The 10 best reasons to move to Sweden

The Swedish flag at the end of the rainbow

This post will convince you to move to Sweden, even if you fear high taxes, hate the cold and dark, detest Abba and herring, and tremble with the thought of “Swedish socialism“.

10 reasons why you should move to Sweden.

1. Swedish benefits are the best in the world.

Five weeks paid vacation to start. More if you’re older or work for the government.

480 days of paid parental leave = Happy Kids = Good society

Parents get a total of 480 parental days for each child. For most of those days you’ll earn 80% of a salary of up to roughly $45,000 per year, which in Sweden is very good money. Parents have time to bond with their children — one reason why Sweden was recently ranked the best place in the world to grow up.

Cheap daycare, unlimited sick days and free healthcare, need I go on?

2. High taxes aren’t high if you are getting your money’s worth.

I don’t think taxes are too high in Sweden. Yes, if you are a billionaire, like IKEA founder Ingvar Kamprad, then you are going to pay a lot of taxes, which is why he moved to Switzerland in 1976.

Even Americans agree the progressive tax system in Sweden is just. A recent poll shows Americans prefer the Swedish system, they just don’t know it.

My income tax is 30%, which is normal by Swedish standards.

Sweden does have a 25% value added tax or consumption tax. That’s high, which is why Swedes go shopping like crazy when they are in the US.

But look at how much I get.

There is universal healthcare in Sweden. You don’t pay anything unless you have to go to the doctor. In that case, you pay a small amount per visit. Last year, I went to see a back surgeon and I paid around $40. For a normal visit to a clinic if you get sick, you’ll pay around $20. For kids under 18, you pay nothing. That’s right, nothing!

Daycare is heavily subsidized. It costs about $120 a month, but you get a monthly child benefit from the government which covers those costs. So basically daycare is free.

And, oh yeah, University is free.

Overall, I am happy with the taxes I pay in Sweden because I get a lot back. I’d rather skip paying the middle man for the essential services, which in the US tends to be huge corporations like insurance and pharmaceutical companies. No thanks, leave them out, I’d rather pay direct to the government.

Want more details on all the Swedish benefits? Check out Sweden.se, an invaluable website that describes all the Swedish benefits in detail.

3. It is cold and dark and then sunny and perfect

Honestly, I didn’t like the cold and dark when I moved here, and I’m not sure I like it now. But the extreme weather doesn’t slow Swedes down at all.

They’re out and about all winter long. They cross-country and downhill ski, ice skate, play hockey, take walks, run, sled, drink coffee, and even put their babies outside to sleep in their carriages. I was amazed the first time I saw it, but it’s true. They say it’s good for them. My kids do it too.

The summer is incredible.

The sun rises before you wake up and sets after you go to bed. If you work until 5 pm, you’ll have 5-6 hours of sun after work. That’s quality time for swimming, kayaking, walking, or picknicking — practically a professional sport here.

Celebrations like Midsummer’s Eve and the August Crayfish party (Even Will Ferrell loves crayfish parties…and Swedish sex habits) are the perfect way to salute the sun.

4. The people are beautiful and they dress well.

OK, this statement is subjective, but I’ve yet to hear anyone challenge it. Do you dare?

5. Sweden is a great place for women

If it’s good for women, it’s good for everyone. This Marie Claire article, reports that women thrive in Sweden, citing a 2005 report from the World Economic Forum that named Sweden the “most advanced country” for women.

6. Get green

If one of the most comprehensive public transportation systems in the world sound good to you, move to Sweden. Trains and buses go everywhere, from the big cities to small skiing villages like Åre in the Swedish mountains.

Take my family as an example. We are a family of four, with two children, and we don’t have a car, even though we live in a suburb. Can you do that where you live?

Stockholm was named Europe’s first Green Capital in 2010. Among the reasons cited by the European Union are the city’s successful 25% cut in emissions since 1990, large number of green areas, and the city’s ambitious goal to be independent of fossil fuels by 2050.

All throughout Sweden the air is clean, there is tons of nature and the water is perfect for drinking and swimming.

7. Transparent politics

Sweden always ranks among the top countries in the world in transparency with low levels of corruption. Yes, politicians are still politicians, but in Sweden they are less shady.

8. Strong, independent media

This is the main factor ensuring reason #7 remains on the list. I’ve seen TV shows, both investigative reporting and documentaries, on Swedish public TV that never in a million years would be shown on American public or network TV — maybe not even on cable.

The Swedish media does its job. Journalists cover the important stories, know they should and aren’t afraid to. This, in turn, creates an educated population and a transparent government.

9. You are in Europe

Close to all the other European countries. That means weekend trips, skiing in the Alps, drinking Pinot Noir and savoring fresh mozzarella in Italy, touring the museums of Paris, and anything else you can think of.

10. Will Ferrell is practically a Swede

He is married to one and comes to Sweden for a good part of the summer. Watch the film.

Did I miss any?

Updated: May 15, 2015

Strange Swedish news: Wild elk shot in Stockholm

This is the first post in a new series focusing on the Strange Swedish news stories that seem to pop up every once in a while. They are generally unbelievable and can only happen in Sweden. If I miss any, please let me know.

A wild elk is shot by police in this photo taken by Hasse Holmberg from Scanpix and published in DN.se

Let’s admit it, all countries have clichés and stereotypes. Sweden has its fair share. Blondes, Swedish meatballs, herring, Abba, polar bears in streets, wild elk shot to death in water while trying to escape Stockholm for a suburb,……wait, what?

Yes, it’s true. The same day Swedes wildly mourned the Swedish Democrats’ (an extreme right wing party) entrance into Parliament, they were forced to accept another loss — that of a wild elk who was shot down while trying to escape Stockholm.

According to reports, the elk was stressed, jumped in the water, and began to swim to a suburb, before the police shot it.

There have been other, unfounded reports, that the elk in fact wanted to commit suicide upon hearing that his home country’s Parliament was now populated with 20 representatives from a racist, anti-immigrant political party.

You’re not in New Jersey anymore

Being a man...this is with Olivia

A woman in a hard hat and I am changing diapers.

Every now and then I get a reminder that I live in Sweden. Usually, it is something that happens, a series of events or something I see, that feels super Swedish. Something you can’t experience anywhere else.

I had a you’re-not-in-New-Jersey-anymore moment today.

I dropped off Olivia at daycare and then went to open daycare with Herman, my 7-month-old. Open daycare is a place where parents on parental leave in Sweden take their children to play and sing songs. Many parents feel isolated while at home with their children. For them, open daycare is an oasis of interaction and often acts like a community center. Best of all, it’s free.

At open daycare, Herman played with an orange stuffed dinosaur hanging from the ceiling. I talked to a mom I had just met about her 6-month-old son and we had the typical compare your baby conversation.

Then Herman got hungry. Then he pooped. Then he got tired. So I left open daycare and put him in the bicycle carriage and headed for home.

On the way, I saw a woman in a hard hat, jackhammer in hand, working on a construction site.

Now I know it’s the 21st century, and women construction workers are not as uncommon as they used to be. In Sweden, more so than in America, many women work in traditionally men-only professions — construction, politics, law enforcement.

I’m used to it after five years in Sweden.

What made today a you’re-not-in-New-Jersey-anymore moment was that I had just come from open daycare, from giving the bottle, changing diapers and baby conversations — all traditionally motherly and womanly activities. And now, me the man, the father home for five months with his 7-month-old, had just passed a woman whose current task it was to make a big hole in the ground.

It felt cool. I felt cool. What an opportunity I have, I thought.

But then I started to wonder, “Is it unnatural — does it go against biology- that I’m doing what I’m doing and she’s doing what she’s doing?” After some thought, the conclusion I came to was no. It wasn’t unnatural and I am comfortable in my roll as a stay-at-home dad. Actually, I take pride in it.

I think most men in Sweden would agree, but what about men in other countries? What’s your take? Does staying home with the kids and doing a job traditionally done by woman fly in the face of nature?

Share your opinions.

Don’t you just want my Swedish vacation?

First week of Swedish vacation in the Stockholm archipelago

I talked to my brother yesterday on the phone. “I’m jealous of you man,” he said. “I can’t figure out how you’ve had three weeks of vacation. Then you’re going to take three more in the states and be away from work on father leave for six months. What does your boss say?”

That’s Sweden, I told him. You have the right to vacation and bosses don’t mess with you because they are on vacation too. There’s no fear of taking time off like in some countries. In Sweden, the boss encourages it.

There is good and bad about any country. In Sweden, one of the goods is if you have a full-time job, you start with 25 paid vacation days. Those days are required by law, and don’t include public holidays.

In fact, in most industrialized nations, vacation is required by law. Unfortunately, not in the US.

Second week of Swedish vacation on the Skanör beach in the southwest tip of Sweden

When my wife and I talk about moving to the United States, we know one of the hardest adjustments will be lack of vacation time.

Aren’t there any people fighting to increase the amount of vacation Americans get?

Tips for visiting Gröna Lund with family

Olivia and I on the train at Gröna Lund

I spent a dizzying day yesterday at Gröna Lund, Stockholm’s amusement park on one of the city’s many islands. It’s an incredible spot and if you time it right, on a beautiful summer day (better late afternoon), it’s a blast for the whole family.

Tips for visiting Gröna Lund with family:

1.Make sure the kids are well rested and visit Gröna Lund in the late afternoon, when it starts to cool down and the lines are shorter. The rides are open late.

2. Take one of those aluminum water bottles because they stay nice and cold and you can fill them up easily. I just discovered these things and I’m hooked.

3. Boat it from Gamla Stan to avoid the packed bus traffic which goes from central Stockholm to Gröna Lund and Skansen, another great place for kids.

4. Gröna Lund is split into two sections. The main entrance is for older kids and adults. There is another little entrance for easy access to the children’s section where they have good rides for little kids. It is much easier to go into the children’s section first and then come out of Gröna Lund, get a bracelet, and go back into the main section. The reason? You want to avoid the chaotic baby carriage traffic at the stairs which take you from one section to the other. Trust me, you don’t want to carry or push a baby carriage up and down two flights of stairs. So use the bracelet system instead. They don’t advertise about it, so just ask at the entrance.

5. You can pack food, but Gröna Lund doesn’t have a lot of open space (actually it’s packed with people most of the time), so it’s not too comfortable to picnic. We ate at the buffet at Krejsy’s. The food was solid and they have a big seating area in a relaxed atmoshpere. At 200 kronor ($27) per adult it’s a bit pricey, but well worth it.

Life’s little enjoyments

At around 9:30 last night, I was waiting on the short line for the tea cup attraction with my daughter Olivia. I looked around and noticed that most people were smiling. How amazing that even in this day and age, with all the craziness, these simple pleasures — an ice cream, a roller coaster, a cotton candy — can still create so much pleasure.