Let me start off with a few pointers on things I took some time to learn and if you are planning on moving to Sweden, it will be good to have these in mind.
Fika is a ritual – Swedes love their coffee and Fika is an event of having coffee with friends/colleagues and family. Most swedes enjoy at least one fika a day and that’s the best time to bond with them
Maintain distance – initially when I travelled in trams and saw only one person sitting on a seat for two, I always pondered – WHY? It’s Just a cultural thing about the Swedes – they like to maintain distance. So don’t feel bad if you end up sitting alone in public transport full of people standing!
It’s all about nature – Swedes love to hang out in forests.This was a change for me because when I was in India I had never imagined barbequing in a forest or going for a run in a cemetery. However, this is a common thing you would see in Sweden. They love nature, plants, trees and of course Sunlight.
Work life balance in important – There isn’t a fine balance but a well good balance between work and family time.You work when you work and once you’re out of the office, your focus is your family. Swedes don’t appreciate receiving mails after office time, which is anytime after 4:30 PM (on average).
Winters are cold and dark – Everyone knows winters are cold and dark, but trust me when I say this; winters are extremely cold and pitch dark. There have been days I have gone without sunlight. It gets sad and boring and hence it’s important to have a hobby, which you can enjoy indoors like painting or listening & dancing to music.
Don’t be surprised if you see the sun shining bright at 9 pm – Yes, this came as a surprise to me! Your body gets totally confused, your dinnertime gets delayed but hey, at least you get that sunlight (which is only for 2-3 months in a year). Swedish summers can be very confusing, I have had a year with only rain and no sun but I have also had another year with loads of sunlight (temperature touching 30 degrees) and hardly any dark nights.
Personal phone number – the first thing you need to do if you move to Sweden is get a personal number. Everything is based on your personal number. This includes doctor appointments, job offers, gym membership, membership cards … basically anything you do in Sweden is through your personal number!
What worked for me as an Expat:
Learning the Language –Yes it’s not easy to get a job if you are not an engineer and if you don’t know Swedish. So if you want to move to Sweden and you are not an engineer, ensure you learn some Swedish.
Travel & Explore – You can literally travel places every weekend. Ryanair and Wizzair have amazingly cheap tickets to travel around. When you live in a country that offers you prospects to explore nearby countries at relatively low costs as compared to when travelling from other countries, you must seize this opportunity.
There aren’t as many Indians as you see in many other European countries, which also means there aren’t as many Indian grocery shops or Indian restaurants.
You have to learn to be happy on your own; if you are someone who loves to always be with people, Sweden might not be the best place for you.
Swedes are not very choosy when it comes to food. Indian and Thai food is really appreciated here. Butter chicken, Chicken Tikka masala with Naan tops their list. You can get a variety of food in Sweden, however, if you are someone who loves street food – you need to re-consider your plan unless you can cook the things you like to eat
The writer of this Guest blog is a very dear friend of mine – Geetanjali Goel. Geet belongs to a small town in Haryana, India and has been a hosteller ever since she was 12 years old. She completed her under graduation in BBA from Amity and then went on to pursue her MBA from XIME, Bangalore. She has worked as a qualitative researcher with AZ Research (Bangalore and Delhi), Nielsen (Bangalore) and Ipsos (Bangalore) and is currently working for a market research firm in Gothenburg. Her Hobbies include travelling, hiking, trekking, cycling and lately had indulged into painting.
A seasoned travelled, she has explored places such as Hong Kong, China, Singapore, Dubai, Indonesia Turkey, Austria, Hungary, Greece, Russia, Norway Denmark, Finland, UK, Croatia, France, Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, Malaysia, Italy and has of course covered many places within Sweden.
Always try staying in an Airbnb or local hostels/hotels
Take the public transport
Eat at local restaurants and cafes
Learn few basic words like Hey, thank you, have a nice day, in the local language – it helps communicate better and also helps connecting with the culture and people.