20 Pros and Cons of Living in Sweden

The Vikings were the first civilization to truly emerge from what we now call Sweden, performing raids on the rest of northern Europe throughout much of the 9th century. It would become a Christian kingdom in the centuries to follow, highlighted by a union with Finland, Denmark, and Norway to create the Kalmar Union in 1397. Sweden would eventually decide to strike out on its own, although a 16th century effort to re-establish the relationship would eventually fail thanks to the efforts of Gustav Vasa.

Vasa would not only help to form Sweden into the country we know it as today, but his efforts also caused the nation to break from the Catholic Church during the Reformation. By the 17th century, this kingdom reached its peak of power, controlling areas from Russia to Germany. This rule would stop in 1700 because of the Great Northern War, when King Karl XII attacked Moscow and fell in Battle.

The next years would cause Sweden to lose Finland to Russia, but then gain Norway until 1905 when that union was also dissolved. In the late 19th century, the poor economy also caused over 1 million people to immigrate to the United States. The country would remain neutral in both world wars, finally seeing stabilization in its economy.

Modern Sweden is part of the European Union, joining in 1995. The government did not join the Eurozone, so the krona is still the official currency of the country.

List of the Pros of Living in Sweden

1. Households are given significant benefits because of the societal structure of Sweden.
When you are living in Sweden, then you will eventually qualify for the benefits which are present in this society. There are certainly high taxes that are present here, but there are also numerous visible rewards. Education, healthcare, and other resources are readily available because of the investments that people make into their families and country. Some of the systems are being privatized as a way to help them gain more profitability, while others focus solely on a money in, money out perspective.

The standard income tax in Sweden is 30%, while the VAT typically hovers around 25%. If you do not earn more than 20,000 krona per year, then there is an excellent chance that you won’t pay any taxes. If your income is more than 433,000kr, then you will pay the standard tax plus additional items to help cover the cost of the benefits which everyone gets to use.

2. Almost everyone in Sweden speaks a second language, and many speak 3 or more.
Most people who live in Sweden are bilingual. They will typically learn English as their second language, speaking Swedish in their homes as the primary option. It is not unusual for someone coming up through the Swedish educational system to learn three or more languages before they head off to school.

Speaking of language, Sweden is also more relaxed when it comes to the use of swear words and other comments that are often deemed to be inappropriate in other countries. You will hear the four-letter words frequently outside of the prime-time viewing hours, which is something that network TV in the United States does not even allow. This makes for a casual, relaxed environment for entertainment that doesn’t extend to the media you wish to view.

3. Most people in Sweden can access a free or low-cost education.
The colleges and universities in Sweden are entirely free for students to attend. There are no tuition costs to worry about if you grew up in the country. Although students there can still end up with a lot of debt, averaging $19,000 (124,000kr) by the time they graduate, it is still 30% less than what the median is for U.S. students. If you can find a place to live, manage your food expenses, and be smart about your costs, then you can avoid many of the debt pitfalls that can impact 85% of the students who graduate with debt.

4. You have more free time when living here without sacrificing your income.
When you have a job in Sweden, then you will get to take advantage of numerous holidays throughout the year. Most people begin a new employment opportunity with a minimum of five weeks of paid vacation during their first year. You can then earn even more as you gain seniority with your employer.

Parents in Sweden receive 480 days of paid parental leave combined so that everyone has a chance to bond with their new child. These days are to do with as you please, so most new parents will take a month or two off, and then work about 80% of the time to ensure they have enough cash available to meet their needs.

5. Most children can go to school without taking out significant debt.
CSN is the state-sponsored entity in Sweden which distributes student aid to those who attend local colleges and universities. The country has an almost 100% uptake rate on student aid, even though the actual tuition costs are free. If you can avoid the independent streak that strikes many Swedes when they start to contemplate their studies, then you can save upwards of 4,000kr per month on your basic expenses.

There are some challenging geographic issues to consider for the 9.1 million people who call Sweden home, but it is not impossible to take advantage of this benefit. Even so, only 2% of Swedish men still live with their parents after the age of 30, compared to 32% in Italy and 30% in Spain.

6. The people in Sweden take pride in their appearance and that of their cities.
There is a stereotype about the Swedish people outside of their country where there is a believe that everyone who lives there is beautiful. Part of the reason for this global idea of what life is like in Sweden is because of the emphasis that is placed locally on taking care of oneself. Managing your health in positive ways is seen as an easy, effective way to benefit the rest of the culture.

This advantage extends to the cities and properties around the country as well. People pick up after themselves, chide those who do not, and work to ensure that their nation is a reflection of who they seem themselves as a people.

7. Healthcare opportunities are reasonably affordable in Sweden.
Although many people outside of Sweden think that their healthcare system is universal, that is not entirely accurate. You will typically pay between 100kr to 250kr per visit every time you need to schedule a doctor appointment. The maximum charge per visit in this healthcare system is 1,000kr. Once you hit the threshold for your maximum amount, then the rest of your visits are free. Think of the system as a sort of deductible, only one that is administered outside of the typical structures of health insurance.

8. The internet connection in Sweden is exceptionally fast.
When you start living in Sweden, then you will find that the Internet connections which are available to your home or some of the fastest in the world. The country currently ranks as the fifth-fastest provider worldwide for those who get online regularly. Even your mobile data connections are powerful here, with their 4G network underground and out into the archipelago. This country takes its reputation as being a technology leader seriously, which means you will find exactly what you need with this advantage.

9. Sports are a way of life when living in Sweden.
Even if you do not feel like you are into sports that much, living in Sweden can change your perspective. You will find professional handball, football, and ice hockey leagues operating throughout the country. Many of the players that get their start on Swedish teams will eventually get picked up by the NHL in the United States. Handball is a fun sport to play, and there are numerous world-class players that put on their skills with each match. Even football (soccer) is different in Sweden since you will find passionate players, coaches, and owners all working hard to move up the league and table.

10. The Swedish archipelago is one of the best places on Earth.
You will not believe your eyes when you first get to see the Swedish archipelago. It is easily one of the most beautiful places on the planet. It is a region that is reasonably accessible from Stockholm, allowing you to tour the over 30,000 islands that have a community and atmosphere all their own. You can take a 45-minute boat journey to begin enjoying the slower pace of life outside of the city where you can catch a meal right outside your front door at times.

The food in the archipelago and throughout the country is amazing as well. Fika is a primary staple of the Swedish diet, which means you’re taking the equivalent of a coffee break to refuel your energy stores. Grab a small bun flavored with cardamom or cinnamon to take a pause in your day. Then take advantage of the Sil, meatballs, and Snaps that are routine components of local foods.

11. It still gets warm in the summer, especially in the south.
Temperatures during the summer months in Sweden can regularly reach 30°C. That means you have access to warm water, city beaches, and plenty of free areas to swim. You will even discover that there are temporary beaches to find along the shores of the country so that you are never too far away from having a lazy afternoon on the sand. If you are in the north and there is a warm day, then you can even take advantage of the 24 hours of sunlight that are possible at the peak of the summer season.

12. World-class skiing is available in Sweden.
When the snow decides to fly in Sweden, that means you have an opportunity to strap on your skis and start exploring. You can go skiing just 20 minutes from Stockholm if you decide to call the city your home. Cross-country skiing is always available in the backcountry, while ice-skating typically begins with the start of the hockey season. The weather can get crisp at times, especially if you are not used to the cold, but there is a saying here that goes something like this: “There is no such thing as having bad weather. You’re just wearing bad clothes.” If you have a warm jacket and some basic essentials, it is reasonably easy to manage the changes in weather.

List of the Cons of Living in Sweden

1. You will need to get used to the climate in Sweden.
You will find that the climate in Sweden is described as “generally terrible” by most people all year long. There are a few weeks during the summer when the sun is out consistently, and you can wear shorts and t-shirts. Most of the year is cool, damp, drizzly, and then snowy during the months. If you are familiar with the weather patterns of the Pacific Northwest, especially around the Seattle area, then you will have an idea of what it is like to live in Sweden – just with more snow than you might imagine. It doesn’t get as bitterly cold or snowy in the south as it does in the north, but you are never guaranteed sunshine.

2. People in Sweden tend to isolate and stay in their comfort zone.
On one of the forums operated by “The Local” that describes life in Sweden, the author states that “many Swedes are racist.” Although that description is not entirely accurate, the reality of living in Sweden is that people tend to stick to their comfort zones. They will not open up to you until you make repetitive efforts to get to know them. It can be a slow, arduous process to start making friends when you transition to this country. Don’t take it personally if you encounter this issue. Just offer a friendly smile, thank the person for their time, and then move on to whatever it is that you need to do.

3. You will quickly discover the unwritten rules of the Law of Jante in Sweden.
There is a code of conduct in the Nordic countries that is known as the Law of Jante. Swedes call it Jantelagen. It portrays that doing things out of the ordinary, or being overly ambitious on a personal level, in inappropriate and unworthy. The goal is to create a society which conforms with one another so that there are predictable outcomes for everyone. There are 10 rules in total that many people follow even though it is not part of any official code.

You are not to think that you are anything special. You are not smarter, better, or have more knowledge than anyone else. You’re not to think that anyone cares about you, that you can teach others anything, or that you are even good at anything. In short, you are not to think that you’re as good as someone else. This perspective often creates criticism of those who want to break out of their social groups or position in society.

4. Health insurance in Sweden does not cover everything.
It would be fair to say that the standard healthcare package in Sweden is something that is affordable to everyone. There are certainly opportunities to visit with medical professionals whenever something is bothering you. The only problem with the system is that you must pay more to get more, so any dental or vision needs fall outside of what you receive with the regular package.

This disadvantage is similar to what some families experience in the United States. If your income is just above the threshold to where there are no supplementary benefits available to use, then you might decide to not receive dental or vision care because you’re trying to save your money for other items.

5. The government of Sweden controls your access to alcohol.
In the decade after the second world war, Sweden was really struggling with the problem of alcoholism. After trying several other methods of cracking down on this issue, the government decided on a policy that they called Systembolaget in 1955. This structure is the government-controlled alcohol store, and it is the only place you can purchase products that contain more than 3.5% alcohol.

You need to play your trip to the Systembolaget in advance because the stores often close by 7pm on weeknights and by 2pm on the weekends. There is no other option for you to purchase decent alcohol that this one, and the stores are always closed on Sundays. Some people like it since the selection is better and you can get used to the hours, but it is also another way for the government to have its say on your life.

6. There are no significant urban centers in Sweden.
When you move to Sweden, you will quickly discover that there are no major cities throughout the country. Stockholm is the capital and the largest city of the nation, and it has a population of only 800,000 people. For comparison purposes, that makes the community about equal in size to Detroit. Even if you count the entire population of the metro area, Stockholm maxes out at 1.5 million people.

By the time you reach the 10th-largest city in the country (which is Norrkoping), there are fewer than 100,000 people in the entire metro area.

7. You do not qualify for a free college education if you move to Sweden.
If you want to start earning a degree at a Swedish school, then there are some costs that you will need to pay if you are not part of the European Union. Sweden still allows for EU citizens to receive free tuition at the country’s schools and universities, but fees and costs apply to anyone from outside of that region. You will want to check with the school that you wish to attend before finalizing any plans to move to the country to ensure you know what the final expenses will be.

8. There is a significant daylight experience when comparing the summer with the winter.
When you are living in Sweden, then you will need to get used to the changes of the sun’s rotation during each season. The winters see significantly less sunlight compared to the summer months, with some communities in the far north forced to deal with arctic winter where the sun disappears for an entire month. The flip side of that disadvantage is that there is another month during the year where the sun never really sets either. If you are the type of person who likes to stick with a specific routine, it can be challenging to have your circadian rhythm get used to the changes of seasons.

The pros and cons of living in Sweden work to balance the benefits of a slower, relaxed pace of life with the need to manage the sometimes difficult living conditions. Because the nation is not part of the Eurozone, there are times when the krona does not hold as much value. The taxes can be burdensome if you live paycheck-to-paycheck. Yet there is also a certain comfort about life that you can find here which doesn’t exist anywhere else. That is why it can be such a special place to live.

Blog Post Author Credentials
Louise Gaille is the author of this post. She received her B.A. in Economics from the University of Washington. In addition to being a seasoned writer, Louise has almost a decade of experience in Banking and Finance. If you have any suggestions on how to make this post better, then go here to contact our team.