Stockholm, Sweden Report of what it's like to live there - 05/20/20
Personal Experiences from Stockholm, Sweden
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.
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.
3. How long have you lived here?
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
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)
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.
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.
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.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
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.
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.
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.
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.
6. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
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.
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?
4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?
Sweden is woke to all food sensitivities.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
Yes, Sweden prides itself on its equal ways.
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.
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.
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.
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!
9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
It's very clean. Once you know the system, it's very navigable.
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.
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
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.