Currently Browsing: Sweden
20 Aug 2012
Finding an apartment in a new country is always a bit of an adventure until you get the hang of the new system. Finding an apartment in Stockholm is a situation that strikes fear into the hearts of even the most adventurous, even after years in the city.
This is because unlike in every other city in the world I have lived in, as a foreigner it is almost impossible to get a first hand rental. Swedes can wait up to 10 years to get a first hand rental contract in Stockholm, an option not open to foreigners who might only remain in the city for a handful of years. As a result, the second hand rental market is flourishing, as people are not prepared to wait a decade for a reasonably priced apartment in the centre.
Here are a few tips to make this experience a little easier:
1. Someone who knows someone
This is the way I have found all of my apartments in Sweden, generally through someone who went to school with someone 15 years ago who saw a message from someone else on Facebook and forwarded the details to me because I said I was looking.This might sound a bit hard if you are new to the country and don’t know anyone, but you will be suprised how helpful people in Stockholm can be, even if you just met them once at a bar in Thailand 5 years ago – a sense of apartment seeking camaraderie seems to form in Stockholm.
Put a message on facebook telling people you are looking for a place, tell people you meet at parties, ask your HR department at work if they can send an email around to all the staff at your company or if they have someone who can help you look, post up a message on your blog that you are looking. Someone I met even found his place on twitter as someone he followed posted up an ad.
This is a great site to find accommodation on, but keep in mind that to every apartment advertised, they will receive around 200 replies, so you have to make yours stand out. A friend of mind who found her apartment this way said she wrote a friendly email, telling the woman about herself and responding to key points in the message, making it obvious she was not simply copying and pasting the same reply, but had in fact composed a personal email. The woman replied saying she was one of only two who had written a personal reply, and after a viewing she got the apartment.
Go to Bostad – Lägenheter – Uthyres i Stockholm – and then choose the area you want to look in.
Write your replies in Swedish if you can, unless the ad is in English. It will make your chances of a response much higher – if needed, get a friend to help you create a template in Swedish that you can change around fairly easily.
You will need to search every day, multiple times a day, and reply as soon as possible. Apartments tend to go fast, and viewing are often the same day the ad is published.
Another tip with Blocket is to compose your own ‘looking for an apartment’ ad in the Önskar hyra i Stockholm section. Here the key is to write a nice description of yourself, about your work/studies, and remember to include a picture of yourself. Again, write in Swedish if you can, and you can always write a longer message in English after if you like.
3. Bostad Direct
This is another site to find apartments on, although this one is a paid service/highway robbery, where you pay 695 SEK per 45 day period to access contact information about various apartments.
The apartments here tend to be quite expensive, particularly in relation to their small size, but this is certainly an option while you look for something else at a better price.
Additionally they offer corporate rentals, and these tend to be a bit better than the public rentals, so have a chat to your company and see if they would be willing to help. Keep in mind prices can be negotiated, I know of a few people who have brought the prices of corporate rentals down but a few thousand crowns a month as the owners would rather rent through a company than straight to the public.
4. Other website and options
If you are a member of couchsurfing they have a section under the Stockholm group for those searching for and offering apartments.
I have even heard of people buying Google adsense advertisements, or placing advertisements in newspapers such as DN in the bostad section.
5. Short term rentals
Companies like Citylivingapt offer expensive apartments for short term rental. This could be an option if you need a place for a couple of weeks while you wait to move into another apartment, or if you are only in Stockholm for a month or two.
6. Advertise yourself in buildings you like
I have seen plenty of people place posters up in the entrance ways to apartment buildings they like saying they are looking for a rental, a bit about themselves and their contact details. Even if the poster gets taken down after a day, it might pay off. You can also do this on the notice boards of supermarkets, and I have seen people also post on street lamps… yes really.
I have also heard of people who call up new building developments in Stockholm saying they are looking to rent any apartment that becomes available there. One particular couple with a baby managed to get a great apartment in Hammarby Sjöstad this way. Why restrict yourself to new developments? Check out companies that build apartment buildings in Stockholm and give them a call – they might be able to put you in touch with whoever manages their old builds.
7. Buy an apartment
After moving a few times in a year, you might be fed up and decide it is time to buy. Given the ridiculous pricing of second hand rentals in Stockholm, I know people who pay less for their loan per month than they did to rent. I’ll post about buying in more detail later, but for now, the best place for you to look is Hemnet – this is where pretty much every apartment for sale in Stockholm is listed.
Things to be aware of
There are of course many scammers around trying to make money. Be aware of people who are unable to show you the apartment in person because they are living overseas for various reasons/have had to pop out of the country on a business trip etc, and want you to transfer money to a bank account as a deposit after which they will send you the keys. Generally these apartments are very attractively priced and in excellent locations.
Now this sounds pretty obvious, but often attached to these emails are scanned ID cards/passports of a Swedish person, contracts, etc, to make it appear legitimate. Suffice to say, if you are not able to meet in person, forget it.
But don’t give up
The main tip is to keep looking, and try not to get too disheartened. Put in enough time and effort and you will find something. Even if you need to stay six months in the outer suburbs, once you have made a few more friends your network will widen and someone will know someone who has a place for rent.
Good luck! (and if you have any more tips and trick, post below and share your knowledge)
15 Aug 2012
I have had a couple of emails about the intensive Swedish class I took – SJEJ, so I thought I would post up a quick update.
I took the class for almost three months, ending when I flew back to Australia for my wedding in May. The course was for 4 hours a day – 8am to 12 Monday to Friday, with an additional 1 hour reading class each week, and 4 hours extra study time once a week which we could use to write our essay for the week, do our reading and so on (although almost everyone went home for this).
We were expected each week to read a section of a book given to us in the reading class (around 20 – 30 pages), in addition to writing an essay on a topic related to the theme of the week (the judicial system, Swedish holidays, etc). We also went on two excursions while I was in the course – one to the parliament, and the other to the court house where we watched a couple of court cases – and we had to write essays based on what we observed. The excursions were actually really interesting, and we had a great tour guide at the parliament.
In order to pass the course (level D of SFI) we had to have read one Swedish novel, or a number of easy to read novels, and write a review of them, we also had to give a presentation in front of the class on a topic of our choice (5 to 10 minutes plus questions), and finally we had to take an exam: written, spoken and listening.
I have mixed feelings about the class, which contributed to my not going back after my holiday.
Going to class for 4 hours each day will undoubtably improve your Swedish, and my confidence with spoken Swedish definitely improved during this time as everyone spoke Swedish during class and in the breaks. This was helped by the fact that I was the only native English speaker in the class, bar one, and so we had to communicate in Swedish – luckily we were in a high enough level that this was possible – it would be more difficult to do this in the beginner class. That said, with 35 people in my class and only one teacher, the opportunity to actually speak with the teacher was limited, and we relied on people who had been in the class longer to correct us during discussions. This is ok, but not so great for actually learning correct pronunciation and so on.
The class also moved very slowly. For example, one morning each week we had to listen to an episode of an easy speaking Swedish radio program – this last around 10 minutes an episode, and then we had to fill in the answers to around 20 questions based on the program. This took a maximum of around 30 – 40 minutes for me, listening to the program at least twice, and then playing more challenging sections back a few times. However – we were given a good 2 hours to complete this task. This was indicative of the whole of the course – an hour to fill in a sheet, 3 hours to create a 15 minute group power point presentation, 40 minutes to discuss 3 questions. On the bright side, it did give me more opportunity to speak in Swedish to other class mates who had finished early.
We used a combination of textbooks, print out grammar exercises, TV and Radio programs and photocopies of Swedish books – similar to what we used at Folkuniversitetet, although moving much more slowly through the material.
Would I recommend SFEJ to those wanting to work in Sweden in Swedish? Yes and no.
Considering the class is free, is for at least 20 hours a week, and you have the opportunity to focus on your area of professional experience, the class is fairly good. As there was an attendance requirement (or you could not return), people did mostly turn up each day, which was good and meant there was not anyone really far behind the others.
Once you get past the basic stages of the language, most of your progress is up to you. There were people in my class who progressed much more quickly than everyone else because they only spoke Swedish to their friends, only read in Swedish and only watched Swedish TV – most of their progress could be attributed to their extra study, rather than what they learnt in class.
One day a week we had another teacher. He was nicknamed the grammar god by my class mates, and he really did have a gift for teaching. During this class I gained a deeper understanding of Swedish grammar than I have even in paid Swedish classes, however you are not able to pick and choose your teachers at SFEJ, and we only had him for 4 out of the 21 hours of class a week. At the end of the day, language classes are only as good as your teacher, and that is really not something you can control at SFEJ.
You can always enrol and try it out – it might be that you are in a class with a brilliant teacher and you learn a lot. However, if you want to improve your Swedish to a level that allows you to work in the language, this course alone will not get you there (I don’t think any course will, for that matter). You need to supplement it with a lot of reading in your spare time, speaking Swedish with natives, and writing. The most useful part of SFEJ for me were the essays. Writing each week and having my grammar and word choices corrected was invaluable, and I think many of the teachers would be open to checking another essay from you each week as well if you wanted to do some extra work.
So if you have the time to attend each week, it might be worth trying it out for a month – If you are very self disciplined, and study for a few extra hours a day on top of SFEJ though, you should be reaching your language goals fairly quickly, and the class might be useful for you, if only for the chance to chat in Swedish with your class mates and having your writing corrected. But if you are looking for the opportunity to be in a class with fewer people and a teacher you actually have the opportunity to speak with for more than 5 minutes a day, then you might want to consider paying for a class or tutoring and skipping SFEJ.
2 Mar 2012
If you ever move to Sweden, please learn from my mistake today, so you don’t miss important appointments.
Half 2 = 1.30 pm not 2.30 pm. I am going to stick to the 24 hour system from now on!
1 Mar 2012
Here is part two of my series about learning Swedish. You can find part one: Swedish classes in Sweden here.
Here are some online Swedish language resources I have found useful:
Klartext: Basically the Swedish news, but simplified to make it easier for us Swedish learners to understand and not become distracted/bored after 1 minute by more exciting shiny things around us. Each report is 10 minutes long and they arrive Monday to Friday, which means 50 minutes a week of Swedish listening practice that is actually useful. I wouldn’t say it is exactly easy, especially for a beginner, but it is certianly much easier to understand than the normal news, as they speak quite clearly and slowly. You can also download the episodes in the podcast section of iTunes as well.
Björn Engdahl’s Swedish Course: A short course giving you a good overview of the basics of Swedish grammar as well as some verb tables.
8 Sidor: Swedish news written very simply. A good starting point before hitting normal newspapers. You can pay for the full version to be delivered to you.
Dagens Nyheter: Speaking of which, this is one of Sweden’s most popular newspapers. Try this for practice once you have studied Swedish for awhile. I find it better to print the articles with added spacing between lines and read them away from the computer so that I don’t get distracted/I can write translations where needed.
Try the GoSwedish YouTube channel for some very funny Swedish lessons.
FSI Swedish: An oldie, but a goodie.
Not a language learning resources as such, but this is the best online Swedish-English dictionary I have come across: Tyda
If you are in Sweden, you can watch Swedish TV shows here: SVT
For Swedish, and language learning in general:
LingQ is especially good for reading practice.
20 Feb 2012
This is part one of my series in learning the Swedish language – Swedish classes in Sweden
SFI: Svenskundervisning för invandrare or Swedish for Immigrants
SFI is run by the Swedish government and is free. You are able to take the course if you have a Swedish person number and a residency permit. SFI offers daytime courses of between 15 to 20 hours a week and night courses of 6 hours a week. The night classes seem to be broken into 2 x 3 hours after work.
I have no personal experience with this course, and have heard mixed reviews from friends. Most have said the classes are well organised and taught however a few have likened their SFI experience to that of a circus. Still, considering the fact that it is free, I think it is worth signing up and hoping for the best. Class sizes are bigger than in the paid classes, which is to be expected, and SFI is offered throughout Sweden.
If you live in Stockholm, you can take the test at the SFI centre at Hornsgatan 124 (Zinkensdamm T-Bana):
Monday, Tuesday and Thursday at 10:30 am to 2:30 pm
Wednesday at 1:00 pm to 5:00 pm
Swedish for Academics (you can read about my experiences with SFEJ here)
The Swedish for academics course, and those for trained professionals are also offered by the government for free, and are around 30 hours of study per week. Classes are broken down by specialty, and a university degree, and for some reason, minimum English language are required for many of these courses. This is ideal for someone who can spare the 30 hours a week necessary to attend class, with presumably 10 hours or so of homework per week on top of that.
This course is broken down into:
Swedish for Educators (SFP)
Swedish for Engineers (SFINX)
Swedish for Economists, Lawyers, Social, Human Resources and Systems Specialists (SFEJ)
Swedish for Qualified Healthcare Workers (nurses, doctors, veterinarians, etc)
Swedish for Entrepreneurs
Swedish for Craftsmen (for example, carpenters, welders, and bricklayers)
Swedish for Truck Drivers
Swedish for Bus Drivers
I am going to be starting SFEJ in March, so you can follow me on my journey there. I am curious to see how I will 1) survive 30 hours of Swedish class a week and 2) How quickly my Swedish will improve.
To get into the course, I filled out the application form and sent it in with proof of my qualifications, my resume, proof of residency and so on. Then I was called in to take the Swedish exam, which consisted of a computer exam covering listening, reading and writing, and various chats with people working at SFI which seemed to result in a speaking grade. All in all, with waiting, being sent to the wrong person, being given the wrong exam to start with, doing the exam for the level after SFI and other running around, I was at the testing centre for about 5 hours. I hope your visit there goes a little more smoothly! Don’t forget to take a number when you arrive either, and bring along your passport for ID.
I am looking forward to the SFEJ course, and think it is pretty amazing that the government offers such a specialised course for free. Of course it is in any governments interest to help highly skilled migrants to quickly improve their Swedish skills and contribute to the economy, however many governments seem to forget this, and it is refreshing to see Sweden putting something into practice. As for the quality of the course, I don’t have an opinion yet, but i’ll be updating once I get started.
Folkuniversitetet is an adult education institute in Sweden and offers all sorts of courses, including Swedish language. It runs based on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages, with A1 being an absolute beginner, (A1, A2, B1, B2, C1, C2), and C2 being at a near native equivalent. As the classes are a mix of nationalities, the course is obviously run in Swedish, even at the beginner levels, which is not as difficult or intimidating as it might sound.
Folkuniversitetet offers a range of courses, for example I have taken the 2 nights a week course in Uppsala which runs for around 5 weeks, as well as the monday to friday course, for two hours a day for a month. They also offer courses that focus entirely on conversation and other on grammar. These are paid courses, ranging from 2675 SEK for the 2×2 hours for 5 weeks course, and 4000SEK for the intensive course 5 days a week.
From personal experience, the quality of these courses depend entirely on the teacher you have, and I have been in both good and average courses. However, I have found in all 3 of the courses I have taken at the Folkuniversitetet that the teachers ask for feedback after a couple of lessons to make sure they focus on the areas we wish to improve – say more conversation. Class sizes are small – around 6 to 10 people, which gives plenty of opportunity for everyone to chat.
Quite a few people in my intensive course were just in Sweden for a month to take the course, before returning home to their job/studies, so this might be a good choice for you if you are only in Sweden short term, or want to pop over to improve your Swedish and enjoy the summer!
Medborgarskolan is similar to Folkuniversitetet, an adult educational institution offering Swedish as a second language classes. They have translated the names of the courses into English as well, and offer intensive and normal courses.
Stockholm University offers a course for more advanced students for free. You can read more about it here. I’ve heard positive things about this course from a past student.
If you are an exchange/ERASMUS student, Swedish classes are often offered during your time in Sweden. At Uppsala University for example, you can read about classes here.
Universities and adult educational institutes in your home country might offer Swedish as well, so it is worth calling their language department and seeing if you can join. I studied Swedish at The University of Melbourne in Australia for a year before moving to Sweden, and it was a huge help in making me feel more at home when I arrived.