What living in Stockholm as an expat is really like

Welcome to American Expats, a series that shows you what expat life is like in cities around the world. Today Kate will be sharing about the ups and downs of living in Stockholm. Stockholm seems like a gorgeous, livable city so I loved hearing her take on living there as an expat.

Kate is Canadian, and lives in Stockholm with her partner. Work-wise, she wears many hats, working as a freelance writer, graphic designer, Etsy shop owner, and blogger.

What living in Stockholm as an expat is really like

On moving to Stockholm: My partner and I moved to Stockholm in September 2017. He is in the middle of completing his PhD at the University of Leeds and as part of his fellowship, he is required to do his research out of the Ericsson headquarters here in Stockholm. 

On making friends: Making friends has been difficult in Stockholm. Swedes are generally polite but reserved, so it can take a while before you feel like you’ve really been accepted into their friend group.

Thankfully, there are a few expat groups and clubs for expats living in Stockholm (Girl Gone International, for one) that organize regular meet-ups and events. I’ve also been quite lucky that my yoga studio attracts a lot of expats, so I’ve met quite a few people there.

On learning Swedish: I took a few Swedish lessons when we first arrived so I could better understand some of the simple things: street signs, grocery store labels, numbers.

At first, I naively thought the Swedish language would be simple, but it’s not. The grammar was much more complicated than I was used to. I’m slowly picking up bits here and there (thanks to commercials and jingles), but as everyone speak English I don’t get to practice as much as I would like.

What living in Stockholm as an expat is really like

On getting around: The best way to get around Stockholm is by public transportation. The network of buses, trains, trams and boats is extensive – you can seriously get anywhere in the city with the same ticket! Once you’re in town, it is very easy and enjoyable to walk from place to place.

On the cost of living in Stockholm: Compared to other places I’ve lived, the cost of living in Stockholm is on the higher end. Food and other consumables are more expensive than in both Canada and the UK. Also, going out can be a bit of a shock as pint can easily go for 75 SEK ($8.30).

On Stockholm housing: On average, renting in Stockholm is quite expensive – at least compared to other places I’ve lived. When you first arrive you’ll have to rent via the sublet or second-hand market, as there is something like a 12-year wait list for first-hand rentals in certain parts of the city. The second-hand rental market is unregulated, so you can expect to pay a lot more than if you have a first-hand rental.

How much you pay will depend on what area of the city you live in, how big your flat is, and whether or not it includes amenities. I’ve read that in 2017 the average cost to rent in Stockholm was more than 12,500 SEK ($1,400 USD) per month, which is significantly higher than in other parts of the country.

What living in Stockholm as an expat is really like

On green space: One of the things I love most about living in Stockholm is the access to nature. It’s a very green city with so many parks and nature reserves to explore. Swedes are also really passionate about healthy living so no matter the time of year you can find people out hiking, biking, exploring and just enjoying the city. With bike sharing and so many places to rent equipment (kayaks, skis, etc.) it’s really easy to stay active and have fun in this city!

On Swedish food: Swedish food is pretty tasty! I love all the smoked salmon (lox). I also really enjoy Swedish meatballs. With a little sauerkraut and lingonberry jam, they are the perfect fast, tasty, and cheap meal!

What living in Stockholm as an expat is really like

On coffee culture: Coffee culture – or fika – is huge in Stockholm! It’s a ritual each day to take a break and enjoy a fika (coffee with some sort of sweet treat, like a cinnamon bun) with friends and colleagues.

On the pace of life: The Swedish pace of life is laid-back, but very efficient. Nothing ever feels rushed but at the same time, it doesn’t feel like time is wasted. Lagom [a Swedish word meaning ‘balance’ or ‘moderation’] is very much the cultural norm here.

What living in Stockholm as an expat is really like

On personal safety: Whether home alone or walking late at night, I never feel like I have to worry. Unless I’ve been reading one of the Wallander books (a Scandinoire crime series), then I’m a little more on edge and cautious haha.

On the winters: People seem to have this impression that Sweden is freezing, but it actually isn’t that bad. It does snow and it does get cold, but compared to parts of Canada and the US, it’s quite mild.

What living in Stockholm as an expat is really like

Thank you so much, Kate!

P.S. What Living in Tanzania as an Expat is Really Like and The Real Truth About Dating as an Expat.

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