Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Getting a Job in Stockholm, Sweden for a foreigner

So you want to move to Sweden to work! Beautiful fit Nordic women, the pleasant sounding sing-songy language and a high standard of living tend to bring lots of people to Sweden.  However in fact so does the old love refugee story where a partner of non Swedish origin follows the Swedish partner back to his/her home country temporarily or permanently to live. 

The good news is that the Swedish economy and currency, although technically part of the Euro has held up well against all the problems associated with the rest of Euro and the 'Euro-Crisis' that has effected mainly the southern parts of the union.  Another advantage to working in Sweden is that unlike the Danish krona, the Swedish Krona is not linked to a standard exchange to the Euro meaning that it has not lost its value like the Euro has and is generally more stable then the Euro.

If you are thinking of moving to Sweden to work and are from outside the EU, be aware that before you arrive here, you will need to have already applied for and been granted a work permit in your home country.  Unless you have special circumstances, it does not work to move to Sweden first and then apply for a work permit.  The process is made much easier for those that are within the EU as you are technically allowed to reside in Sweden and work immediately but if you are from outside the EU the rules are quite a bit different and should be investigated at Migrationsverket's Homepage.  My circumstances were such that, i came to sweden to study as an international exchange student (from Canada) and people part of this program are allowed to work here on that study permit.  Also to convert a study permit to a work permit, you simply have to show that you have completed 35 credits of schooling before your permit expires thereby allowing you to work here permanently.

Thats the good news, now the bad news.

If you have anything foreign sounding about your name, think twice about coming here.  

Although it is not really talked about here in Sweden, the general attitude for short listing candidates for job positions in the country generally starts with a look at the persons name.  Anything with Mohammed or foreign sounding will get binned first and from there they follow the regular sorting process based on qualifications.  This has been tested several times by the news agencies by performing undercover tests to local companies and Sven Svensson was always chosen over Akbar Ahmed although the CV's were identical   

The other opportunity you have is to be overly qualified for the position you are applying for and willing to accept much less then you were earning back home (with my frame of reference being Canada).  I am making approximately half of what i took home monthly when compared to the level i was at back in 2007 when i moved to Sweden from Canada.  In fact it would surely be higher today if i were still in Canada, how much higher, i can only guess. 

The benefits here are many such as great child care, if you have children, a pleasant working environment, job security, and generally a more relaxed attitude towards work.  I can confirm first hand that given the choice to do what i was doing in Canada (Project manager) and working here in a similar position, i would pick Sweden hands down.  Life is too short to be pulling your hair out on the commute to work, stressful working environment, and stressful commute home.  As Sweden's public transport system is so well developed, you never need to be cut off by that rusty jalopy again.  You never have to stress at work about your assignment as you will generally get help from your co workers and the fikas are-a-plenty throughout the day.

One of the things you must get used to when working here is not to expect to save too much money every month.  The average Swedish Salary is around 20,000 SEK per month which works out to about 14,000 after taxes and remember you still have to pay your rent, food, electric, etc.....Foreigners generally earn more money because they are used to earning more money in their home countries.  Im not making a fortune but its over double the average and im happy with that.

Questions? Comments? Please post, i will help where i can!

The Swedish word of the day is: samarbeta which means to cooperate

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Taxi's in Sweden: The Perfect Crime

Generally thought of as one of the least dishonest professions in the world, Taxi's have always bugged me.  Its fairly rare that i find a taxi driver that is not out to squeeze ever last öre out of your wallet and this is exceptionally true here in Stockholm. 

There are several taxi companies in the market and every so often the newspaper does a story on which is the cheapest taxi company out there with a few driving tests just to make the population feel better about how much they are getting screwed.

I have found that there are few if any 'Swedish' taxi drivers left out there, most of the drivers are immigrants to Sweden and couldn't care less about getting you to your destination on time or saving you any money.

For example: its normal here in Sweden to have a 'framkörs avgif't which basically is an extra cost on them having to come out to pick you up if your not living a hair away from the central station.  There is also 'vänta tids avgift' which replaces the framkörs avigft with one where the second that they start waiting outside of your door for you they start billing you.  This particular fee averages out to about 1 euro per minute, so about 60 euros per hour.  Even doctors don't make that kinda dough, figuring in that the 'time' of these members of society is worth about 10 euros per hour (a typical MacDonald's job) this fee is grossly unreasonable. 

Then comes the actual drive where the majority of the cost adds up.  This varies greatly with some dishonest taxis that peg the meter to the number of seconds in a minute meaning that the meter counts 60 SEK / 6 Euros no matter how far or fast your driving.  Your generally safer with Taxi Stockholm or Taxi 020 or Sverige Taxi but you can have bad experiences with these guys as well depending on who is behind the wheel.

The majority of people use taxis over the weekend when they are out partying with their friends to either get to or from the party.  And this is normally after a pre-party at home and here is where Taxi drivers take advantage of Swedes general nature not to cause conflict.  They will drive around in circles and take the most indirect route possible to a location just to run up the meter and when questioned will claim ignorance and state they have been driving for years yadda yadda yadda......

Not only that but with all the inebriated scantily clad swedish girls that are on their way home from the nightclub, its not entirely uncommon for sexual assaults by Taxi drivers which unfortunately happened to a friend of mine a year ago.  Its become such a culture of mistrust that the guards at nightclubs will even take down the liscense plate information about a taxi they put a girl in to ensure that nothing happens to her on her way home (which is how that particular taxi driver was caught and charged).

This culture of overpriced taxis have opened up an underground taxi industry which is unfortunately hundreds of times more dangerous then licensed taxi drivers.  It will always be non-swedish immigrants standing outside the closest food joint (McDonalds, etc) whispering out taxi, taxi.... hoping to get a bite and once you are in one of these 'Svart Taxi's' (quite literally black taxi's), who knows what will happen to you.  I have had a friend that was robbed at knifepoint for his bank card and pin number, i have had other friends sexually abused, the list goes on and on.

Tips and Tricks with Taxis in Stockholm (and Sweden for that matter):
  • Speak swedish to the driver if possible, english speakers normally get a 'special rate' or route.
  • Travel only with the above mentioned taxi companies (be careful, a lot of companies try to trick you with logos, names or cab coloring to make their vehicles look like one of the above companies
  • Travel in small groups is possible, dont travel alone
  • Know the route you want to take and the fastest way to get there before getting into a cab, google maps works great for this and with the advent of the smart phone you can access this information anywhere
  • ALWAYS use the meter, some will try to convince you to use a 'fast pris' or fixed price rate
And if your open to it, USE THE DAMN PUBLIC TRANSPORT SYSTEM!  It runs 24 hours during the weekend and its quite fast and costs you next to nothing if you compare it with taxis!

The word of the day is 'Fuskar' which means cheat in Swedish