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Expat Insider - The World Through Expat Eyes

Loving the Work Life but Struggling to Find Friends in Sweden

Expats are very satisfied with their working experience but find it quite hard to get settled in.

Sweden performs best in the Working Abroad Index (8th), where it ranks third in the Salary & Job Security Subcategory, only behind Switzerland (1st) and Denmark (2nd). In fact, 89% of expats are satisfied with the state of the economy in Sweden (vs. 64% globally), and 73% rate their job security positively (vs. 59% globally).

In addition, expats vote Sweden third in the Work & Leisure Subcategory. They are not only pleased with their work-life balance (75% vs. 62% globally) but also with their working hours (77% vs. 63% globally). Interestingly, they only work slightly fewer hours per week than the average survey respondent (39.2 hours vs. 40.2 hours globally). When it comes to Work Culture & Satisfaction (8th), expats feel that the work culture supports flexibility (85% happy vs. 60% globally), promotes independent work (66% happy vs. 45% globally), and encourages creativity (63% happy vs. 51% globally).

Great Environment with Unsatisfactory Weather

While Sweden only ranks 20th in the Quality of Life Index overall, it features among the best-rated countries in the Environment & Climate Subcategory (4th). The vast majority of expats in Sweden is pleased with the air quality (93% vs. 65% globally) and the urban environment (91% vs. 67% globally). “The natural beauty of Sweden is inspiring, I feel completely unaffected by any form of pollution,” shares a South African expat.

What is more, 88% agree that the Swedish government supports policies to protect the environment (vs. 61% globally), and 82% are happy with the availability of green goods and services (vs. 64% globally). The only lowlight in this subcategory is the climate and weather (44th), which is rated negatively by 37% of expats — nearly twice the global average (19%).

Safe & Sound in Sweden

Sweden ranks twelfth in the Safety & Security Subcategory. The majority of expats (82%) rates the country’s political stability positively (vs. 64% globally), and 78% report that they can openly express themselves and their opinions (vs. 64% globally).

When it comes to Travel & Transit (21st), expats are particularly happy with Sweden’s infrastructure for cars (90% satisfied vs. 75% globally). Additionally, almost all expats (94%) find it safe to get around by foot and/or by bicycle (vs. 77% globally). “I like the security here. I can freely walk or commute anywhere in the city without any fear. That is the biggest thing for me,” explains an expat from Pakistan. While most expats (91%) are happy with the availability of public transportation (vs. 73% globally), 21% say that it is not affordable (vs. 15% globally).

Healthcare Is Hard to Access

Sweden is listed among both the best- and the worst-rated destinations in the Health & Well-Being Subcategory (37th). It ranks tenth for the affordability of healthcare (76% happy vs. 61% globally), but 24% of expats are unhappy with its availability (vs. 13% globally). Additionally, 30% say it is difficult to access all the healthcare services that they need (vs. 17% globally), ranking the country second to last for this factor (51st). Just Ireland (52nd) ranks worse. A Canadian expat mentions the “lack of access to healthcare” as one of the things she dislikes most about life in Sweden. “I’ve been waiting three months for an important doctor’s appointment.”

A High Degree of Digitization but Expensive Housing

Sweden’s major highlight in the Expat Essentials Index (26th) is its great Digital Life (6th). Close to all expats (96%) are delighted with the unrestricted access to online services (vs. 82% globally). They also find it very easy to get high-speed internet access at home (90% happy vs. 79% globally).

The lowlight for Sweden in this index is the Housing Subcategory (48th). Nearly three in five respondents (58%) report that it is difficult for expats to find housing, more than double the global average (27%). As a result, Sweden ranks second to last for this factor (51st), only ahead of Ireland (52nd). Additionally, 57% describe housing as expensive, compared to 43% globally.

Expats Struggle to Settle In

Sweden performs worst in the Ease of Settling In Index (51st), where it only ranks ahead of Kuwait (52nd). When it comes to the Local Friendliness Subcategory (49th), 36% of expats describe the local population as generally unfriendly (vs. 17% globally). Another 26% consider them unfriendly towards foreign residents in particular (vs. 18% globally). “It is difficult to get real friendships with the locals,” shares a German expat. On top of that, Sweden ranks in the bottom 5 of the Culture & Welcome Subcategory (49th). In fact, expats feel neither welcome (25% unhappy vs. 16% globally) nor at home in Sweden (28% unhappy vs. 21% globally). “The culture can be quite cold sometimes," a Swiss expat shares.

It might be no surprise then that expats find it hard to make friends in Sweden — they rank the country second to last in the Finding Friends Subcategory (51st). More than three in five (63%) find it hard to make local friends (vs. 37% globally), and 38% are unhappy with their social life in Sweden (vs. 26% globally). One in three (33%) does not have a personal support network either (vs. 24% globally).

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