Sweden and Immigration: Researching the Culture

How I learned about Swedish culture before moving to Sweden.

Moving to a foreign country can feel…well, foreign. It is something totally different than what you are used to, and different can often feel scary. So when I decided in 2015 that I wanted to explore the idea of living in Scandinavia, I started by doing some research. And here’s how.

Research Swedish Culture

It is said that expectations are the thief of joy. So I tried to ground my expectations in reality. Three years before I moved to Sweden in 2018 I started researching Scandinavian culture.

As an avid reader, I went straight to books (see my list in the Tess’ Tips below!) and soaked up a lot of information about both how Scandinavians move through other cultures and how expats move through Scandinavian culture.

This taught me so many important lessons, like how Swedes are reserved, what lagom is, and how to handle the darkness here.

From speaking with many American expats living in the Nordics, I was able to learn about the differences between American and Swedish cultures, and was warned well in advance about how hard it is to find a job in Sweden.

Reading these books and having these conversations also helped to guide my decision of where in Scandinavia I wanted to live (and obviously Sweden won out!).

YouTube and blogs are also great sources of information, but you wouldn’t be here if you didn’t know that already!

Get to Know Swedes in your Area

I was very fortunate to cross paths with two Swedes exactly at the time in my life when I was seriously considering moving to Sweden. You met Rebecka in this post, and from reading it you know that she is a Swede who was studying at the same university as I was back in the US. We became fast friends in 2016 and many of our earliest conversations centered around life in Sweden compared to the US.

I met Linda at a summer job I had in 2017. We both worked in the same building and were connected when I mentioned to my boss my interest in moving abroad. Since Linda works in HR, my profession as well, I was able to learn about careers in HR in Sweden and what she missed most about her home country.

Getting to know Rebecka and Linda helped cement my desire to move here and made me realize that I could make Swedish friends despite all I had heard of how reserved they are.

Visit Your Future Home

When I became more sure that I wanted to move to Scandinavian, I booked a trip here for two weeks in the summer of 2016. I traveled around Sweden, Denmark, and Finland and asked myself over and over, “Could I live here?”

Perhaps because it was a beautiful summer in Scandinavia during those two weeks, but the answer felt like a solid yes!

After this trip to Scandinavia, I started my MBA in August of 2016. During the first year of my MBA, I mostly researched Swedish culture, had many conversations with Rebecka, and thought back to my travels here. During the summer between MBA years 1 and 2, when I met Linda, I became fully committed to moving abroad after completing my MBA in June 2018. It was in 2017 that I targeted the majority of my networking and job searching to Scandinavia. And at the start of 2018, my boyfriend Nick did too.

As the end of my MBA approached, things really started to take off in mid-2018 when Nick and I flew to Malmö, Sweden for the first time to visit the city that we now call home. It was during this trip to Malmö that Nick was able to secure an employment contract and four months later we were living here!

While many things were of course different than expected upon actually moving here, all of the years spent researching and learning about Sweden served me well when it mattered most.

Fun Facts:

  • Each Scandinavian country has different rules and requirements for becoming a citizen. If that is in your long-term plan, be sure to research beforehand!

Tess’ Tips:

Hope you learned some new Swedishness today and I’ll see you in the next post!


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