Claire in Sweden: "Stockholm is a fantastic place to live"

  • Claire in Stockholm
Published 5 years ago
Claire comes from a family of serial expats. Born in Scotland, she grew up in France, the US and England. Fascinated by Sweden, she settled in Stockholm indefinitely...for now!


Professional daydreamer currently living in Sweden for no particular reason.

Why did you decide to move to Stockholm?

I moved for no particular reason other than fancying and adventure and always being fascinated by Sweden! I initially thought it might be a few months or a year, but loved it so much I'm now settled indefinitely... for now!

How was the moving process?

The moving process itself was pretty simple for me - on a whim, I packed a suitcase and jumped on a plane. Finding somewhere to live in Stockholm once I arrived was a different matter though, I was homeless for 7 months and at one point lived in somebody's garden shed!

What are the formalities you had to go through to be able to work as a freelance in Sweden? Is it easy to find a job in Stockholm?

In theory, it is fairly straightforward: as an EU citizen, I didn't need a visa as such to work in Sweden, so just had to set up a freelance company like any Swede. However, in order to be issued a personnummer, I had to be able to prove that I had an income in Sweden - and it was extremely difficult to find work when I didn't have a personnummer to be able to invoice for it - so I was trapped in a bit of a chicken and egg situation for a while.
Finding a job without fluent Swedish can be extremely difficult. English fluency can be a selling point, but jobs where you can work exclusively in English are few and far between, so at least a working level of Swedish is pretty much essential.

Did you face some difficulties to adapt to your host country (language, culture, do's and don'ts)?

The language issue in Sweden is sort of a double sided coin. On one hand, it's fantastic and makes life easier that most Stockholmers speak fluent English, but on the other, it can make it difficult for English-speakers to learn Swedish, so ultimately you are trapped in a linguistic bubble for longer than if you had been forced to learn Swedish right away.
Culturally it's not terribly difficult, though there are a few stringent rules they're a bit pernickety about. When in doubt, take your shoes off, and you'll be fine!

What surprised you the most in Stockholm?

I moved at the beginning of summer, and was a bit startled when, after Midsummer a couple of weeks later, the city was deserted as all the Swedes disappeared off to the country or abroad for up to six weeks. I had had an impression of Swedes as a little bit 'all work and no play', but in fact, they take their leisure time terribly seriously!

Is it easy to meet new people in Stockholm? Any advice you would like to share with the other members?

There is a thriving international community in Stockholm, so filling up your diary with activities with other expats isn't a problem, and I've met some amazing people from all over the world. Swedes can be a little more complicated, they are fantastic people once you get to know them, but their reputation for being reserved socially isn't entirely unfounded.
I would say, be patient with Swedes and have fun with expats in the meantime.

Could you please share with us something you like about Stockholm and something you don't like?

I love that Stockholm offers a perfect balance between city and outdoorsy life. Last summer I went kayaking for the day out in the archipelago, had a picnic lunch on a totally uninhabited island, then got a bus back into the city and was at a glitzy club within a couple of hours - it doesn't get much better than that! On the downside, winter can close things down a bit. People tend to have cozy nights in and intimate dinner parties, which can be tough when you don't yet know enough people to be invited to many!

A common belief about Sweden which wasn't right:

Well they do wear clothes some of the time, and I've even met someone who wasn't keen on saunas! In fact though, one of the things I love about Sweden is how it is so very much just as you would imagine. They are fond of outdoors nakedness and eat meatballs on a regular basis and their homes are Ikea-ed to the hilt.

What do you miss the most from Scotland, your home country?

Friends and family more than anything, though anyone that comes from Scotland without bringing me a macaroon bar is in trouble.

How often do you go back home?

I try to get to Glasgow once a year to see my grandparents, but my parents and sister are now based in London, so I go there more often - around 3-4 times a year.

What do you do in your spare time? What are the most popular activities in the city?

The city is dominated by water, so in the summer it's kayaking and paddleboarding, and in the winter, ice skating. I learned to cross country ski last winter, and I'm a convert. Eating out tends to be on the expensive side, but there are a few restaurants that are worth it.

You write an original blog about expat life in Stockholm, Life is Swede: why did you start this blog and what is its particularity?

During my first few months in Stockholm, at times I felt I was going a bit mad: being constantly surrounded by a language I didn't understand and struggling to figure people out and make friends was difficult... but great material for fiction. The story of a lonely expat who gets caught up in a murder mystery started to form then, and I decided to write it as a blog.

Your blog is fictional, but do you think it could also help expats to get to know more Sweden?

I think so. In the early days of the blog, most readers thought that it was real and would comment that they enjoyed following the journey of someone going through something similar to themselves (until the murders started of course!). A lot of Regan's experiences were based on my own, and so even though it's not literally true, I think it provides a bit of insight into the emotional upheaval that being an expat can be!
I also write a blog as myself, The Grass is Dancing, about expat life amongst other things!

Which advice would you give to people wishing to live in Stockholm?

Get on the next plane! Stockholm is a fantastic place to live, and while it isn't easy to break into, that somehow makes it feel even more satisfying to build a life here.

5 months ago

I always dreamed to work in sweden and i will give it a try and start from this beautiful sweden stockholm

2 years ago

It's my dream to travel to Sweden, I hear such great things! Lovely interview!

gabiria brandimarte
gabiria brandimarte
4 years ago

i agree to most of the things you wrote , it is almost 8 years that I have been living in Stockholm and I still find it difficult sometimes to penetrate their mentality . I can write a lot about it , I still love Sweden and it is not exciting living here ,actually quite boring. the thing that is exciting is the continuos series of discovery about the Swedes , most of the which are amazingly good!

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