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Moving to Sweden

Swedish market town

The home of ABBA, meatballs and Stieg Larsson, Sweden has produced some of the most famous cultural icons in the world. But it's not just the rich cultural heritage that makes this country a fantastic place to live. Sweden is famed for having the best benefits system in the world that grants its citizens unrivalled advantages and is sure to give you a great start in your new home. Enjoy five weeks paid vacation, 480 paid parental days for those looking after children, unlimited sick days, free healthcare and no university fees when registered as a resident. And as one of the most green, tolerant and forward-thinking nations, Sweden is one of the most progressive and modern places to live in the world.

Planning Your Move

Moving abroad is a big step, so it's important to make sure it's definitely the right choice for you and your family. Here are some suggestions to help prepare you for the decision.

  • Rent before you buy or take part in a home exchange program. By spending a few months in Sweden before making a big commitment, you can ensure you're happy to go ahead with the next stage.
  • Rental accommodation in Sweden is called hyresrätt. These apartments are available to rent under first-hand or second-hand contracts. A first-hand contract is one drawn up between you and the building owner, but these can sometimes be difficult to obtain, with long waiting lists. A second-hand contract is drawn up between you and the holder of a first-hand contract, which are generally easier to get, particularly if you have no fixed income.
  • Home exchanges are programs which allow you to swap homes for an agreed period of time with a Swedish family. Visit www.swapmycitypad.comwww.homeexchange.comwww.homeforexchange.com, and www.homelink.org.uk for information on how to sign up.
  • Find the region that's best for you. The major cities of Stockholm, Gothenborg and Malmö are modern, dynamic and progressive centres of urban culture and exchange. If you work in the IT industry, these cities are perfect locations to find employment. If you're after somewhere a bit quieter, or looking for a retirement home, consider the picture-postcard region of Skane, with its sandy beaches and warm seas (in the summer!), or if you're not daunted by winter conditions, the underpopulated northern regions offer a peaceful snowy retreat.

Your New Home

When you arrive in your new home in Sweden you'll want to make sure that everything is set up ready for you to move in straight away. The complicated and often stressful process of buying or renting a house or flat is made all the more difficult when you have to travel long distances to view the property and are not always available to be on-site if problems should occur. Not only this, but if your Swedish is not good, negotiating with the Estate Agent may prove tricky. Here are some tips to help you get the best start in your new home.

  • In Sweden, an apartment that you buy is called a bostadsrätt. In the case of these apartments, property ownership differs in Sweden from other countries, as when you buy an apartment you are purchasing a share in the whole building and will inherit the right to contribute to decisions about communal areas such as courtyards and laundry rooms. You must ask permission of the housing board before sub-letting your apartment.
  • On top of the money you pay for your apartment, you must also pay a monthly fee covering building maintenance and other costs.
  • In contrast to the bostadsrätt ownership, if you buy a house in Sweden you will probably have full ownership of that property much like you would in the UK.
  • Homeowner's insurance is strongly recommended, and called hemförsäkring.
  • As with anywhere, property prices vary greatly with region. City living is quite expensive, but timber cabin rural retreats can be as cheap as £25,000.
  • Like in the UK, an Estate Agent will normally manage the buying process. Solicitors are not mandatory but highly recommended, and it is normal to hire an independent surveyor.
  • Once the sale is completed, it is the buyer's obligation to apply for deeds of title within three months of the transaction and submit them for registration (if you have one, your solicitor may do this on your behalf).

Moving Companies

Once you have chosen your new home, one of the first things to think about before leaving the UK is how best to transport your belongings to Sweden. Sterling Relocation is an award-winning moving company specialising in moves to all over the world. Have a look at their website for a quote: www.sterlingrelocation.comMovecorp European Removals (www.movecorp.co.uk) and Schumacher Cargo Logistics (www.schumachercargo.com) also offer competitive rates.

The Practical Details

The excitement of moving abroad can easily eclipse the practical - and often boring - details, but these are vital for a smooth transition to a new country. Please check with the local authority of your region to make sure you have fulfilled all of your legal obligations.

  • What to do when you arrive in Sweden depends on your residency type. As an EU citizen, you are entitled to live and work in Sweden without a work permit, but if you plan to stay for more than three months you will need to register your right of residence with the Migration Board. How you apply will depend on whether you are moving as an employee, as a student, as self-employed, or as a pensioner or person with sufficient means. See this website for more details on the differences between these types of residency: www.migrationsverket.se/info/eumedborgare_en.html
  • In order to register your right to residence, you must complete an online application and submit the following documents: copies of your passport of national ID card, an employment certificate and your paychecks or accounts for the last three months (if applying as an employee). If you are applying as a student, as self-employed or as a retired person, the application requirements will differ slightly. Check out www.migrationsverket.se to find out exactly what you need to do.
  • Once you have held your certificate of residency for five years, you have permanent residency rights.

Sweden snowscape

Making the Most of your Move

  • Learn the language. You can get by speaking English in Sweden for quite a long time, but you'll always be missing out on some of the culture. Learning the language will allow you to immerse yourself more fully in the community and create better, longer-lasting friendships with your new neighbours.
  • If you're a man, be prepared to pull your weight! Gender equality is of top importance in Sweden and men are expected to contribute as much as women to child-rearing and domestic duties.
  • Get out and about. Sweden's Allemansrätten law means all citizens are allowed to hike through and camp on private land, forests and natural areas unless specific 'no trespassing' signs have been erected. This means it's easy and fun to explore the diverse and beautiful wilderness of Sweden and take part in the numerous outdoor activities that are available.
  • Don't let the winter get you down. There's no getting away from the fact that Swedish winters are dark, cold and long. In some northern parts, you can expect around three hours of sunlight a day. But on the bright side, Sweden enjoys less rain than the UK, snow is great for skiing, snowboarding and snowmobiling, and Swedish summers are typically warm, with long days and beautiful scenery.
  • Join an online expat forum such as www.alloexpat.comwww.britishexpats.com, and www.expatexchange.com/sweden. There you can talk to people who have already made the move and get invaluable advice on the benefits of living in Sweden as well as some of the potential pitfalls.

Following the Rules

Swedish laws differ subtly from UK ones so it is easy to accidentally get into trouble. Similarly, if you do not understand the local customs and etiquette you run the risk of offending your new neighbours. Here is a quick list of things to watch out for.

  • It is compulsory to use car headlamps 24 hours a day. This is particularly important during the dark winter months.
  • Speed limits range from 65mph on main highways to 31mph in towns and cities.
  • The alcohol limit when driving is much lower than in the UK and it is recommended you avoid drinking and driving altogether.
  • Ensure your vehicle is insured and registered to be driven in Sweden and that you always carry your documentation in the car with you.
  • Remember to fit winter tyres during the cold months as Sweden gets a lot of snow!
  • It's not only the British who are great at queuing. In fact, it is commonplace in Sweden to draw a numbered ticket upon arriving in a pharmacy, grocery store or doctor's office before you can be served.
  • Swedes love coffee and take the time to enjoy a mug with friends several times a day. Get used to the 'fika' tradition, in which family and friends meet in coffee shops to enjoy pastries and hot drinks throughout the day.
  • Keep it 'lagom'. This social tradition has no direct translation into English, but loosely means 'in moderation'. The general consensus in Swedish society is not to show extreme emotions or do anything to excess (except, perhaps, drink coffee).

Homesick?

Sweden is a wonderful country but you might find you miss some of the more unique quirks of living in the UK. Don't worry, The British Corner Shop (www.britishcornershop.com) delivers UK products all over Sweden. If you prefer not to shop online try The English Shop in Malmö (Gustav Adolfs Torg 8B, Malmo, SE, +46 40 23 82 81).

More Useful Links

www.sweden.se/

www.sweden.se/eng/Home/Lifestyle/Reading/20-things-to-know-before-moving-to-Sweden/

www.visitsweden.com/sweden/Travel-guide/Getting-around-in-Sweden/By-Car/Driving-in-Sweden/