Stockholm, Sweden Report of what it's like to live there

Personal Experiences from Stockholm, Sweden

Stockholm, Sweden 12/17/20

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

This was our third expat experience. We previously lived in the Middle East.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

Washington, DC.

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3. What years did you live here?

2018-2020.

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4. How long have you lived here?

Two years.

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5. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Diplomatic mission.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

We had an apartment on the edge of the city. It was spacious and had easy access to public transit, groceries, etc. Commute took 10-15min by bike, 30 min by bus (only because there we had to make a transfer), and 40min walking.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Groceries were slightly more expensive, but the quality of the food was much higher since it was subject to EU food regulations. You could get pretty much anything you needed.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

None

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Asian, burgers.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

None.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

DPO. Local post was not convenient.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Household help was hard to come by and quite expensive. Having a nanny or maid is uncommon.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Sweden has a very active, health oriented culture. There are gyms everywhere with reasonable rates, but there are also abundant opportunities to run, ride bikes, ride horses, cross country ski, kayak, hike, etc outside.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

Sweden is an almost cashless society. Credit cards and the local electronic payment app 'Swish' are the most common forms of payment. There are ATMs, but since no one uses cash, I never used one. Re safety, I challenge you to find a safer place to live than Sweden.

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5. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

None, the overwhelming majority of Swedes (particularly in urban areas) speak English. Local language classes are available and affordable if you want to learn Swedish.

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6. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

The only problem would be in the winter when it's icy, but that's a problem for everyone.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Buses and trains are affordable, reliable, and your best bet for transportation. Taxis are really expensive. All are safe.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

If you live in the city, then don't bring a car. If you live in the suburbs, you'll need a car. The risk of auto theft is low. It's Europe, so parking spaces are small and gas is expensive - don't bring a big, American gas guzzler.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

We used a local provider. All the providers are reliable.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

Swedes love dogs. We didn't have a pet, so I don't know about available services or quarantine requirements.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Swedes are casually chic. Think dark jeans, button up shirts, and blazers for men.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Sweden is incredibly safe.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Health care is readily available and cheap by U.S. standards, even for those of us that have to pay for it since we're not covered by the national health care system. The only unusual health issue is the potential for tick borne encephalitis (tbe). Our embassy provided vaccinations against TBE.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

The air and water quality are amazing.

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4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

Some years the birch pollen can be bad, but otherwise seasonal allergies aren't a problem. Restaurants are very attuned to food allergy issues.

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5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?

It is dark for a loooooong time in the winter, so seasonal affective disorder is a real thing in Sweden.

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6. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

It's a rather dry climate with moderate temperatures. Because Stockholm is on the coast, it doesn't get too much below freezing in the winter.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

There is an American school (AIS) and a British School (BISS). Our kids went to BISS and it was incredible.

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2. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

Preschools are available, but we didn't have any experience with them.

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3. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Youth sports clubs are very common.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

The expat community isn't as large as you would think. Morale fluctuates as the darkness impacts everyone's moods and the quirks of working with Swedes can impact one's sense of professional satisfaction.

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2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Bars, restaurants, and get togethers at peoples' homes. There are MeetUp groups and Internations events, but I didn't participate in either.

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3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

This is a great place for families. Most of the singles I met did not enjoy dating in the local scene.

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4. Is it easy to make friends with locals here? Are there any prejudices or any ethnic groups who might feel uncomfortable here?

NO! Even Swedes have a hard time making friends with each other. Swedes on the whole are very introverted and have some cultural quirks that make it very difficult for an outsider to build a friendship. It was much easier to befriend other expats.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

Great for LGBT. Sweden is uber supportive.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

No issues with gender equality. There are plenty of prejudices against racial/ethnic minorities, but these prejudices manifest themselves in rather understated ways in comparison to the United States.

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7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

The sheer amount of time spent in nature was the highlight. You can't beat a long run through the forest, finished off by a dip in the Baltic Sea.

As for trips, there are very convenient, affordable, and enjoyable overnight ferries from Stockholm to Finland and the Baltic states. It's like a mini-cruise that's perfect for a long weekend.

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8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Nature, nature, nature!

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9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

This isn't really a shopping post.

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10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Health, clean air and water, great schools, and great public transportation.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

I wish I had known more about the introverted nature of Swedes and the glacially slow pace of their work culture so as to avoid frustration.

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2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Yes.

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3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

You can probably leave your car.

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4. But don't forget your:

Hiking boots.

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5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

The Bridge.

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