Your 20-point guide to your new life in Skellefteå

To help you deal with your first 4-6 weeks in Skellefteå, read our succinct 20-point guide to life in Sweden. Uncover the rich cultural practices, dedication to the environment, and commitment to equality. From understanding the importance of 'fika' to navigating the digital society and appreciating the 'lagom' way of life, our guide provides an enlightening overview for all newcomers looking to understand the essence of life in Sweden.

Fun at Midsummer.

Fun at Midsummer.

Foto: Ulf Palm/TT

Engelska2023-07-31 14:35

1. Language: Swedish is the official language, but most Swedes are bilingual or multilingual. English is widely spoken and is the primary foreign language taught in schools. This can make daily interactions and understanding things like signs and menus easier for English-speaking newcomers. However, it is often easier to integrate into the community and make deeper connections with locals if you make an effort to learn Swedish. Various language learning resources and classes are available both online and offline.

2. Relaxed work culture: Work-life balance is an important part of the Swedish lifestyle culture. Employers often offer flexible working hours, and there's a minimum of five weeks paid vacation. During the summer, many Swedes take long vacations. Parental leave is generous, with 480 days per child, which can be shared by both parents.

3. Coffee : An integral part of Swedish culture, coffee is essentially a social coffee break where people gather to chat. It's considered an important break during the workday and a way to connect with friends and family outside of work. While coffee is the traditional beverage served, tea, juice or other drinks may also be enjoyed during coffee . Contrary to what Swedes say, coffee is not compulsory! Pastries or sandwiches are often served with the drink. The practice of fika fosters a sense of community and provides a balance between work and leisure.

It's fika time!

4. Cost of living : Although Sweden has a reputation as one of the world's most expensive countries, this is overstated and perhaps based on Stockholm's relatively high cost of living, although even Stockholm isn't that expensive, certainly when compared to London, Paris, and Sydney. Skellefteå and Norrland, in general, are much less expensive to live in than most European cities and this is reflected in everything from food prices to utility bills, eating out and rent. Check cost-of-living website Numbeo for a comparison with your current/previous city.

5. Appropriate: The principle of appropriate influences all aspects of life in Sweden. The term has no exact English equivalent, but means something like "just enough," "in moderation," "appropriate," and "suitable." It represents the belief that life is best lived with a sense of balance and sufficiency. From food and drink to work and play, the concept of just enough is about finding a balance that works for one's personal circumstances.

6. Hey hey: The Swedish are informal in their greetings, often using first names in situations where other cultures might use titles and surnames. It's not uncommon for even top CEOs to use first names. A simple "hej" (pronounced "hey") is the most common way to say hello, while "hej hej" is more informal and similar to "hi".

7. Climate : Skellefteå experiences a subarctic climate characterized by long, usually quite cold, winters and short, warm summers. Winter typically lasts from late October or November until April, with temperatures often dropping below freezing, and sometimes, but very rarely, as low as -30°C (-22°F). These colder months also bring significant snowfall, transforming Skellefteå into a winter wonderland, which is ripe for a multitude of winter sports. The short but bright summer, which lasts from June to August, offers a stark contrast. Temperatures can reach 20-30°C (68-86°F) during the day, and the area enjoys extended daylight hours due to the "midnight sun" phenomenon, a uniquely Nordic experience.

The midnight sun.

8. Environmental awareness: Sustainability and environmental awareness are deeply rooted in Swedish society. There are widespread recycling programs, the country has committed to becoming carbon-neutral by 2045, and many urban planning initiatives are designed with sustainability in mind. Swedes are generally aware of their impact on the environment and are making efforts to live more sustainably.

9. Punctuality: Time is respected in Sweden, and punctuality is key in both social and business settings. Being late can be considered rude and disrespectful. Swedish transportation is also remarkably punctual, with trains, buses and ferries usually running on schedule.

10. Queuing culture: Swedes believe in orderly queuing, and it's a common sight in shops, bus stops and anywhere else service is provided. The idea is to wait your turn and the system is based on mutual respect. Swedes value fairness and equality, and cutting in line is generally frowned upon.

11. Holidays: Sweden has unique holidays such as Midsummer, Walpurgis Night, and Saint Lucia's Day, which are celebrated with different customs. Midsummer, for example, is a celebration of the summer solstice and includes activities such as dancing around a maypole, singing traditional songs, and feasting on traditional foods.

Fun at Midsummer.

12. The welfare state: The Swedish welfare state or " folkhemmet " is based on the principle that everyone has equal rights to health, education and social security. It is funded by high tax rates and provides benefits such as heavily subsidized health care, free education from kindergarten through university, generous paid parental leave, and more. 

13. Shoes off please: In Sweden, it is common practice to remove your shoes when entering someone's home. This is both a way of showing respect and a practical way of keeping homes clean, especially during the winter months.

14. Respect for privacy: Swedes value their personal space and respect the privacy of others. It's not common to strike up conversations with strangers outside a social context. Initial reticence should not be mistaken for rudeness. Once you get to know them, Swedes are generally open and friendly.

15. Digital society: Almost every aspect of life in Sweden can be done online. From banking to shopping, making doctor's appointments and even paying taxes, everything can be done over the Internet. A good understanding of digital tools and applications will make your everyday life much easier.

16. Food: Swedish cuisine is hearty and rich in meat, fish, potatoes and dairy products. Global cuisines can also be found in larger cities. Vegetarian and vegan options are increasingly common.

Christmas food.

17. Gender equality: Sweden consistently ranks high in gender equality indexes. Equality is seen as a cornerstone of society. The country has policies that promote equal rights, opportunities and responsibilities for everyone, regardless of gender. You'll see this in the high levels of female participation in the workforce and politics, gender-neutral kindergartens, and shared parental leave.

18. Public transportation: Skellefteå has a well-organized public transportation system, primarily consisting of electric buses, ensuring efficient commuting within the city and the surrounding region. 

19. Cashless society: Many places in Sweden do not accept cash, preferring digital payments such as cards or mobile payment apps. Even small kiosks and market stalls in Skellefteå will have card readers, so it's a good idea to set up a Swedish bank account and a digital payment method ASAP.

20. Allemansrätten: The Right of Public Access, or Allemansrätten , is a unique principle that grants everyone the freedom to enjoy nature. This law allows people to roam freely, even on private land, to pick flowers, mushrooms and berries, to camp overnight and to swim in lakes. It's a unique privilege, but it also comes with certain obligations - to treat flora, fauna and other people's property with respect, and to leave no trace that you've been there.