[Made in Suède] Guide: settling in Sweden and finding a job in a startup
Thanks to a strong, innovative and equal economy, Sweden is popular and has become in a few years one of the countries where people want to go to work in Europe the most. A phenomenon that I had discussed in my article of the month of february. For my part, it was my studies in 2008 that led me to discover Scandinavian life. Expatriate since, and serial startuper since my experience at iZettle between 2013 and 2016, I would like to share my experience and some tips with you, who like me, perhaps dream of joining the unicorns of the far north.
Settle in Sweden
Difficulty level: easy
Good news, for you who are used to the French bureaucracy and its paperwork, the Swedish administration will appear as simple as child’s play: reliable, fast, and digital. When you arrive, here are the essential steps to take:
As citizens of the European Union, you have an automatic right of residence in Sweden. However, if you are not a European citizen, the process is mandatory.
Skatteverket is the tax service in Sweden and the personnummer is a personal number that you will be asked for everywhere. Without a person in Sweden, you are just a tourist and even access to a simple telephone subscription could turn into a nightmare. Accessing the personnummer is therefore your number one priority when you arrive. But beware, it gets complicated: it is not possible to obtain a personnummer as a job seeker, because you have to be able to justify an address and a job in Sweden… Except you are here to find a job and to access an apartment you will need a payslip and a personnummer …
The egg or the chicken? Do not panic, as a European citizen you benefit from a right of residence for 6 months. The most logical thing is therefore in general to start by getting a job, even if it means going back and forth to France. If you want to maximize your chances and stay put, ask the tax department for a temporary person.
First advantage of the personummer? You can now register for the Swedish social security system (Forsakringskassan), which will allow you to benefit from free hospital care, sick leave, and parental leave.
Once your personnummer is in your pocket, opening a bank account in Sweden is very simple and will give you access to the bank-id: a digital identification system for signing transactions and online documents.. The main banks in Sweden are Swedbank, SEB, Nordea, and Handelsbanken.
Arriving in Sweden, you will quickly realize that you could live here for years without learning a word of Swedish. But mastering the local language will facilitate your integration. In addition, registration with SFI (Swedish for immigrants) is completely free and offered to all newcomers.
Find a job in a startup
Difficulty level: normal
Sweden is of course unicorn start-ups like Spotify and iZettle but it is also an ecosystem of more than 7,000 active young shoots according to the figures of Nordic Web.
The region is full of opportunities and welcomes talent from around the world with open arms.
But how do you find a job quickly?
CV in English but leave aside your TOEIC and TOEFL
Swedes are pragmatic, like simplicity, and favor experience over theory.
Get to the point by starting with your experiences and being clear about the added value you can bring to the business. Avoid loaded layouts and language level, prefer “professional use” to a TOEIC score that no one will understand. No photo, but update your profiles on social networks, they will surely be consulted during the recruitment process.
Traditional ad platforms in Sweden are Monster, Academic Work and Blocket, but start-ups typically use other networks to find talent. Start with startupjobs.se, uptrail.com, cruitway.com, angel.co/sweden/jobs, trib.se, sup46.com/members/job-board, startus.cc/jobs/english/stockholm and LinkedIn.
Dare creativity and spontaneous applications to stand out
A start-up like Spotify receives more than 350,000 CVs per year and candidates do not hesitate to send their own songs, playlists or even create real marketing campaigns to get noticed. To stand out, even with smaller start-ups, I would advise you to prioritize quality over quantity and go through a tailor-made and direct approach. If you are in marketing like me, you could for example contact the CEO of the target company on LinkedIn and send a list of improvements that you would like to present over a coffee, the famous fika.
Participate in meetups to network
Stockholm has a large number of meetups around tech and start-ups. STHLM Tech Meetup is even the largest monthly tech gathering in Europe.
Interviews: apply the art of lagom
Lagom is a Swedish expression frequently used to denote the right measure, neither too much nor too little. This is a key notion in the art of living in Sweden and you can apply it to almost anything, including interviews.
Interviews, especially for start-up positions, are often relaxed and quick (30-45 minutes). The traditional process usually involves two or three interviews and the negotiation is often done at the last moment or even by email. Salaries are announced in Swedish kronor gross, and it is not uncommon to be offered options if this is a key position. To get an idea of the average salaries in your field you can visit sites like Glassdoor, Unionen, or Alla Studier.
Find accommodation in Sweden
Difficulty level: expert
Sweden is attractive and Stockholm is even the most dynamic city in Europe. As a result, the housing market is very competitive. Today is the number one challenge for start-ups for recruiting foreign talent.
Here are some solutions, both short and long term, to help you:
Homestay or camping, while waiting for something better
While looking for permanent accommodation, consider Airbnb, a few days in a youth hostel or enjoy german rätten: a principle protected by Swedish law which gives everyone the right to access and camp in Swedish nature. Sweden even listed the whole country on Airbnb sweden.withairbnb.com.
Locations: förstahand or andrahand?
First-hand apartments (förstahand) in Stockholm are regulated and distributed by queues that can last for several years.
So turn to second-hand contracts (andrahand) but these are generally contracts concluded for a fixed period. The main ad sites in Sweden are blocket.se, qasa.se, andrahand.se, bostaddirekt.com, hyresbostad.se, and homii.se. Also consider posting messages on Facebook groups like The French of Stockholm to seek advice.
Want to buy? A very profitable investment in recent years
Buying is the safest way to find stability in Sweden, but you have to have the means. In ten years, housing prices in Stockholm have doubled and the price per square meter is now higher than in Paris. The most popular site in Sweden to find out about homes for sale is Hemnet.
I hope that this non-exhaustive list will help you prepare for a departure for Sweden. Do not hesitate to contact me directly via LinkedIn or Twitter if you have any additional questions. Lycka till (good luck).
Erwan Derlyn, is a digital strategy consultant for a start-up.
French expat, based in Sweden since 2008, Erwan began his career in an agency before joining the start-up iZettle between 2013 and 2016.
Now independent, he works with some of the fastest growing companies in Europe in FinTech, music, fashion, design, and healthcare.
Erwan Derlyn is the FrenchWeb correspondent in Stockholm. Each month, he presents start-ups from the region and comments on the dynamic ecosystem of the Swedish capital.