Living Abroad: What I Love About Living in Sweden
Living in Sweden or anywhere in Europe wasn’t part of my plan. In 2016, I had a conversation with my now-husband, and he gave me an idea about life in Sweden. Afterward, I started researching about the country then, I decided I want to live in Sweden.
When I was 16, I moved and studied in Australia, but I was too young then. I decided to go back to the Philippines after I finish the program. I love living in the Philippines because my friends and family are there. But, the thought of living abroad stuck on my mind.
Then in 2017, I got an opportunity to move to Sweden and I couldn’t say no to that! I have always wanted to live abroad, and living in Sweden was only wishful thinking! Fast forward to the year 2020; I am living in Stockholm for more than two years. Wow.
After two years, there are a few things I love (and don’t like) about living in Sweden as an expat.
Overall, I have a pretty much good experience living in Sweden, and I also enjoy working in Sweden. I have a few bad experiences, and that’s normal. I also know that it also takes time to fully-adjust after relocating to Sweden. In the meantime, enjoy reading about life in Sweden!
Living in Sweden
Fun facts about living in Sweden
- Language: Swedish, but English is widely spoken
- Currency: Swedish Krona (SEK)
- Largest cities: Stockholm, Gothenburg, Malmö, Uppsala
- Swedish passport is one of the most powerful passports in the world in 2020
- Sweden is one of the best countries to live in (Quality of life)
What you should know before moving to Sweden
Before moving to Sweden, here are some of the social norms and things that you need to know! Some were pretty new to me when I moved here.
- Personnummer or personal identity number is needed to receive healthcare services, open a bank account, sign contracts, or purchase anything online. Think of it as a pass to get the benefits of living in Sweden.
- Sweden is a cashless society. Only a few shops accept cash!
- High taxes but you get your money’s worth! For example, you will have free access (almost) to healthcare and education, and many more.
- Some businesses close down in July because of summer vacation.
- Job titles are not necessary. People will address you by your name.
- You can drink the water straight from the tap.
- You need to take off your shoes when indoor! Same in the gyms in Sweden. You need to bring your indoor shoes.
- Be on time.
- You can only get alcohol content exceeding 3.5% by volume from the state-owned alcohol company, Systembolaget.
- Laundry in Sweden is a big deal! I’ll tell you more about it below.
Cost of living in Stockholm
Since I am currently living in Stockholm, I can only share about its cost of living based on my experience!
Most frequently questions I got about living here are
“How much does living in Sweden cost? How expensive is living in Sweden? Is living in Sweden expensive? Is Stockholm expensive?”
So, to give you an idea about the cost of living in Stockholm, I will share some estimates of my monthly expenses.
|Expenditure||Cost in SEK|
|Apartment||10.000 – 14.000|
|Groceries and Food||2.000|
|Total||15.530 – 19.530|
The largest percentage of my monthly salary is towards my accommodation in Stockholm. When I moved to Sweden, I paid 12.000 SEK (~$1,300) per month for an apartment in Stockholm City.
I moved to a cheaper apartment, and I am now renting a 1-bedroom apartment outside the city center.
The rate of renting an apartment in Stockholm can vary depending on the kind of accommodation. Usually, it is around 10.000 SEK (~$1,100) to 14.000 SEK (~$1,600) per month. But, if you don’t mind having a roommate, you can also rent a room.
You can explore Stockholm county by getting a transportation card (SL card). This SL card gives you unlimited access to the metro, commuter train, railway, tram stations, buses, and even boats!
|24 hours||155 SEK|
|72 hours||310 SEK|
|7 days||405 SEK|
|30 days||930 SEK|
|90 days||2.770 SEK|
|365 days||9.770 SEK|
3. Groceries and food
There are a lot of supermarkets to choose from in Sweden. My average monthly expenses on groceries are around 2.000 SEK (~$230).
Lunch usually costs less than dinner especially on weekdays. In some cheap restaurants, you can get a decent meal for 100 SEK (~$11).
Some supermarkets in Sweden:
It depends on the gym and the plan you choose. Fortunately, I get a yearly health allowance from work where I can spend on gym membership if I want to.
Usually, you can signup for the gym for as little as 300 SEK per month.
Here are a few gyms that you can find in Sweden:
5. Mobile services
I don’t pay anything for this (yay!), but you can choose from a lot of mobile operators in Sweden. Each operator has different plans so you need to find what suits you best.
You would only need to pay around 300 SEK per month unless you are planning to get a phone as well.
Most common mobile operators in Sweden
Other expenses like shopping, buying stuff for your house, or leisure expenses. Some months I only spend an extra 2.000 SEK for this, sometimes less.
Pros and cons of living in Sweden
There are pros and cons of living in Sweden as an expat. Sweden is not perfect, like any other country, but, so far, living in Stockholm has been a bliss. I still feel that I am living in a bubble even after two years.
I haven’t lived in other bigger cities in Sweden; so, I couldn’t compare it. Before relocating to Sweden, I have set a few expectations and I already expect to be culture shocked.
Life in Sweden is a lot different than in the Philippines. It is slow-paced here, and you will love to adapt to the Swedish lifestyle.
I still remember the day I left the Philippines to migrate to Sweden, and what happened during my first week living in Stockholm! Ah, time flies so fast!
I can give a hundred reasons to live in Sweden, but here are the things I love about living in Stockholm.
- Long vacation days
- Reliable public transportation
- Work-life balance
- Gender equality
- Well functioning social welfare system
One thing I love about life in Sweden is lagom which means “not too much, not too little” or ‘all things in moderation’.
It is a Swedish philosophy for living a balanced, happy life. Lagom is probably why Sweden is one of the happiest countries in the world.
I could not understand it at first until I started to learn more about the Swedish lifestyle. Lagom pushed me to find my current level of contentment and appreciate what I have.
Swedes love coffee.
Fika is part of the Swedish tradition or lifestyle where friends, family, or colleagues meet for coffee or tea and eat something sweet.
In the Philippines, we have something similar called merienda where we take a break and have coffee together with people.
Long vacation days
Life in Sweden seems too good to be true, especially for someone who lived in the Philippines. Before relocating to Sweden, I already read about long vacation days (often 25 days, but some companies give 30 days), and it is normal for people to be away from work for at least four weeks, especially during summer.
Because winter in Sweden is long, everybody goes out and travel during the summer, and go where the sun is! Swedes celebrate the longest day of the year called Swedish Midsommar.
It would be such a waste to stay indoors while the weather is good (which is rare)!
Fun fact: you get paid more when you go on vacation!
Reliable public transportation
Somehow embarrassing story: during my first few months here, when people asked me how I like living in Stockholm as an expat, my first response was about reliable public transportation!
I mean… in the Philippines, I would need to spend 4 hours commuting to and from work even though I can go home within 30 minutes if there’s no traffic!
Anyway, I am only living in Stockholm; so, I don’t how it is in other cities. But, public transportation in Stockholm is reliable and accessible.
You can purchase a transportation card with unlimited access to the metro, commuter train, railway, tram stations, buses, and even boats!
I already had an idea about the work-life balance before relocating to Sweden. It is one of the reasons why I want to move to Sweden.
- 480 days of parental benefit for one child.
- Minimum of five weeks of paid vacation.
- Paid sick days (with small deduction).
- The healthy boundary between work and life
- 40 hours work per week, but flexible
Related: Life and Work in Sweden
Sweden is one of the top 10 countries in the world for gender equality. This is very much evident since I started living in Stockholm (and comparing it to the Philippines).
The pay gap between men and women in Sweden is getting closer. But, men still get over 11% more compared to women.
Also, it’s normal to see fathers pushing prams everywhere!
Well functioning social welfare system
The Social Welfare System in Sweden is one of the best (best, not perfect) in the world.
In terms of social benefits, you see where the taxes are going!
The Swedish healthcare system is not 100% free, but the maximum amount you have to pay out of pocket is 1.150 SEK per year.
If you are working in a company, you will also get health insurance where you can avail of private healthcare.
Dentists are expensive though!
- Monetary support for children up to 16 years old
- 480 days of parental leave per child
- Special benefits to care about sick and disabled children
- Housing allowance
- Benefits if you are not able to work
- Unemployment benefits
- Benefits for anyone who can’t get a reasonable standard of living
If you are curious about the Swedish Social Insurance, you may visit Försäkringskassan.
In Sweden, education from ages 6 to 19 is free. As far as I know, Sweden also provides free lunch for students!
In the Philippines, recycling is a foreign concept. Although it is encouraged, it is still hard to practice recycling there.
Before relocating to Sweden, I had to check how to recycle since this concept is new to me. In my first apartment, the recycling station is around 15 minutes walk; so, I had one cabinet full of recyclables!
- Newspapers, flyers
- Colored glasses
- Clear glasses
- Light bulbs
- Can and bottle deposit system
Of course, there are cons to living in Stockholm! These are my personal opinion, so it might be different from others!
- Long and dark winter
- It’s difficult to make friends
- Afraid of conflicts
- You need to get medical appointments much in advance
- Laundry in Sweden
Long and dark winter
Coming from a tropical country, dealing with winter is new to me. Winters in Sweden are harsh, long, and dark!
In my first year of living in Stockholm, I took advantage of summer (I arrived in spring). I didn’t understand why people in Sweden love to go outside and stay in the sun until I experienced the darkness that they were talking about.
Only 6 hours or less of sunlight is not fun!
It is not easy to make friends
People can be cold or distant as well, and it takes time to get along and befriend a Swede. But, once you get close to them, you will see they are fun and friendly.
Small talk is not a thing here, but you will always find yourself talking about the weather!
If you just moved to Sweden, you can join Facebook groups to meet people.
You need to start looking for apartments before relocating to Sweden because there is a huge lack of rental apartments, especially in Stockholm.
I would say finding an apartment in Stockholm is one of the struggles of my life in Sweden. You will rarely find a long-term contract. Usually, it is six months with the possibility of extension.
I have more detailed information about how to find an apartment in Stockholm.
You need to get medical appointments much in advance
While it is an advantage that Sweden has universal healthcare, sometimes you need to get your medical appointments much in advance!
I know some people needed to wait around three months for their appointment. If it is an emergency, getting an appointment wouldn’t take that long!
Laundry in Sweden
One thing I noticed about living in Stockholm is the laundry rooms are a big deal! I am not kidding. If you are an expat in Sweden, I’m sure people have brought up about the laundry rooms.
Most apartments in Stockholm don’t have a washing machine or dryer in the bathroom, so you need to book an appointment for your building’s laundry room.
The laundry room is free, and you get 3 – 4 hours to use it. Don’t mess this up because you won’t have an option. Sometimes, it’s difficult to book the room!
Tip: Before signing a contract, check if there are a washing machine and dryer in your apartment. If none, check if the laundry room is in the same building.
I went to see an apartment before and found out that the laundry room is in a different building!
Learning Swedish helps you integrate while living in Sweden as an expat. Sure, English is widely spoken, but Swedish is still the first language here.
I had a few attempts to study Swedish consistently, but my mind is not there yet! In Sweden, there are SFI (Swedish for Immigrants) courses that you could enroll at.
I like learningswedish.se more because I can study Swedish at my own pace and it’s free!
I didn’t expect this post to be this long, but I hope you get an idea about life in Sweden! Of course, no country is perfect. I love living in Sweden, especially in Stockholm, because of the good experiences.
There is still a lot to learn about Sweden, and I really should try to visit other cities!
If you are new in Sweden, here are my favorite resources: