Move to Sweden - Why Sweden? - John and Maria James - ebook

Are you ready to start your new life in Sweden? Why do so many people talk about moving abroad to start a new life yet so few take action to make it happen? Maybe it’s because they don’t believe they have what it takes to succeed in another country. Well, we’re here to tell you moving abroad to start a new life in Sweden isn’t a fantasy. We did it. Thousands of other ordinary people have done it. And you can do it too.  We moved to Sweden 15 years ago, and we’ve spent most of our time here helping many many others do the same. Our work has given us a unique insight into the problems people struggle with most, and we’ve put everything we’ve learnt into a structured, manageable form to save you precious time, effort, and frustration—as well as avoid all the mistakes we and many others have made before you.      This book series will help you cut to the reality of life in one of Europe's most progressive countries and will show you how to become a part of it whether you live inside or outside of the EU. We’ve designed the series to help you start a successful new life in Sweden, with the emphasis very much on—successful. And there’s more  Do you know there is free assistance available to help you move to many regions in Sweden? We show you how to contact the top 50 areas that are actively recruiting newcomers to live in their communities today. Are you aware that Swedish industry and public services have a skill and labour shortage and are desperate to employ people with the right qualifications and experience? We tell you how to find the regions that need your skills and how to cut through the red tape and meet the right people and government departments to begin work.    In the series you will also find out how to— Validate your existing qualifications to help you secure work in Sweden. Navigate the Swedish schooling, health, and tax systems. Find information and websites for all others aspects of life in Sweden such as pensions, VISA’s, banking, insurance, buying vehicles, TV and the internet, and much more. Locate the best value property to buy or rent. Buy from the best value suppliers for everything you will need for your new life in Sweden. This first book in the series will help you decide if Sweden could be a good fit for you and will tell you about all the things that made Sweden so attractive for us. Maybe it's finally time to look at a new start in Sweden.  Download a sample or buy the book now and take the first step towards your new life in Sweden.

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Why Sweden?

Move to Sweden, Volume 1

John James and Maria James

Published by Arctic Publishing, 2018.

While every precaution has been taken in the preparation of this book, the publisher assumes no responsibility for errors or omissions, or for damages resulting from the use of the information contained herein.


First edition. September 17, 2018.

Copyright © 2018 John James and Maria James.

ISBN: 978-1386195122

Written by John James and Maria James.

10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

Table of Contents

Title Page

Copyright Page


Part 1. Introductions

1.1 Your first steps to a new life in Sweden

1.2 Our Story

Part 2. Why choose Sweden?

2.1 Is Sweden right for me?

2.2 Where in Sweden?

2.3 Opportunity to retire early in Sweden

Part 3. The benefits of moving to Sweden

3.1 Sweden has a labour shortage

3.2 Health care and social care

3.3 Low property prices

3.4 Family friendly Sweden

3.5 Schools and the education system

3.6 The cost of living

3.7 Low Crime

Part 4. Things you will like when you get here

4.1 The Swedes

4.2 There is a lot of space

4.3 Swedes Have Gone Green

4.4 Swedish traditions & culture

4.5 An active lifestyle and the great outdoors

4.6 Gender equality is important in Sweden

Part 5. Facts about Sweden

5.1 Basic and random facts

5.2 The Counties of Sweden


Need more help on your journey?

About the Author

About the Publisher



“If you can change your mind, you can change your life.”

—William James

“When we returned to the UK from our visit to Sweden, we stayed in touch with Move to Sweden. John and his wife Maria were endlessly patient when it came to dealing with our bottomless pit of questions. Our every niggle and worry would usually result in an email to John. He always answered swiftly, courteously and, most importantly, informatively. Even if he couldn't provide a definitive answer he always offered us context in which to frame an approach to a problem.

Having someone who had moved to Sweden at the other end of an email was immensely reassuring. I'm almost certain that without the James' support and advice we would probably have found the whole process too daunting and given it up as an impossible dream. Instead, I write this looking out over the deep blue lake that laps at the edge of our new northern Swedish property. It is no exaggeration to say that the James played a vital role in us achieving our dream of a more simple life.”

—Peter and Deborah (United Kingdom)

“Thank you so much for your help over these past three or four years. I can tell you our news that we are having our first baby! In Sweden! Rodo is working as a chef in a restaurant in central Stockholm now, and I am still teaching Swedish at SFi. We will get our permanent visa in a few months. We could not have made this move without you both. Our parents love you both! You are welcome to visit Serbia anytime!”

—Rodovane and Malina (Serbia)

“I have to write to you and thank you. I have started work at my local hospital as we talked about last year. Everything is going well, and I am now going through the process to transfer my qualifications as a surgical nurse to Sweden. Our son is in school and learning Swedish very quickly, and my wife is continuing to study to be a teacher. We love our new apartment but want to move to the country in a year or two. We hope this will be possible.”

—Volker and family (Germany)

“We are due to return to the UK tomorrow for about six weeks. Our stay has been incredibly successful, we have achieved all of our aims, and more! With your help, we have been able to start the process of purchasing a house, begin to start a business and make some good friends, all within only three weeks! Having the support of Move to Sweden on hand has given us both a great sense of relief, and without having found the website initially, we doubt we would have been able to make it this far. The help we received in looking at houses and the advice offered was of great significance and has been helpful beyond our most ambitious expectations. We cannot state enough how thankful we are for your support. We hope you may be able to continue to help others for many years to come.”

—Graham and Anthia (United Kingdom)

“We are now living in our house in the forest. Alex is writing, and I am taking many pictures. It is so peaceful here. Thank you very much for your help.”

—Alexander and Andrea (Germany)

“Thank you for all your help. We have now settled into our new home in Västerbotten and have begun renovating the house and the barn. After visiting Peter and Deborah last year, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to buy the house for sale in the next village to them. It was far too cheap. Now we are here! Four kids, two dogs and all. It’s been a huge undertaking moving everyone over, but we are all so happy with our new lives, even though we have only been here a few weeks. The children have started school and are surprised how many Swedish children speak English there. It’s so nice to live near my sister again. The bad news is I think our parents might follow us out here! Ha Ha :)”

—Ronald, Mary and family (United Kingdom)

“Thank you for all your help and support. Now we have an apartment, and I am working for my new company making Spanish sausages in the local meat factory. Thank you again. Muchas gracias amigo!”

—Luis and family(Spain)

“I am now living in Sweden! I found a nice house to buy, and I have a job as a mechanic. Life is good again.”

—Rick Van Leevuan (The Netherlands)

“Thank you, John and Maria. We have apartment and Lazlo working now in forest work. I work in a shop. You help us a lot, and now we have family come to visit to see us.”

—Lazlo and Frici (Hungary)

“There are two months that we live in Sweden with our small daughter Zlata. We want to thank you, John and Maria, for all your help. It is really difficult to help us because we are not EU members. And every day John and Maria make a lot of efforts for help us to staying here. They help us to realize our dream to live in this really wonderful place!  Sweden is a special place, and very nice people live here! In spite of a lot of difficulties because of state rules, they don’t miss hope and continues to help us and inspire us. Thank you very much, John and Maria, we will never forget it!”

—Andrii, Olena and Zoryana (Ukraine)

“It was great to catch up with you again. Thank you again for all your help. We have found the perfect place for us to retire to! We love visiting our house in Sweden, but it is becoming harder and harder to go back to the UK each time we visit. Maybe we have to move sooner than we planned!”

—Adam and Jill (United Kingdom)

“Just to let you know that we landed two 11kg pikes last week. We can't wait to retire here. It is so peaceful here, and the people are so nice and friendly. See you soon.

—Mariusz and Nadia (Poland)

“Thank you so much for all your help these last couple of years. Settling in has been a great experience, but not without its ups and downs. It has been great knowing we can pick up the phone and ask for help whenever we need it. We have made some great new friends and love our new lifestyle. The only real problem we have is relatives visiting and staying too long...”

—Freddie and Linda (Ireland)

“What great start. Now we have the Huskies settled in and this season will be my first out with the dogs as a proper business. The help you gave us to start the company in Sweden was invaluable. Many thanks”

—Peter and Karolyn (Australia)

“I have started work as an industrial door engineer. We are repairing our house. It cost only €10,000 but needs work. It will be nice when we finish it. Neske is working for our municipality as a gardener and the boys are working well at school. We are very happy. We wish you well and hope you have a good Christmas.”

—Edmund and Neske (The Netherlands)

“Thank you very much for help you have made for my family and me. I work now as a veterinarian on a cow farm in Sweden. It is perfect job for me and my experience from Serbia. My son is playing violin now very well.”

—Vladan and Family (Serbia)

“We have great life now! We live in rented apartment in south Sweden. Is much bigger than rooms in Bulgaria. We work looking after old people. Tase is doing good at school.

—Benesy, Fidanka and Tase (Bulgaria)

“The kids are doing great at school now. Graham was diagnosed with a mild attention disorder which was not picked up back home. I am working for a painting and decorating company after completing my refresher course and Katherine has started the cake making business she always dreamed of.” 

—Colin and Katherine (Wales)

“We are Dawid and Krystyna Nowakowscy from Poland. Together with our son Kacper we will move to Sweden soon thank you to you. We are fascinated with its magic and beauty. Life in Lapland is our biggest dream :) We are so happy we found Move to Sweden website.”

—Dawid and Krystyna (Poland)

Part 1. Introductions


1.1 Your first steps to a new life in Sweden

1.2 Our story

1.1 Your first steps to a new life in Sweden


“You believe many things that aren’t true. Or maybe I should put that another way. Many things in life are true because you believe they are true. We all believe what we want to believe, and once we believe something, it becomes a self-fulfilling truth.”

—Seth Godin

How many people do you know talk about moving abroad to start a new life? Do they mean it? Or are they just unhappy today? The bigger question might be—why do so many people talk about moving abroad but so few take action to make it happen? Maybe they simply don’t believe they can build a new life in another country.

Modern life can be difficult. Little time left for yourself or your family at the end of each working day. Living in a crowded city or town, paying far too much for somewhere to live while chasing around sitting in traffic queues for hours just to get the necessary chores done. Sound familiar?

You probably don’t have enough time to deal with your day as it is, so it’s easy to convince yourself there’s no way out and that moving to another country to enjoy a more peaceful and relaxed way of life is just a fantasy for other people.

Well, we’re here to tell you that moving to a new life in Sweden isn’t a fantasy. We did it. Thousands of other people have done it. And you can do it too—if you really want to.

The first step begins with you

If you’re reading this book, it probably means you are interested enough in moving abroad to devote at least some of your precious time to research, and we’ll take a wild guess that Sweden is one of the options.

Now you’ve taken this first step, however small it might seem at the moment, you can move forward. We have received thousands of emails over the years from people taking their first step and asking us the first few tentative questions.

We know there are a lot of hurdles ahead if you take this path, and it can take time, but you will not be travelling alone. So many people made their move to a new life in Sweden many months or even years after they sent their first cautious email to us.

The purpose of the Move to Sweden book series is to guide you through the process of starting a new successful life in Sweden. The emphasis is very much on—successful.

The book you are reading now, Book 1, is designed to give you enough information to decide if Sweden could be your new home. In this book, you will find all the things we found most important to our new life in Sweden together with everything that the people we have helped move here told us was important to them too.

After you have read this book, the following books in the series will take you logically through the steps you will need to make for a prosperous new life in Sweden. It’s a path that’s well-trodden and whatever your circumstances or field of work, you will be able to find your way using Move to Sweden.

One of our favourite suggestions at this early stage of your journey is to write down answers to the following questions. Experience has shown us that discussing the most significant obstacles you face makes them much more manageable. You may be surprised how quickly you find answers to your concerns when you have them written on a piece of paper or typed on a computer screen.

Ten years of boiling down peoples worries and concerns into short, manageable questions, led us to the following—

●  If you could have one problem regarding moving to Sweden disappear, what would it be?

●  What are your five next biggest fears regarding moving to Sweden?

●  What are the five things about moving to Sweden you feel you can deal with relatively easily?

●  What are the ten most important benefits you feel you will enjoy after you have moved to Sweden?

We’ve had the opportunity to see many people’s answers to these questions, and it’s surprising how similar the solutions are.

Just you moving? Or you and others in your life?

We would urge you to spend some time discussing your answers at length if you are considering moving to Sweden with a partner or a family. We are all at different points in our lives at any one time, and if you are a couple or a family, you will almost certainly have some alternative or even additional concerns to the people you are planning to move to Sweden with.

Bring every concern from everyone involved out into the open if you can. We have seen one or two members of many families resist a move, only to find that once they discussed it openly, their worries disappeared. 

We were luckily on the same page and spent many Sunday afternoons, over several years, walking around our local park trying to work out what we wanted in life and where we really wanted to live.

Others we have helped experienced more pressing motivation such as drugs offered to their children at school. For the families who experienced this, a rapid re-assessment of their lives, where they lived, and the future of their children pushed them into action. The smaller concerns often fall away when a single larger issue appears. 

We are all different

We all have unique reasons for wanting to change your lifestyle and live in another country. You are a unique person living your unique life, and your happiness lies in finding your unique solutions.

But, if we break our worries into manageable pieces, we find more often than not we have the same core concerns as everyone else—and we’re all looking for solutions to the most troublesome ones.

We can help one another move forward if we share the solutions we eventually find, which is precisely what we have done with the Move to Sweden book series. We have condensed and shared 15 years of our own experience and countless others on how to start a new life in Sweden. 

Moving to Sweden ourselves and then working over the last decade-and-a-half helping people move here has given us a unique insight into the issues people struggle with most, both before, during, and after their move to Sweden.

How the books will help you

We have used our own experiences and the experiences of all the people we have helped in this book series to help you avoid all the dead ends, false roads, and time wastes. The Move to Sweden series will save you spending precious time and guide you around all the mistakes and unnecessary time drains that we and many others have made before you. 

Our book series has a simple premise. It’s for people like you who want to start a new life somewhere quieter, with more space, less traffic, and fewer people. The series is for people like you who want to live somewhere with a better social and healthcare system, better work environment, cheaper housing, and a more relaxed, family-friendly environment.

The books focus on Sweden because Sweden is where we moved to, and Sweden is where we have helped many other people from many different countries move to. Using this series, you will be able to decide which part of Sweden will suit you best and what you will need to research further.

We will show you where to find the information you need so you will also be able to create a list of what to have in place before you move, and how you can bring everything together to begin your new life in Sweden.

The book series presents a mixture of readily available facts you will find on the Internet—if you know where to look—together with information that is only available in Swedish, which we have translated into English, and of course our personal experiences and those of the people we have helped.

We have broken all this information down and put it back together in a structured, manageable form, that will act as a guide for you to start your new life in Sweden. 

Most people will find everything they need in this series to complete their move, but if there is something important to you that you can’t find, please contact us via our website, and we’ll do our best to help you and then use that information to help others just like yourself.

Key points—

●  Hundreds of thousands of ordinary people have moved to a new life in Sweden before you. You can do it too.

●  Make a comprehensive list of your main concerns and worries about emigrating.

●  If you are moving with a partner or family, discuss all the issues and concerns you all have. Voice everything and bring any potential problems out into the open to be dealt with—whatever they are.

1.2 Our Story


The purpose of Our Story is to show you we were, and still are—ordinary people. We want to make sure you know we weren’t rich when we moved here, and that we weren’t especially organised either, but we took a chance to get what we wanted. One thing is certain though—if we can do it, so can you.


Our story

We married in 1987 just after we bought our first property, an apartment, and a couple of years later we moved into a house in Maria’s hometown.

Many households in our street had five cars—one for each parent and one for each teenage child or young adult. The number of registered vehicles on the road in the UK had risen from 14 million in 1970 to 35 million in 2000. Traffic jams were rife, and many of us spent most of our holiday weekends sitting in a queue dreaming of a few elusive hours sitting on a crowded, littered beach.

Few children walked to school, and most mothers worked due to the high cost of housing. A single household income wasn’t enough any more to sustain the lifestyle people thought they needed.

By the year 2001, we had survived property crashes, stock market crashes, sky-high interest rates (thanks Norman), and a daily diet of treated sewage water and choking traffic fumes. Paradise it wasn’t. We both worked full time, and Maria had worked her way up to become the Personnel Director of our local authority. I managed a small insurance brokerage, and we both enjoyed good incomes, two nice cars, a reasonably sized house, and several holidays a year.

We’d decided not to have children and on our many Sunday afternoon walks in the local park, we contemplated moving abroad somewhere quiet and laid back. We wondered if not having children was the reason we felt unfulfilled with our lives. That must be the reason—right? We had built a life with a lot of childless couples in it, and sometimes doubted our decision, but when we steeled ourselves and discussed the way we felt with our child rearing family members, friends, and peers, we realised that most of them felt the same way we did. They had children that enriched their lives, but they were still fed up with the same things we were.

They were just as unhappy as we were with the congestion, working long hours to pay a huge mortgage and bills, and not having any free time left at the end of the week for themselves. That completed our resolve—it was time for a change. We weren’t sure what, or where, but we knew it was time.

Our next move

By now you must wonder—why Sweden? Why did we decide to move from the depths of Essex in the south of England to Sweden? Why not Spain, France, or Portugal, like many other Brits? Well, Maria was born in Sweden. Her Swedish mother married her father, an Englishman, who worked in northern Sweden in the mid-60s. They met, married, and had Maria a few years later.

Four years later, at the end of the 60s when her father’s contract in Sweden had finished, they all moved back to England. Maria’s mother still lives in the south of England today. She has a small holiday cabin near us and every year has to fight the inevitable desire to move back to Sweden after her annual three-week visit.

We’d holidayed in the north of Sweden, amongst other places, every other year from the early 1990s onwards. We stayed at the home Maria’s mother grew up in. We only ever visited in the summer and loved the twenty-four-hour daylight. A trip out into the wilderness in our hire car a few times each trip was a must, and we would marvel at the space as the reindeer and moose wandered around. Looking back now, those trips and seeing how Swedes live was probably part of the reason we were so unsettled in the UK.

After each holiday it became harder and harder to return to the UK. Winters were still a mystery to us though, as the house cost too much to heat for short winter breaks. We weren’t into winter sports and didn’t consider we were missing out on much. 

The old wooden property, built in 1934, had been a cinema run by Maria’s grandparents. They also ran a small hardware store and a TV and radio business from the property. There were even monthly dances and events in the large cinema building due to its size and location in the village. Built at the same time, the cinema and main house made an impressive looking white boarded property joined together. I’d always loved the look of the place and dreamt of owning something like it in the UK one day, but it was a pipe dream. Properties like this, with the acre of garden it sat in, would sell for well over a million pounds where we lived at the time and would undoubtedly be much more today.

In 2002, the family decided to sell the house. Maria’s grandparents had both died many years before, and her mother and four siblings couldn’t justify the upkeep of such a large house for a two or three week holiday each year. The sale process began, but the house was old and neglected. Nearly everything needed repairing or painting.

The saving grace was the new roof, which replaced the old felt one in 1980 with the ubiquitous Swedish metal roofing sheets. The military had rented the cinema building through the 80s and wanted their equipment protected from the weather, so they paid for a new roof on the cinema and the house. It made all the difference and probably saved the building from collapse, which many do when protected by just a felt roof.

The few offers the family received on the house were low, less than a cheap family car. Neither Maria nor I wanted to see the house leave the family, let alone sold for just a few thousand euros. We believed if someone outside the family bought it, it wouldn’t get the love and care it needed to survive. We stepped up and offered to buy the house as a holiday home. The family agreed, and we purchased the house for a reasonable price after they realised our commitment and the investment of time and money we were prepared to make.

Eighteen months and four holidays later, the enormity of the task we had taken on began to sink in. Painting and banging in nails for two weeks solid is not much of a holiday, however much you want to get on with a project. When it’s your main escape from a stressful life, you arrive back exhausted and resentful—and we’d hardly scratched the surface repairing the large house.

The perfect storm

So there we were, living in England, in the second or third most crowded country in Europe, unhappy at the prospect of twenty more years working long days caught in the materialistic rat-race, and owning a holiday home in northern Sweden that needed at least a years solid work and a significant investment to repair it. Our usual Sunday afternoon walks took on more purpose as we discussed the possibilities of moving to Sweden. Could this be the answer for us?

After years of Sunday morning walks where we anguished over a lifestyle change but didn’t know what to do, everything seemed to fall into place. The UK housing market was pretty flat, and we had a good chance of returning and jumping back into the property market after a couple of years if our move didn’t work out—albeit with a bigger mortgage.

We couldn’t make the move without selling our house, but as we’d been thinking about moving within the UK anyway, we decided that if we returned to the UK from Sweden after a couple of years, it would give us the opportunity to choose where we moved to. A backup plan is always sensible, and in fact, we believe now it’s critical for peace of mind when you move abroad.

So that was it. That Sunday afternoon our plan began. Over the following few weeks, we gave our notices in at work, put our house up for sale together with most of our furniture, and sold one of our cars. While we waited to sell the house, we shipped a lot of clothing and small items to our new home in Sweden.

Six months later after flying our pets over a few days before, we set off in our remaining car on the three thousand mile journey to northern Sweden. Our adventure had begun.

Earning a living

After spending 2004 renovating our new home, we decided to put our experience to good use and buy, restore, and sell property in Sweden. We had savings, so we looked at cheap houses—unbelievably cheap by most European standards (see Book 4, Property, in the Move to Sweden series).

We subsequently bought properties, renovated them, and then marketed and sold them to people from around the world who wanted a holiday home in Scandinavia. It went well, and we made a decent living. Then in 2008 the financial crisis hit and the buyers dried up overnight. So we had to rethink our career path.

Interestingly, we had noticed through our contacts with selling our properties that many people were interested in moving to Sweden permanently—but didn’t know where to start, and they wanted advice and assistance on a wide range of issues and practicalities. 

Also, we’d heard that the local municipalities wanted to encourage people to move to their regions. We hadn’t been aware of this before we moved over ourselves. More than that, it became clear to us that Sweden was suffering a population crisis of sorts—especially in the rural areas.

Sweden needed workers then and still does today—in fact even more so today. Vast numbers of the Swedish workforce have retired and will continue to retire over the next decade, which means hundreds of thousands of workers in most professions and services will disappear from the workplace into retirement over the coming years.

We approached our local authorities and local project sponsors who were backed by EU money and told them about the interest we’d had from all over the world. They were surprised, happy, and supportive. Our immigration support work began. Employed by local Swedish Government projects that were already busy with population recruitment, we were able to complement their work with new ideas and a unique insight into the difficulties that most newcomers face when moving to Sweden.

You are not alone