Oftentimes, when I had to attend an interview, I was asked the same question over and over again: "Why did you choose to come to Sweden?"
Despite living and working in Sweden for a few years, this question is one which I haven’t been able to answer. You see, before I arrived in Sweden, I had always trained my mind to travel. Being of Nigerian descent and living in Africa, watching international news as a child with my dad, deep down, I nursed this idea of being an internationalist, to travel and experience another culture different from what is obtainable in Africa. The long railway tracks, the well-padded roads, the constant supply of electricity, and the very excitement of different food and culture were deeply imprinted in my thoughts. With all this in mind, I decided to study international relations to focus mostly on traveling and learning more about the international system and diverse cultures and traditions. This was a starting point but was in no way enough. I started to tour Africa, from Nigeria to the Benin Republic, down to Togo, and later on to Cote d'Ivoire. All these places had one thing in common: rich culture, great food, and beautiful people.
After my studies, I decided to apply for my master’s degree to study in Sweden. I was sitting one afternoon at work in my home country, going through Facebook, when I saw a post by someone about Sweden. I quickly followed the link, researched more about studying in Sweden, and decided to process my studies in Sweden in a spontaneous manner. I look back at my journey and decision, and all I can say is that this has to be one of the best decisions I have ever made. So whenever I am asked why I chose Sweden, it has become one of the most challenging questions to answer. However, after living here for a few years, I am going to tell you why you should choose to study or live abroad, in this case, in Sweden.
Nature: Sweden is a country that highly cares about nature and the environment. With over 100,000 lakes, beautiful mountains, forests, a great view of the sun, and legendary northern lights, Sweden parades itself as a lover of nature, and in this light, Swedes themselves are great nature lovers. In the summer, Swedes are seen sitting outdoors, hiking, and, in most cases, lying on a mat in an open grass field in the park to soak up all of nature. This creates a huge avenue to network, make acquaintances, and get a Swedish friend!
Language: Apart from the native language of Swedes, which is Swedish, the English language is widely spoken and highly understood in Sweden. Though one can experience or meet someone not so conversant with English, they will be quick to let you know or try as much as possible to pick out some English words they are confident in. This, combined with the fact that Swedes are adventurous people who like to travel and take a break in different countries at least once a year, allows them to be interested in other languages. From this, other languages such as Arabic, Finnish, and some Nordic languages can be understood by some Swedes.
Adventure: This should be at the top of your list as one of the reasons why you should come to Sweden if you are an adventurous person. Sweden has numerous spots and places to experience adventure. One can go hiking in Lapland’s mountains and wilderness and enjoy a very beautiful view of the northern lights. Ice skating, snowshoe hiking, sunset kayaking, mountain biking, kayaking in the Stockholm Archipelago, the beautiful Liseberg Park, wildlife safari, etc are some amazing experiences one can tick off their bucket list. The fascinating museums, curated art centers, and the famous royal palace known as the Drottningholm palace are not left out.
Working Conditions: Among Swedes, there is a rule of "Jantelagen," which is the idea that you are not better than anyone. Every job and worker is treated with the utmost respect. There is the belief that every person is important in a job environment. For instance, if you treat the help or cleaner poorly as a boss, you should be ready to become the cleaner or help yourself as this is not accepted in Swedish society. According to the Swedish tax agency, changes are being made to prevent foreign workers from being expelled due to minor errors. The changes being introduced aim to counteract the exploitation of workers and attract and retain international competence. Also, working in Sweden allows you to go on paid holidays, mostly around five weeks of paid vacation and more as you keep progressing. Parents here also get 480 days of paid parental leave, so they share between them.
Employment: As of the point of writing this article, a new residence permit valid for up to nine months has been introduced for highly qualified and well-educated people who intend to look for work or start a business in Sweden. Combined with the fact that Sweden's employment rate averaged about 66.43 percent in 2001 and has become over 71 percent in 2022,
Safety: Sweden, despite all one can see in the news, is also considered one of the safest nations to live in compared to other countries. This is not to say that petty crimes do not occur every once in a while. However, the prompt and timely response of its police officers and the fact that they are always on the lookout for any notable threats or reports is quite commendable. Overall, one can say that Sweden can be termed a safe country.
This list is in no way exhaustive of reasons why you should live in Sweden. The reasons are numerous and unique to each person. One, which I believe you will discover on your own if you make that decision to travel. Like so many people, travelling and migrating is a huge milestone, and not everyone is confident enough to take such a spontaneous decision. But then, remember, you only live once. Live, love, and explore!
Hope to see you on the other side...