An Alien in Sweden

From London to Stockholm, via Norrköping

Working in Sweden – My experience

July 19th, 2017 by Dean

When I first came to Sweden, I was not prepared for the working and living conditions and how they differed to the UK.

Fast forward some years, and I am better prepared than ever and, about to start a new job I thought I would offer my own experience for any that are thinking about accepting a job here in Sweden or are actually in the process!


The housing situation here in Sweden is far different from where I am from in the UK. If you have the money in the UK and good references you can get a good place the same day from a good rental agency. Here the laws are different. Finding a first-hand apartment here in Stockholm is tough. It is not unusual to go on websites such as Blocket to find a second-hand contract. The definition of a second-hand contract is somebody who has a first-hand contract sub renting to another. In the usual case the rent is very high but alas there is no real other way. In some parts of Stockholm, the waiting time for a first-hand contract is almost twenty years.


When I first moved to Sweden, I had no knowledge of Swedish at all. That was back in 2011 and times have changed. You can apply for and attend SFI, which is the government run educational course to learn Swedish, but now there are more ways to learn. Apps such as DuoLingo and Memrise will teach the basics. But do you need to know Swedish before working here?

Well, it depends on the industry, in IT, for example, most of the offices that I have worked in accept English as the first spoken business language. However, I also had two years in a Swedish speaking office. It helps to know Swedish, I would not say it is essential but the more you know, the better. Now I would call myself business fluent, it, of course, depends on the person. I would say two years into learning it all began falling into place.

Working environment

When I first came to my first Swedish office, I had just left one of the biggest companies in the UK. This company had a “get it done yesterday attitude”. Of course, I thought this was normal. But one thing that I learned in Sweden is that things happen at a slower pace, things move along smoothly and in a very productive way. You will need to get to adapt to this, demanding that things get done quickly and ahead of time can be seen as a strange thing to many.

Also, the whole six hour working day that you may have read about…well, I have not personally seen this! All the offices I have worked in work approximately 40 hours. There is a lot of flexibility in how time is worked. It’s not uncommon for people to spend time working from home, or if they have a sick child, then they are also paid to stay at home with them. It’s far more flexible than the UK and works in a very productive way.

In the UK, I had many meetings where the atmosphere was a little heated. Here is Sweden that is the opposite. Confrontation is not a thing here, in fact, Sweden is the least confrontational country I have ever worked in. If there are disagreements, then it’s resolved in a very calm and applicable way. Discussions are calm, and issues are addressed in a friendly manner.

Negotiating a Salary

Unlike the UK jobs here are not advertised with a fixed salary. If you are offered a position, the process is to make an offer and then the offer is negotiated. I had no idea about this, and when I first got a job here I did not know what to do!

I roughly added a small increase to what I was earning in the UK, and it was accepted. If in doubt seek advice from others you may know to see what they are on. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you feel you think you should be on.


Yes, Fika exists. It’s not uncommon for all offices once a week to take an hour (or two!) and all gather around cake and coffee to talk about all things non-work related. At first, I found it hard, but the more you work here, the more accustomed you become to it. Not all offices have Fika, but all those that I have worked in do. They are a good way to meet people, socialise and connect with.


When I first came to Sweden, I knew nobody. However, through networking on LinkedIn and with those I have worked with I have built up a broad network of E-Commerce & Digital professionals. I cannot express how important it is to network here, doors do not open, and I have found that if you have connections things can happen.

There are many after work events, conferences, groups that you can join. My advice is go for them! Through networking, I have met friends, people that have helped me with finding accommodation, a job and even best friends! So, go ahead and Network!


This is Unemployment Insurance. It’s a great way of keeping your income at a level if you find yourself out of work. The monthly fee varies per profession, but I was paying around 25 GBP per month. This allows me to get 80% of my salary for four months if I ever lost my job. When you take into account rent, a way of living and possibly children, A-Kassa is essential.

What to wear?

The offices I worked in the UK were quite formal. Some wore shirts with ties, some a little less formal. Here, in the offices I have worked with, jeans are accepted all days, not just on a Friday! People in Sweden take pride in their appearance, they dress well, but it’s very informal compared to the UK.


As I write this, it is currently July. As the winters are long and lengthy, many take four weeks off in July to co-inside with children’s vacations. Offices close, emails are put away and contact with colleagues is purely social. If you are a contractor, then July is a month you will need to budget for!

Winters are long; it’s often three hours only of daylight in the winter. Snow can be hard between December and March so invest in some UV lights for the home (or download some tropical beach apps for your VR headset!)

Above all everyone will have different experiences if they move, but I just wish I had more knowledge before I moved here. I have learned, loved and fallen in love with Sweden. It’s not all plain sailing, but with the desire to change and adapt you can have a very good time here.

The above is just a little insight into my own experience. Hope that you may get some pointers out of it and if so I am happy.

Good luck and if you are thinking about moving here. Good luck!

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My Stockholm – A poem in these tough times

April 9th, 2017 by Dean

London so majestic in resilience and strength
New York touches the sky, in it’s world that never sleeps
Paris immerses us in culture
Neither city weeps

If the streets could relay whispers
With secrets so unseen
A melody of love would glisten
Like a rainbow so serene

Our streets are not the biggest
The skyline lies quite low
We welcome all with loving smile
And say “Go with the flow.”

Darkness turns to eternal sunlight
A warmth that penetrates the soul
The kaleidoscope of apartments
Akin to an artist out of control

Rituals that seem so endless
A city stuck in time
If welcoming love is our passion
Then we a guilty of no crime

One incident won’t change us
We will dance into the sun
A heart cannot be broken
When the love rebounds as one

Sweden we have our three crowns
Yet we have no rule
For the land is ever equal
There is no leading jewel

A new day dawns tomorrow
The sun will rise again
Stockholm’s love is eternal
There is no room for pain

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Glögg – A Warm Swedish Tradition

November 13th, 2016 by Dean

Christmas is coming in Sweden so many of the classic traditions begin around now.

Triangle candles adorn almost every apartment window; a giant straw goat is being erected in the city of Gävle. Another tradition is to see if this will last until Christmas Day (it’s often a target of drunken arsonists).

Another tradition that appears across the country is Glögg. A warm drink that often contains raisins and nuts (Glöggmix) is sipped in small cups to keep you warm.

If I could compare Glögg with anything, it’s like mulled wine but with more taste and style! It comes in many forms and flavours. As with many drinks you can by low alcohol strength Glögg in most stores but you can only buy the full strength in Systembolaget, the state-run alcohol store open until 3 pm on Saturday and then closed until Monday!

Each year, around November, the years “secret” flavour of Glögg is released. I could not understand the hype of this until a few years after living in Sweden. This range of Glögg is the one that is given out as a gift, the one that people are talking about in the weekly Fika, guessing and wondering what flavour it will be.

I have tried several flavours since I moved here, I purchased a bottle of the “Årets Glögg” (Years Glögg) each year. Though last years, Earl Grey flavoured tea tasted like a cold cup of tea you cannot warm up! So I gave that bottle away.

If you visit a friend’s house, don’t be surprised for them to bring out a previous Årets Glögg as they are kept for the cold winter days. I also like to drink Glögg in the summer. It’s not a drink for Christmas for me but can warm your pallet on a cold spring day also. Though my Swedish friends look at me strangely if I admit that!

So what is this year’s flavour? The answer is Kråkbär or Crowberry according to Google Translate. Either way, I have never heard, nor tasted this delicacy so I will certainly be purchasing it for a taste of this unknown berry!

If you are in Sweden this November or December then go ahead and try some Glögg it’s a tradition, like so many in Sweden, are untouched by time and cherished for generations.

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Happy to see this blog is helping others

November 11th, 2016 by Dean

I remember when I first started out with this blog, I had no idea that it would become something that people would read six years later.

When I first moved to Sweden, I found myself in the middle of one of the longest and coldest winters in history. If I recall, it began snowing three days after I arrived and did not stop until five months later!

I will be honest I had no plans or thoughts for this blog. At the time The Local were, and to this day, still are one of the principal places to come for news in Sweden if you cannot speak the language. It is an excellent resource for those new to the country or who are planning a move here.

As the years have gone on most of the blogs here, have become something of a graveyard. A moment in time that has become a whisper in the Swedish wind. Real life may have taken over; the writers may have stopped writing.

Admittedly I am certainly guilty of not updating as much as I should. I have my blog and full-time position in central Stockholm that consumes the majority of my day. Each week I get social media posts thanking me for keeping the blog going as it helps those who are considering the big move here.

The Local has somehow forgotten about these blogs which in itself is a shame as they all contain eyes, frozen in time almost, of new and exciting experiences of people moving to Sweden for the first time.

(PS If anyone at The Local does read this, I would be seriously keen to become a featured writer on your site, oh and PLEASE update the WordPress platform! Adding images and videos is not so hard these days ?

The Blog was my outlet, my news about a British man’s experiences in Stockholm. Some four years on I moved from Norrköping and now have had two years in Stockholm. Life has changed SO much since I began writing this blog.

I would say I am 33% Swedish 66% British. The things that excited me about Sweden have now become daily activities. Many memories that warmed me become diluted with time, yet more and more I find this country to be the gift that keeps on giving.

If I can provide advice, help and guidance then I will certainly not stop. After all, this blog gave me the best gift I could ever have wished for and that is something I owe to The Local.

So thanks for all the feedback, it’s wonderful to read such fantastic feedback and get so many, years later still excited about the move to Sweden.

Any advice I can offer, I am always willing to give.

Lycka Till!

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Sweden is more than just Stockholm

July 4th, 2016 by Dean

I first fell in love with Sweden when I came here in 1996 for the first time and in 2012 decided that I had one more move left in me before settling down. The one thing that I have learned in Sweden is that no matter how much you think you know about this country there is always some beautiful part waiting to be discovered.

One thing that I always hated about living in the UK is when I would read travellers’ reviews basing the entire country on a visit to London. London is not the UK, just as Stockholm is not Sweden.

Sweden, to many, is a beautiful utopia of islands in the Archipelago, yet it contains some magical beaches that spread for miles, a kaleidoscope of forests, hidden bays and some incredible mountains in the north for skiing.

So, to look beyond the beauty of Stockholm, I thought I would share some travel experiences that I have encountered in the last three years.

First, stop in Angeholm, a beautiful city in the west of Sweden residing in Skåne. Further north than the larger cities of Malmö and Helsingborg, Angelholm is host to one of the most beautiful beaches in Sweden. Klitterhus beach was found upon by chance on a road trip a few months after I moved here. It was in April, the winter was coming to an end, and the sun was beginning to peak into the world once more.

It was warm enough to go for a walk; the beach was empty, but I could picture its busy atmosphere in the summer. A beach that was almost eight km in length was something that blew my mind about Sweden. I had only been to cities before, so being at this beautiful beach was paradise. It was serene as most of the cafes and restaurants that would have been busy during the summer were closed. But I could see that there would have been many memories to cherish and enjoy here.

Another beautiful place to visit is Sundsvall. This historic gem of a city is located in Västernorrlands. I had the fortune to visit here in both winter and summer. A city that sits in-between sprawling hills it is a winter wonderland when cold and a beautiful harbour city in summer. A five-hundred-year-old city that has been rebuilt four times from being burned by fire. It thrives on its industrial heritage and its heart beats proud. Scenic, serene and now safely built by stone!

One place I enjoy visited in the summer was Söderköping. It is a lovely small town in Östergotland. A beautiful canal runs through the middle of the city. The history of the town dates back to the 13th century. Impressive architecture runs through the city and on the instance where the weather is sunny then you will be in a real beautiful part of Sweden.

Finally, I would not finish a tour guide without mentioning the beauty of Gotland and Öland.

These islands off the East Coast they are the two places where Swedes like to visit each summer. Gotland is the more popular of the two, but Oland is equally a perfect escape also. Gotland is the largest island in Sweden, sprawling beauty and a hive of popularity in the summer. Visby is a beautiful city to visit and the island hosts some of Sweden’s most fantastic scenery.

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Keeping in touch with those back home

April 18th, 2016 by Dean

I saw this infographic today, and it got me thinking. Not easy these days to “think” we are practically connected to a device of some definition almost twenty-four hours a day.

My first thoughts were the other day I began to write a letter. Strange I know, why not e-mail? Well, this was a Ugandan child who I sponsor, not only does his family not have e-mail but also a handwritten letter still means the world to some.

But I found that my handwriting was shockingly bad. I remember those glorious days when I could write with a fountain pen in school; perfectly joined up writing that flowed. Now it looks like my handwriting when I was twelve. But that is what the infographic shows, our reliance on technology has changed the way we live.

Remember those days when looking at the photos from a party would mean walking to the nearest chemist to get the film developed? Some would not turn out so well; others would have that sticker saying “Bad lighting” on. But the excitement of getting the film developed seems like the world ago.

Facebook used to be graffiti on a subway wall, knowing who was “In a relationship” was often defined by initials carved into a tree. Or sometimes “it’s complicated” would be written on a toilet.

Changing a video would mean sticking some tape over a VHS cassette, not editing in IMovie.

All seems like a lifetime ago.

But this post isn’t about how much better life was then or how I miss the “good old days”. The days are always good. What I do think we are missing is the connection we have to those close to us.

Communication has helped don’t get me wrong! Facetiming my family is a lifeline! Nothing beats those Sunday afternoons where I can see my family back in the UK face to face. And they can see me. Those Sunday afternoons that used to be routine now are no longer trivial they are priceless moments.

But when I think of communication I also reflect on how we miss the simple things like making a phone call. Those times are changing. Hearing a voice of a loved one so far away, especially as they age, means more than a simple SMS, Facebook post or Skype message.

When is the last time you received a handwritten letter from a parent? Mine still do! They mean the world to me.

Communication shapes the way that we live our lives. Just looking at the data above means that we rely on technology more than ever to stay in touch with the world. But there is no harm in mixing old with new.

Will leave you with one thought. Especially since I am talking about the value of time.

I was walking to work the other day when an elderly Swedish gentleman asked me the time. I looked down at my smartwatch and embarrassingly said: “Sorry, my watch needs charging.”

He took his pocket watch out of his waistcoat and said: “It’s ok it is eight forty-five.”

Time is precious. Don’t be connected to devices all the time.

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Never be afraid to take that chance

April 14th, 2016 by Dean

As you hit forty years of age, you begin to think about entering the next stage of your professional career. The learning curve is over; you have earned your wings and feel that you are in a position that you have rightfully deserved. So here you are about to run down the final third into the twilight years.

As I approached this, I thought about continuing in a safety net or taking a risk. It was something that I had been contemplating for a while. Is it worth taking that one big challenge? Certainly in my career, I had the opportunity to take some incredible opportunities. Somehow I turned them down (why I turned down the chance to work in Barbados at 26 was one I still regret!)

So three years ago I found myself packing up my bags and uprooting my life from the busy streets of London to the more chilled our Archipelago of Stockholm. Here I was thirty-eight years old in a country where I could not speak the language, bucked the Nordic trend by not drinking coffee, and I won’t even mention my cinnamon allergy.

Something inside me was saying “Do it, take that challenge.” So one wet weekend I started to apply for some jobs similar to those I had in London. My Swedish was rusty to say least so I was relying on Google Translation for as accurate a cv as I could.

Two weeks later I had two interviews and two job offers. Everything suddenly felt real. This was not something that I could just debate. I had given up my life and job back home. Left my friends and family behind, moved 900km away to a strange land.

Fast forward two years it was certainly the best decision I had ever made. I have had the pleasure of working for a fantastic company in central Stockholm that is a giant and leader in their industry. My colleagues have been polite, wonderful to work with, and I am grateful that they have been patient with my Swedish, which I am happy to say is not so rusty now.

I have even become a lover of coffee and liquorice!

The moral of this little entry is never be afraid to take a risk in your career. At some point, we all feel the need for change. It does not have to mean moving overseas; it could be leaving a company you have had a long association with or a change in profession. Yes, you will go through uncertainty, feel afraid and unsure. But that is human nature.

The real feeling of achieving the sense of satisfaction is one that will never be forgotten.

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Winter Clothes – Lesson’s learned!

April 4th, 2016 by Dean

One of the things I remember having issues with when I first moved to Sweden was clothes shopping from the country I was moving from. Looking back I would not have done it the way I did!

I moved to Sweden in November of what, I found out later, was a sensationally cold winter. Thought I had been to Sweden before I had no idea what experiencing a full Swedish winter would be like. I was living in the UK, so I went shopping for “Winter Clothes”.

Arriving in Sweden, I was armed with suitcases full of jumpers, jackets, and coats. All purchased from the UK High St. While they may be suitable for a mild UK winter, the harshness of that winter made me realise I should never have purchased all my winter clothes in the UK! For the next six months, I practically froze in 50% polyester 50% cotton jumpers.

Then came my second mistake! As the winter turned to spring, I decided to buy as many warm 100% wool jumpers in the Swedish sales as I could. I ended up with a large pile of jumpers with tags on. “80% rabbat” (80% deducted). Yes, I now owned a mountain of woollen jumpers that cost no more than 100 SEK (8 pounds) each.

So I was ready for the new winter! But then reality hit me in the face. The first winter that I experienced was a “freak winter”. The winters that have followed since have been as mild as they were in the UK! With the exception of a few weeks of constant snow, they have been relatively warm.

So those wanting to move to Sweden here is my advice for winter clothes.

Invest in layers! Wearing 2-3 tops is far more effective than wearing one jumper purchased in a high street store that does not feel a Nordic winter. Also, invest in waterproof winter boots and a warm winter coat (the puffy type)

Winter can get cold here, but it’s hardly the Antartic.

If you find yourself in Sweden around this time of year, head to the Outlet Stores (Stadium, etc.). Many a good bargain to find!

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Is Sweden’s open door policy going to succeed?

September 24th, 2015 by Dean

I remember when I first moved to Sweden and decided to take a walk down my local streets that there were hardly any homeless people. There were some people who were drunk on the streets, yet as the day turned into night, those people would soon disappear back to their apartments. After living in London for fifteen years’ homelessness was something that you see on a daily basis. Walking home from the pub is not uncommon to see people sleeping rough in shop doorways or under bridges. The UK has acknowledged that there is a big homeless problem, yet for me it is a problem there will always be with us unless the government can do more to help charities such as shelter.

The following year I noticed that there were more and more people begging on the streets of Stockholm. Most of those that I spoke to were from Romania you would come to Sweden to seek a better life. I would rarely give them money, more food and coffee. One thing that did make me want to write about this more was seeing for five people last December. Lying in thin sleeping bags in central Stockholm when the temperature must’ve been -15 and the snow was ankle-deep.

The last few weeks the news has been dominated by tens of thousands of people from countries such as Syria and Afghanistan risking their lives to travel to Europe to seek refuge in an EU state. It has caused something of a storm here in Europe with some countries arguing that others are breaking human rights. Germany said that they were taking as many people as possible, Hungary erected barbed wire fence to keep more people away. It is an issue that needs to be resolved. I have been listening to both sides of the argument, and I hope that there will be the resolution.

On one side of the argument, people need to understand that these people of human beings are fleeing war-torn countries. They are putting lives at stake spending weeks often travelling on foot with little food or water to get to a country where they may be able to have a sustainable life. If they are fortunate enough to arrive in the country where people can Seek Asylum, then of course they must abide by their adopted countries rules and regulations.

On the other side, I can also understand the people cannot simply walk across Europe and settle where they wish. Most EU countries are under an agreement that the first country where you land is the country that you should seek refuge. But this cannot work if they all arrive in Greece. There are approximately 120,000 people seeking refuge in the EU. Reportedly most want to settle in Sweden and Germany.

Here in Sweden there is an open policy where refugees are welcome. After living here for a few years now, I question if this is a wise move. Stockholm, in particular, has a severe housing issue. The waiting list for first-hand apartments in some areas is up to nineteen years, Sweden is not a large country in terms of population. With just over ten million people, it takes the second highest number of refugees in Europe per year. These people need to have accommodation; children need to be educated, and the places where they settle needs to be able to accept the intake and increase in population without causing any issues financially.

There are some cities that reportedly just keep many of those people seeking asylum in the same areas. Of course, there was a picture painted of crime-ridden areas high in unemployment. The only way that I see this succeeding is by integrating many people in different areas so that communities can benefit. Of course, there are those idiotic people who feel that all that seeking asylum are “Terrorists”. The many homeless people that I spoke to last summer and winter were a range of people from engineers, doctors, technicians and many other skilled forms of work. Some parts of Sweden lack in these professions and by giving these people a chance to benefit from a Swedish lifestyle they can give something back in a professional capacity.

The harshness is winter was rapidly approaching. The nights are getting darker earlier, and soon the snow and cold winds will arrive.

Those that are seeking to forge a better life here are fleeing war-torn countries. The only way I can see this working is by tackling the terrorism head-on in a full unified joint approach from the worlds forces. Europe cannot simply accommodate millions of people without it having an impact. For those already here they need to be looked after and catered for, but the only way to stop this just by ridding the world the fanatical terrorism.

Sweden has always had and honest approach and it an open policy for those seeking a new life. It is simply cannot just keep taking people in without it impacting in some way. The government has taken responsibility to review the situation at the end of this year. Time will only tell if this approach for work or if the doors may suddenly close on those wanting to arrive.

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August 30th, 2015 by Dean

Summer 2015 in memories

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