Living in Sweden

A reference guide for living in Sweden

Relocating and living in a new country involves handling many practical issues from day-to-day. This guide is our way to help you find answers to some of the most common questions international visitors face living abroad in Sweden.

Photo from: pixabay.com
Photo from: pixabay.com

Click the +/- symbol beside each topic listed below to find information about it. Do not hesitate to contact us for additional queries or if you are in need of support.

Airlines

The major airlines in Sweden for domestic flights are SAS, Norwegian and Malmö Aviation. There are also regional airline operators such as Sverigeflyg.

Airports

Arlanda Airport is Sweden’s largest airport and the main airport for travelling to Stockholm and Uppsala. It is located approx. 40 km north of Stockholm city. To get to and from the airport you can travel by express train (Arlanda Express), by regular train (SJ) (the train terminal is located underground the terminal buildings), by bus (Flygbussarna) or by public transportation (SL) or by car.

Bromma Airport is a smaller airport located about 10 km west of Stockholm city. Bromma airport has flights to domestic and a few international destinations.

Kastrup Airport is located just outside the city of Copenhagen, Denmark, and a good option when travelling to Malmö. It is the largest airport located in the Malmö region. The easiest way to travel to Kastrup is by train (Skånetrafiken). The train terminal is located right next to the terminal building and has regular connections to Malmö Central station.

Malmö Airport (Sturup) is a smaller airport located about 30 km east of Malmö city. Malmö airport has flights to domestic and a few international locations. To travel to Sturup you can take the bus (Flygbussarna) or a taxi.

Banks

The four main consumer banks in Sweden are Handelsbanken SEB, Swedbank and Nordea. You will need a national registration number, “personnummer” to open a bank account. Then you can visit a local bank office to open a personal account. Thereafter, you can handle most of your bank matters on the internet. All banks offer an “internet bank” where you log on and pay your bills etc. Bank Website Internet bank Handelsbanken Swedish & English Also available in English Swedbank Swedish & English Only Swedish, pdf manual in several languages SEB Swedish & English Only Swedish, pdf manual in English Nordea Only Swedish Only Swedish Banking hours Bank offices are generally open from Monday to Friday, between 10.00 am and 3.00 pm. Many branches have extended opening hours at least once a week (until 6.00 pm in larger cities). Banks are closed at weekends and public holidays.

Dental care

If you are suffering from toothache or just need a check-up, you choose whether to go the public dental service or a private dentist. The public dental service (called Folktandvården) is available locally throughout Sweden (find your local clinic on www.folktandvarden.se) as are private dentists.

The biggest difference between dental care and medical care in Sweden is that you pay a higher proportion of the cost for dental check-ups and treatment yourself. Prices and guarantees for dental care may vary between different dentists and dental hygienists. There may also be differences depending on where in the country you live. Therefore, you should always ask your dentist or dental hygienist about their prices and guarantees before undergoing any dental procedure.

Dental care for children and young people

Everyone who is registered as resident in Sweden is entitled to free dental care up to and including the year they turn 19, regardless of whether they use a public or private dentist (tandläkare).

Dental care for adults

Adults (from the age of 20) pay a large part of their dental care costs themselves. However, they also receive financial support from the state. In order to receive this support, you will have to see a dentist or dental hygienist who is affiliated to Försäkringskassan (the Swedish Social Insurance Agency).

Each year, everyone over the age of 20 receives a dental care grant of SEK 150 or 300. You can save the grant for two years and use it on one occasion, but you cannot save more than two grants at a time.

Furthermore there is a ‘high cost protection’, which means that the state will step in and pay for certain parts of dental care costs that exceed SEK 3,000 in one year. The first SEK 3,000 is always paid by the patients themselves. However, not all types of treatment are included, and it is not always possible to include the entire cost in the high cost protection. Therefore, you should always ask your dentist or dental hygienist what the treatment is expected to cost.

Emergency dental care

If you need emergency dental treatment you should first go to your own dentist. If you or your child should suffer a serious dental injury at night, or in connection with an accident, you can call 1177. You will then be referred to an on-call dentist who will carry out emergency surgical procedures.

Driver's license

A foreign driver’s license is valid for a maximum of one year starting the date you register at the local tax office. After one year you need to obtain a Swedish driving license. To obtain a Swedish license, you need to pass a driver’s test, which includes a written theory test and a practical driving test. A vision test is also required.

Sweden, like most European countries, has right-hand traffic. The legal driving age is 18 and you are expected to have your driver’s license with you when driving. Unless stated otherwise, the speed limit is 30 km/h around pre-schools and schools, 50 km/h in urban areas, 70 km/h outside and 110-120 km/h on motorways. All cars must drive with at least dipped headlights. Seatbelts are compulsory for the driver and all passengers, both front seats and back seats. Children up to height of 135 cm, must always travel in a suitable child safety seat in the car (according to Swedish law). Note also that the laws on drinking and driving are very strict and such behavior is not socially accepted. The maximum permitted blood alcohol level when driving is 0.02%.

Electricity

In general, electricity is not included in the rent of your accommodation. Therefore before you move into a new home in Sweden (apartment or house), you need to sign a contract with the local electricity network operator, to ensure that you will have electricity by the time you move in. The local electricity network operator can also be you electricity supplier, but you can choose which electricity supplier you wish to buy from. If you choose an electricity supplier other than your network operator, you need to sign a separate contract with your chosen electricity supplier.

Two contracts

As a consumer, you have two separate contracts, one with the electricity network operator and one with an electricity supplier. One contract is a network contract that you have with the electricity network operator that owns the power transmission and distribution network where you live. The other contract is an electricity supply contract that you have with the company from which you buy your electricity – your electricity supplier. If the electricity supplier and the network operator are part of the same group, you will usually receive just one invoice. Otherwise you normally receive two invoices – one from the network operator and one from the electricity supplier.

What do I pay?

The network operator charges you for the operation and maintenance of power lines. You often pay a subscription fee and a base rate charge for every kilowatt hour (kWh) of electricity that you consume. Since you cannot choose a network operator, you cannot shop around for the best operator price. You are however free to choose your electricity supplier.

Your electricity supplier charges you for the electricity you use. It will offer you a choice of contracts, e.g. for electricity at a fixed price or a variable price. Normally it will also charge a fixed annual fee. If you sign a contract for electricity at a fixed price, this contract will be binding for the duration of one, two or three years. A variable price follows developments in the electricity market and changes without any prior notification.

In addition to what you pay the network operator and your electricity supplier, you will have to pay an energy tax, an RECS fee and other fees payable to authorities (for electrical safety, network monitoring and stand-by electricity) plus VAT. The energy tax varies throughout Sweden, while VAT and other fees to authorities are the same throughout Sweden.

The network operator is responsible for reading your electricity meter at least once a month. This is done by remote reading. This means that the network operator can read your meter automatically without having to come to your home.

When moving out – Cancel both contracts at least one month in advance

You are liable for payment up to one month after you have given notice that you are moving out. You must therefore give notice to cancel both your network contract and your electricity supply contract at least one month before you move. To cancel the contracts, contact the operator’s and the supplier’s customer service departments. You may submit a written or spoken notice of cancellation.

Food stores

To shop for food, look for the following chains: ICA, Coop, Hemköp, City Gross, Willy:s, Lidl and Netto. All larger food stores are open all days of the week, usually from 8.00 until 20.00, some until 22.00.

Holidays

Sweden has numerous holidays and many observances every year. Please refer here for holidays and observances in Sweden for 2015.

Personal identification card

A personal identification card (legitimation) is a card on which the bearer’s photo and personal number are registered. Having an ID card will help in any contact you may have with Swedish authorities. It will also make it easier for you to open a bank account. To obtain a Swedish ID card you must be registered as a resident. ID cards are issued by the Swedish Tax Agency (Skatteverket).

To apply for an ID card:

  1. Make an advance payment of the application fee of 400 SEK to bankgiro 389-0100 or plusgiro 50 40 62-1. If you pay via the Internet, add your “personnummer” in the field for reference/information, and make a printout of the confirmation of payment. Make your payment at least one day ahead of visiting the tax office.
  2. Go to a Tax Agency office that issues ID cards.
  3. Bring a receipt for payment of the application fee. If you cannot prove that you have paid in advance, they will not accept your application.
  4. Bring an approved ID document.  If you do not have an approved ID document you can bring a foreign passport and your proof of residence permit. You can also show your identity by bringing an approved attestor or other documents that you believe could be used in a balanced assessment. Do not take a photograph with you, you will be photographed at the office.

Normally, it will take around two weeks for your card to be produced. When the card is ready, you will receive a letter from Skatteverket. This will tell you that five days later you will be able to collect your card from the office where you applied for it. Keep the letter and take it with you when you got to collect your card. You must collect the card in person, because you will have to sign a confirmation that you have taken possession of the card.

Insurances

When you live in Sweden, you will need two types of insurance, home insurance (hemförsäkring) and personal accident insurance (olycksfallsförsäkring). Swedish HealthCare can help you with your insurance needs.

Leave of abscences

Annual leave
Most employed Swedes have 25 days of paid annual leave each year. However, all leave from the workplace must be pre-approved by the employer. Therefore you need to apply for your annual leave well in advance, and wait until your request is approved before making any plans and booking tickets.

Sick Leave
If you are sick and cannot attend your classes and/or work, you need to contact your employer or school.

Medical care

Primary care centres (Vårdcentraler)
The primary care centre (vårdcentralen or husläkarmottagningen), treats adults and children for non-urgent illnesses and complaints, e.g. sore throats, a high temperature in children, urinary infections, allergies, dizziness, backache and chronic illnesses such as diabetes. At the primary care centre you can also have your blood pressure taken, wounds dressed and stitches removed after minor surgical operations, as well as receive advice and support in how to stop smoking or lose weight. You can also speak to someone if you feel depressed or worried. If the family doctor (husläkaren) at the primary care centre feels that you need specialist care (specialistvård), you will be referred to a specialist clinic (specialistmottagning).

If you or your family member is ill, your first contact should be with your local primary care centre (vårdcentral). There are both private and public primary care centres. Book an appointment by calling in advance.

You can also, 24-hours a day, seven days a week, call the Medical Advice number, 1177, to get:

  • medical advice from a registered nurse,
  • advice on how to take care of yourself, or
  • information on where you can go if your condition calls for care by a physician.

For poison information call 08-33 12 31 during daytime, after hours call 112.

For emergencies or life-threatening situations, call 112.

Pharmacies

Prescriptions can be filled at local pharmacies called “apotek”. These are open during normal shopping hours. 24-hour service is usually available only in the major cities. Over-the-counter medicines may additionally be available at supermarkets and gas stations.

Postal services

The Swedish Post Office has recently been restructured. Mail and packets can now be picked up at a number of places, including gas stations, supermarkets and kiosks. Look for the blue and yellow sign above or by the entrance of outlets providing this service. You can also buy stamps and conduct most other errands at these outlets, many of which stay open late in the evening and on weekends.

There are also traditional post offices offering the full range of services. They are usually open between 9.30 a.m. and 6.00 p.m. and may have extended opening hours once or twice a week. Yellow post boxes are for national and international letters and blue for regional letters.

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Personal registration number (required for work, citizenship, care, etc.)

You can register with the civil registration authorities at your local tax office, “Skatteverket”. You will then be given a ten-digit national registration number, or personal identity number (personnummer), based on your date of birth plus four extra digits. For example, if you were born on May 25, 1986, it might look like this: 860525-1045.

To apply: bring your passport, a letter of acceptance from your educational institution, documents from the Swedish immigration authorities and, if you are married, your marriage certificate. If you have children, you need to bring a birth certificate for each child. On registration, you will be entitled to medical benefits through the Swedish National Health Insurance System. When seeing a doctor, for instance, you will be asked for your personal identity number.

Restaurants

For lunch, most restaurants serve a today´s special (dagens rätt) for about 60-80 kronor. If you visit a restaurant in the evening, you should be prepared to pay about 100-200 kronor for an average dish. If you want to try some typical Swedish fast-food, you can go to a hot-dog stand (korvkiosk). There you can choose between fried and boiled hot dogs, served with French fries or mashed potatoes together with mustard and/or ketchup.

Shopping

Shopping hours are generally between 10 am and 6 pm on weekdays. Shops close between 1 pm and 4 pm on Saturdays. In larger cities, department stores remain open until 7 pm or later and some are also open on Sundays between 12 noon and 4 pm. Shops generally close early on the day before a public holiday.

Telecommunications (tv, internet, etc.)

Internet: In Sweden, household broadband is mainly available through cable (in speeds of 128 kbit/s to 100 Mbit/s) and ADSL (256 kbit/s to 60 Mbit/s), but in many places also through copper Ethernet LAN networked via fiber. The prices for these services depend on which city you live in, and the provider of the physical cable. Many cities own their own fiber networks and allow different ISPs to offer their services through these networks. Please check with your landlord what internet options are available in your house/building.

You also have the option of mobile broadband (wireless Internet access through a mobile phone or USB Wireless Modem). In Sweden you have several main suppliers of mobile broadband services: Telia, Tele 2, Telenor, Bredbandsbolaget and 3, offering speeds from 2 Mbit/s up to 80 Mbit/s. Make sure you check the network speed and coverage in your area before choosing a supplier, as the network coverage varies between operators.

Mobile phones: Most international students in Sweden choose to use Skype and mobile telephones with pay-as-you-go SIM cards from companies such as Comviq, Telia or Tele2 (all available in English), or Telenor, 3 and Halebop (all available in Swedish only). The card can easily be topped up online or at newsstands. If you don’t want to buy a mobile phone in Sweden, it is often possible to use a phone from your home country with a Swedish SIM card. Make sure that the phone is not locked to your previous operator. Another option is to subscribe to a mobile phone contract, but this requires a Swedish personnummer.

Photo by: Mikael Risedal
Photo by: Mikael Risedal

Photo from: pixabay.com
Photo from: pixabay.com

Photo from: pixabay.com
Photo from: pixabay.com
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