The Scandinavian countries of Denmark, Sweden and Norway have carved a name for themselves as being happy. Immigrants in Scandinavia just like natives get to trust the government which in turn delivers all promised public goods and services without glitches. As someone interested in traveling out to any Scandinavian country for a long stay, you need to calibrate your thinking properly and adjust quickly to realities there.
Whether coming to Scandinavia as a student, worker, Au-pair, exchange program, research, cultural exchange or religion, the experiences remain almost the same. Yes, some may find it easy to gel with the population quickly when participating in programs that promote acculturation.Otherwise, you need to be very deliberate and put effort to blend in well for a smooth stay there.
What you need to have in mind about as immigrants in Scandinavia
Irrespective of which country you come from, its likely that you’ve not seen so many people moving to Scandinavia. You might see a lot of expats making their way to the United Kingdom, Germany, Australia, the United States, France, Dubai…name it. But rarely do you come across many people having plans for Scandinavia.
You’ll be glad to know that Scandinavia has some of the best historical attractions. These attractions dating back to the pre-historic times, viking age, world war era and more lie curated preserved in museums. The countries also have fascinating waterfronts, an assortment of culinary choices, great hospitality and exciting job opportunities. So it may easily take you aback as to why there’s no stampede of immigrants chasing the Schengen visa specifically for Scandinavia.
Generous yet strict social security system
Straight and to the point, the social security system enjoyed in Scandinavian countries can be so strict. The countries are very careful not to issue residence permits to individuals who either become a social burden or play the system in the long run.
Equally, overcoming social and economic barriers such as language, workplace culture, making friendships, dating and so forth can be a real headache. Yes, some may find it effortless but a bulk majority struggle in silence upon arrival. It takes way too long before most expats find their bearing in the country.
Comparatively low population
Population of the Scandinavian countries remain relatively low despite a generous social security that highly favor children, families. Its only Sweden whose population has hit 10 million people by 2022. The rest of the countries have a paltry 6 million-7 million residents. This explains why many people will always feel the presence of the government around them.
You’ll easily feel that a caring authority is seeing you at every turn. But again, the low population explains why the countries can effectively deliver social security as well as remain very particular on which foreigners to admit to a residence permit scheme.
Mistakes to avoid as immigrants in Scandinavia
It does not matter whether you’re going to live in Sweden, Denmark or Norway. These countries have a near similar system which then means your situation will likely be the same depending on choices made.In addition, do not think that whatever program that brings you to Scandinavia will play a big role in your integration. Look here, integration in Scandinavia and navigating through until getting a permanent residence or citizenship requires raw effort and smart maneuvers.
So, you’re better off knowing the mistakes those who arrived before you made and preparing ways to avoid them. We here share quick nuggets on how to overcome the challenges for a better experience,life in Scandinavia.
1. Deciding on how long to stay in Scandinavia
Everyone who gets a residence permit in Scandinavia, just like any foreign country has a limited period of stay. It can be 2 years, 5 years or so on. Typically, residence exceeding 9 months will earn you a residence permit. But, this residence period may be prolonged or shortened depending on ones’ realities.
From day one or even before boarding that airplane to move to Scandinavia think of your next move more. Look here, advice and convinced if there could be any remote chances of wanting to stay longer. In most cases, people toy around with this idea of staying long enough to get a permanent residence or citizenship.
To get the highest immigrant status in Scandinavia which is permanent residence or citizneship, you have to really plan well. You mut be on top of what the latest laws demand and be aware that many countries in Scnandinavia have stricter laws targetting immigrants. So, take time to know what the law demands. This must be done right from day one because just a small error will mess things up. So, make up your mind and start the process of paving your way to even long stay,
2. Focus on language and culture
Many times, you come across Youtubers and bloggers commenting on how knowing the English language will be a great way to enter Scandinavia. The demand for English proficiency testing by most programs abroad further reinforce this thinking. The truth remains that living in Scandinavia differs from visiting Scandinavia.
For those visiting Scandinavia on tourist visas of less than 3 months, the English language will do. This works better when staying in internationally oriented cities but may be problematic in the upcountry cities. But all the same, English will be okay for short time visitors,
If you have a long term residence permit in Scandinavia, just hit the ground running learning Danish, Swedish or Norwegian-whatever the country applies to you. Unfortunately, it’s rare to find bureaus that teach any of these Scandinavian languages out of the region. Otherwise the best advice would be that you begin learning the basics way ahead of your traveling time.
3. Get a job and avoid being too picky on the kind of jobs to take
There’s mistaken thinking that in Scandinavia people simply get freebies. Of course it could be true that the governemnt redistributes taxes to take care of all but as a person, you have a duty to contribute your fair share in taxes and good behaviour. You just need to break away from the utopia that one only needs to show up and all needs get sorted.
You have to work hard to meet your tax obligations as a resident as well as pay up the so many bills that come calling every end of month.
Perhaps you have a particular level of education and see yourself fit for working at a particular level. These expectations may not come true immediately you arrive in Scandinavia. Unless you come with a work permit in hand which specifies everything to do with the job, be ready to restart life. Otherwise, be ready to build your workplace profile in Scandinavia from ground up.
With an education and work experience abroad, most organizations and companies in Scandinavia may want to absorb you at a lower level, train and monitor your performance before assigning you comparable responsibilities. All this while, you need to earn and keep paying your house rent, electricity bills, heating bills and more.
A good number of internationals enter the Scandinavian job markets through easier to penetrate avenues like caregiving, engineering, computer science, cleaning and so forth. If highly skilled or experienced, you better go straight to the work-based schemes and square it out with other equally competent candidates.
4. Making new friends in Scandinavia
Internationals in Scandinavia initially get shocked by the new happenings around them. People check around and everyone appears so busy with their own issues and it feels like they’re ignoring. Even simply asking for directions may earn you strange looks from locals who will be like “your google map can do it better.” Feeling out of place and trying to fit in a different culture, most people retreat to solitude.
As an international, there’s always a thinking that getting too close to countrymen and women already living around exposes one to possible gossip. You may see internationals from the same country trying to avoid their own just to escape perceived rumors and chitchats about their lives. This could be a reality but doesn\t need to deter you from forging friendships with them.
Remember, internationals in Scnaidnavia who happen to come from your own country have first hand experience and understand your struggles. They are best placed to pinpoint to you how best to get through with life. Forget about the negativities and sort yourself.
In any case, your friends, countrymen will link you up with great job opportunities. They may also show you discount shops around, where to buy foods from your country in case you miss it. Once in a while, you may organize get-togethers and just talk in your native language and feel cozy.
5. Playing the established system
You may come across stories of internationals who’ve been completely banned from ever stepping foot in Scandinavia and wonder how that happened. It’s a reality that the Sandinavians appreciate the people who have the social and moral mettle to abide by set rules.
As you receive the residence permit in any Scandinavian country, they will specify a few things. They list expectations of you and what benefits to expect. The guide may not contain each requirement word by word but has implied rules or may be stated like “do not get involved in criminal or civil malpractice.‘ Several legislations may then be listed under it with no elaboration on what they really contain. It’s upon you as a diligent immigrant to over time learn what constitutes good behavior in the country. Self policing and vigilance at all times will save you from trouble with the authorities which may end up in deportation.
Crime, dealing in drugs, murder or such aggravated offenses will earn you a space behind bars or a permanent ban. In cases where you breach driving regulations, mireport information to get social benefits or so on, a hefty and deterrent fine will be imposed on you. Such eventualities may just ruin what would have been a smooth and enjoyable stay in Scandinavia.
6. Scheduling and paying bills.
Truth be told, the amount of bills that one needs to deal with in Scandinavia is so huge. If you were not used to paying so many bills in your country, it would be a learning chance and a steep one for that matter. You basically need to ensure that the monthly salary accommodates the need for house rent, electricity, car insurance, house heating, kindergarten…name it. The list can sometimes look so discouragingly long.
In case you have dependents back in your country who also expect an international money transfer from you, it may be a bit challenging. At all times, you need to be on top of your bills and updated. If you transfer more money home and remain with not so much to meet your own bills in Scandinavia, it may be an awkward experience.
As a basic, just prioritize your own bills ahead of everything else. Competing needs won’t ever cease but paying your bills is something nobody but yourself has to do. Just learn to live within your means. Here, choose to live in a house that fits your income and accrue bills that fit well. If possible, avoid gold level subscriptions which gobble up a lot of money. Just live an average life and stay happy.
Moving to any Scandinavian country opens people to a wide range of amazing experiences. The countries have the most effective social security systems which take care of the vulnerable and organically inspire happiness. This notwithstanding,one has to identify the mistakes likely to happen and avoid them.
Those who succeed in avoiding some of the common mistakes internationals in Scandinavia make end up feeling the much anticipated happiness. Yes it won’t be like all natives will come patting you on the back for coming but instead, the government services and social security will always keep any foreigner elated.