My name is Hannah and I’m going to be writing some blog posts for Renthia this summer. This week will just be a be a bit about myself and what I do here, but check back over the coming weeks for helpful tips for living in Stockholm.
I am originally from the UK and have lived in the southern part of England (near Reading, though saying “near London” is often met with more understanding nods), for most of my life. I have also spent some time living in the North of England where I studied Biology for three years at Durham University (it’s near Newcastle; cue the understanding nods).
The UK was a great place to grow up and live, and somewhere I’d definitely recommend people to visit. The diversity of landscapes from the Yorkshire moors to the seaside towns, the rich history and the famous tea culture (it’s true, we love it), are some of the great things about my country. However, living abroad and experiencing a different culture and language is always something I’ve wanted to do and after the controversial (and terrible) “Brexit” decision by the UK, I decided to take advantage of our time-limited EU privileges and move abroad for a while.
Around January last year while I was nearing the end of my undergraduate study, I decided to apply for a Master’s in Sweden. Having had a field trip to Abisko (a small village in the North of Sweden) the summer before, I already knew this was a country I loved. Its natural beauty, combined with its famous equality-driven and liberal society made me sure that Sweden would be a fantastic place to spend two years studying. I narrowed down my choice to Sweden’s capital, Stockholm, based on its great reputation and the interesting Master’s course that was offered by Stockholm University.
By the time I graduated from Durham in June I had been accepted onto the Master’s course in Stockholm and, miraculously, had found a room to rent there from August. I say miraculously because this had been no easy task. Housing is not easy to come by in Stockholm and not living in Sweden or speaking the language made the hard task even harder!
Now, as I write this, I have just finished my first year studying at Stockholm University. It’s been a great year of new experiences and meeting some amazing people. As well as being able to explore the city and call it home, I have been able to immerse myself in the culture and begin learning the Swedish language (easier said than done when half of the population speaks English better than you can!). I have also changed accommodation twice, registered for a Swedish personal number, ordered a Swedish ID card and become a registered patient to receive healthcare. Whilst I will continue talking about my life in Stockholm for this blog post, I will return to some of these other topics in the coming weeks as they contain important information for settling into a life in Sweden.
Within the city I have found there’s plenty to do for every weather, occasion and budget. The Vasa and Medieval museums and Skansen all offer fascinating days out, and fika (the famous Swedish “coffee and cake” tradition) can be had at any of the many cafes throughout the city. During summer, Gröna Lund (an amusement park in Djurgarden) hosts a variety of concerts, with performances from Elton John and Zara Larsson included in the line-ups for this year. The buzzing atmosphere of Stockholm also continues into the night, with popular bars and clubs, such as “Slakthuset” (a previously functioning slaughter house!), open all year round.
One of the things that makes Stockholm so beautiful is its unique blend of city and nature, with parks, lakes and natural reserves seemingly around every corner. When taking a boat into the Archipelagos or travelling towards the surrounding countryside, no abrupt changes are seen when the city is left behind. Rather, the stunning landscapes outside of Stockholm seem to be an extension of the beautiful nature already found within it. In addition, Stockholm’s coastal location provides great opportunities for travelling to some European countries at student friendly prices. This year I got the chance to visit Tallinn (Estonia) on a weekend cruise and Gdansk (Poland). Next year I plan to visit Helsinki, Riga and Copenhagen, as well as travel North in Sweden to see the Northern lights.
Two things people often comment on when I say I live in Sweden are the long winters and high taxes that lead to high costs of living. But, I would argue, these are two of the things that make Sweden such a wonderful place to live. Firstly, it is true that the winters here are long and dark but the snowy landscapes and winter activities (such as skiing and ice skating) can be really beautiful and a lot of fun. What’s more, I think that the Swedish winters really instil an appreciation for the arrival of spring (welcomed by the Valborg Festival in Sweden), with many events and social activities occurring outside as the weather gets warmer. Secondly, the benefits of high taxes in Sweden are easily evident in the outstanding public transport, healthcare and education systems found here. Thus, I am sure that I’m not alone in the opinion that the high cost of living in Sweden is definitely worth it.
Overall, I really love my life in Stockholm. It’s a beautiful and welcoming city and I’d highly recommend it as a place to visit, study or work. This past year has been an amazing experience and I hope I’ve been able to show you why!
Don’t miss out on future blog posts where I’ll be discussing some important information for those thinking of visiting and, especially, those thinking of moving to Stockholm. Some of the topics I will discuss will include information on finding accommodation in the city, applying for a personal number (personnummer) and top sights to visit in Stockholm.
See you next time!