"One sentence in one of these sessions stuck with me, 'A lot of you expats have a lot of skills that we need in Sweden but you’re all invisible at the moment. With proper networking and using your LinkedIn, you need to gain that visibility to be able to land a job.' The initial year or so might get a bit tough on your nerves so find ways to be involved – there are a lot of NGOs to get involved in based on your interests – I am an admin and a board member in 2 of them and you can meet a lot of friendly people there that helps you integrate better."
Having lived, studied and worked in countries as diverse as India, Ireland, mainland China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Lithuania and a couple of summers in the US plus having backpacked, travelled and explored more than 50 countries around the world, my wife and I thought that moving to Sweden wouldn’t be as difficult or complicated as I had just completed my PhD in Oncology (Cancer Medicine) and she was accepted to one of the most prestigious masters’ programmes in Lund University.
Well, we were wrong – she is an EU citizen and I have spent half my life in Europe but Sweden is considerably different from most other countries even from the countries in close proximity.
Most young people in Sweden speak English fluently but Swedish remains the only working language in most setups and almost all the documentation is in "Svenska" (unlike countries like China or a lot of European countries where they make an exception for foreigners/expats). So, learning the basics of the Swedish language would be a good start – and even more while applying for jobs – most jobs are not even published in English.
The first few months were a bit difficult to be honest and the winters in Skane are quite wet, dark and gloomy. Then, I came across this wonderful organisation called International Citizen Hub Lund. If you’re a foreigner moving to Lund from any part of the world, there is no better place to ask for help or help you integrate than International Citizen Hub Lund.
The working language at the hub is English so that’ll make you feel welcome. Lisa, Martina and Maria are incredibly warm and friendly women who are always available to help and guide you through the Swedish systems.
Once I started attending the seminars and workshops, I realized the importance of upgrading my CV multiple times, learnt ways to make my LinkedIn profile quite visible, the Unions around Sweden, the healthcare system, a bit about the Swedish workplace culture and most importantly, the ardent need for networking in Sweden.
One sentence in one of these sessions stuck with me, “A lot of you expats have a lot of skills that we need in Sweden but you’re all invisible at the moment. With proper networking and using your LinkedIn, you need to gain that visibility to be able to land a job.”
The initial year or so might get a bit tough on your nerves so find ways to be involved – there are a lot of NGOs to get involved in based on your interests – I am an admin and a board member in 2 of them and you can meet a lot of friendly people there that helps you integrate better.
The Swedish outdoors are brilliant so bike rides are highly recommended if you’re into outdoor activities – there are a decent amount of sports clubs as well – it can be quite expensive depending on where you’re coming from but that is something that I have done as well to keep yourself positive and motivated.
A lot of us are from more direct or warmer cultures so remember that people in Sweden are very polite but quite reserved – so you might need to make that initial contact or start a conversation – once you get to know them, you will find out that they’re more social than they seem. Sweden will also keep you on your toes to think out of the box so when you do get an opportunity, do not hesitate to ask International Citizen Hub Lund for help.
If you’re moving to Lund in September or January, please remember that there is a bit of a housing crises and it would be advisable to start your searches early and learn a bit about the various housing contracts in Sweden.
COVID-19 has disrupted the way a lot of work was being done but if you have the opportunity, do join either the Kick Start Program or the drop-in sessions that you could register for depending on your availability and the kind of problems you need help with. I have moved to Sweden a little longer than half a year ago and meeting these kind ladies at the hub over some delicious cookies and a steaming cup of coffee and getting to pick their brains over different issues in and around the Swedish system have been one of my personal highlights.
If you’re looking to network, you can reach out to me at Linkedin especially if you’re in a career related to medicine, life sciences, cancer therapeutics and global health.
/ Soham Datta