What’s the best and worst about living in Sweden? Here are 50 pros and cons compared to other countries.
Please note that this article is written from a Swedish perspective. All pros and cons are such that I have experienced or thought about after living abroad for several years, before moving back to Sweden. It can also be information from various surveys.
These pros and cons are based upon a national average and the general standard that we are used to in Sweden compared to other countries worldwide, including rich and poor countries.
Also, note that each of these pros and cons about living in Sweden can be seen as the opposite compared to each individual and their wishes and point of view. After all, we are all unique individuals with varying preferences.
If you have any feedback on this text or wish to add your own experiences and thoughts, you’re more than welcome to list your own pros and cons about living in Sweden in the comment section.
This article was primarily written to give appreciation to the things that are really good in Sweden and give people the opportunity to think about such things that can be improved upon. We can improve things together, and in my opinion, I think that Sweden has the chance of becoming the greatest country in the world.
Pros about living in Sweden
Freedom to roam (Allemansrätten)
Freedom to roam, or Allemansrätten as it is called in Swedish is something that is quite unique. It allows people to roam freely in nature, including private lands and forests with some reservations.
It also gives permission to stay temporarily, and even the right to pick berries, mushrooms, and some plants. This is one of the major pros of living in Sweden, especially if you like to spend time outdoors.
Potable drinking water right from the tap
To be able to drink the water straight from the tap is a luxury compared to many countries around the world. In Sweden, we have a tendency to take this for granted.
With that said, there are many industrialized countries where you can drink the water straight from the tap without getting sick, for example, countries within the European Union. However, in many other places, it is common to add chlorine which makes the water taste rather unpleasant.
High standard of accommodations
Swedes in general spend a lot of time in their homes, and the standard is usually very high compared to other countries worldwide. We have good insulation, heating, safety and large kitchens etc.
In many parts of the world, it’s almost always warm outside, or there are only two seasons, a dry period and a wet period. In Sweden, we have four seasons with clear distinctions between spring, summer, autumn and winter.
Each season has its own charm, and if you follow the old Swedish saying, “there is no bad weather, only bad clothing” it will definitely be much easier to appreciate the shifting seasons.
A person who loses their job or gets injured can get help from the Swedish welfare system. A social security net that is amongst the most generous worldwide.
It’s easy to have your eyes abroad and forget about the beautiful nature that Sweden has. The landscapes are shifting and each region has its own scenery, including forest, sea, archipelago, and mountains.
Being close to nature is a great thing about living in Sweden. Even if most major cities are made of concrete and glass, there is almost always a nature reserve within a short distance.
Education for everyone
No matter if you’re from a poor or rich family, you will have the opportunity to educate yourself. Elementary school is mandatory, and even though high school and university are voluntary, they are free to attend.
This is a big advantage of living in Sweden compared to other countries such as the United States, where a good education can cost a mere fortune.
Few dangerous animals
Besides ticks and allergic reactions from mosquitoes and waps, there is really only one animal that could be potentially dangerous to mankind in Sweden, and that is the European common adder.
However, deaths from this snake are rare and happen less than every tenth year. The European common adder is not an aggressive snake, and bites usually only happen if a person steps on it.
Good public transport (most of the time)
We should be happy to have public transport that is on time and well-functioning most of the time. The real exception is when something unexpected happens or if there is a storm.
And it’s not only the larger cities that have public transport, even smaller towns have access to buses and trains. It’s relatively easy and smooth to travel by public transport in Sweden.
Swedish healthcare holds a very high standard. The university hospitals have access to the most modern healthcare available in the world, and in general, Swedes can get advanced treatments for various causes and diseases.
However, quality can differ quite a lot between regions, so this only applies to Swedish healthcare in general. There is also high-cost coverage, which means that you will only pay for medicines and healthcare up to a certain amount, and then it will be 100% free.
Wide range of international food and supplies
In Sweden, we eat food from all over the world. There are restaurants serving food from almost all cuisines. Even in the local supermarkets, one will find lots of international products.
The same goes for other things as well such as cars and electrical appliances. It’s also easy to order from abroad with most companies offering fast and cheap shipping to Sweden.
5-6 weeks paid vacation
The number of paid vacation weeks is a great advantage of living in Sweden compared to many other countries, for example, the United States, where workers only get 10 days of vacation on average per year.
In Sweden, most people who work full-time can enjoy 5-6 weeks with full pay per year. Within the EU, 4 weeks is mandatory, but compared to countries outside the EU, 10-15 days of vacation is quite common.
In general, Swedish society is very digitalized and most things are able to be accomplished online without the need to visit an actual office. Tax returns, applications, and various forms can all be filled out and signed online.
If you’re not having a lot of trouble with computers and smartphones, this means that you can get things done a lot quicker and easier. Thanks to “Bank-ID” you can easily identify yourself online.
Natural disasters are rare
Experiencing a natural disaster is very rare in Sweden. Earthquakes, small tornadoes, and flooding happen from time to time but are seldom devastating.
Also, while living in Sweden, one will not have to worry about volcanoes, cyclones, tsunamis, or other natural phenomena that can become very dangerous.
Sweden is one of the most gender-equal countries in the world, and there is a general census that everyone should get the same salary for the same work, no matter what their gender is.
Swedish gender equality goes further and often includes various chores at home, such as cleaning, cooking, taking care of children, etc.
Paid parenting and 480 days of parental leave
One of the biggest advantages of living in Sweden is the general view on parenting, where both the mother and father are expected to spend time with their children.
Sweden has the highest number of parental leave days, up to 480 days. And you’re not only entitled to take time off work but you’re also paid a generous amount, which can be up to 80% of your regular salary.
Swedish comfort food
Kalops, Kroppkakor, Wallenbergare, Meatballs with mashed potatoes and lingon, Falukorv, and Raggmunk are just some of the dishes from Sweden that are traditional and regarded as comfort food.
Swedish cuisine is rarely seen at the top when comparing food from various places around the world. However, even if I am biased, I find that typical food from Sweden should get more appreciation, it’s delicious.
Many of the dishes are simple and make you full while at the same time being healthy, and cooked with love without additives.
For some, Systembolaget can be seen as a disadvantage, but one should not forget that the state-owned Systembolaget is one of the largest importers of alcohol in the world.
The wide range of wines, beers, and various spirits that are carefully selected and organized is quite unique. They also offer expert help to pair beverages with food and occasion. This knowledge is quite rare to find abroad in supermarkets and liquor stores.
Culture of Fika
The Swedish culture of Fika is spread from north to south, and it’s a huge part of the Swedish identity. Fika is basically having a nice break with friends and family where you socialize and have a cup of coffee along with something sweet.
Sweden is far ahead when it comes to waste management. We are so effective that we even import garbage from other countries and make money to handle their waste.
Great air quality
The air quality in Sweden is generally very good, especially outside the major cities. This is a big advantage of living in Sweden compared to many other countries.
This becomes very clear while living abroad or traveling to a country or city with air pollution. When you get back to Sweden and breathe in the fresh air, it’s like cleansing your lungs and soul.
Fast internet connection
In general, almost anywhere in Sweden is connected to the internet. In 2020, at least 98% of all households had access to the internet, and most of them had a fast connection.
Low usage of antibiotics in meat
Swedish meat contains very low amounts of antibiotics and steroids. Actually, the levels of antibiotics in animals are the lowest in the EU. Also, animal keeping adheres to strict rules.
Dangerous diseases are uncommon
Dengue fever, malaria, zika, and other tropical diseases are not occurring in Sweden, except for those cases where people have traveled to another country and become sick over there.
Other diseases such as salmonella, cholera, typhoid, hepatitis, etc., are quite uncommon. This gives an added sense of security that you don’t have to worry so much about.
Swedes are good at English in general
English is taught in school from a young age, and almost every Swede can make a conversation in English. This is a great advantage of living in Sweden as a foreigner since it will be easier to find a job and become a part of society before learning to speak Swedish.
A strong community life
There are around 200,000 non-profit associations in Sweden. 3 out of 10 Swedes are active in at least one association. This also means that children will have plenty of activities available.
Proximity to water
There are around 100,000 lakes in Sweden. In addition to lakes, there are also vast coastal areas on both sides. No matter where in Sweden you are located, you will never be far away from water.
Freedom of religion
In Sweden, we are fortunate enough to have freedom of religion. This gives each citizen the right to decide on their own and to practice their religion. It also includes the right to stand outside religious communities.
Also, you shall not be discriminated against because of your faith. It’s allowed to criticize various religions, which should not be taken for granted since there are a number of countries where only one religion is allowed to be practiced in public.
Swedish society is open and accepting towards LGBT people, and they will not be persecuted by the state. A large majority of Swedes hold no grudge against people who identify as LGBT.
According to Swedish law, it is also allowed for people of the same biological gender to marry. They can also adopt children and become parents together.
Working conditions and labor law
Sweden is recognized all over the world for their worker unions and extensive labor law. This has been the case for many years, and even if there has been an increase in less secure jobs, Swedish working conditions are still highly ranked worldwide.
Cockroaches are very rare
A big advantage of living in Sweden is the fact that cockroaches are very rare. If you have ever lived in a country with a warmer and more humid climate, chances are high that you have seen a cockroach.
In southern European countries such as Spain, there are lots of cockroaches. They are also common in countries such as the USA, Thailand, South Africa, and Australia just to mention a few. Cockroaches are pests that can spread diseases, so they are not only unpleasant but can also become a health hazard.
Cons of living in Sweden
Sweden is one of the countries in the world with the highest tax rate. According to the OECD, Sweden has the fifth highest tax pressure worldwide. Only Italy, Belgium, France, and Denmark are ranked higher.
For people with a high salary, there is not only communal tax to be paid but also state tax at an additional 20%. Companies also pay social security fees of 31%.
After salary and social security, you also pay VAT on almost anything. Standard VAT in Sweden is 25% with some exceptions.
Law of Jante (Jantelagen)
The Law of Jante was written by Aksel Sandemose in the 1930’s. An unwritten law that has been imprinted on Swedes, Norwegians, and Danes for several decades.
- You’re not to think you are anything special.
- You’re not to think you are as good as we are.
- You’re not to think you are smarter than we are.
- You’re not to imagine yourself better than we are.
- You’re not to think you know more than we do.
- You’re not to think you are more important than we are.
- You’re not to think you are good at anything.
- You’re not to laugh at us.
- You’re not to think anyone cares about you.
- You’re not to think you can teach us anything.
The end result of this code of conduct has led to the fact that personal success is seldom celebrated. To stand out from the crowd, either by appearance or personality is generally met with negative energy or even social exclusion.
High cost of living
According to SCB (national statistical agency), the median salary is currently around 33,000 SEK per person before tax. Compared to other countries worldwide, the cost of living is relatively high when comparing disposable income.
Numbeo has made a comparison where the United States has been given the index value of 100. In this comparison, Sweden has been given a cost index of 109,3, which makes it one of the top 15 most expensive countries worldwide.
Cold during winter
The cold is one of the most common things that Swedes complain about, especially when the temperature is at its coldest during December, January, and February. Many Swedes are longing for the sun in this period.
Cold temperatures outside often mean that most Swedes dwell indoors during wintertime. This results in fewer people out and about as well as more places being closed for winter.
Long housing queues and limited renting
In bigger cities, one typically has to register in a queue system to find a rental property. The number of available houses and apartments is limited, and the demand is often higher than the supply in most cities.
In some cities, you have to wait for several years before being able to have the opportunity to rent an apartment. This can be a major con of living in Sweden unless you have the funds to buy your own property.
Darkness during winter
The dark winter is another major drawback of living in Sweden, at least according to many Swedes and foreigners. In the northern December to January.
In the southern part of the country, there will be more hours of daylight, but it will still get dark at around 3 or 4 p.m. For many, this will mean that it will be dark when you go to work, and dark when you leave your workplace.
Long waiting times to get healthcare
During the first 6 months of 2022, there were 183,000 patients waiting for surgery or treatment each month according to Läkartidningen.
This is clearly a disadvantage of living in Sweden since you can get healthcare the same day or at least within a few weeks in many countries around the world. The long waiting times include both surgery and ordinary doctor appointments.
For a long time, Sweden has welcomed migrants from all over the world. Sadly, the integration has failed completely and a lot of these migrants have still not been integrated.
At the same time, the immigration bureau continues to deport migrants with full-time jobs and people who have become fluent in Swedish. They are being deported due to bureaucracy despite their contribution to Sweden.
While lawful people are deported on a regular basis, criminals are not able to be deported despite having a court order that says that they must leave Sweden.
Difficult for non-EU citizens to get a VISA
If you’re not a refugee, it might be almost impossible to get a VISA to move to Sweden, unless you get a well-paid job before applying for a VISA.
EU citizens have the right to work and live in other EU countries. However, non-EU citizens may have to wait up to 18 months before getting the application approved.
The same goes if you marry a Swede, and want to move here permanently. The waiting time can be anywhere from a few weeks up to months and over a year. During that time, you must reside in your home country.
You can’t use cash to pay everywhere
Cash is less and less accepted as a means of payment in Sweden. For some, this can be seen as a disadvantage of living in Sweden since cash is commonly used elsewhere in the world.
Many stores have chosen to just accept card payments or Swish. The same goes for public transport and other instances. Even banks have decreased the amount of cash that they handle.
Increase in heavy violence and serious crimes
Rape, robbery, and shootings have become something that occurs on a daily basis in Sweden, which was not the case 20-30 years ago. The risk of being a victim of crime is still relatively low, but the increasing violence does come with a big concern if the situation continues to escalate in the future.
Tourism in Sweden is primarily organized for the old industrial vacation in July and the beginning of August. Before that, many places were closed and the same goes after mid-August.
Contrary to other places with international visitors, a lot of places will close around 4-5 in the afternoon, and some will even close during weekdays, and only be open during the weekends.
Swedish tourism is still developing but is currently limited to high season, which typically lasts for 4-5 weeks from mid-July. However, this can also be positive for some people, since there won’t be any crowds in June or September.
The gaps between the rich and the poor are increasing in Sweden. Since the 1990s, the gap between rich and poor has increased the most in Sweden of all countries in the EU.
This increases the economic inequality in society, which in turn could lead to social unrest, exclusion, and mental illness.
Large distance between the north and south
Sweden is an oblong country with large distances between the southern and northern parts of the country. There are 2050 kilometers from Smygehuk to Treriksröset, and the driving time is at least 22 hours.
It can be hard to make Swedish friends
Swedes are typically seen as cold and inward people compared. While that is not true, the Swedish way of living might make it seem like that. However, if you do get to know a Swede, most will be very warm and caring.
But to make Swedish friends can be very hard in the beginning. In many social groups, newcomers are rarely invited. Many will only spend time with working colleagues or people that they went to high school with.
Even as a Swede, it can be very hard to make new friends. And while most Swedes speak great English, many are not comfortable speaking it on a daily basis. Many are also uncomfortable if they are not able to speak Swedish among friends.
Expensive dental care
For people living in Sweden who are 24 years old or older, it can be very expensive to go to the dentist. For costs up to 3000 SEK, you’ll have to pay the whole amount. From 3001 and up to 15,000 SEK, you’ll pay 50% and 15% for amounts above that.
Sweden has the highest number of single households in the world. Around 300,000 people are estimated to be socially isolated. Loneliness is spread through ages, and it seems to increase instead of being lowered.
This is most notable around holidays such as Christmas, Midsummer, and New Year, where many families and friends gather to celebrate.
Big differences in school quality
On a national level, Swedish schools are dropping in quality. While education is based on the same principles, it can be a massive difference between schools.
This can be a disadvantage of living in Sweden if your child ends up in a school with a less satisfying quality of education. Many elementary schools with a good reputation have a queue system since there are so many who want their children to attend these schools.
Culture of silence
In Sweden, people avoid conflicts. According to a Nordic survey, less than 50% of Swedes feel that they would dare to express their 100% honest opinion at work.
If they see a crime or injustice occur, less than half would intervene according to the survey. There is a kind of culture of silence that includes politics, social problems, sexual harassment, and other wrongdoings.
This often means that finding solutions to societal problems can be more difficult due to the lack of an objective debate. Many Swedes are afraid of going against the grain and expressing their opinions in public, especially if they are not in line with the general consensus.
Criticism that goes against the norm has a tendency to lead to personal attacks instead of being met with a substantive discussion.
Increased usage of drugs
The amount of narcotics in Sweden has increased in recent years, especially in the largest cities in Sweden. This is not typically connected with drug addicts, but instead, young people and regular people are normalizing the use of drugs.
It’s common in all parts of society, no matter if you’re living in a poor area, middle class, or upper class. This is not isolated to Sweden, but it’s definitely a development that is concerning.
Sweden has the lowest amount of available hospital beds in the EU
The healthcare in Sweden does have a high standard. However, there’s a big problem when it comes to available hospital beds. There are 2,4 available hospital beds per 100,000 inhabitants, which is the worst in all of the EU.
As someone living in Sweden, this can be something to worry about if you need healthcare. This means long waiting times or even that you might not get any healthcare due to lack of space and available doctors.
Living in Sweden with kids
Sweden is often mentioned as one of the best countries in the world for families. To live in Sweden as a family comes with a lot of benefits, not to say the least when it comes to education and the possibility to spend a lot of time with your children.
There are also various well-fare contributions for families. For each child you have, you’ll get a benefit known as “barnbidrag” which is essentially a monthly contribution to cover some of the expenses for each child.
The Swedish parental leave is one the most generous in all of the world with up to 480 parental days. Parenting is also more equal in general with mothers and fathers sharing the parental leave days.
Dental care is free up until 23 years of age, which is another advantage of living in Sweden as a family. If your child becomes sick, you will also be paid if you’re unable to go to work.
Living in Sweden as a senior citizen
In a lot of countries worldwide, retiring is not an option. Some will work until the day they die, no matter if the age of retirement is met or not. Most people in Sweden will retire at 65 or earlier.
In the future, the pension age will increase to 67 and later up to 69 and 70. This increase is due to people living longer in general. If your salary has been low, it can be difficult to have enough money to live comfortably.
Sweden has the poorest pensioners in the Nordic countries. However, there are also many senior citizens who have a very good financial standing. Especially for those still living with a partner. Many also own their property and have paid off a big part of their mortgage.
One of the cons of living in Sweden as a pensioner is the cold weather, which could potentially worse symptoms such as stiff joints or diseases such as arthritis. Ice is another danger that could lead to an increased risk of injuries.
Summary of living in Sweden
Overall, Sweden is a great country to live in. As a Swede having lived abroad for many years, I’m grateful to have been a child growing up in Sweden.
There are lots of luxuries here that we take for granted, and even though it’s not perfect, there is definitely the possibility of making Sweden the greatest country in the world.
If we all come together and agree about the society that we want, then we can all work towards the same goals. We should be proud of our beautiful country, and we should cherish Swedish culture.
Do you agree with these pros and cons? Or do you think that something is missing? Feel free to leave a comment below. I’m eager to hear your thoughts about living in Sweden!
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