Living Abroad: Life and Work in Sweden

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After moving abroad in 2018, I still haven’t fully adjusted yet living in Sweden as a foreigner. I have so much to learn about this country, and I would say that I am still living in a bubble.

My work in Sweden is the main reason why I was able to move here from the Philippines. Living abroad has always been on my list!

I love living here, of course, and life and work in Sweden are a lot different than in the Philippines.

Culture and tradition are different. Its social welfare system is on a different level (in comparison to the Philippines)! Work and life balance are definitely there. I am still learning about Sweden, but so far I don’t regret moving, and my life definitely changed after moving.

Soon my husband is moving here, so I cannot wait to explore Sweden with him!

Living Abroad - Work in Sweden

Before migrating to Sweden from the Philippines, I went through a hellish process because of the exit clearance in the Philippines. Unfortunately, if you are leaving the Philippines on a work permit, you need to provide an OEC (exit clearance) which proves that you underwent a legal hiring process.

It took me 4 months to get the exit clearance. What did I get? PHP 500 refund from the airport. What I lost? 4 months’ worth of salary! My move got delayed because of it.

But, that is a different story, so let me tell you about the work and life in Sweden!

Related: What I Love About Living in Sweden

Work in Sweden

There are jobs in Sweden for foreigners. It depends on the industry, but some industries, like in IT, do not require Swedish. I am currently working in an IT company in Stockholm, and luckily, English is enough!

It is a fast-paced environment but there is still work and life balance.

Stress is still there, but it is not tolerated. It is important to mention things like this to your manager because your mental health is more important. As far as I know, there are stress-related sick leaves in Sweden!

The benefits are different from each company in Sweden. Some companies offer free lunch, some companies offer health or fitness benefits, etc. Either way, it’s a win for you!

Common perks & benefits at work in Sweden

I can give you 100 reasons why you should work in Sweden, but here are the common perks & benefits when working in Sweden:

  1. At least 25 days of vacation per year. It is normal to go on vacation for 4 weeks straight during summer! So, expect that work is slow during this season. 
  2.  All are equal & no discrimination. As much as possible, everyone is treated as equal. 
  3. Flat organization. This is difficult for me to adjust because I am used to following a hierarchy at work. 
  4. Family is the top priority. In Sweden, parents have 480 days of parental leave per child that they can use. 
  5. Flexible work hours. It is quite unusual when people stay at the office until past 5:00 PM especially on a Friday. The work hours are flexible and you can do remote work if necessary. 
  6. Free coffee, tea, and fruits.
  7. Free phones!
  8. Health and benefits allowance. This allowance can be used to the gym, etc.
  9. Game room. Because it’s okay to take a break from work!  
  10. Massage room.
  11. Health insurance. Public healthcare is almost free (the maximum amount you have to pay out of pocket is 1.150 SEK per year), but companies also provide private health insurance. 
  12. FIKA. It is a “coffee and cake break” & it is more than that. People working in Sweden know how important Fika is and you cannot say no to it unless you have something really urgent!
  13. Free or subsidized Swedish classes.       

One thing I definitely appreciate working in Sweden is the flat hierarchy. People do not really prioritize your title; they give the same respect to everybody as much as possible.

You can find a work in Sweden even when you are abroad since some companies offer relocation to Sweden where they will process all the necessary documents for you to migrate here.

Life in Sweden for Foreigners

As someone living in Sweden as a foreigner, I did not find it hard to adjust to the country. There are struggles, for sure, but I have experienced life in the Philippines! So, everything here in Sweden is way, way, way easy—except the weather!

Autumn in Sweden - Trees

Stockholm is a city, but you will still see a lot of green areas even when you commute to work! This is nice because you don’t need to travel outside Stockholm to have a change of scenery.

Summer and spring are the best seasons in Sweden, love the long days and short nights. Autumn is the worst though! It is gloomy, always raining, and there’s no sun at all!

If you are wondering why you should move to Sweden, I have a post about what I love about living in Sweden!

Related: Advantages of Living Abroad

What to do once you’ve moved to Sweden

Since I moved to Sweden for work, there is a company (or the relocation partner) that helped me register in Sweden to get a personal number (personnummer), open a bank account, and find an apartment.

In case you are moving on your own, don’t worry because you only need to do these things, and you can do it on your own:

  1. Register as a resident in Skatteverket to get a personnummer
  2. Get a Swedish ID 
  3. Open a bank account, get a BankID and Swish
  4. Register to insurances like Försäkringskassan

More details can be found in my How to Move to Sweden post.

Note: the personnummer is the key to living in Sweden because you can do anything online if you have it. Otherwise, then life in Sweden for foreigners will be difficult!

Opening a bank account in Sweden without a personal number (personnummer)

Living in Sweden as a foreigner doesn’t make that much of a difference. But, living in Sweden as a foreigner WITHOUT a personal number (personnummer)? It is a struggle!

I couldn’t get a personnummer upon arrival because of my residence and work permit’s validity. I had to wait for my extension, so I didn’t have a personnummer on my first 6 months.

It felt like I am here living and working in Sweden but I’m not part of the system! If you know what I mean…

Anyway, I was able to open a bank account in Sweden without a personal number! Here’s how I opened a bank account:

  • Applied for a tax coordination number (samordningsnummer)
  • Contacted a bank to book a schedule (I am with Handelsbanken) 
  • Provided my passport, work permit, and work contract 

It took me a week before I could open a bank account with a personal number. Unfortunately, I still couldn’t get a BankID and Swish because the personal number is necessary for that.

Living in Sweden as a foreigner

As a foreigner living in Sweden, it isn’t hard to communicate since everybody speaks English. All of the public signs and documents are written in Swedish, though! So, it will be good if you know some of the common public signs.

What’s challenging is making friends with Swedes!

Swedes don’t prefer small talk and when I say they respect privacy, they really do! It might take a while to have a Swedish friend, but when you do, it’s worth it.

It is normal to feel homesick while living abroad, and expect that you will be culture shocked. I am lucky to meet Filipinos in Sweden and I also made a lot of friends in my 2 years of living here.

Keep in mind the Swedish word lagom which means ‘not too much, not too little’ or ‘all things in moderation’.

It is a Swedish philosophy for living a balanced, happy life. This is probably why Sweden is one of the best countries to live in.

There are pros and cons about living in Sweden, but work and life in Sweden is awesome!

If you are new in Sweden, here are my favorite resources:

  1. The Newbie Guide to Sweden
  2. The Local SE 
  3. Stockholm | Gone Girl International
  4. Stefan Thyron Vlogs

Getting married in Sweden for foreigners

I recently got married in Stockholm City Hall in March! My husband is not Swedish, both of us are foreigners. So, yes, you can get married in Sweden even though you are foreigners.

I have a post about How To Get Married in Sweden. You can find more details in that post.

I love to work in Sweden because it gave me more opportunities than I thought. Working in a fast-paced company sounded like there is a lot of stress, but if you are working in Sweden, then you can imagine about the work-life balance.

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  1. Hi! Did you have your employment contract authenticated in Philippine embassy? My employer mentioned na required daw po yun. Paano po nangyari sa side nyo?

    1. Hi, Jeca! My employment contract was authenticated in the Philippine Embassy in Norway. They sent the original contract with signatures and then my employer sent it back to me.

  2. Wow! Ang hirap mag work na ibang lahi ang mga kasama mo. Pero, nag hahanap rin ako ng work abroad. Nakakalungkot lang na wala ako mahanap. 🙁

  3. Hello Karen,

    I have a question regarding the employment contract authentication. Does the employer need to be present in Philippine Embassy in Norway to have the contract authenticated? It seems to much hassle for the employer.

    1. Hi! Your employer does not need to be present at the Philippine Embassy in Norway. They can just send the documents by post. But, as far as I know, you do not need to authenticate your contract (red ribbon) for documents issued in Norway, Iceland, and Sweden. You can have it apostillized instead. You can refer to this info from the Philippine Embassy in Norway:

      I hope this helps! 🙂

    2. Hi Mark,
      Were you able to have your contract authenticated? I have the same concern.

      Hi Karen,
      I think the link is only for documents other than employment contracts.

      1. Hi!
        If the document is issued in Norway, Iceland, and Sweden, then the apostille should be accepted. Since “Beginning 15 June 2019, we will no longer physically affix red satin ribbons to documents brought to the Embassy for consularization, or more commonly known as “red ribbon”. ”

        But it maybe still depends on which country… also if POLO is available, it may be a different process as well.

  4. Such good insight! It is a bit of a bucket list item for me to live in London for a year or two….I have always wondered what it would be like to move around the world for work!

    1. It would be nice to try to live abroad and experience different culture too. I am very much surprised with the work environment here in Sweden. I hope you could live in London soon. 🙂

  5. What an amazing adventure! I would love to work for a company that operates like yours!

  6. This is really interesting and I’m truly happy for you – and I guess for anyone who goes after his/her dreams. I also "had" plans of working or moving abroad, but life took a detour and it blessed me with a family of my own. I still consider the possibility, but with a young kid in tow, it’d be hard to leave. 😀

    1. Thank you so much, Rea! All the hard work and disappointments from last year have paid off. I’m glad that you are blessed with a family of your own. That’s probably the best blessing a person can have <3

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