Corinne is an American expat who originally moved from California to Lund to complete her Masters degree. She now works in the capital, Stockholm, and loves the beauty that surrounds her and the quality of life that she has as an expat in Sweden. Corinne blogs about her life in Stockholm at letters-from-lund.blogspot.se
Q: Where are you originally from?
A: California, USA
Born and raised in San Francisco, lived in Santa Barbara for 10 years before Sweden.
Q: Where are you living now?
A: Södermalm, Stockholm, Sweden
Q: How long have you lived here?
A: One year, been in Sweden for two years (Lund last year)
Q: Did you move with a spouse/children?
Q: Why did you move; what do you do?
A: Moved first to obtain a Masters degree at Lund University, then stayed for a job in Stockholm.
Q: What do you enjoy most about Stockholm, how’s the quality of life?
A: I enjoy how beautiful it is the most. There’s always a lovely view and something interesting to discover in any given neighbourhood. Quality of life is quite good since living standards and economic development are high here.
Q: Any negatives? What do you miss most about home?
A: Although there are charming things about wintertime, it does get a bit depressing during some weeks with how dark and cold it is. Since I’m from California, that’s not something I’m used to and sometimes I miss the carefreeness that comes with an easy climate.
Q: Is Stockholm safe?
A: Feels very safe to me, compared to other capital cities. Serious crime is quite low. And you can trust your neighbours.
About living in Sweden
Q: Which are the best places/suburbs to live in Stockholm as an expat?
A: I don’t know how I would answer that. I judge the best places to live based on the quality of life there, which I measure by how beautiful the area is, whether I like the buildings, if there’s easy access to good places nearby like a grocery store and a few restaurants, and whether it’s somewhat near my friends (who are mostly Swedish). I live by Skinnarviksparken on Söder for now and am very happy there.
Q: How do you rate the standard of accommodation in Stockholm?
A: Quite good, although can be difficult to come by apartments in Stockholm city. But everything usually works quite well and the buildings are taken care of.
Q: What’s the cost of living in Sweden compared to home? What is cheap or expensive in particular?
A: I find the cost of housing to be about the same compared to the expensive places I came from in California. Groceries aren’t any more expensive either, usually. But eating out, alcohol, certain transportation, clothes, etc are all quite a bit more expensive than in California and certainly the States in general.
Q: What are the locals like; do you mix mainly with other expats?
A: I find the locals to be quite nice overall; I always meet cool people through work or friends of friends. I have a lot of Swedish friends here from studying with them in Lund, so I have mostly Swedish friends.
Q: Was it easy meeting people and making friends in Sweden?
A: It has been for me since I started as a student in Sweden, plus I had a few Swedish friends already here that I had met when they lived in California the year before. So it’s been pretty easy for me, but it takes work to still establish yourself as a solid, deep friend as opposed to just a fun acquaintance.
Q: How would you rate the healthcare in Sweden?
A: Have only had a couple brief encounters with the healthcare system but it seems to be very good and high quality, with occasional disorder when it comes to electronic tracking of records and prescriptions (if the system fails things get extremely difficult).
About working in Stockholm
Q: Did you have a problem getting a work visa/permit for Sweden?
A: No, not since the company that hired me sponsored me. Migrationsverket can work pretty slow though, so for me and others I know it took quite a bit longer than estimated, and documentation and communication with them is not that easy.
Q: What’s the economic climate like in Stockholm, is there plenty of work?
A: It’s okay, certainly compared with the rest of Europe. The first company I worked for had a fantastic first half of 2011 but bad second half and had to let people go. The company I work for now is doing great and hiring like crazy. Most people I know who search for jobs eventually find one if they are persistent. It’s definitely harder if you don’t speak Swedish.
Q: How does the work culture in Sweden differ from home?
A: People are less confrontational, there’s less pressure, and less expectations of extra hours, in comparison with the States. The non-hierarchical organisation that Scandinavia is known for is also definitely visible.
Q: Did a relocation company help you with your move?
Q: Is there any other advice you like to offer new expat arrivals?
A: Making friends and feeling like you fit in in Sweden/Stockholm can be difficult. Let Swedes know you are interested in them, reliable, and like to do fun things, and they will want to spend more time with you. Be interested in Swedish culture, and not put off by Swedes initial reserve when you are getting to know them. Be consistent and proactive but not pushy. Play sports, get involved in your apartment’s building association, and participate in social work activities. Put a lot of effort into all this from the very beginning, even if it gets tiring, and things will move along much more quickly and you’ll end up with more worthwhile relationships than you would have if you hadn’t worked as hard.
~ Interviewed June 2012