Living in Sweden: English Bookstores

This is part four of the Living in Sweden series. Here are the others for you to catch up on:
Find a Job in Sweden
Going for a Swedish Interview
Find an Apartment in Sweden

English books are expensive in Sweden. There’s also a limited collection of them at most bookstores so after a while you go crazy. But I discovered there are quite a few places to buy books in English in Stockholm at reasonable prices.

Secondhand stores – I’m normally not a fan of secondhand bookstores, but these stores have a hidden treasure of engelska bok, english books. Prices range from 10kr to 50kr and the biggest, most expensive ones at 100kr. Basically $14 tops for a book, great deal!

Small bookshops – Akademibokhandeln is very expensive for English books unless they have a sale or a special discount. I tend to avoid the store usually. I also avoid The English Bookstore in Medborgaplatsen for the same reason. It still leaves a few places to buy bookstores in Stockholm that are new book at cheap prices.

HEDENGRENS BOKHANDEL – Located in Sturegallerian, the mall in Ostermalm. If you go downstairs in the bookstore, there’s a small section up front with special discounted books. Plus there’s a section towards the back of the store with a large selection of English books in different categories. Some of them are pricey but there are always cheap books to be found.

Rönells Antikvariat – Birger Jarlsgatan 32 – Mostly antique and older books in Swedish and other Nordic languages, there’s a couple shelves of good english books for 10kr or 20kr. I usually see romance or crime thrillers, but it’s worth a peak especially if you are at the bookstore above.

Living in Sweden: Finding an Apartment

This Post is part three in the Living in Sweden series. Need to catch up? Here are the others:
Find a Job in Sweden
Going for a Swedish Interview
Finding an apartment in Sweden sucks. Finding an apartment in Stockholm, sucks beyond recognition. Because in Sweden they have a nonsensical system where people go crazy to get a rental contract (yes just a lease) and once they get one, most try to die with it.

It’s a bad system, unlike the US, where you just rent directly from the owner of the building for a year or two and then move on. In Sweden as a foreigner you have to two options: 1) sublet from someone else (also known as second hand contract); 2) or buy an apartment. Choice two is rather expensive and futile if you don’t indeed on staying in Sweden for a while. Which leaves you with the other, tedious choice of getting a second hand apartment. What? But you want a first hand lease? Forget it. The wait time in Stockholm is well over ten years, you’ll most likely be dead or had 10 babies before a first hand contract comes up. And besides, you have to be Swedish or with a Swedish residence permit to get on the list.

So again, if you are foreign, you are left to little choice. I found my first apartment via the website Bostad Direkt. Now I’m not going to give you their website address, because well they suck. First you pay 700kr just to see the list and the people who run that site are well, greedy bastards. The customer service reps at Bostad Direkt do not answer emails, phone calls, and most of the time, their office is “closed.” And of course you pay 700kr to get amazing service like that. However, you do get access to a list of apartments available and since people don’t want to spend 700kr to see a list of apartments, the number of people searching on that site is less than others.

BUT, you will pay a lot. Most of the apartments are super high priced, you get ripped off again. My first apartment was over 13000kr per month, plus I got to pay the awesome 700kr to Bostad Direkt. Thanks to apartment owner (Lisa), I was overcharged while she snidely circumvented Swedish rent laws to pocket 8000kr in profit every month. The Swedish rental system works.

Now the remaining choices are in Swedish and a few newspapers. Prepare yourself for the following things when looking for an apartment in Sweden, especially Stockholm:
1) Everyone lies. The Swedish Rental market is about as black as the black abyss of the sea. No one, mainly people you will be renting from, will tell you the truth.

  • Make sure that when you rent secondhand (ie. andrahand), that the coop board of the building has approved and signed off on it. If they have not, you are not legally living there.
  • Also make sure to have it writing, what the rent will be and stick to it. Here’s the fun part. Swedish law has a maximum markup cap on apartments. Now see, my lovely friend Lisa Soderlindh rented her apartment for just under 5000kr per month. She rented it to me for 13000kr per month. Sounds insane? It is. She’s only allowed to give around a 15% plus maybe a little more since the place was furnished. To make it more fun, she wrote on the contract that I would pay 5000kr. See? Liars, since I had to pay 13000kr. You could end up in the situation too, it’s quite normal. But if you get tired of it, stop paying the markup and just pay the price written into the contract. These firsthand renters don’t have much defense if they complained. Hellow tax evasion and rental violations otherwise.
  • Right, and the buying apartment industry is also opaque. Because the Swedish governement doesn’t give a rat’s ass about honor and integrity in the rental market, it’s basically a free for all. Just like in any other country, the rental markets are asymmetrically controlled by the rentors or sellers. It is the same in Sweden, except that no one thinks it’s a problem the market is completely perverted.

2.  It takes time to find an apartment. Be prepared it could take a good month to get an apartment.  If you have friends, send out your feelers and see if someone has a place available.  Just know that getting an apartment is not an easy process.

3.  Check the listings on websites everyday. Listings go fast, dozens of people call minutes after a listing posts.  Be diligent and check the bostads sites at least twice a day.

4.  Bring a Swedish friend when you sign a contract. They can help make sure that the contract covers everything and that the right people sign it (rentor and coop board).

Now that you are terrified of getting a place, here’s a list of sites that list places to rent.

AndraHand.se – http://www.andrahand.se/

AndraHandsGuiden.se – http://www.andrahandsguiden.com/

The Local – thelocal.se

Blocket – http://www.blocket.se – Like Craigslist but for the Swedish market.

Have pointers on finding a place in Sweden?  Share your thoughts so none of us foreigners are left to the sharks in the housing market.

Living in Sweden: Swedish CV and the hopeful Job Interview

This post is part two in the Living in Sweden Series.  In the first post, we discussed how to find a job in Sweden.  Now, once you found a job, you need to create a polished resume and prepare for potential interviews in Sweden.

A CV, curriculum vitae, is a longer form of a resume.  If you are from the US, you should revamp your resume to include a few more details that should be on a CV in Sweden.  From the Arbetsförmedlingen guidebook on finding a job, this is what you should have on your CV.

  • Studies/training
  • Job experience placements
  • Training courses
  • Other information: travel, computer skills, language competencies, special achievements, and community organizations
  • Work experience
  • Personal: Interests and hobbies
  • References: 1-2 professional references and maybe 1 personal reference (not your mom or dad!) that can vouch for your personality, work ethic, and achievements for a long period of time.

Made it this far? When you apply for a job in Sweden, just as in most countries, you should also include a cover letter stating why you want the job.  Write what experience you have that can complement the job as well as what makes you different, i.e. a stellar candidate, from other applicants.  Most employers are okay if you write the CV and cover letter in English, though if you have the knowledge (don’t fake it) do write in Swedish.

The Swedish Job Interview:
First off, if you get your foot in the door with an interivew, more than half the battle is won.  A job interview, in Sweden or anywhere else in the world, is your  opportunity to prove that you are the best person ever for the job.  Period.  You are awesome, you get the job.

Prepare for the interview:

  • Read up on the company. – Especially if this is a big company, know about their history, what revolutionary things they are doing, their balance sheet (if going into finance/accounting).
  • Find out about recent news about the company. – If you do not understand Swedish, then enlist your friends to find recent articles about the potential company.   For example, if Saab is announcing a big job cut, you can ask why are they still hiring.
  • Read industry related blogs/sites. – Maybe going in marketing?  Then read blogs (you should already be doing so, otherwise why are you applying for this job) and industry news.  When you are at the interview, you can then say “I keep with industry related activities by reading X, Y and Z blogs.  I also found one Swedish blog that is great as well, and I am always looking for more.”
  • Find out who is interviewing you and what their title is.

What to take to an interview:
Because you are a foreigner, I would carry additional paperwork to satisfy any questions the interviewer may have.  You probably won’t need it, but you never know and do not want to slow down the interview because you left papers at home.

  • Copy of your diploma
  • CV and cover letter (if you wrote a cover letter)
  • Transcript of grades – good if you are applying to a fairly academic or research oriented position (like quantitative math analyst at a financial firm)
  • References – At least two people that can vouch for you (and the ones listed on your CV is preferredu).  Have their phone numbers and emails on hand to give to the interviewer.

I have had several interviews in Sweden. Preparing for a job interview in Sweden or anywhere else is a daunting task, especially if you know nothing about the culture.  Swedish job interviews tend to be more personal than American interviews and more subjective based. They also don’t spend as much time giving you lots of “situations” or number crunching exercises.  Here are few questions I remember from my interviews and some from the guidebook.

Potential questions at a Swedish Interview:

  • Why did you move to Sweden? What interests you about Sweden?
  • Do you intend on living in Sweden for an extended period of time?
  • Do you speak Swedish? Are you willing to learn? – If you happen to know some Swedish, speak it.
  • Tell me about yourself. Give a 2 minute spiel about coming to Sweden, what your education is, and what is your experience.
  • Why are you good for this job?
  • Can you accept criticism?
  • Can you solve problems?
  • Can you give examples of problems you have solved?
  • Is there anything in particular that you are proud of?
  • Can you tell us about something you have achieved?
  • What will you be doing in 5 years from now?
  • How would you describe a good colleague?
  • Can you tell us about a mistake that you’ve made, and what you learned from the experience?
  • How would your friends describe you?
  • How would your manager describe you?
  • How do you function in a group?
  • What are your strengths and weaknesses?
  • What gives you job satisfaction?
  • Why should we employ you?

If you made it this far, be sure to thank the interviewer and ask what the next step is. Send a thank you letter as well.  If you applying for a job at a traditional Swedish company, then mail one to the interviewer.  If you are applying to a high tech, very internet based company, an email will suffice.  If you do not hear anything in one week, send a reminder and find out how the interview selection is going.  Ask if there is any paperwork that you could provide to help them.

I also would tell my future employer that I must have a Swedish work visa in order to work in Sweden.  , that my future employer must file all the necessary paperwork and pay the fees.  I had one employer give me a job offer on condition that I do all the paperwork.  No thanks, you can’t do that.   Job offers have to be approved by a union board, so going your own way is a very very long and tough road.  If your employer is not willing to help you with a visa, it is a sign that they may not help you with many other things at the company.

Of course, be enthusiastic and excited to work in Sweden and work for a Swedish company.  Be relaxed and know your stuff and you will be okay.

Good luck with your job interviews in Sweden!

Living in Sweden: Finding a Job

The first step to moving to Sweden is to find a job. Without a job, you are pretty much SOL in terms of living in the country. There are a few exceptions to living in Sweden without finding a job. Here are the exceptions:
Student in Sweden – Exchange students, post secondary education, graduate students. Link here.
Asylum Seeker to Sweden – Obviously very tight regulations here.  If you are not from a war torn country, most likely you will not be approved as a refugee in Sweden. See more here.
Researcher visiting Sweden – Here’s information directly from Migrationsverket: Visiting researchers do not need a work permit but may only work as visiting researchers with the research organization (for example, university, institute or business) that has employed the researcher. The research organization must be approved by the Swedish National Agency for Higher Education. Visiting researchers who will work in Sweden for a period exceeding three months must have a residence permit.”  And for more information, you can read here.
Performing Artists in Sweden – Includes singers, musicians, dancers and circus artists, etc.  Those accompanying the artist as technicians, road managers, etc, also come into this category and must therefore have permits as well.  There are quite a few exceptions so be sure to read information page about it.
Au pair in Sweden – Fairly simple as the program is similar to other countries.  Two key notes: the Philippines does NOT allow for au pairs to any European country and you should between 18-30 years of age in order to apply as an au pair in Sweden. For more info, go here.

Employee seeking in Sweden:

If you don’t fall into any of the categories above, then go find a job, now. Yes, now!  People ask me if they should look for a job when they intend to work in three months time, that’s the point, you need to prepare to find a job now.  When I searched for a job almost two years ago, the online resources were scarce.  Today, you have the advantage of a lot of resources and helpful advice.  The merger between Arbetsförmedlingen and Migrationsverket has also reduced the paperwork and confusion when applying for a work permit.  Start with the find a job in Sweden resource from Arbetsförmedlingen; they have some great bits and I’ve summarized the most important below.  Read the full guide here.

Education:
Have it; have a good secondary education. Swedes themselves may not care about the level of education you have, but companies who are hiring foreigners do.  I know I got my foot in the door at interviews because of the university I went to and the experience I had there (btw, I only hold a BA).  If you are close to obtaining your degree, please complete it before coming to Sweden, it is definitely an intangible benefit.   If you do not hold a degree, have a strong CV documenting your experience and strengths in work.   You can check out the other page on job interviews and CVs in Sweden.

Current industries looking for employees:

  • University-trained healthcare professionals
  • Skilled tradespeople and engineering graduates in the industrial sector
  • Skilled tradespeople and engineers in the building sector
  • Specially trained chefs (especially in Stockholm and tourist destinations)
  • Qualified sales representatives
  • Accountants
  • Drivers and motor mechanics
  • Preschool teachers and schoolteachers
  • Information technology graduates

If your profession does not fall into one of these categories, don’t fret, you still have a great chance of coming to Sweden.  Just know that pool of applicants will be tighter.

Places to find open job opportunities in Sweden:
http://www.workey.se – A large database of jobs.
http://www.academicwork.se – Great place to post your CV if you are a new graduate or still a university student.
http://www.jobsinstockholm.com – It has jobs in Stockholm as well as jobs all over Sweden.
http://www.arbetsformedlingen.se –  The Swedish umeployment board, a great place to look for postings.
http://www.monster.se –  The Monster in the Swedish version.
http://www.xpats.nu –  Small site that discusses moving to Sweden and has a jobs board.
http://www.manpower.se –
http://metrojobb.se – One of the major daily newspapers in Sweden.
http://www.stepstone.se — StepStone
http://www.dn.se/ekonomi/sokjobb — Job classifieds from Dagens Nyheter, another major Swedish newspaper (I think one of the best)
http://eures.europa.eu – A database for job applicants in all of Europe.

http://www.thelocal.se –  The English Newspaper for Sweden.  The quality of writing is mediocre at best, but they have a pretty extensive job listing.

Sweden Networking Sites:
http://www.swedenintouch.se – A forum from the makers of Sweden.se.
http://www.siliconvikings.com – For people who lived in the Bay Area or do business with the Bay Area (that’s silicon valley in San Francisco).

I hope this helps you all out in the search for a job.  If you have questions or suggestions, definitely post them before.  People are always looking for job opportunities in Sweden, we can all use a little help.

The Living in Sweden Series

Inspired by my good friend Hairy Swede of Welcome to Sweden, I decided to write a moving and living in Sweden series.   My tale is about finding a job, finding a place, getting a work visa on my own.   I did not have the luxury of EU or Swedish citizenship or a Swedish boyfriend to give me easy entry into Sweden.   Instead, I arrived as a well educated, skills based employee in Sweden.   And yes, it is possible to find a job in Stockholm.   The road is not easy; it is as Robert Frost put it, a road much less traveled.   Below is the list of articles I will post over the next couple months.  The links are not live yet, but as each article posts, I will highlight the links here.

Living in Sweden: Finding a Job
Living in Sweden: Writing a CV and Going for a Job Interview
Find an Apartment in Sweden
Living in Sweden: English Bookstores
Living in Sweden: What to take to Sweden
Living in Sweden: Dress Like a Swede
Living in Sweden: Swedish Employment Benefits
Living in Sweden: Swedish Holidays or Red Days
Living in Sweden: Learning the Swedish Language

Robert Frost: The Road Not Taken (1915)
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth.

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same.

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I–
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

10 Things I Hate about Sweden

UPDATE: This post is closed for comments but you can go to More Things to hate about Sweden and share your thoughts there!

Sometimes I go crazy in Sweden. It just drives me bonkers. Any place that one lives in long enough would drive you insane but there are days when I really wonder if Swedes are mentally okay in the head. Here are my ten reasons why I hate Sweden because I can bitch and whine just like any other Swede.

1. Fitted bedsheets that aren’t fitted. WTH? These Swedish bedsheets look like table clothes, they barely fit on the bed. I want a real sheet that covers the bed and doesn’t fall off when I toss and turn while sleeping.

2. Whiny Swedes; stop complaining about the weather! We know the weather is terrible and we know it’s dark for 3 full months but stop bitching. It’s shitty weather in NY, Maine, Idaho, Colorado, Alaska, and Ontario. They don’t whine all day about 30 inches of show, blasting blizzards every two weeks, -20F weather (that is minus 30C for those needing metric), and the need for studded tires in the winter. Suck it up Swedes, the more you complain, the worse life will be for you. Stop bitching about the glass being have empty and the weather being dark and cold. You’re a goddamn viking, be one!

3. System Bolaget. Monopolies are bad. Unnatural monopolies are even worse. Unnatural monopolies created by and run by the government is worst. Unnatural alcohol monopolies created by and run by the government is really really creepy. People who believe that it’s okay for their government to run a monopoly and “trust” their government wholeheartedly, are insane.
As an FYI to people who think only Sweden had alcohol related problems (which has nothing to do with the age of a country), the United States passed the 18th Amendment in 1920 to prohibit alcohol (sales, consumption) and Congress repealed it in 1933 under the 21st Amendment. That fact that America went so far as to ban alcohol via the Constitution was a telling sign of both alcoholism and rising power of the Protestant Temperance movement (mainly found in Norway, Iceland, Sweden, Finland).

4. The shitty selection at the alcohol monopoly stores. YES, your choices suck. If you think you get a good selection of alcohol, you are from Mars. And ordering beer from the catalog? Are you nuts, are we doing 1890s Sears mail orders? Should I also order my drill set, bedsheets, and a toaster? Sorry to bust it to the Swedes, but if you have no taste in beer, I don’t trust your selection of other alcohols either.

5. No one has responsibilities; Swedish socialism. the government treats Swedes as a bunch breast sucking eternal babies. Grow up! Make decisions on your own! Give people the opportunity to take control and be responsible for their actions. O_o

6. Wearing horrible fashionable clothes. The 1980s fashion died for a reason, let it be dead. Leggings, stupid looking t-shirts, big belts, and oversized hobo bags make you like a bag lady not a classic lady. Stop looking like a douche from Flashdance.

7. Fear from others. It’s okay to speak to a stranger every once in a while. It won’t kill you; honestly I promise. Actually helping someone carry groceries or opening a door may be considered by some people to be courteous. OMG, what a concept! Being nice to others. I didn’t say you have to be a friendly cherub, just some common sense and a little smile. Might also help to stop whining too.

8. Idiotic Stockholm drivers. You guys suck ass. Why the hell spends thousands to get a drivers license when obviously in Stockholm it is okay to:
Go down a one way street the wrong way
Refuse to yield at a cross walk
Speed in the innerstaden area
Make illegal left turns on red
Park your car on the sidewalk and take up all the space
Make illegal right turns on red
Drive backwards for at least 100meters to only get back into the intersection and turn around to go the other way
Run people over in the middle of the crosswalk. Do you asshats have eyes or buttons?

9. Sucky Swedish beers. Sweden cannot make beer. They produce filter pee with malt flavoring and call it beer. I find it nauseating. How can Swedes drink such nasty stuff. There are days I feel that Miller or Budweiser beer tastes better than all these nasty Stockholm City, Pripps Blå, Lapin Kulta, Spendrups, and other various disgusting concoctions of alcoholic beverages.

10. An everything is better in Sweden attitude. No, your country is not awesome. You’re just damn lucky that millions of people aren’t running through the borders and that you live too far up north on Earth for anyone to give a shit to take over. (Unless you’re Norway, in that case I heard it is okay) Stop giving me the “in sweden we have this system and it works better because…”

11. American bashing. Probably because I am American, I get to hear all the complaints about Americans from the Swedes.
‘Why do you guys sue each other all the time?’ Because we have different legal system, it’s based on checks and balances and the right to challenge authority.
‘Why is there no universal health care?’ Agree, we suck there; I assert responsibility to the powerful pharmaceutical industry.
‘Why do you have checks at the bank?’ Because we fucking do.
‘Why does American have to such a large army?’ Because we want to be a hegemonic state and well, we like big toys.

What’s your “I hate Sweden” story? We’ll give the Swedes a happy post later on why we love Sweden, but for now, it’s time for Sweden bashing.

Note: To write a comment, visit the newer post, More Things to hate about Sweden.

Swedish Summer Houses and Jellyfishes

I went to Göteborg (Gothenburg for those of you lacking the ö) for a weekend visiting Þorbjörn’s parents. This is my fifth visit to see them and it’s pretty the same deal everytime. Mom is excited we are there, dad drinks a Norrlands Guld 3.5% (the worst beer in the world, in my honest opinion), the dog plays with rocks, and we eat a lot of food. All in all, a great way to spend the weekend. If we are lucky, we can take the boat out onto the waters and see some pretty islands. I’m not lucky, the past month of sunshine disappeared and turned itself into rain and clouds. The weather gods are bastards.

But here are a few photos from where they live. It’s okay, be jealous now.
Gothenburg Boats
The view to the water from the boyfriend’s house.

Kärna summer house in Sweden
Kärna summer house in Sweden

The house on the right, under construction, is Þorbjörn’s family house. It should be 100sq meters once expansion completes.

We went to Marstrand, some pretty island that is very famous in Sweden. It required getting bundled up in waterproof materials and taking a 25 minute boat ride; which was awesome to say the least. When we arrived, there were some huge boats, sailboats that could probably compete. Those damn Norwegians, lots of money and nothing to do. On Marstrand, you can see the castle (we didn’t) and take a lovely walk around the island, we only spent an hour and half and had a beer. I saw little but still took a few photos.

Small street in Marstrand
Small street in Marstrand

Sweden on the water is amazingly beautiful. I love that Þorbjörn’s parents live on the water; it’s just amazing. Forget the city, living on the water to the ocean is way better.

The boat ride back from Marstrand was rainy, windy, and rocky. Our boat bounced quite a bit and at one point, I flew off my seat onto the floor. Next time I get a seatbelt. When we got back home, the rain vanished, of course it would, and I got to play with a jellyfish. No danger, no abuse. I just picked the little jellie and put him back in the water. He was very soft and squishy, and jelly-like (what a surprise). Must say, holding a Swedish sea jellie was the best thing of the weekend.

Holding a Jellyfish
Holding a Jellyfish