If you are looking for some info on moving to Stockholm hopefully this will help!
Stockholm is a beautiful city, so it is understandable that you may be considering visiting or moving here – if you haven’t already. Below is a list of interesting and helpful tips to get you started:
To get around the city on public transport you can get a pre-paid, plastic card called an Access Card. These can be bought, with a small deposit, from any info point in the T-Bana (underground/subway/metro) or Pressbyrån. To access the T-Bana lines you touch the Access Card on the pad on the right-hand side to enter through glass barriers.
For the bus, there is a similar looking pad next to the driver. You may notice there is one closer to the door on the front of the bus, but you don’t use this one.
To open the doors to get off the bus you may have to press a button but not always. These buttons are on the handrails next to the doors. They are easy to spot as they are yellow, rectangular boxes with a white button and a picture of a door. Some of the doors have sensors, so if you are stood close by and notice the doors keep opening, take a step back.
The cost of a single journey using the Access Card is just over 30kr, but the longer-term tickets work out to be much better priced. As there are no zones the tickets are valid across the whole of Stockholm, although to Arlanda Airport there is a supplement charge that you pay when you get off.
There are machines in each of the stations where you can top up your Access Card. There is an option to change the language into English, and from there it is self-explanatory. You can top up your card online once you have registered it, but for this you first need your personnummer.
This is equivalent to an NI number or a Social Security number. You need your personnummer for everything. And when I say everything, I mean everything! To join a gym, have a loyalty card at a supermarket…
To get this you will need to go to a Skatteverket. There are a few across the city, so use a search engine to find the best one for you. You need to take a copy of your passport, a copy of a work contract and there is a form to fill out. If you don’t have a job already you can still apply for one, but it is a longer process which requires more paperwork, proof of funds to support yourself and is perhaps more troublesome overall. Most employers will be understanding of you not having a personnummer and can hire you, give you the contract so you can then go apply. You can work while you are waiting for your personnummer to come through, although some companies may not pay you until you have this, if, for example, the personnummer is used as a login to record your hours.
You will need to go to the Skatteverket on a further two occasions. After your first trip, you will receive a copy of your personnummer in the post. This takes around a month to arrive. After this, you need to make a return visit to get measured, have your photo taken and to pay the fee to get your actual card. The fee is around 300kr. The final trip is to collect your identity card.
The queue for the Skatteverket can be very long depending on which one you go to, don’t be surprised if it goes out the door, but it does go down quickly. Inside at the front of the queue, there will be a couple of people who work there, you tell them what you are there for and they will give you a number (and form if required), once inside you wait. You could probably estimate it taking you around an hour.
To work in Sweden you must have a Swedish bank account. You cannot be paid into a foreign account. To get a bank account before you have your personnummer and identity card is nigh on impossible! But fear not, there is one bank I know of that should be able to help you, SEB. This bank can open you an account which has a pre-paid card and then once you have your ID you can then change the account to a regular one. For all bank accounts, you can expect to pay a small monthly fee.
PAYING FOR THINGS
Stockholm is fast becoming a cashless city. Everywhere you go card is an accepted form of payment, even for the smallest amounts, and some places actually don’t accept cash. Another of the quirks is that you may end up paying more or less than the stated price if you pay by cash as prices are then rounded up or down. Also, when in a bar and you are paying by card don’t be surprised if the bartender walks away before you have finished payment. You aren’t expected to wait for them to come back to take the machine from you, this took me a while to catch on to!
This was the first shock I encountered in Sweden – the toilets! In public places, bars and restaurants etc. these are often unisex, there often aren’t very many of them and you may well have to pay for them. For me, and also others I know, this is an ongoing and notable grievance. So, this is always a point of note for all venues I visit.
LEARNING THE LINGO
Sweden offers free Swedish lessons (called SFI) to any foreign person new to living in the country. These lessons are completely free, they provide all learning materials, so all you need to take with you is a notepad and pen. If you are from the EU all you need for this is your passport (no personnummer required if you don’t have one yet!) and a Swedish address – this does not have to be an address that is registered in your name, so I wouldn’t worry about that too much. Yes, all Swedish people (at least in the cities and towns) do speak English fluently, but these lessons are invaluable if you are planning on living here, and I have only good things to say about my experience of this – although talk to other people and they can be less than complimentary depending on which school they attended or the teachers they have encountered.
To register for classes, you have to take your passport (or personnummer) to Vuxenutbildningscentrum. When you enter you will be met by a member of staff. Tell them you are there to sign up for SFI and they will give you a number and a piece of paper to complete with address and contact information. After this, you wait…and the wait can be long! but eventually your number will be called and you will be seen by someone at a desk who will take some basic information from you and provide you with a temporary personnummer if you do not have one. Note: this can be used for SFI classes only. Once you have completed this you will have to take a seat yet again and wait to be called for an interview. This is a super quick meeting with another staff member of Vuxenutbildningscentrum who will decide which level you should start at and show you the different schools in the area for you to choose one as well as the times you will attend class.
They have varying class time depending on if you want to do. As a guide these are: morning (8am-1pm Monday to Friday), afternoon (1pm – 5pm Monday to Friday), evening (5:30pm/6pm-8:30/9pm Monday to Friday, or potentially with fewer days), intensive (8am-3pm Monday to Friday) or weekends (10am –12pm Saturday and Sunday). You will be told these day/time structures are fixed, but you can talk to your school directly if you want to try and arrange something a little different. From the very first lesson it is pretty full on in Swedish, so I would recommend getting an app such as Duolingo to do a little studying ahead of this. You will usually have around 2-3 weeks before your first class, so that gives you plenty of time to get started.
One great point to note about attending these classes if that you can get yourself a student card which entitles you to some discounts for varying things. At the early stages of study this does not include a discount on travel, but if you decide to do the extended studies (this will be after you complete all levels of the initial SFI), then you also get this discount.
COST OF LIVING
The cost of living in Sweden is quite high (and this is coming from a Londoner!). I’m sure anyone who has looked into it has heard that alcohol is expensive, but this is not the only thing that should be noted. In general, food too is on the more expensive end of the scale, whether shopping at a supermarket or eating out. Coffee shops too can make your eyes water, with the chains charging around 45kr for a cappuccino. Renting or buying a house, particularly in the centre of the city, will take a large chunk of your earnings. Basically, everything is more expensive, but this is mostly down to taxes being high. Don’t let anyone kid you into thinking Stockholm is cheap, but also, don’t let the cost of living put you off. It is more a case of changing your mindset into adjusting to a new way of living.
And now on to the good stuff…
Alcohol in Sweden is highly controlled. In supermarkets you can buy anything up to 3.5%, beyond this you will need to go to a Systembolaget. These can easily be found with an online map – or by trawling the streets. Each Systembolaget will have a slight variance in what they stock, but overall they are pretty much the same. They often have a good selection of wines, beers and spirits and you may even come across some things you have never seen before. In Stockholm these shops are open until 7pm on weekdays and until 3pm on Saturdays. They are closed on Sundays and public holidays. Outside of Stockholm they usually close an hour earlier.
Drinking in pubs, bars, restaurants etc. is an expensive habit. The average price of a beer is around 65-75kr (although expect to pay much more for craft beer) and bottles of wine usually start from around 400-500kr, but don’t let this deter you. Across the city, you will find many places that offer Happy Hours (some are far better than others!) and these usually last until around 7/8pm Monday to Friday, or even over the weekend. Check out the Cheap Drinks page to see where you can drink for less.
Don’t be fooled into thinking everyone eats reindeer and lingonberries for each meal. Reindeer, moose, elk and even bear can be found in food markets, but these can be very expensive, which isn’t a surprise when even the more common meats are perhaps a higher price than you are used to. On the other hand, meatballs are as popular as you might imagine. Doner kebab meat is a really big thing here. It is so popular you find kebab shops all over the city, in all supermarkets and it is even found on pizza! I think it is safe to say you will never be further than a kilometre from a kebab. But fear not, Stockholm is full of a great range of cuisines. Sushi and hotdogs are also very popular, but you can find almost any type of food if you look.
So, that’s all the insight I have to share for now, but if there is anything I have missed (or any corrections that need to be made!) or if you have any comments, get in touch.