to do potentially than the busy London life,” she says.

Having played ultimate frisbee throughout university, even representing Great Britain at a junior level, Erin looked up an ultimate frisbee league in Stockholm when she arrived. 

“Coming here I always had it in the back of my mind, I hope there is a frisbee team! And there was,” she says about how she originally found her club, the Stockholm Ultimate Frisbee Club, where she plays for the women’s team Valkyria.

The team organises several training sessions per week in their youth, women’s, opens and mixed divisions.

“It’s a sport that you wouldn’t necessarily know about but once you’re in it it is a massive world of clubs and teams.”

Photo: Illia Shypunov Ultimate Photography

What is ultimate frisbee?

Ultimate frisbee is a non-contact sport that Erin describes as a mixture of American football and basketball. 

Something that sets it apart from some other sports is its strong culture, which is what initially drew her to trying it out.

“It has a really good ethos to it where it is self refereed. It is quite unique actually,” Erin explained.

According to Ultimate Frisbee HQ, what is known as The Spirit of the Game is a code of conduct which runs deep in every player – treat others how you would want to be treated. There is therefore no referee needed on the pitch.

Although there are youth and women-only teams in the club, there are also mixed teams, something that is quite unusual for many sports leagues.

“I think the mixed thing is really good. Now I have my partner here as well: we can go to those practices together and train together,” Erin said.

Photo: Illia Shypunov Ultimate Photography

Getting through Covid

The Covid pandemic meant that most team activities needed to be put on hold during 2020. This was also the case for Erin’s Stockholm ultimate frisbee club who stopped indoor training.

“Official training sessions stopped, but the community was still there so a few of us went on socially distanced walks, we met up in smaller groups,” she says.

During the summer with better weather, some training was able to be taken up again outside, and the Beach National Championships still went ahead. However, a large portion of the team was made up of international students, most of whom had returned home, which has affected the team numbers greatly.

“From a woman’s perspective I think it’s really sad as well,” Erin says, noting how her team Valkyria is short on members.

With vaccinations under way in Sweden, Erin is hopeful membership numbers will begin to rise again.

“It appeals to someone who wants to be fit and healthy but also wants to play a team sport and team sports offer a lot, it’s fun to play together, you really get to know your teammates, we help each other.”

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WORKING IN SWEDEN

CHECKLIST: Here’s what you need to do if you move away from Sweden

What authorities do you need to inform before you leave, are you liable to Swedish tax and how can you access your Swedish pension? Here's a checklist.

CHECKLIST: Here's what you need to do if you move away from Sweden

Tell the relevant authorities if you’re leaving for more than a year

If you’re planning on leaving Sweden for more than a year, you will have to let the authorities know. The main authorities in question are Skatteverket (the Tax Agency) and Försäkringskassan (the Social Insurance Agency).

Försäkringskassan

You have to tell Försäkringskassan when you leave so they can assess whether or not you still qualify for Swedish social insurance. As a general rule, you aren’t eligible for Swedish social insurance if you move away from Sweden, but there are exceptions, such as maternity or paternity benefits if you’re moving to another EU country.

This also applies to any family members who move with you – any over-18’s should send in their own documentation to Försäkingskassan about their move abroad. If you’re moving abroad with anyone under 18, you can include them in your own report to Försäkringskassan.

If both legal guardians are moving abroad together, both need to include any children in their application. If one legal guardian is moving abroad and the other is staying in Sweden, you need the guardian staying in Sweden to co-sign your application. If you are the sole legal guardian of any under-18’s travelling with you, you don’t need any documentation from the other parent.

You can register a move abroad with Försäkringskassan on the Mina sidor service on their website, here (log in with BankID).

Skatteverket

If you are moving abroad for a year or longer, you also need to tell the Tax Agency. This also applies if you were planning on moving abroad for less than a year but ended up staying for longer.

If you move to another Nordic country, you will also need to register your move with that country’s authorities if you will be there for six months or more. You’ll be deregistered from the Swedish population register the same day you become registered in another Nordic country’s register.

This doesn’t mean that you’ll lose your personnummer – you’ll still be able to use it if you ever move back to Sweden – but you will no longer be registered as resident in Sweden.

Similarly to Försäkringskassan, you will also need to report any children you are bringing with you, and both legal guardians must sign the form, whether or not both guardians are moving abroad or not.

In some cases, you may still be liable to pay tax in Sweden even if you live abroad – particularly if you are a Swedish citizen or have lived in Sweden for at least ten years. This could be due to owning or renting out property in Sweden, having family in Sweden, or owning a business in Sweden.

You can tell the tax agency of your plans to move abroad here.

Contact your a-kassa, if relevant

If you are member of a Swedish a-kassa (unemployment insurance), make sure you tell them that you’re leaving the country. As a general rule, you have unemployment insurance in the country you work in, so you will most likely have to cancel your a-kassa subscription.

If you are moving to another country with the a-kassa system, such as Denmark or Finland, it may pay to wait until you have joined a new a-kassa in that country before you cancel your membership in Sweden.

This is due to the fact, in some countries, you only qualify for benefits once you fulfil a membership and employment requirement. In Sweden and Denmark, you must have been a member for 12 months before you qualify. In Finland, the membership requirement is 26 weeks.

If you qualify for a-kassa in Sweden before you leave the country, you may be able to transfer your a-kassa membership period over to your new a-kassa abroad and qualify there straight away, but this usually only applies if your period of a-kassa membership is unbroken.

Check what applies in your new country before you cancel your membership in Sweden – your a-kassa should be able to help you with this.

Contact your union, if relevant

Similarly, if you are a member of a Swedish union or fackförbund, let them know you’re moving abroad.

If you’re moving to another Nordic country, they might be able to point you in the direction of the relevant union in that country, if you want to remain a member of a union in your new country.

If you’re moving to another EU country, you may be able to remain a member of your Swedish union as a foreign worker with the status utlandsvistelse.

If you chose to do this, you will usually pay a lower monthly fee than you do in Sweden, and they can still provide assistance with work related issues – although it may make more sense to join a local union in your field with more knowledge of the labout market.

If you don’t want to be a member of a union in your new country and don’t want to be a member of a Swedish union, you should contact your  union and ask them to cancel your membership.

Collect relevant documents regarding your Swedish pension

If you have worked in Sweden and paid tax for any length of time, you will have paid in to a Swedish pension. You retain this pension wherever you move, but you must apply for it yourself.

To do so, you will need to give details of when you lived and worked in Sweden, as well as providing copies of work contracts, if you have them. If you have these documents before you leave Sweden, make copies so that you can provide them when asked.

If you move to the EU/EES or Switzerland, you may also have the right to other, non-work based pensions, such as guarantee pension for low- or no-income earners, or the income pension complement (inkomstpensionstillägg).

Currently, you can receive your Swedish pension once you turn 62 – although there is a proposal in parliament due to raise pension age to 63 for those born after 1961 from 2023, so this may change.

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