"In Sweden, you will often find that information is out there. There will undoubtedly always be a website you can consult (even if using google translate to make sense of it). Yet, trying to look for an answer to a specific question can take forever, and can inevitably result in a draining and stressful process. Visiting the International Citizen Hub Lund, can reduce your search by hours (if not days!), so feel free to ask questions."
Although living abroad is not something uncommon to me, my move to Sweden represented various challenges I did not have to face before:
Our motivation for moving to Sweden was the balance between work and family life, but also the recognition of certain social values that we wanted our son to grow up with (respect, acceptance, tolerance, independence). We were not disappointed when on our first trip to the City Library we were welcomed with “English” and “Spanish” book sections. Followed by a warm and useful drop-in session at the International Citizen Hub Lund, which pointed to us the advantage of having a bike and looking for a suitable preschool for our son. I am sure every experience when moving into a new country is very different, so I want to highlight what (personally) helped me transformed a challenging and stressful experience, into a positive and enjoyable one.
Just before arriving in Lund, a couple of friends put me into contact with their own friends who happened to be living in the city. They shared incredible useful advice on what timelines looked line, particularly when applying to your personnummer and resident permit. But also, about how strict the process of opening a bank account is, and how competitive the rental market can be. Most importantly, they became an opening door for us to ask questions, examine useful websites, and have someone to go out for coffee. We have a saying where I come from: “las penas con pan son buenas”, which means that when you share your struggles with someone these become easier and more manageable.
In Sweden, you will often find that information is out there. There will undoubtedly always be a website you can consult (even if using google translate to make sense of it). Yet, trying to look for an answer to a specific question can take forever, and can inevitably result in a draining and stressful process. Visiting the International Citizen Hub Lund, can reduce your search by hours (if not days!), so feel free to ask questions. People are generally well intended and would love to help you. Same with friends and networks you may start developing, they may have been in that path before you, so take advantage of other people’s experiences. “There is no such thing as a dumb question...” this is true.
You know how in Swedish job adverts there is (generally) a phone number at the bottom of the advert for people to contact the job manager or HR representative? Use that information. Make a call, and enquire. I have heard (directly) from the recruiting parties on how useful it is for them to be contacted in advance, and how it often leads to helping them draw a clearer picture of your competences. I personally feel this can be a bit daunting (and certainly not what I was used to before), but in Sweden the recruitment process is more of a personal rather than superfluous process, where first hand approaches and personal values can often make a big difference between candidates.
One thing I have learned is that Swedish society is really well-structured, with many offices dealing with specific aspects of daily life (taxes, insurance, employment, etc). These offices are intertwined and designed to guide the lives of swedes from their very first breaths. So, when you arrive as a newcomer without a personnummer to identify you, having access to all these benefits can be tricky. Hence, you have to look out for information, understand the most basic requirements, and be prepared to make your case based on the evidence (e.g. documentation) that you have collected. Keeping up to date is vital to assess any changes in legislation while you wait for any resolutions. SFI, International Citizen Hub Lund and Studieförbundet Vuxenskolan are all useful resources to exploit in helping you get started.
I guess this last point is applicable to any international move. Assimilating the culture that surrounds you is key to dissipating that ‘outcast’ feeling. Culture can be: language, traditions, food, customs. Learn the language, listen to songs, keep an eye for the festive calendar, try the local food, examine the supermarket aisles and buy something that catches your eye. Be sensitive to the similarities and differences that fill your daily life, and last and foremost: enjoy.
/ Andrea Sánchez