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What are the biggest challenges of moving to Sweden?

Feb 08, 2017 anne_pihl
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Sure, Sweden is a great country. But relocating to this Nordic paradise can still be difficult.

Sweden boasts stunning natural beauty and tops international rankings in just about everything from quality of life to global competitiveness. But moving here is not without its challenges, on practical bureaucratic and cultural levels.

So what are the biggest challenges? This is the question I am asked most often as a relocation consultant. As an Irish expat who has been living in Sweden for eighteen years, I fully understand the challenges of moving to Sweden and know exactly the type of help and support I would have appreciated, both when I moved here and over the first few years. That’s why I founded Relocate to Sweden which provides relocation services based on real expat experience of moving to Sweden.

While everyone faces their own unique set of circumstances and challenges, there are four general areas that most expats struggle with.

1. Visas and accommodation

The key challenges initially faced by expats moving to Sweden are the immigration process and finding somewhere to live. Although EU citizens usually have an uncomplicated immigration process, the huge shortage of accommodation in Stockholm and other major Swedish cities poses a problem for anyone moving here. An extremely competitive and tough property market for both rentals and purchase is a problem faced by expats and Swedes alike.

Learn more: How long does it take to get a work permit for Sweden?

2. Joining the dots

Another ongoing challenge is understanding how the system works in Sweden. Like all countries, Sweden has its own way of doing things when it comes to essential services such as schools, health care, taxation and social security. Even though there is a lot of general information available online, it’s often unclear what exactly applies in your particular case. It’s also often difficult to understand the processes and time frames involved. Language too can often be a barrier when it comes to filling out application and registration forms.

3. Culture shock

Sweden is a modern country and most people speak English really well. So it’s safe to assume (as many expats and Swedes do) that integration will be easy, at least for people moving from other western countries, right?

Wrong. Culture shock is actually a common (and often unanticipated) occurrence, but very real for many expats. Some are hit instantly whilst others enjoy a honeymoon period before Swedish culture shock strikes.

Stress caused by dealing with another language, long winters, and uncertainty about how to behave can all contribute to culture shock. Uncertainty about how to interpret Swedish behaviour – either in the work place or in everyday situations – can also make social interactions more challenging than expected.

Learn more:
Swedish Business Etiquette – 10 essential tips

4. Keeping accompanying families happy

Being at home without any work or social network is usually a very isolating experience for most people and this is exactly the situation that accompanying spouses or partners face when a family moves because of one family member’s job. This is particularly true of dual career couples.

Sweden is also a country where nearly everyone works. People therefore have generally less free time available than in countries where it is more common for one parent to be at home with children. As with a move to any new country, children can also have a tough time settling into their new environment or making new friends. Finding or building the right support network for the whole family is usually crucial for a successful transition to life in Sweden

Fast forward your adaptation

Moving to a new country is always challenging. When everything is unfamiliar or things aren’t turning out like you expected, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. Having someone locally to turn to when you’re you plant yourself on foreign soil makes all the difference. Expert guidance, help with the practicalities of relocating and access to a good contact network are key to a smooth transition.

Expert advice and practical support

Whether you need help with immigration, accommodation, finding the best schools for your kids or getting quickly registered in the Swedish system, Relocate to Sweden can help. We also arrange cross cultural and language training as well as job coaching to help you maximise your chances on the Swedish job market. If you need guidance or practical support, please don’t hesitate to contact us. Sweden has so much to offer and getting off to a good start really helps you make the most of your time here.

Relocate to Sweden provides expert advice and hands-on help for companies recruiting internationally or transferring staff to Sweden. We help your international recruits with the entire relocation process including immigration, home finding, tax consultancy, registration with Swedish authorities, schools, health care, translations, language and intercultural training. Email us at or call us on +46 8 361011 if you would like help. You can also read more about our relocation services at or follow us on social media for tips and advice.

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