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Abroad and yet at home
Sweden is, with a stable economic growth of about 2.3% per year and an unemployment rate of around 4.5%, among the top addresses in Europe. Furthermore, it is well-known for its high level social system, good education and favourable living conditions. But what about working in Sweden?
Nicole Lindborg moved some 20 years ago from Germany to the Scandinavian country. She had met her future Swedish husband during their studies in Germany and decided after graduating from university to move to his home town of Lund in Southern Sweden. Nicole had rather naïve expectations of her chances to find a job. “I thought my university degree and English language skills would be sufficient. But soon I had to discover that it wouldn’t be easy without knowing at least some basic Swedish.”
Hans-Anders Westlund, EURES Adviser in Stockholm, confirms her observation. “Most Swedes speak rather well English, but jobs – except seasonal work – still require a good command of Swedish.” The German decided to sign up for a language course at Folkuniversitetet , an adult education facility, and later got private lessons from a friend. “I learned a lot by watching television,” says Nicole. “Many English-language movies and series are shown with Swedish subtitles.” Luckily enough, she was at the same time able to work part-time in her husband’s firm, a company producing regulation systems for ventilation devices.
A new career
A year after arriving in Sweden – and improving her language skills – Nicole was hired by a business consultancy in Malmö. “I was responsible for some market research tasks, but also for supporting the participation of some Swedish clients in German business fairs.” She liked the challenging assignments, but frequent changes among the staff and unclear guidelines motivated her to look for a new position after only two years.
Her next job was again related to her German background. “I worked for a producer of floor mats as regional manager for Northern Germany. Every second week I was on the road from Sunday afternoon to Friday evening to visit our customers – German laundries. I liked my work, but it was quite exhausting,” says Nicole. Eventually she and her husband wanted to found a family and her job wasn’t suitable anymore. She therefore moved on to her current position as marketing assistant in Lund.
“We have rather low unemployment in Sweden,” says EURES Adviser Westlund, “but foreign job seekers should focus on the sectors where personnel are needed. Currently there is a lack of medical staff, plumbers, construction workers, carpenters, mechanics, teachers, security guards, cooks, bakers and confectioners.”
Unexpectedly a different culture
Nicole made the deliberate decision not to look out for German compatriots, but to live with and within the Swedish culture. “My husband took a very smart initiative and signed me into a close-by horse riding club. I quickly got acquainted with a lot of nice people who eventually became – my own – friends,” says the German. “There are lots of opportunities to be social, such as choirs or sports clubs, and it helps to integrate in the society.”
For Nicole life in Sweden seems less stressful than in Germany. “A speed limit of 110 km/h seems more appropriate than the rush on the German Autobahn,” she says. She also likes the surplus of space and, not at least, the fact that many shops open even on Sundays. “But” says Nicole, “I sometimes miss the atmosphere of a work free Sunday. Sweden is in the end remarkably different than Germany.”