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Staying out of trouble in Sweden – 12 laws you should know about

Jan 20, 2017 anne_pihl
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There’s nothing like an expensive fine or sharp reprimand to sour your first impressions of your new host country. But you don’t know what you just don’t know. What seems self-evident in Sweden is not necessarily so in the rest of the world. Whilst killing and violence tend to be universal no-nos, there are plenty of other laws that many Swedes believe to be standard which often surprise international staff relocating to Sweden. Passing on the following information to your new recruits or international friends is therefore highly recommended to help ensure that they get off to a good start.

Breaking the following Swedish laws can lead to fines and in some cases, even jail sentences

1. Seat belts
Compulsory wearing of seatbelts is often the first surprise many international recruits experience on moving here. Many parents in particular are used to holding young children in the car while tending to their needs during the journey and are unaware that they must be strapped in at all times, however loudly the child might protest.

2. Children’s car seats
Young children must be in car seats. Children aged 0-4 should be in rear facing car seats. Front facing car seats should only be used from 4 years of age. It’s recommended that children should be in rear facing car seats as long as possible, height and weight allowing. Children up to 135 cm must use car seats or booster seats.

3. Cycle helmets
All cyclists up to the age of 15 must wear a helmet. You can also be fined for giving a lift to a child without a helmet on your bike. Helmets are also strongly encouraged for everyone.

4. Corporal punishment
Corporal punishment is forbidden. Spanking, slapping, smacking, pinching, hair-pulling, whipping, paddling – corporal punishment by any name or means is prohibited in Sweden, both at home and in school.

5. Tax returns
Every adult registered in Sweden has to make an annual tax declaration. This applies for both employees and the self-employed. The last date for submission of annual tax declarations in 2017 is May 2nd.

6. Winter and summer tyres
Your car must be fitted with winter tyres from 1 December to 31 march. You should change to summer tyres after this period. Driving with studded tyres during the period 16 April to 30 September can also lead to fines unless winter conditions prevail.

7. Dogs owners
Dogs are not permitted to roam freely in Sweden, although it’s usually OK to let your dog off the leash in forests etc. as long as your dog is biddable and under supervision. Dogs may not be left on their own for long periods either. The general rule is that dogs should be allowed out (on a leash) at least every 6 hours, aka they should not be left on their own for longer than this time. It is therefore common for dogs in Sweden to attend dog daycare while their owners are at work.

8. Littering and environment
Littering is prohibited anywhere in Sweden and can even minor littering can result in an on the spot fine. There are also strict regulations about waste disposal and recycling. Failure to sort your standard household waste properly (according to your building’s rules) or to dispose of other items such as electric appliances or household goods at a suitable recycling station can lead to large fines.

9. Smoking
Smoking is prohibited in all public indoor spaces in Sweden and legislation is currently under consideration to ban smoking from outdoor public places too.

10. Drinking and driving
The easiest interpretation of Swedish drink driving laws is “don’t drink and drive”. Technically, however, you will be fined and are liable for a jail sentence of up to 6 months if you are caught with an alcohol level of at least 0.2 parts per thousand. For alcohol levels above 1.0 part per thousand, you can be jailed for up to two years. Your driver’s license can also be revoked for up to 3 years. To put this in perspective, the acceptable limit of blood alcohol content before a person is charged is LOWER in Sweden than most other countries. You can check out your home country’s drunk driving law here

11. TV license
All households or companies which own, rent or borrow a TV receiver (for example TVs, digital boxes, videos with channel selection, dvd players with recording function, computers with TV-card) need to buy a TV license. Note: The cost of a TV license is not usually included as standard in monthly rental prices.

12. Parking 
The best advice to give your staff about parking is to always ask what the Swedish signs mean to avoid fines. You should also explain to your that they will need to get and display a parking disc (as pictured below) to show how long their car has been parked, where required.


Upcoming articles
Watch out for our upcoming guide to Swedish parking signs

You may also be interested in our published article
Swedish Business Etiquette – 10 essential tips for your international colleagues

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 info@relocatetosweden.com or call us on +46 8 361011 if you would like help. You can also read more about our relocation services at www.relocatetosweden.com or follow us on social media for tips and advice.

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