Are you thinking of moving to Sweden from UK?
The world is full of appealing places to live and the motivation for emigrating to another country is driven by many factors.
When it comes to Sweden, it is the exceptional quality of life that is one of its most redeeming features, though there are many more.
Aided by peace and neutrality for the whole of the 20th century, Sweden has achieved an enviable standard of living under a mixed system of high-tech capitalism and extensive welfare benefits.
Whether it is Sweden or somewhere else you are considering before you move you must spend time finding out as much as you can about your chosen destination well before you take the leap and emigrate.
In this article, we will explore some of the reasons why you should consider Sweden as a possible place to live and how you can make the transition from the UK to Sweden a little easier with our help.
Getting a Visa
Before you even try to plan a future in Sweden, you need to make sure you have all the correct documents in place before you go.
Obviously, your passport must be valid for a start, but you must obtain a permit as well.
Sweden has a range of permit options, and the process varies depending on where you are from and the purpose of your stay.
As the UK is no longer a member of the EU, there are a few more hoops to jump through now.
You need to first apply for a work permit, you cannot enter the country as a non-EU citizen without one nor can you become a permanent resident.
Although obtaining a work permit is not particularly complicated it can be a lengthy process.
However, once you have successfully gained your permit, you can extend it multiple times.
For a full explanation of the immigration process visit the Swedish Embassy website.
Standard of Living
We all want to enjoy a good standard of living, and this is where Sweden excels.
It is not just that the country offers potential newcomers well-paid jobs, decent housing, excellent public services, a strong welfare system and the ideal work/life balance.
Sweden goes one step further and supplies the opportunity to contribute on a wider humanitarian level.
The Good Country Index (GCI) is a yearly study that examines and measures how nations contribute to the common good of humanity.
As of February 2024, Sweden tops the Good Country Index, beating 148 other countries across the world!
Swedish people (collectively referred to as Swedes) are happy people and it shows.
They are open and friendly with family at the heart of everything.
Swedes place a huge focus on a relaxed and comfortable eco-friendly lifestyle.
One thing you can be sure of is that if you decide to move to Sweden, you will have an enviable standard of living with more freedom to emotionally invest in things that matter more for happiness, such as family, friends, and fun.
Sweden offers so much in the way of natural beauty.
The Swedes love nothing better than getting back to nature in their spare time.
70% of the country is forest, one of the main reasons why so many people choose to holiday here!
It is full of dramatic landscapes.
The countryside is teeming with thousands of lakes, freshwater streams, mountains and rolling hills.
A unique aspect of Swedish nature is the allemansrätten (“all man’s right”).
If you love to sleep outdoors, allemansrätten means you have the right to walk, camp, and paddle a canoe almost everywhere, even on privately owned land/waterways.
It is this pure freedom of movement that makes outdoor excursions especially liberating in Sweden and allows everyone to discover true wilderness for free.
You will see the stars at night in a totally different way as there is no light pollution obscuring your view.
Of course, there is always going to be a negative depending on your view.
However, Sweden is not always as cold as you may think, due to the warm Gulf Stream.
Like the UK, there are distinctive seasons.
March, April, and May are the spring months, June to August is the summertime and autumn runs from September to November.
The coldest time is November to February.
You can divide the country into three regions; central and southern Sweden, the northeast, and the northwest, or far north to describe the weather in Sweden.
The seasons will change according to where you live with the southernmost areas being the warmest.
Keep up to speed with what the weather is doing in Sweden in real-time.
The monetary unit in Sweden is the krona SEK (plural “kronor”) and equals 100 öre.
Banknotes are printed in values of 20, 50, 100, 200, 500 and 1,000 kronor.
The coin is available as 1, 2, 5 and 10 kronor.
You can check the exchange rate between the British Pound and the Swedish Krona by visiting the Exchange Rates UK website.
It is a live website which is updated minute-by-minute daily so you can keep a close eye on the best time to transfer your money.
Anyone can legally open a bank account in the country. However, you cannot open an account online, due to strict Swedish legislation.
You will have to go to a bank personally to open an account.
Non-EU/EEA residents without a personnummer (Swedish tax number) will face some restrictions, but they should still have no problem at least opening and accessing a basic Swedish bank account.
You will be asked to produce identification documents such as your passport.
Important note: You will find that you must carry a bank card everywhere you go in Sweden because it is a virtually non-cash society. Shops, museums, and restaurants now only accept plastic or mobile payments.
Taxes in Sweden
Swedish people pay higher taxes than many other European countries.
Most are happy to pay because they see the benefits of doing so reflected in their outstanding public services.
Registering with the Swedish tax system is a must if you plan to live in Sweden full-time.
Standard income tax is 30% and around 25% VAT.
If you earn less than 18,800kr per year, you pay no tax, and over 433,000kr you will pay 31% tax plus another 20/25%.
There are other taxes to pay as well as on your earnings just as you do in England.
Inheritance tax, property tax, and VAT all need to be paid in Sweden.
For an overview of the county’s tax systems and payments click here.
Cost of Living in Sweden
Whilst having a high standard of living is important, you also need to ensure that you can afford to live in Sweden.
It is also handy to know how much daily necessities cost compared to the UK.
It is well known that Sweden is expensive, but this is offset by the high weekly average wage of 8740.70 kr (£669) slightly higher than the UK average of £663 according to the ONS.
That said there are many incidences where Sweden is cheaper.
The best place to check what your monthly outgoings might be is by visiting the Numbeo cost of living website where you can do a direct comparison with the UK.
According to their research here are some cost comparisons between Italy and the UK:
- Eating out at an inexpensive restaurant is 63.3% cheaper in Sweden than in England.
- Imported beer per bottle is 25.3% more expensive in Sweden.
- A regular cappuccino is 3.6% more expensive in Sweden.
- Fruit & Vegetables are generally between 7 – 56% more expensive in Sweden.
- Basics such as bread, eggs, cheese, and meat are all more costly in Sweden.
The good news is there are some items you will save on:
Domestic and imported beer is cheaper by almost 23.3% in Sweden.
Cigarettes are far cheaper and cost less than half what you would pay in the UK.
Where you will make the most savings is on your monthly utility bills.
In Sweden, basic utilities cost an average of £79.87 per month, staggeringly lower than the UK average of £253.80.
Whilst the cost of childcare is a very real problem in the UK, in Sweden the cost is incredibly low enabling both parents to work with the benefit of hardly any financial burden.
Rental costs are also lower in Sweden in some cases by as much as half, especially when you move away from the larger cities!
As you can see, there are many ways you will be saving on your outgoings when you live in Sweden.
Finding a Job
Sweden’s job market is very competitive, and many employers require you to be fluent in Swedish.
The good news is that many Swedes speak English so there are plenty of opportunities for work if your knowledge of Swedish is basic.
However, it will definitely go in your favour if you are taking a Swedish language course.
Because a Swedish company will have to defend why they hired an ex-pat over a native Swede, those looking to move to Sweden should have at least a university degree.
Swedes are at the forefront of innovation.
Being a small country means that exports are vital to Sweden.
This drives a dynamic business environment, where international talent is in high demand.
You will be at a distinct advantage if you are a software programmer.
As the home of internationally recognized brands like Erickson, Skype, IKEA, and Spotify, the demand for software programmers rises each year in Sweden.
Other notable in-demand jobs include doctors, nurses, dentists, carpenters, teachers, and engineers to name a few.
There are plenty more skills in short supply and some do not require you to speak Swedish.
To find out if your skills and experience could be in demand visit the “expatrist” website here.
Many online sites can be used to find job opportunities for foreigners in Sweden one of them is JobsinSweden.se
For help on how to go about applying for a job such as compiling your CV and cover letter, visit this handy website here.
Working in Sweden
Working conditions are excellent. You will be expected to work hard and perform well but in return, there are plenty of rewards.
At least 25 days of paid leave is the norm for Swedes.
Sweden has very generous conditions for parental leave.
There is permission for up to 480 days of paid leave (up to 80% of your salary) per child.
Of these 60 days are reserved for each parent
When you are off work due to illness you are entitled to sick leave pay from your employer.
Your first sick day is unpaid, but thereafter you will receive up to 80% of your salary.
The office environment is relaxed with everyone being referred to on a first-name basis with a notable lack of formal titles.
As much as 70% of employees belong to a trade union.
However, unlike in the UK, unions and employers work very closely together to ensure fairness and clarity for their workers.
The coffee break, or “fika” in Swedish, is an important feature of Swedish workplaces.
In an informal environment, you can talk to your colleagues or boss about work and private matters.
You will find that there is a culture of fairness and equality in the workplace.
Sweden’s anti-discrimination legislation ensures that everyone has the right to be treated equally regardless of ethnicity, religion, gender, age, sexual orientation, or functional disabilities.
It is no surprise that well-organised Sweden has one of the most efficient and affordable public transport systems in the world.
By air, land or sea, all modes of transport are very clean, user-friendly, and frequent.
You can save money by buying a monthly travel pass.
There are various types of passes according to each city’s bus, metro or tram system.
Sweden is served by four international airports: Stockholm Arlanda, Göteborg Landvetter, Stockholm Skavsta Airport and Sturup Airport in Malmö.
These airports serve continental Europe, the UK and Ireland and the US.
Plus, there are regular ferry connections to various destinations in Sweden to and from Finland, Poland, Germany, and Norway so you can explore other countries when you get the opportunity.
Driving in Sweden
Whilst many opt to use public transport in larger areas, this is not possible for those who reside further out.
You can drive legally in Sweden on a UK licence, but if you are planning to stay for longer you can change it to a Swedish driving license.
You can apply for a Swedish license from the Swedish Transport Administration (Trafikverket).
Driving is the ideal way to explore the wonders of Sweden.
It is entirely possible to drive for miles without passing a single car.
But if you’re planning a road trip to Sweden, it’s essential you’re fully prepared ahead of time as driving there are some differences to the UK.
- Drivers must be over the age of 18.
- Seatbelts are compulsory.
- Dipped headlights must be used in daylight hours on all roads.
- Crash helmets must be worn if you drive a motorcycle or moped.
- You drive on the right and overtake on the left. Vehicles from the right generally have Opposite to the UK.
- On-the-spot fines are issued for traffic violations.
- Be speed aware. Limits are between 60km/h and 100km/h. On motorways, the limit is 120km/h.
Unlike the UK there are some things you need to bear in mind on Swedish roads:
- It is common on quieter roads to find large animals such as moose and elk crossing.
- There are no petrol stations on Swedish motorways. Always ensure your tank is full for long journeys.
- Parking can be an issue in some larger areas and there are restricted zones. Parking illegally will incur a large fine.
- You must prepare for travel on the roads in winter conditions.
- Between 1 December to 31 March all vehicles must use winter tyres when there are winter road conditions.
- In an emergency, you need to dial 112.
It is both interesting and comforting to know that when you compare the best healthcare systems across the globe, the Scandinavians have it.
The top five performers are Denmark Finland, Norway, Switzerland and yes, Sweden!
The health system is very robust and extremely well organised with a high number of practising doctors and nurses, who together ensure that patients get the best care and fast treatment times.
Infant mortality is low, and the average life expectancy at birth is high.
Sweden has one of the world’s oldest populations, with a significant slice of the population aged 65 or over.
It is clear when it comes to health care provision, the higher taxes paid by Swedes is put to good use.
The national government is responsible for regulating and supervising the system.
The regions oversee primary, specialist and psychiatric health care, while the 290 municipalities handle care for older people, care for people with physical and mental disabilities, rehabilitation services, school health care, home care and social care.
Health, medical and dental care is divided into public and private sectors so you can choose which suits you best or which you can most afford.
You will not be compromising in any way when you join the Swedish healthcare system.
Cost of Homes
When relocating to Sweden, you will likely want to think about buying a home here.
As rental homes have become ever more in demand in busy areas, many expats find it easier to buy homes in more rural areas and commute to work.
First and foremost: you are allowed, as an ex-pat, to buy property in Sweden.
However, the process and the time it will take will vary based on your nationality.
Depending on your personal circumstances it may be possible to get a bank loan (mortgage) from your bank to help with the purchase.
You must be registered with the Swedish Tax Agency, have a Swedish Civic Number, and have taxable income in Sweden for some time before you can qualify for a loan.
All properties in Sweden follow a ‘bidding’ process.
Namely, the seller provides a starting price, and each interested party bids the amount they want to offer.
Using a reputable agent is advisable if you have little knowledge of how the system works.
Many agents will speak both English and Swedish.
Prices vary from region to region as in all countries with rural areas being much cheaper and interestingly, Sweden is the only country where the predominant colour of houses is red.
It is difficult to quote averages however if you want to explore prices, you can visit one of the many estate agent websites in Sweden such as Sweden Estates.
Like many other European countries, renting a home is very popular.
Rentals are much harder to find in Sweden, so you need to plan well in advance of your arrival.
Apartments can be rented via municipal organisations and private rental and housing companies.
These are called “bostadsbolag” and “hyresvärdar” in Swedish.
If you are looking for a rental property, you can find them on various housing portals, or by searching using the terms “hyresvärd” or “bostadsbolag”.
Most rentals come with basic commodities such as a fridge/freezer, washing machine and oven.
For some helpful up-to-date information regarding the rental process visit the ExpatFocus website.
If you are moving to Sweden from UK with your family, schooling will be a high priority for you.
High-quality education is yet another of the country’s plus points.
The education system is, with few exceptions, public and open to all without fees.
Very few Swedish children attend private schools though there are some available.
Most municipalities supply preschool classes for younger children.
These classes are well attended it is very common for both parents to work.
Children are required to attend school between the ages of 6 and 16.
The education system operates much the same as the UK with three tiers, lower, middle, and upper.
There is no cost for school lunches, transportation, or educational materials.
If you have a child with a disability, there are plenty of schools available for children with special needs.
Older students attend one of Sweden’s dozen major universities and/or one of its 20 university colleges.
Courses are typically taught in Swedish, but course literature is often in English, in fact, an increasing number of courses are being taught in English.
Contact the municipality to which you are planning to move for information on what you must do to enrol your child in the school you want in Sweden.
Taking Your Pet to Sweden
If you have a dog, cat or any other fury friend, the chances are you will want to take them with you to share your new venture.
Importing animals into Sweden is relatively straightforward if you follow the rules carefully.
Pets must be microchipped and have up-to-date vaccination records including a Rabies Certificate.
It is highly advisable to use a reputable pet transporter such as PetRelocation.
A good pet transporter will be able to guide you through the process and ensure that everything is in place before you travel.
Import Custom Regulations
Before you begin to prepare to transport your effects, you must familiarise yourself with the customs requirements for importing personal effects into Sweden.
Prohibited items include firearms and narcotics.
Furniture and personal effects must be used for at least 6 months prior to import to be classed as “used”.
Any new items will require an invoice and import taxes will be levied.
Plus, there will be export documentation presented to customs for import clearance of your consignment, most of which White & Company will deal with on your behalf.
You can find out more about the importation of your belongings here.
Transporting your Belongings
Shipping personal effects abroad requires a specific skill set and one that we at White & Company have honed over our 151 years of moving people all over the world.
There is very little we have not encountered along the way.
If you are thinking of relocating to Sweden, White & Company can provide you with a high standard of service, a reputation that is hard to beat and prices that are very competitive.
Our staff are highly trained in the packing and shipment of personal and household effects to Sweden.
We need to carry out a thorough home survey either in person or via an online video link.
Next, we will calculate your quotation based on the volume of your consignment.
We also offer insurance coverage for your effects; you can discuss how it works with our helpful surveyor.
Plus, we have excellent storage facilities if you don’t want your consignment to be shipped immediately. Again, just speak with our surveyor.
When the time comes, the removal team will arrive at your property and pack, wrap, and prepare your belongings ready for travel by road to your chosen destination in Sweden.
Upon arrival, they will offload all items into the appropriate rooms as directed, saving you the burden of any heavy lifting and stress.
To get your move underway, don’t delay, simply click here to book your free survey.
Max is a seasoned writer and blogger in the real estate and home moving sectors, as well as a knowledgeable source of information for expatriates living and working abroad. His detailed insights have helped thousands of people move and live abroad with greater simplicity and ease.