Expat Stories: Flatpacking your life and emigrating to Sweden

30th May 2017, Eleonora Cugurullo

Eleonora Cugurullo is an Italian serial expat who has lived in the UK for 5 years. After finding that she wanted a change of scenery in the wake of the Brexit vote she took the decision to move abroad again, this time to Stockholm. Eleanora’s diverse experiences means that she is uniquely qualified on what its like to move to Sweden from the UK, in addition to having some quirky comparisons with Blighty!

Expat Life in Sweden

 1. Do you need to learn Swedish to live in Sweden?

This is a bit of a tricky question! In general Swedish people have a very good English, so for my experience only small children and elders will not speak it back to you. Therefore, I would say that for your every day life, speaking Swedish it is not fundamental and you would not have problems in the shops or if asking indications in the streets. However, if you don’t have a job offer prior to your move, it will be difficult to find a job if you don’t speak the language, especially if you don’t have an area of specialization. It also helps a lot to socialize with Swedish and make local friends.

2. Top tips that we need to know about culture shock between the UK and Sweden.

Being myself Italian, I don’t think that Swedish and British are that different when comes to being generally reserved. The main difference is that Swedish are definitely more dry and short, while Brits always maintain a polite facade. Once learned that Swedish communicate in a more direct manner, without meaning any offence, it should be easier to appreciate their honesty and behave accordingly. 

3. Tips on how to find a place to live?

I believe the best website to use to be https://www.blocket.se/ (the equivalent of gum tree in Sweden). It is only in Swedish but you can easily translate by using google chrome as browser. Another website is https://en.qasa.se/, although I find its rents to be more expensive than blocket. My advice is to rent an hotel room or a room via Airbnb for one or two weeks before your arrival, start sending emails a couple of weeks before in order to fix viewings in time. It is easier to rent a room than a whole flat, so if you can’t find a single flat you can rent a room for a couple of months. Don’t be picky: it can be challenging to get your first house contract, so if you can sign one it is better to have something even if a little far away or not as big as you would have liked it, instead than waiting for what it could become months. 

Typical Fika in Sweden

 4. How do Swedish people spend their free time, and how would you recommend integrating?

I live in Stockholm, therefore my point of views might be a little different from whom living in the countryside. Swedish are very sporty people, you see people biking and running even with deep snow in full Winter. It might be a good idea to propose similar activities, or other connected to the nature like camping or just even a simple BBQ. Learning Swedish and showing appreciation for the city and what you like of Sweden (especially if truly genuine), will definitely gain you more points. Swedish are proud of their culture and natural beauties (and they have every right to do so), so at least some of them should be inclined to show you around and share their traditions with a willing foreigner. If you struggle to find friends, you can turn to online groups on social media like Facebook, or Meet Up which proved extremely useful to my self.

 5. How was your move? Did you have any problems moving abroad?

My move was facilitated by the fact that I had some time to prepare in advance for it, plus my boyfriend stayed behind for some extra weeks to box our things and tidy our previous flat. I carried two big luggage with me, but the most had been shipped with a pallet container. This required some time of preparation and especially the fact that someone had to stay at home to receive it and break it apart. It worked, but we had been lucky to have the time for doing this.

6. What was your funniest culture shock moment when you though ‘what the heck’?

Luckily, having lived in different British cities plus Italy, I am very used to different cultures and I try to be as open minded as possible. However the most shocking thing has been the total absence of a cup of tea during working meetings, especially because I don’t drink coffee which is the most popular beverage in Sweden. This will probably be heart breaking for Brits as it is for me! Also, restaurants can be ridiculously overpriced even for simple meals like burgers or pizza, therefore I highly recommend you to be prepared and check the menu before seating down! 

Eleanora also has a YouTube channel where she documents her time in Sweden in a fun and personal way. You can find her first vlog about moving to Sweden below.

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