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Swedophiles: The foreigners who move to Sweden based on statistics alone

Richard Orange
Richard Orange - [email protected]
Swedophiles: The foreigners who move to Sweden based on statistics alone
Carlos Velasco studied statistical rankings on eight general areas before deciding to move to Sweden. Photo: Private

A lot of foreigners who move to Sweden did it because they fell in love with a Swede or got a job here. But not everyone. In the second of our Swedophile series, we look at those who came solely on the basis of the numbers.


Carlos Velasco, a computer programmer from Honduras, began immersing himself in statistics comparing countries around the world after he was forced to leave the US and return to Honduras.

At the time, his home country was wracked by violence due to drug cartels, and his own family of land owners were becoming increasingly affected. He had also been disappointed by his time in the US, finding the country he had dreamt of as a child full of "poverty, inequality and violence".

"I thought my prior approach based on common knowledge was incorrect, and I should try a rational approach with easily quantifiable data," he remembers.


"There were official statistics, like homicides, that's one of the first ones I looked at: It's an indicator of safety and also efficiency from a security standpoint. That was priority number one for me. There's also the Peace Index, which takes a few more statistics into account."

But he also looked at other factors, building a list of eight categories, which he ranked in importance: 

1. safety / peace / murder or homicide ratios
2. economic equality / GDP / cost of living
3. happiness index / quality of living / pollution / transportation index / walkability
4. transparency / corruption index
5. number of tech startups / number of active tech companies
6. overall health statistics for the general population
7. internet connectivity / average internet speed
8. frequency of natural hazards

In 2013, based on these numbers alone, Velasco crossed the Atlantic for the first time in his life, and moved to Sweden permanently with no job contract or any contacts in the country of any kind. 

As he initially came as an asylum seeker, he was sent to a centre in northern Sweden, and it took years before he managed to get residency. But nearly ten years later, he has a job with a major Swedish company and an apartment in Malmö's seaside Västra Hamnen district. 

"One big change I would make now, is to lower the importance of the cost of living and GDP, but keep economic equality," he says of his list. "It is really not about how well the individual can do if you're surrounded by misery, and I think many people that move to high GDP countries overlook this factor."

He also thinks he should have factored in the ease of finding a place to live. 

"One category I guess I overlooked is housing availability," he adds. "I had never had that issue before, so it did not occur to me that it would be so difficult to find places to rent." 

But apart from these small setbacks, he does not regret anything about his decision to base his choice of country on the data. 

"I'm totally glad that I took this rational approach, because I could have ended up in some US city, and this place is so much better. It's so much cleaner, and I didn't realise you could live without a car. It's blown my mind in so many ways," he says.

He acknowledges that, despite the statistics, Sweden might not be the right place for all people. 

"I don't think it wouldn't have been the same for everyone, but based on my preferences, my specific morals and my beliefs, my way of working, and my expectations from society, they were very compatible. Maybe the only the only downside is the weather." 

READ ALSO: Swedophiles: The foreigners who move to Sweden for a musical obsession

Velasco is by no means alone. 

Elias Haidari, also a computer programmer, moved to Sweden from the Middle East because he views the world very much through numbers. 

"I came to Sweden due to me being obsessed over numbers and statistics, and I always saw that Sweden topped almost every statistic," he explains. "And the impressions I had of Nordic people, in general, was that they’re pretty chill people when it comes to religion, and that most people in Sweden were non-religious",
JC McDowell, from Temple, Georgia, USA, is also planning to move with his family to Sweden based on the numbers, but has yet to actually take the plunge. 
"Me and my family have that dream [of moving to Sweden] because we studied the statistics of nations, but we haven’t made it over there yet. My first visit will be in August," he wrote. "I’m hoping to network and find some job prospects!".


The Social Democrats 
Others are drawn by Sweden's strengths as a well-governed country, but not on the basis of numbers alone. Mar Jorams, from Italy, had her fascination with Sweden inculcated in her when she was just eight years old. 
"It was the early 70s and my teacher – an ex-Partisan with strong socialist ideas – in this school placed in an old building from the 13th century in the oldest part of Rome, was depicting Sweden like a perfect place where everything is idyllic, the people, the houses, the weather, the fashion, the politics." 
"I imagined them like semi gods, with long legs and blonde hair. Then, in my 30s, I met one, I fell in love and I married him. I wonder if I would have felt so hard for it if it hadn't been for Ms Enrichetta Chiesa. That's when my life long relationship with the country started I guess. I went to inherit a piece of forest in Lapland, so my bet is that it's still not finished." 


Milena Milosavljevic, 29, became attracted to Sweden after being an active member of the Democratic Party in her native Serbia, and then visiting Sweden on an exchange program organised by SSU, the Swedish Social Democrat youth party.
"Serbia at the time was also called a 'social democracy'. But it wasn't a real thing. And in Sweden, it's absolutely a real thing. And it absolutely works," she says. "When I came, I fell in love with the whole system."
The exchange programme lasted for two years, with Milosavljevic frequently travelling back and forth for events at the Olof Palme centre in Stockholm. 
Then, a few years later, she and her husband decided to move to Sweden, with Milosavljevic arriving in August 2019 to study at Malmö University. 


"The appeal to me is 100 percent," she says of Sweden's system. "I think the policies work, I think they value the things that they should value. Everybody feels equal."
Since arriving, her husband has got a job as a waiter, which is paid much better than it would be at home in Belgrade, and she has finished her Masters degree in politics. They are now intending to settle down and have children. 
"t looks like we would definitely like to be here for one big part of our lives," she says. "I would definitely like to be still here in five to ten years time, and to have given birth to, like, two kids here. If you just compare giving birth in Serbia and giving birth here, it's such a better experience. So we're definitely planning to be here for a decade or more."


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