Stephanie Affentranger

"When setting up my new business in Sweden, I was astonished by the support provided by various Swedish organizations and institutions such as “Arbetsförmedlingen” and “NyföretagarCentrum Öresund”. In addition, much support through workshops and seminars were to be found for free by the national authorities Skatteverket, Tullverket and Tillväxtverket. The amount of free and invaluable support offered by these bodies is certainly an amazing source when establishing a business in the country."

After having made a major leap in life by moving from Switzerland to Sweden, so different in culture, history, political systems not to mention languages, I get rather amused when I’m occasionally met by the innocent mix up of the two countries: “So you live in Sweden – the great country of cheese and cuckoo clocks!”.

Moving to Sweden in 2015, more specifically to Malmö, was truly exciting. And at the same time, it was undoubtedly confusing. During the first period, I was put to a true test. With two small children, a husband who was constantly on duty travel in his new work assignment, I was sometimes overwhelmed by being exposed to a new country, a new system and a new language, while trying to establish a home for our family. After a couple of months, I must confess that I felt a bit lonely. And on top of that, our two daughters where not overly happy at the Swedish pre-school. Luckily, they got accepted and moved to Bladins International School. It was a blessing not only for our girls who immediate loved thier new schooling. It was also easier for me to connect with parents who often found themselves in a similar situation as myself - being a new-comer outside your comfort-zone and without the immediate support of family and friends. In the new school-setting, I soon met new friends and received valuable support needed as a newcomer.

Now, looking back at the experience of getting established in a new country, language and network are perhaps the most important keys to feel at home and get established. Although I got by well in English, soon after our arrival in Malmö I started to take language lessons. I was very lucky to have had an extraordinary language teacher. While guiding me through the intricacy of the Swedish language, he also brought me insights in Swedish culture and traditions, assisting me to better understand and appreciated my new surroundings. By learning the basics of the language and obtaining insights in the culture certainly added a new flavor to my life abroad and speeded up the process to become more of an integral part of the new place in which I found myself.

With reference to network, after having had a professional life for over 20 years in Switzerland where I was surrounded and supported by a huge network, I felt rather uprooted in a completely new environment. However, by the time the family was happily installed in Malmö, combined with my increasing confidence in slowly getting by in Swedish, I decided to establish my own business in Sweden together with a friend. Based on my previous Swiss network, I managed to become the Scandinavian distributor of the company I used to work for prior to moving to Sweden.

When setting up my new business in Sweden, I was astonished by the support provided by various Swedish organizations and institutions such as “Arbetsförmedlingen” and “NyföretagarCentrum Öresund”. In addition, much support through workshops and seminars were to be found for free by the national authorities Skatteverket, Tullverket and Tillväxtverket. The amount of free and invaluable support offered by these bodies is certainly an amazing source when establishing a business in the country.

With an increasing insight of the Swedish system combined with my growing skills in Swedish, our business opened a lot of opportunities to establish networks and to meet new people. Having said that, it was certainly not an easy start. It required a lot of hard work as success cannot be taken for granted. Tremendous conviction and confidence were needed to get through a slow start up. And the covid pandemic did not exactly help us to get the business stable on its feet.

During this challenging phase, I started to look for new networks and sources of inspiration. This is when I ran into and joined the Kick-Start Program from International Citizen Hub Lund. Despite all contacts and events being online due to the pandemic, I soon met very interesting people who truly inspired me. This program is not only for newbies to Sweden but for people who have been in the country for a couple of years. And it is a highly valuable source for getting inspiration and getting to know new people. Through the network, I met a great person who will join me to focus on national growth for my company. I was truly excited about the program and felt super motivated!

In addition to being a great source for new contacts, the Kick-Start Program also motivated me to help and assist others starting their own businesses. With over 15 years of experience in finance and accounting in Switzerland, combined with recently having gone through the process of establishing my own business in Sweden, it was a great joy and privilege to share and support others on their journey.

In my experience, an additional great opportunity for networking is through voluntary work. In parallel with the establishment of my company, I support on a voluntary basis at the kids’ school. These types of engagement also provide a great opportunity for people new to a country to get in touch with other newcomers. Our family have certainly met a lot of new friends and obtained a solid network through my voluntary work at the school.

Together with a colleague, my latest initiative is to start a podcast focusing on Living and Working in Sweden. The aim is to help and assist newcomers by sharing our experience and thoughts about life, work and schooling in Sweden. We have planned a couple of episodes together with the lovely Martina Åkerlund from International Citizen Hub Lund. We will keep you posted to tune in on our podcast. I truly hope it will be of help and a good source of inspiration, just as the International Citizen Hub Lund has been and still is for me.

/ Stephanie Affentranger

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