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

Personal Experiences from Stockholm, Sweden

Stockholm, Sweden 05/20/20

Background:

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

No, I've also lived in Brussels.

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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?

Northern Virginia. There are seasonal direct flights between Stockholm and Newark, otherwise connections are required via other European hubs to get to Washington Dulles.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Two years.

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4. 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 live in a house on Lidingo, an island adjacent to Stockholm. While it is close geographically to Stockholm, low speed limits make the commute to the US Embassy 25 to 30 minutes. Public transit - Lidingobana to either subway or bus and then walk to the Embassy - take 45 minutes when everything is perfect, but more likely 50 minutes to an hour. There is also a ferry from a few spots on the island to Stockholm, which takes 35 minutes and then a mile walk to the Embassy (or bus)

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

Grocery stores are generally well stocked and are everywhere. They can run out of goods for periods of time, ie a type of bread you might like might not be in stock for a week (for no apparent reason) or riced cauliflower is there one day and then you never see it again.

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

None, with Amazon, you can get most things you "wish" you had shipped.

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

We have not explored delivery that much. Lidingo has a few good restaurants, but even take out is never fast.

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

No.

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Daily Life:

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

Embassy mail.

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

If you use a service, it is very expensive, approximately $50/hour for cleaning.

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

SATS is ubiquitous; it's got a range of memberships and is reasonable compared to gym memberships in the US.

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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?

Credit cards are the only way to pay for many things in Stockholm. At this point, the only places that accept cash are gas stations, grocery stores, and 7-Elevens.

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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?

Swedes are generally fluent in English; recent immigrants are focused on learning Swedish, so they might not speak English.

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

No.

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Transportation:

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

Fares are currently just under US$4/ single ride for public transit. Taxis are very expensive.

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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?

Any type of car you like. I have never seen more high end cars in my life. Teslas are everywhere, Volvos are as well.

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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, you need a person number to set up any service in Stockholm.

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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?

I use a local provider.

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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?

Helena's hund hotel by Arlanda International Airport is great; they offer boarding and will drop you/pick you up from the airport. The dogs love it. Vet has been fine. Swedes are very protective of animals.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

Most do not work.

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

Swedish chic - men in blazer, jeans, and a button down with a recent hair cut; ladies in jeans and a sweater and some on point shoes and designer handbags.

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Health & Safety:

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

No.

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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 accessible. There are concierge type doctors available if you choose not to use the Swedish system.

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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?

Great.

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

Sweden is woke to all food sensitivities.

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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)?

Winter blues are common. It's a mental battle, but with the right strategies, you'll be ok.

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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?

Warm summers (70s), cool fall (50s), winter can be mild since it's on the water - temperatures range from 20s to 40s, spring is crazy, 60s one day and flurries the next.

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Schools & Children:

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

British International School and Stockholm International School are both well regarded, BISS is in the suburbs, whereas SIS is in the city center.

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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?

SIS offers before care (8-830, and after care from 1530-1700) as well as after school programs. It's a hassle to get into local schools because you need a person number, so you cannot attempt to enroll your student until after you've arrived. Swedes don't seem super-friendly either, so you won't find a community via the Swedish school system the way you do at BISS or SIS

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

Yes. The kids programming is NOT intense. If you have young kids, you'll see they are eased into sport.

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Expat Life:

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

Good sized. People are relatively upbeat, but sometimes get irritated with Sweden's love for rules, that you don't know about until you've violated one.

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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?

Parents organizations, Association of Diplomats Stockholm, American Chamber of Commerce.

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

I think it's a very hard city for singles. Swedes are not outgoing and stick with the people they've always known rather than take a chance on a new person. Your neighbors will avoid you, totally the opposite of how Americans are.

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

Yes, Sweden prides itself on its equal ways.

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

Not so easy to make local friends.

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

Sweden accepted a large number of refugees in recent years and there seems to be a bit of a backlash (undercurrent of racism) to that decision.

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

Lidingo is one of the most beautiful places. It's like the Pacific Northwest but with much less rain. Running the trails here is amazing. Ferries (until the pandemic) were a fun, economical, and environmentally friendly way to see other parts of the Baltic.

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

No, H&M is cheaper in the US!

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

It's very clean. Once you know the system, it's very navigable.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

It's not a utopia. Swedes seem like Americans in many ways and I would say 90% of the time they are similar, but the 10% can be striking.

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

Absolutely.

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3. But don't forget your:

Athletic apparel. Fitness is king here. You will never see so many fit people! If you have ever thought about running, do it here. If you have good winters, consider all the alpine sports.

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Stockholm, Sweden 01/15/17

Background:

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

This was my first overseas post.

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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?

US vagabond. Travel to the States takes between 6-12 hours, depending on where you're going.

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3. How long have you lived here?

18 months.

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

US government gig at the embassy.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Housing for embassy employees is scattered across the city and nearby suburbs. Families usually live on the island of Lidingo in houses or duplexes, while couples and singles live in Stockholm. Apartments in Stockholm are generously sized for the city, and most Swedes will be envious of your space. Housing is notoriously difficult to procure, and while GSO does its best to accommodate people's needs, not everyone will be happy. Finding secured parking within the city is also challenging, so if you plan on buying a car at post, ask for parking in your housing questionnaire. Commute times range from a few minutes walk to an hour by public transportation.

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

This is an expensive city (a standard cocktail out costs about $20), so be prepared to leave without savings. Having the DPO helps a lot, and Americans get many things shipped to us via Amazon.



The grocery stores are well stocked, though smaller than in the US, and contain fewer choices than at a Giant or Safeway. All kinds of produce are available year-round, though prices are reflected in off-season fruits and vegetables.

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

Eating out in Stockholm is an expensive endeavor. Restaurants are generally very good, and chefs take their work seriously. However, service lags behind what you'd find in the US. There are delivery services (foodora.se), but again - very expensive. Delivery of two burgers and fries from a local burger joint will run nearly $50.



The best deal for eating out is at lunch. The daily special (dagens lunch) at most restaurants will run from $10-15 and generally includes coffee and salad.

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

No problems inside housing, though ticks are an issue outside in summer months.

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Daily Life:

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

DPO is a godsend. I don't know what we'd all do without Amazon.

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

Again - expensive. A lot of embassy employees share help. I hire a person to clean every two weeks, and it costs about $50 for four to five hours.

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

There are all kinds of gyms and fitness studios here. There's crossfit, yoga, pilates, swimming, gyms and spas. Prices range from what you'd find in the US to a bit more. Swedes are very health-conscious, and the availability of gyms and relatively modest pricing reflects that. For basic gyms, most people use SATS or Nordic Wellness. The gym at the embassy is small and depressing.

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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 moving to a non-cash society. We tell visitors not to bother getting cash at the airport because they'll never use it. Credit/debit cards are a must.

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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?

Everyone in Stockholm speaks English. Swedish is nice to have, but completely unnecessary.

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

It depends on the level of disability, but generally not. Sidewalks are wide, though sometimes made of cobblestone. Buildings have ramps and elevators. Busses and the T-bana are accessible for wheelchairs.

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Transportation:

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

Public transportation here is terrific. Many people get to the embassy via bus or T-bana. It is very safe, clean, and beautiful. Uber and taxis are also available.

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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?

Parking in Stockholm is challenging, but on par with NYC or SF. Parking tickets run between $60-100 per incident. Drivers here are very courteous, and there are many newish cars on the road. I have not heard of any burglary or carjacking in or around Stockholm.

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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?

The internet here has been reliable and somewhat reasonably priced. We used ComHem for both cable and internet and the price is comparable with that in any major US city. HOWEVER: You can't get anything done in Sweden until you have your "personnummer." Nada. Zip. Zilch. You can't get a bank account, and thus can't sign up for services that require a Swedish credit card. The embassy seems to have gotten better at offering dongles that work for newcomers, but don't expect to have internet at home for at least six weeks.

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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?

A number of people bring unlocked phones and get a pay-per-month plan. We use Comviq, and each month we pay 95kr (about $10) for 200 minutes of talk within Sweden and a gig of data. Extra data can be purchased separately.

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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?

We have a cat and a dog and have had great luck with local vets and boarding. Swedes care for and respect animals, and it's reflected in local laws that limit leaving dogs alone at home for more than six hours. There is no quarantine.



Having a dog is the best way to meet Swedes, who generally keep to themselves and are difficult to get to know.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

Most EFMs do not work. The vast majority of local jobs require fluent Swedish, and there are very limited opportunities at the embassy. Best to telecommute if you can bring work with you.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

None, really. This society does a fairly good job of providing for its at-risk and underserved community.

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

Swedes are very stylish. Think: skinny jeans (for men and women), blazer and tie (men), and expensive shoes. There is one formal occasion (Marine Ball) hosted by the embassy each year.

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Health & Safety:

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

Local medical care is excellent, though different from in America. My husband and I have both had procedures done here, and while the standard of care has been very good, doctors prescribe painkillers and antibiotics reluctantly. The embassy has contacts with an American doctor here who is more attuned to the needs and expectations of her American patients.

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2. 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?

There is zero air pollution here. I've never breathed better than I have in Sweden.

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

Celiac sufferers rejoice! Swedes experience an unusually high prevalence of gluten sensitivity and lactose intolerance. I've never seen more alternative diet-friendly items in a grocery store. Additionally, pretty much all restaurants offer gluten-free, vegetarian, and lactose-free options.

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

The winter here is a real challenge for those of us who need sunlight. December is manageable, as the city lights up for Advent and Christmas. Once January rolls around, the lack of light becomes an issue. The embassy provides SAD lamps for every house, which helps, but it's a good idea to plan a trip in January or February to a sunny location.

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

Stockholm is definitely on the cooler end of possible overseas assignments. Summer months are lovely, with temperatures in the upper 70s(F). Winters can be cold, but thanks to Stockholm's location on the Baltic, it is never as cold as in other parts of the country.

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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 embassy community is small, and smaller still if you don't have children. Morale varies family to family, but people tend to go through some version of the winter blues at some point. It's easy to feel isolated here, but with some effort, it's possible to find connection within the community.

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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?

Stockholm has a thriving nightlife, which singles take advantage of. Many people get together in small groups at home, as drinking and eating out a lot gets very expensive.

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

This city can be great for everyone!

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

Yes! Stockholm has an annual pride parade that draws people from across Scandinavia. The country is well known for its acceptance of people across the spectrum of sexuality/gender.

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

Sweden is really progressive when it comes to gender equality. Less so for ethnic differences. The recent surge of migration across its borders has strained the country in numerous ways. That said, Swedes aren't really religious themselves, and I think it's difficult for them to understand any kind of religious devotion, much less those that don't reflect their tolerance for women, LGBT, etc.

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

We've traveled a lot since we arrived, including trips throughout Europe. We've been able to explore Sweden, as it's easy to get around via car, and the countryside is beautiful. Think: Scandinavian Vermont.



Christmas is a really lovely experience in Sweden. There's none of the garish commercialism that you find in the US. The focus here is on bringing light to the (literal) darkness, family, and food. St. Lucia Day concerts on December 13th are a beautiful start to the Christmas festivities.

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

The museums in Stockholm are interesting and plentiful. The island of Djurgarden hosts a number of them, including Skansen (a must-visit Swedish version of Colonial Williamsburg) and the hilariously interactive ABBA museum. The parks throughout the city are beautiful and worthy of exploration.



The Stockholm Archipelago is definitely worth a visit (or ten). There are many islands which are doable via a day-trip.

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

Everyone leaves with a Dala Horse and at least one sheepskin.

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

Stockholm is a beautiful, magical city. The architecture is charming, and it's been a joy to explore. There are a lot of parks and nearby open space, so if you've got a need for nature, it's generally no more than a few blocks away.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

This is a place people want to visit! Our doors were always open to friends and family, which oftentimes kept us from exploring more of Scandinavia. If we had it to do over, we would have been a bit less hospitable in order to protect our own experience of Sweden. This bed and breakfast is closed.



One thing to note: Swedes leave Stockholm every July for the whole month to decamp to their summer homes. Much of the city shuts down, and it's a good time for you to plan a trip as well. The city also closes down the week between Christmas and New Year's Eve.

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

Absolutely! I love Stockholm, and I will miss it dearly when we leave.

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

Tropical clothing. Summer days are warm, but not hot.

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4. But don't forget your:

Warm duds! Pack your snow pants, furs, and boots. Vitamin D for winter months is also useful.

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Stockholm, Sweden 05/08/15

Background:

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

Previously posted to Manila, Philippines

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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?

The current contract is American/BA: Three hours to London, and an additional seven hours to DC

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3. How long have you lived here?

Three years

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

Affiliated with the U.S. Embassy.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

2-3 bedroom apartments in the city (with easy bus or bicycle commute) and houses on Lidingo, a neighboring island. Unless you're dead-set on a house, this is the post for city living, as families on Lidingo are isolated and often require two cars and a 30-minute+ commute.

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

Most everything is available, and the Embassy has a small store to supplement what is missing from the local economy. Grocery stores are more limited than in the states, but everything is very high quality. Groceries are expensive, but this is one of the most expensive cities in the world!

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

Canned goods, salad dressing, baking supplies

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

Most big chains are here, though most restaurants are small and independent. Everything is available, including some amazing Michelin-rated restaurants. Eating out isn't cheap though; food is definitely the biggest chunk of our budget.

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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 (fast and great service here!)

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

Extremely expensive, unless you bring your own from the U.S. or a third country).

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

Gyms are nice (albeit a bit pricey) and the embassy has a very small gym. There are tons of trails and parks for runners.

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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?

We use credit cards for everything! It is recommended to bring a card with chip and pin, as this will speed up every transaction you have (Swedes aren't used to having patrons sign for CC transactions).

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

There is an international church, as well as several churches that provide head-sets with translation.

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

None. Everyone speaks English!

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

Sweden seems to very accommodating to those with disabilities, but many buildings lack ramps and elevators.

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Transportation:

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

You can get an unlimited SL (public transit) pass for about US$100 per month, which will get you almost everywhere you need to go (except Lidingo, which has more limited public transit options).

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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?

None if you live in the city. Something good for the snow if you live on Lidingo (including winter tires, which are required).

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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?

Internet is quite fast, depending on your plan and building, commensurate to what you would spend in the U.S.

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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?

Bring an unlocked phone for starters, then purchase a phone and plan once you are assigned your personal number (social security number equivalent required for everything in Sweden).

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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?

No quarantine, though Swedish law requires that dogs be walked during the day, and doggie day-care and vet treatment is very expensive.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

No; employment opportunities are almost non-existent unless you speak fluent Swedish or work in a niche field that is desirable to Ericsson/Spotify/etc.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Few, as the Swedish government provides all kinds of support and social services.

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

Mostly business casual, depending on the sector. Embassy local staff is extremely casual, and most officers typically dress for their calendar.

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Health & Safety:

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

None.

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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?

No health concerns, unless you are prone to seasonal affectiveness disorder. Winters can be rough on even the cheeriest of people. Medical care is adequate, but medicine is socialized, so don't expect fast service or cutting-edge tests/procedures. Some pregnant women get additional tests in the U.S. That aren't offered here: quad screen, gestational diabetes, etc.

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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?

Perfect! Stockholm has some of the best air quality in the world!

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

Swedish restaurants are very accommodating to those with food allergies. Pollen and grass tend to be a problem for people in May/June.

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

Cold and dark during the winter, and winter is LONG here. Beautiful in the summer (i.e. July)

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Schools & Children:

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

No experience, but I hear the British International Primary School is the preferred choice for primary school age, as parents tend to have problems with SIS and their curriculum.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

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3. 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?

This is an area where post is a real let-down. There is a real need here for affordable Pre-K, and parents have tried (unsuccessfully) for years to establish an embassy day care or co-op. At a minimum, post should negotiate with the Swedish communes for reasonably priced-options. Dagis (Swedish day care) will run you US$2,000 per month (part-time) as a non-resident and nannies are much more. This is an area where post repeatedly turns a blind eye.

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

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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 is huge, but doesn't really interact much, as the majority of expats are married to Swedes and very immersed in the local culture. The embassy community tries a bit, but people mostly scatter and do their own thing. (Typical for Europe, as you don't really need the embassy community for social interactions).

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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?

Restaurants, bars, meet-up groups, play dates, traveling, etc.

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

Fabulous for couples, good for families (with the caveat of childcare), and poor for singles. There are few singles at post and Swedes tend to be very insular.

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

Sweden is an extremely tolerant country, and much ahead of the U.S. in this respect.

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

None on the surface. You could probably write a treatise about the underlying racial and religious prejudices, especially considering the recent waves of immigrants from Iraq, Eritrea, and Syria.





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

Traveling through Sweden and Europe; living in a beautiful city.

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

Anything outdoorsy: skiing, skating, running, boating; archipelago boat doors; a day trip to Drottningholm Palace; the Vasa and Abba museums; eating outdoors during the summer (pic-nicking seems to be a national pastime)

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

Swedish crystal, dala horses

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

Parks and green spaces are amazing, the entire city is walkable, and public transit is among the best in the world. No need for a car if you live in the city!

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10. Can you save money?

Not really.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Definitely.

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

Shorts and summer gear

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3. But don't forget your:

Winter gear, vitamin D supplements, and patience (Sweden virtually shuts down from the end of June until mid-August!)

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Stockholm, Sweden 08/03/14

Background:

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

Lengthy overseas expat career all over the world.

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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. Takes surprisingly long to get here since there are no direct flights. Must transit through New York, London or Munich, and there are often missed connections making the trip even longer. Expect about 12 hours of travel time.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Eighteen months.

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

Foreign Service Officer assignment at U.S. Embassy.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

The embassy (along with everyone else) has had lots of problems securing suitable leases for suitable properties. There is a real housing crunch in this city. Embassy staff are usually housed as singles in the city or families out in the suburban island of Liding (or further afield in Djursholmen). Apartments are not particularly large and lack storage space, even in the bedrooms and bathrooms. Parking spaces are usually way down the street at a local shopping mall garage rather than near the property (unless you live in the 'burbs). It took us four months of temporary housing before we got our place. The apartment itself is ok but the neighborhood, while not too far of a walk from the embassy, is pretty lifeless and bleak (think Soviet-style bloc apartments, but better maintained).

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

Everything is available, prices are very high for most things.

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

Can't really think of anything that you can't get here or get shipped through the DPO. The embassy has a small commissary for some U.S. products, and arranges periodic commissary orders from Germany for people who want other specific items (Thanksgiving turkeys, various liquid items, etc.). Many over the counter pharmaceuticals in the US are by prescription here, so you may want to pack up on those before coming.

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

There is McDonald's here and some local fast food places. McDonald's is not too expensive but everything else is.

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

In the summer there are ticks in the countryside that carry a Lymes disease-type illness. The Embassy Health Unit will vaccinate you against this. Otherwise no issues.

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Daily Life:

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

DPO mail and diplomatic pouch. Reliable and relatively quick. Swedish post is reliable, but expensive. Packages are not delivered to residences, and you have to go pick them up in postal locations that are not particularly close by and hold ridiculously short and inconvenient hours of pickup. You must have passport or local Swedish ID exactly as spelled on the incoming package or they will not release it to you. They charge hefty duty on anything being imported from outside the EU, even if you shouldn't have to pay it as a diplomat. I avoid using local post if at all possible.

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

Not particularly easy to find, and would be very expensive if you do find it. I don't know of many people here who have domestic help except perhaps for nannies for their kids that they have brought in.

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

Sure, but expensive.

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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?

Pervasive and safe, but you can have a problem in some places (grocery stores) because if your credit card doesn't have a compatible chip and code system, they will ask you to provide ID along with your credit card. If you don't have a Swedish ID (in other words, if you have not been accredited and given your Swedish "personnummer" yet), they may not allow you to use the card.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

Not sure, but I'm sure it's available.

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

English is incredibly pervasive here. Would be nice to understand some basic Swedish, especially just to understand the signs, but very easy to get by without it.

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

Probably not much of a problem here, although many, many buildings have really tiny elevators (with manual doors and a sliding iron gate) that would probably not accommodate a wheelchair (and may have steps leading up to the entrance anyway).

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Transportation:

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

Safe and extensive. You can't really hail taxis on the street unless your lucky. You have to phone in advance. Taxis are very expensive, so are usually only used for special occasions. Drunk driving laws here are very strict, so if you are planning to drink during your night out, plan on not driving.

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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?

Cars aren't usually necessary given the compactness of the downtown area and the extensive public transport system. Cars are expensive, no parking at the Embassy and no covered (or provided) parking near your assigned housing. Gas is crazy expensive even after you get the tax back. Many people have cars, particularly those who live out in the suburbs, but most do without. You must also have winter tires, which many people buy in the States and ship with their HHE since they are much more expensive here. Local garages will store your unused tires for a fee (helpful, since you will probably not have space to store them on your own).

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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. Quite good quality and quite fast. Probably about US$80/month.

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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?

Surprisingly affordable. Many local options, although until you are a real person in Sweden (i.e. you have been accredited and received your "personnummer"), you can't do much of anything here, including signing up for phone service (you can't even join a gym or rent a DVD until you have your personnummer). We got our two year plan through Tele2, who threw in a free iPhone 5 as part of the deal. If you want a local phone before you get your personnummer, you can always buy a pre-paid chip if you have your own unlocked phone.

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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?

No quarantine that I'm aware of. I have no pets, but I'm sure there is quality pet care available. One thing to keep in mind is that there is a Swedish law that forbids pet owners from leaving their pets unattended for more than six hours. So if you would need to leave the dog (or even cat) alone while you are at work, plan on having to get a sitter come in while you are away. This will of course be ridiculously expensive.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

No. Positions for family members within the mission are relatively few. Would be very hard to find anything on the local market. Swedes require fluent Swedish for even the most menial of jobs. I've only heard of one person (with specialized engineering skills) get offered a job on the local market here. Maybe some teaching jobs at the international schools? But I wouldn't plan on landing a job on the local economy here.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Don't know, but I'm sure there are plenty if you look.

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

Business attire at work, including suits for men. Casual but elegant out in public. Take your shoes off when entering a private home!

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Health & Safety:

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

This is a very safe place, so no particular concerns. That being said, it's not a paradise either, and there are incidents of theft, car smash and grabs, etc. Use normal precautions even here. Violent crime is pretty rare, fortunately.

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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?

This is a very developed country with high quality medical care. That being said, I've been surprised how sick people get here so frequently (locals and Americans alike). There is a seasonal "kräks sjuk" (vomiting sickness) that goes around every winter and seems to hit almost everyone (not me yet, touch wood). Medical care is very expensive for those that are not part of the Swedish social services system, although presumably reimbursable under your insurance.

Stockholm doesn't even bother to clear or salt the sidewalks during the winter, so they pile up with snow and ice, making for treacherous walking. Be very careful in the winter. Many people by clip-on cleats to attach to the bottom of their shoes to keep from wiping out on the ice in the winter.

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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?

As good as it gets. Can't think of any place that would be better.

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

Winters are long and pretty cold (snowy, but typically not frigid). More importantly, winters are DARK. The embassy issues natural light lamps ("happy lamps") to combat the depression that ensues from the darkness, but for some people, it really is a struggle. And even if winters aren't as harsh as you might fear, they are very long, with truly warm weather often not coming until late May or even later. Spring and fall are pretty short. Summers are glorious, rarely getting outright hot and nights always cooler and pleasant. Summer daylight goes on seemingly without end (at its peak, it never actually gets dark here at night, just a little darker than the day).

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Schools & Children:

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

No personal experience but my understanding is that the quality has improved quite a bit in recent years and now there are no significant issues. A few English-language international schools to choose from.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

I'm sure that this would be a welcoming place for special-needs kids but don't have any personal or anecdotal experience.

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3. 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?

A real problem here. The Swedish social service network is one of the best in the world but not available to resident diplomats, except at full price (crazy expensive). Swedes get 18 months off when they have a child, so the expectation is that parents will take care of their kids for the first year. So there are no services available to kids under one year old, even at a price. As resident diplomats, we don't get a year off, but there aren't places set up to help take care of kids at that age anywhere. Local schools starting at one year have a long waiting list, although since you will pay full price (around US$1,800/month per child), you can often negotiate a slot.

Local nannies are very expensive (US$20/hour and up). You can bring in a nanny from overseas as a diplomat but they must live in with you (and most housing isn't big enough to comfortably accommodate) and are still required to have an expensive minimum salary (US$1,300/month or so, plus various benefits). If you have pre-school kids or are planning to have kids while here and don't have a good arrangement already set up, think carefully about a tour here.

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

I would assume so.

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Expat Life:

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

Not too many people here are really expats other than embassy people (the highly educated, English-speaking Swedish workforce, combined with the extremely high price of living in Sweden make the idea of sending expats to come work here not worth it to most companies). There are a fair number of "love refugees" - Americans and others who met Swedes, fell in love, and decided to come live here with them. Morale is a mixed bag here. Everyone agrees that it's a nice country, but the expense, the weather, the lack of affordable help and the insularity of Swedish society are downers.

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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?

Cross country skiing in the winter, running/swimming in the summer. Happy hours and strolls around the city. Entertaining at home. We've been a bit homebodyish, but there is a nightlife scene here. Bars and restaurants are plentiful but expensive.

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

Yes. All around, this is a good place for families and singles. Swedish society is a bit tough to penetrate but those who put in the effort can find social networks to integrate into.

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

Certainly. Incredibly open, tolerant society. Surprisingly not a huge gay scene here (only a few venues) but in part because LGBT have so integrated into society that there is no sense of needing separate venues to congregate. Very large annual Pride parade/festival.

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

Probably one of the better places in the world all around in this respect. The Swedes take gender equality very seriously here. There have been some tensions with the ever increasing flow of immigrants, particularly those from nations in conflict (Somalia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, etc.). There were even riots in the Stockholm suburbs in summer 2013 where they were trashing the neighborhoods and burning vehicles (like in France), which came as a real shock to the Swedes. But as an expat, I would expect little if any trouble here.

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

Midsummer celebrations, architecture and dynamism of this beautiful Scandinavian city.

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

Getting out to the archipelago islands during the summer. Brunch cruise through the Stockholm waterways year round, lots of museums, coffee and sweets get togethers ("fika"). Cross country skiing in the winter.

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

Handblown glass, wooden horses, Ikea furniture (not exactly unique or local at this point!).

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

Clean air, safe environment, incredibly developed. Beautiful scenery, islands and countryside outside the city.

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10. Can you save money?

You're joking, right? Not a chance. The COLA hovers between 80 and 90 percent, but you still burn through money here.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Not much. I had lived in Sweden before, so no big surprises coming back.

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

Probably not. Such a wonderful country and a great place to visit, but living here isn't nearly as nice because of the weather, the expense, the lack of spousal employment opportunities, the high cost and limited availability of pre-school care and the insular nature of Swedish society. Stockholm is also not a particularly cheap or easy point from which to quickly get away to other locations that don't share the same weather and expense. Like I said, it's definitely a very nice place, but knowing what I now know, I would probably have preferred to go somewhere else instead.

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

Dreams of a hot summer.

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4. But don't forget your:

Wallet, parka.

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo: Book 1 of the Millennium Trilogy (Vintage Crime/Black Lizard) and anything by Ingmar Bergman.

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

Millenium trilogy (Stieg Larsson).

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7. Do you have any other comments?

I don't mean to be down on Sweden. There are lots of good reasons why Sweden enjoys a wonderful reputation around the world and why it sounds like such a cushy gig. But people should be aware of the drawbacks as well. This could be exactly everything you're looking for, but for others it might pose challenges (all the more frustrating when you haven't enjoyed it, but everyone feels you got so lucky and now "owe" having to go to a tough place next). If you're looking to save money here, you've picked the wrong country.

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Stockholm, Sweden 10/16/08

Background:

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

No. Cairo, Egypt.

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2. How long have you lived here?

2 years.

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

Government - I am here for my spouse's job.

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4. Travel time and best routes to this city from Europe or the US:

From East Coast of U.S. 14-16 hours. Go through Copenhagen, Denmark, or through Reykavik, Iceland.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Nice, however, VERY expensive.

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

Super expensive. Everything is at least double what is costs in USA.

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

Green Chile, vanilla, baking soda.

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

Many Swedish restaurants available, both traditional and up and coming chefs with new ideas. Pizza parlors, Chinese, Thai, cafes everywhere, American chains (Fridays, Hard Rock, Mc Donalds, Burger King, Quiznos, Pizza Hut ).

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Daily Life:

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

I have access to both. Rarely use local mail, but it is available. You are taxed with incoming mail from family and friends.

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

Available, but I have never had one because they cost a lot. Just a babysitter (High school girl) charges 70 SEK (Around US$10.00) per hour. Nannies and house cleaners are more.

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

Very accessible, you will be charged the handling fee, of course.

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4. What English-language religious services are available locally?

Yes, several available. Big on Lutheran here

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5. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

Yes, very accessible.

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

Some for fun or if you go out far into the countryside. Everyone, almost, speaks English

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

Slightly a problem, but I think most handicap people can get around e.g., there are ramps, special busses,rails in restrooms & showers,etc.

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Transportation:

1. Do you drive on the right hand side of the road or the left?

Right.

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

THey are easy and awesome. So accessible everywhere.

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3. 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?

Bring nothing larger than minivan or smaller sized SUV. Parking places & garages are smaller. Parking is expensive, too. Gasoline prices are shocking. Bring your own car parts (Oil and air filters, wiper blades, snow tires for the winter and regular ones for the summer -(Rules in place that you have to change them). Having dealership or garage change your oil can take several weeks to have done, then it is around US$200.00 for labor and parts to have oil change done.

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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?

Buy a phone then buy rechargeable minutes for it when you run out.

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3. What is the best way to make phone calls back home?

Vonage on high speed internet. Cell phones or calling cards.

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Pets:

1. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

Wonderful. Pets are like kids, and well behaved ones at that. Pets must be walked every 3 hours, and not left penned up all day alone

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

Yes.

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

European. Also, a lot of darker colors.

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Health & Safety:

1. Pollution index (Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, or Very Unhealthy)?

Good.

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

Hardly any.

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

Great medical care. If you will be here a long time in the summer you may choose to have the tick borne encephalitis shots (3) as there are so many ticks here. A lot of mosquitoes, too.

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

Beautiful summers with sun that barely sets, long dark cold winters with sun rising barely on the horizon for about 4 hours a day.

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Schools & Children:

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

Stockholm International School - Tried it 1 year, then moved. Did not like curriculum and lack of yearly testing assuring student had met needs for the year. Next moved to British International Primary School in Stockholm (BIPSS).This is beginning our 2nd year at the school, and we are extremely pleased that we did make the move from SIS.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

Some, but not a lot available in English language.

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3. 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?

It is hard to get care if you are not on Swedish State System. For local Swedes there is a program called "Dagis," in which they drop their children off to for the day. However, the parent must be employed or going to school to qualify.

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Expat Life:

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

Large.

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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?

You name it

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3. Morale among expats:

Fair. Less fair in long dark winter months.

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

Yes, very good. Most everyone speaks English, it is clean, relatively safe, very health conscious and law abiding people here.

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

Most definitively. Stockholm hosts the huge Gay and Lesbian EuroPride week and parade here each summer.

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

Some.

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

Numerous museums (Vasa, Natural History, Train, postal, many many more). Learn more about Viking history, and about the royal families through the years, travel into the archipelago on a boat for a day trip or over to near by countries, ski, skate, Ice Hotel, Glass (Crystal) country, Lappland, etc.

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

Swedish Crystal, wooden handicrafts, Scandinavian furniture, a sauna, Swedish wood clogs,

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9. Can you save money?

NO.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Yes, it has been a nice and clean easy place to live. It is almost like being in the USA

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

Hmmm...almost everything is available, if you want to pay the high cost for it.

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3. But don't forget your:

Thermometers with farenheight and your measuring cups for U.S. measures.

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

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

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6. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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7. Do you have any other comments?

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Stockholm, Sweden 08/18/08

Background:

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

Have served at several other foreign posts.

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2. How long have you lived here?

A few years.

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

U.S. Government.

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4. Travel time and best routes to this city from Europe or the US:

9 hours direct flights or transfer through mainland Europe.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Housing is divided into two main types: apartments downtown and houses in the suburbs. Apartments have advantages of walking to work and near all the action, but can be noisy all year, hot in the summer and small. Suburbs of course require longer commute and house maintenance. Some houses have had pest problems. GOPs are often in poor condition.

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

Here's the catch to Stockholm:it's expensive. And I mean EXPENSIVE.Prices can shoot you straight into depression. The grocery stores have everything you need, but most people heavily rely on Commissary orders (organized about 2x/yr) and mail order grocery stores as much as possible.

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

Anything you can carry. Especially high price items such as clothing, electronics, winter gear, sporting gear, shoes, boots, car parts and oil, liquor of any kind. Don't plan on making any major puchases locally (underscore this!).Order it off the internet or do without.

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

Plenty of decent restaurants and tons of sushi bars. For American food we have McDonalds, Burger King, Hard Rock Cafe, TGIFridays, Pizza Hut, Subway.

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Daily Life:

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

Swedish mail is fast but expensive. US$2 to mail a letter to the States or EU.

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

Ha ha ha!! Maids run about US$12/hr and are not very good. You can bring one in with you - this is very expensive and a difficult procedure.

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

MC, Visa, Am EX. and plenty safe ATMs

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4. What English-language religious services are available locally?

All available but limited in scope.

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5. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

Cable TV broadcasts plenty of US/Brit programs in english with swedish subtitles: costs about $60/month. SKY satellite from Britain can be obtained to, at greater expense. International Herald Tribune available for about $3/day.

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

None. I have never seen so many english-speaking foreigners in my life. You'd think you were in the states sometimes. Just ask in English- they will understand you perfectly, from the bus driver to the grocery clerk to the car mechanic.

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

Little. The sidewalks are well maintained and there are elevators in all the subway stations. Handicapped people are often out and about in the city.

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Transportation:

1. Do you drive on the right hand side of the road or the left?

Right.

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

Public transportation is wide spread but expensive - about $3.00 one way for bus or subway using multijourney passes. The subway is limited in scope and most people must rely on buses for at least part of their journey - buses are slow and often full so they don't always stop for you. It's not fun to stand outside in the cold, dark winter waiting for the bus.

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3. 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?

Any car is fine, but you will need snow or studded tires required by law from 1 Nov to 31 March. Owning a car is expensive here - you must pay for registration, yearly inspection, license plates and other car-related costs that are usually waived at other posts. Not to mention the cost of gas - currently about $9.00/galloon. You will get some of that cost back in the form of tax refund, but it is still very pricey. Oil changes at the dealer can run US$300; at the local mechanic US$75. Parking costs a lot, too, and it at a premium. Traffic downtown can be a gridlock nightmare. Ride your bike!

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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. About US$80/month.

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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?

Embassy will issue one for employees. Spouses have a variety of options from a variety of suppliers. All pricey.

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3. What is the best way to make phone calls back home?

Skype.

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Pets:

1. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

Plentiful. Doggie daycares abound but there can be long wait lists. Expensive. Very dog friendly society.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

Most spouses are able to find some sort of job in the Embassy, usually part time. Parents with children under school age tend to stay home due to lack of childcare.

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

Natty. Look casual but smart in public. Ties and suits at the office.

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Health & Safety:

1. Pollution index (Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, or Very Unhealthy)?

Excellent. Clean, fresh air everywhere you go.

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

Little. Usual petty crime; no car jackings or muggings. Parked car break-ins and rare home break ins.

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

Health care in general is not as good as you would hope. Dental care is fine, and many people have babies while at post and by all accounts the care is good. Seasonal allergies are terrible.

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

Sunny and warm but not hot in the summer. No night. Damp and cloudy fall. Mild winter temps with snow. Dark Nov-Feb.

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Schools & Children:

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

Employees are split between a few schools, mainly the Post school, SIS; the British School (BIPSS); Sigtuna boarding school for grades 9 and up. A few families use Swedish schools. SIS is planning to move to a new, bigger facility in the next few years. SIS offers IB program for HS kids and IPC for K-8.Classes are small. Some facilities, such as school playground, are poor but teachers are generally quite good and conscientious. BIPSS runs preschool-Grade 5 and is on a British curriculum and mentality. It is a very small school with limited facilities, etc, but nice playground. Sigtuna is approximately 45 minutes from town and is quite good academically, but is lax on drinking and drugs. Teens should be ready to make mature choices. There are wait lists for all schools.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

Schools will work with you on this.

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3. 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?

Unless you are an EU national, local daycare will be unaccessible. Several bilingual Montessori preschools plus SIS and BIPSS offer preschools.

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Expat Life:

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

Huge. Endless. Lots of Americans married to Swedes. Lots of Eriksson and Citibank expats. Almost every Swede has a relative in the US.

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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?

Whatever you want it to be. Not too many work events. Most are happy hours.

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3. Morale among expats:

At the Embassy, morale is not as good as you would expect. Morale among other expats is much higher.

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

Yes. Stockholm is a modern, clean, safe city. It offers plenty of restaurants, nightclubs, concert and sporting events, museums, everything you would expect from a first rate city. It has tons of marathons. If you are the athletic and outdoorsy type, you will be very happy and busy here. Swedes place a high priority on physical fitness. They all seem to be extremely skinny and buff.

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

Yes. They have an annual Gay Pride event each summer and in general are extremely tolerant.

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

Swedes don't go to church and shun organized religion. They think evangalists are nutters. This is an extremely egalitarian society in reference to gender. Men and women are seen as equal in all things: work, home, and children related.

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

Endless. All the big city things, plus tons of recreational activities only 15 minutes from downtown: boating, ice skating, sailing, hiking, riding, skiing (mainly cross country), running marathons, camping galore, dog sledding and caribou sledding up north, hunting moose in season, fishing, fishing, fishing. There is also nice shopping, movie theatres, bowling alleys, etc etc etc!! Can you think of it -- they have it here.

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

Dala horses, crystal, candle holders.

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9. Can you save money?

Difficult, but can be done. Dining out and bar hopping will wipe out your bank account.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Yes. You can live well and without the daily fear of getting your head blown off. You can drink the water. There is english TV.Drivers follow the traffic laws. What more could you ask for?

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

Convertible.

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3. But don't forget your:

Furniture. This is an unfurnished post. You'll need a room fan for the summer. Bring all the winter/summer sports gear you can think of. Bring hair clippers! Men's haircuts start at US$35.

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

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

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6. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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7. Do you have any other comments?

A terrific post with only two major drawbacks: the expense and the faultering morale at work.

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