6 big challenges you may face coming to Sweden


Written by Annamaria

06 Jun 2024

Moving to a new country is exciting but daunting. You don’t know what challenges you will face or how to overcome them. This is just a quick guide with tips on how to face the most common ones. Don’t worry, we all go through them.

Finding a housing

Securing affordable and suitable housing can be difficult, especially for EU students. Non-EU students have a housing guarantee at most universities. Other students can join a housing queue and wait for their room in the dorms, or they need to look for private accommodation. Make sure to learn all the tips you need to find accommodation in Sweden.

An apartment building covered with snow.
Photo: Annamaria

My experience:
I found my first apartment in a smaller city through a Facebook group and my next place through Blocket Bostad.

Navigating bureaucracy

Dealing with administrative procedures, obtaining necessary permits, and understanding the Swedish bureaucracy can be complex. Our digital ambassador, Nana, described her experience obtaining a Swedish residence permit. ‘Migrationsverket‘ website covers most information about the residence permit for students. Another step is obtaining a personal identity number (personnummer) or a coordination number, an ID, and a bank account. for obtaining and understanding healthcare and education systems.
My experience:
I struggled mostly with getting an ID and a bank account. Read more about how I obtained my ID & bank account.

Cultural and weather adjustments

Adapting to a new culture, social norms, and customs can be challenging. Sweden has a distinct climate with cold and dark winters, rainy seasons, and cosy summers. Students coming to Sweden often need time to adjust to the new weather conditions, especially if they come from warmer climates. You need to purchase winter clothes and figure out the system of proper layering.

A girl wearing a winter jacket standing in a forest.
Photo: Patrik Moravcik

And if that’s not enough, there are also cultural shocks you may encounter coming to a new country. It’s the Swedish way to:

  • to be quiet in public spaces, especially the public transport
  • be polite to one another and join a queue, if there is any
  • to make time for fika whenever possible
  • to sing traditional Swedish songs when the opportunity comes

These are just few cultural aspects that you’ll probably experience in Sweden. But this is what will probably make your life in Sweden so much more interesting. You will never run out of new things to learn!

Language barrier

While many Swedes speak English, daily life and integration into the community is often easier with some knowledge of Swedish. It’s not only about understanding the product names in the grocery store or being able to say: “No, I don’t want a bag.”. It’s about the confidence you feel when you’re finally able to have a decent conversation without saying: “English, please.”
Swedish people are very private but there might be occassions when they’d like to approach you and switching to English puts many of them into an uncomfortable situation. Learning the basics of Swedish is essential.
My experience:
Although many people choose to take ‘Swedish for Immigrants‘ (known as SFI), I opted for a Swedish course offered by my university and it was a great choice to learn some basics.

Managing a budget

Managing finances and adjusting to the cost of living are probably the biggest challenges. I mean for me it was tricky to even get used to the Swedish currency. Luckily, it is possible to survive in Sweden on a budget. You just need to be aware of all the budgeting tips and tricks. One thing to keep in mind is that there might always be a student discount with the use of Mecenat.
If you’re lucky, you could get a part-time job to help support yourself financially. Recognition of foreign qualifications and gaining relevant work experience in Sweden may take time though.

A girl picking oranges in a shop.
Photo: Patrik Moravcik

My experience:
I got my part-time jobs through LinkedIn and direct reach mostly. I can’t say it’s easy but after you’re settled and all the paperwork is done, you should definitely try it out. Learning Swedish though may make you stand out a bit from the crowd of internationals looking for a job.


Some students may experience feelings of loneliness and isolation when they are separated from family and friends. This is nothing unusual, no matter where you’re coming from. Building a support network of friends and engaging in community activities can help combat these challenges. The best thing you can do is join the introduction week at your university.

Three girls smiling.
Photo: Brooke

My experience:
I struggled a bit to find friends in the first year since I missed the introduction week. That’s why I felt lonely sometimes. I learned from this experience and gathered tips to help you feel less lonely in times like these. I found my friends through study sessions, part-time jobs, and Meetup (an app you may want to try). Don’t give up, you’ll find them too!

Concluding remarks

There are many challenges that you may face coming to Sweden. Some of them more difficult than others. The most important is not to give up. These challenges can help you grow into a better person and give you opportunities you have not even thought of before. Let me know in the comments what was the biggest challenge for you when you decided to come to Sweden!


Written by Annamaria

06 Jun 2024