Why did you move to Sweden?
I moved to Sweden because I met a Swedish girl who was backpacking around NZ. We hit it off, and embarked on first a distance relationship, after which she came back to NZ for Christmas one year, and then it was more distance. I decided we were sick of the distance, and that she was worth to move to Sweden for, so made it happen.
When did you move to Sweden?
A few days before midsummer, year 2008.
What do you wish you knew about Sweden, when you first moved here?
I wish I knew how long and dark the winters were, this was a big shock when I experienced the first Swedish winter. I also had no idea how expensive some things are (e.g alcohol ).
What’s your favourite part about living in Sweden?
There is so much I like about living here. Probably for me (at the moment anway) it is the biking. There is fantastic infrastructure to make commuting to work on bike a feasible alternative to car-dependant NZ. Also, living in Skåne the landscape is relatively flat, has many small sealed roads that have low traffic volume - perfect for road cycling in other words.
What has surprised you about living in Sweden?
When I first came here I found the people to be much more reserved than I was used to back home, but at the same time I am also surprised about some of the political decisions and how lightly criminals are punished in some cases.
What do you struggle with the most in Sweden?
It would have to be the political correctness (PC). So many people are afraid to breach controversial yet very relevant topics such as immigration, and this forever fear everyone has of being called or labeled a racist. It also frustrates me that the mainstream media, although claiming to be partial, often obscures or fails to report the full story due to, you guessed it, PC.
Do you speak Swedish? Do you think it’s necessary to learn Swedish in Sweden?
I can speak, read and write Swedish. When it comes to understanding of spoken/written Swedish I would say I have close to full comprehension. Although even after the 8 or so years I have been here, speaking Swedish is still more challenging (and slower - especially when tired) than English and I make grammatical errors. If you have English as a native language you don’t technically need to be able to speak Swedish (the population on the whole speaks excellent English) , but it makes your integration and life in daily/social circles so much easier if you can.
Did you find it difficult to make friends in Sweden when you first moved here? If so, why? If not, why not?
I was very lucky when I moved here that I had my girlfriend’s (at the time) parents who took me into their home, and I could live with a typical Swedish family. I lived there 6 months before moving down to Lund. Once I got my job and found out I had some good colleagues that one could even hang out with outside of work, it became easier. In fact, my best friend in Sweden is Swedish.
What advice would you give to someone moving to Sweden?
Learn the language. Once you do that, you can start hanging out with Swedes (rather than just the internationals that many new arrivals do) and achieve tighter intergration. Be aware that especially now, visa issues can muck up your plans and normally involve long long waiting times. I have friends that are waiting for extensions to work visas/sambo visas that cannot leave Sweden until they get their visa. Be aware (especially if you came from a drinking country like NZ, Aussie / US) that alcohol is expensive, and strong beer and wine can only be bought from Systembolaget. In NZ we bought beer by the crate or box, here it is individually by the bottle. That being said, (and it took a few years) I like Systembolaget. It has a great selection of wines, helpful and knowledgeable staff, and reduces the binge drinking culture that plagues us in NZ. Also driving - if you drink, then you don’t drive. The limit of BAC is so low (0.2) that one beer could put you over the limit. The Swedes are pretty responsible when it comes to this, and it’s a good thing.
What do you wish you knew about Sweden before you moved here?
How long I would end up staying (my original plan was a couple of years!) and how many family opportunities I would miss out on .. If I take a bit of a tangent here, when I first came to Sweden it was culture shock. E.g. I compared eveything to NZ etc. Nowadays when I visit my home country I get REVERSE culture shock.