Your offer is accepted, your flight is booked and your residence permit is approved. You’ve been practising hej! and tack! for weeks and you’ve just about learned to pronounce the name of your university. All that’s left is putting on your warm winter coat, zipping up your Fjällräven backpack, accepting an IKEA gift card from your parents and heading to Sweden! Right?
As we say in Swedish, nja – a handy combination of no and yes. There’s more to prepare than just the practicalities. Here are eight more ways to prepare for your first week in Sweden, courtesy of our digital ambassadors.
1. Pack what you need, don’t pack what you don’t
Will you use a lot of stuff in your daily life in Sweden, just like at home? Probably. But save your luggage space for the essentials – you can buy most of what you need here. ‘Pack light,’ says Gimmy. ‘You can always buy everything here new for a reasonable price, or get it second hand. But definitely bring that rain jacket!’
We especially suggest bringing things with you that either can’t be found in Sweden (like specific spices or foods from home) or that are more expensive here (electronics, winter coats, hair products for some reason). Most day-to-day things like clothes, bedding, basic kitchenware and office supplies are easy to find in Sweden at similar costs to elsewhere in Europe.
2. Take a few long walks – maybe even a swim
It’s rare for students to have their own cars in Sweden – why would they, when cities are walkable, everyone has a bicycle and public transport is extensive and reliable? If you’re used to driving everywhere, now’s a good time to get used to walking or cycling from point A to B (including with your books, groceries, sports equipment…). Believe us, this is a good thing! Exploring the city on foot is a great way to get to know your new home.
And if you don’t already know how to swim, we warmly recommend learning! Sweden is surrounded by water, and you’ll have lots of opportunities to hop into a lake, river or sea.
3. Visit the dentist. Don’t forget to floss!
‘Do your dental checks before moving as dental visits in Sweden can be costly,’ Angelina advises.
4. Buy (and practise using) a sleeping mask
Especially during the summer, days are very, very long in Sweden. This means bright nights. ‘For those who are light sleepers, make sure to bring a sleeping mask. Even in August, daylight hours are still long compared to wherever you’re from, and you probably won’t have a curtain for the first week after you arrive!’ says Hong.
5. Master cooking a few simple meals
‘Learn how to cook and make it a habit to bring your own lunchbox to school,’ Dena suggests. ‘Schools usually have rooms with microwaves where you can heat up your lunch. Everyone does it, since eating out can be pretty expensive.’ Satu agrees: ‘You can save money by cooking at home.’ In addition to being thrifty and healthy, knowing how to make a few dishes from your country is a great way to introduce your new friends to your home culture.
6. Stock up on moisturiser
‘No matter how good your skin is, you should always hydrate and moisturise!’ Marina says. ‘The weather is quite dry and your skin will feel it. Also, lip balm must be your best friend from the beginning!’ The winter weather in Sweden can indeed be drying, so make sure to bring your preferred moisturising products from home. Of course, you can also find whatever you need at a Swedish pharmacy, but prices can be higher than elsewhere.
7. Download an offline map
Swedes depend on apps like Google Maps to navigate, and often you won’t receive directions to an address – everyone will just assume you’ll look it up yourself. To make things easier on yourself during your first week, download an offline map so that you don’t always have to search for wi-fi to find your way around before you get your Swedish phone set up.
8. Learn a few key Swedish words (especially groceries)
Sure, you’ve probably already tested an app or website for learning Swedish, and maybe you’ve already signed up for a course. Which is fantastic! We’d also recommend making a short list of any words you know you’ll need to recognise and understand in your day-to-day life – especially groceries, so that you can be sure to get the right kind of milk and aren’t standing in front of the dairy case, shaking your head over lättmjölk, mellanmjölk, gammaldags mjölk, filmjölk or just mjölk. A great Swedish–English dictionary is tyda.se.