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Received a return from the Swedish Tax Authority? Don’t know what to do with it? Check out YLC’s lowdown on how to ensure you have the rebate in your account by midsummer!

In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes,” said Bejamin Franklin and he hadn’t even experienced the Swedish taxation system. Yup, it’s that time of year again, where the letter that arrived weeks ago has been giving you a guilty conscience for days. Or maybe you’ve just heard Swedes griping and wondered what the big deal is. Whichever it is, here’s how it works:

Ok, so exactly who has to submit a tax return?

Well, in most cases, the Swedish Tax Authority (Skatteverket) is pretty clued up on who should be submitting a return and chances are that if you should – then the papers will have been sent to you.

If in doubt, the tax authority  does specify that you are liable to submit the tax return form (Inkomstdeklaration 1)  if you fulfil any of the following conditions:

  • have been resident in Sweden for the whole of 2013 and have had gainful earnings (e.g., salary, pension and income from active business activities) of SEK 18, 824 or more
  • have been resident in Sweden for part of the year and had an income of SEK 200 or more.
  • have had capital income of SEK 100 or more and tax has not been deducted on the entire amount. Capital income includes interest, dividends, capital profits, imputed income from housing deferrals and certain forms of rental income.
  • have received, from a close company or a partnership owned by a close company, dividends from, or profit from the sale of shares which shall be registered as income under “Tjänst” (Service).
— other compensation or benefits which shall be registered as income under “Tjänst” (Service).
  • have had income from passive business activities of a total of SEK 100 or more.
  • have owned a property (e.g., house, recreational property, plot of land) or part of a property on 1 January 2013.
  • have been ordered to submit an income tax return.

If you are still unsure –  call the help-line on 0771 – 567 567 or +46 8 564 851 60 from abroad.
 

So it does apply to me – what do I do?

Here’s the good news – in most cases the details on your tax return are already correct. It HAS been filled in by the tax authority and they generally know their way around taxes. But it is important to check that their estimate of your earnings match up with yours.

You check this through comparing the amounts printed on the form with the amounts sent out to you by your employer. A detailed guide to the subsections of the tax return can be found here.

If you don’t need to change or add any information, all that is left to do is to actually approve the tax return, which can be done online, by mobile phone, telephone or through a text message.

You’ll find the codes you need to approve the information at the top of the specification document, which you received along with your tax return form.

To approve your tax return electronically:

  • By phone — dial 020-567 100
  • Via text message — send an SMS to 71144
  • By app — use your smart phone or tablet  ​
  • Online — log in to the electronic income tax return on skatteverket.se​

For information films on how to approve your tax return electronically click here.

NOTE: if you submit your tax return electronically there is no need to send in any paper forms.

 

I see, but what if it’s not right or I want to make some deductions?

Should it turn out that information in your tax return is missing or needs to be amended – this is what you do:
To change anything on yor tax return you need to log in to the online service Inkomstdeklaration. In order to do this you need a bank e-ID, which is easily obtainable from your online banking services. Click here for a guide to what deductions can be made.

 

But what if I don’t want to approve it electronically?

One of those, eh? Well, of course you can use the paper form. Put pen to paper. Make your changes. Just don’t forget to sign the form before you submit it.

 

So, by when do I need to send this dratted thing in – and is there nothing good you can tell me about it?

Well, the tax return has to be approved through any of the ways mentioned above by the end of May 5th. Failing to approve the return in time will mean you might be liable to pay a fine of 1,000 SEK. And that’s no fun.  So just get it done.

Something good, eh? That’s easy – if you DO manage to approve the return in time for the deadline – whatever tax refund you are eligible for should be in your account before midsummer; no holding back on the old sill and schnapps this year!!*

 

*N.B. No taxes in the world will ensure fair weather during Swedish midsummer, but you can’t have everything

 
Source: Skatteverket

Featured Image: Kent Teegardin/SeniorLiving.Org/Flickr

John Sjölund saves lives. Having co-created a device that makes life easier and safer for those with diabetes, he’s taking the medical world by storm from Stockholm and London. YLC’s Kirsten Smart gets the dose from the Timesulin creator.

John Sjolund 2 copyJohn Sjölund pictured with the potentially live saving Timesulin devices.

Approximately 388 million people have diabetes. In fact, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), diabetes is predicted to become the seventh leading cause of death in the world by the year 2030, with total deaths from the condition projected to rise by over 50% in the next 10 years.

The two most prevalent types of diabetes are Type 1 and Type 2. A vast majority of those living with diabetes fall into the Type 2 category, which is when the body doesn’t produce enough insulin (needed to enable the body to store glucose) or builds up a resistance to it. Unlike Type 1, Type 2 can often be prevented through diet and exercise and those with it are frequently able to control it without the use of insulin injections. Type 1, on the other hand, is a result of the body’s flat out failure to produce insulin and those who live with it need to receive the hormone via injections or a pump in order to maintain blood sugar levels. Only about 5 -10% of those with diabetes have Type 1.

The problem

Swedish-born, US-raised ex-expat, Sjölund, falls into this minority.

Having lived with Type 1 diabetes for over 28 years, Sjölund takes over 1,500 insulin injections per year.

The worst feeling for him, though wasn’t the 42 000 odd needle pricks he has had to administer himself, but rather the feeling of panic associated with not being able to recall whether he had taken his insulin shot or not, as the practice had become so habitual. “It’s like forgetting whether or not you turned the coffee machine off or locked your front door.”  Sjölund explains, “I often found myself second-guessing whether or not I had taken my medicine.”

Sjölund isn’t alone in feeling this dosage dread. In fact it’s a common complaint amongst those with diabetes and the problem is twofold as the consequences of under or over dosing can be life threatening. “An accidental double dose can be extremely dangerous as your blood glucose levels will drop and this could lead to a coma, or even death. So I wanted a simple solution that would show me the time lapsed since my last insulin shot to help avoid an accidental missed or double dose of insulin – along with the dread of not being sure.”

“With a forgotten insulin injection you eventually get the symptoms of high blood glucose levels, but by that time you’re already feeling ill,” says Sjölund. To tackle this problem, he and his brother set about inventing a way in which one could track the time between injections in order to prevent potentially life threatening dosage mistakes. Thus the Timesulin device was born.

The Solution

Launched in 2011 by Sjölund and his brother, Andreas (a co-creator of Skype), Timesulin aims to make life with diabetes as simple and worry-free as possible for those who use insulin injections. The lightweight, battery-operated replacement cap fits on to the most common brands of insulin pens just like the cap of a pen. After administering a dosage of insulin, all the user needs to do it replace the cap on the pen and immediately the Timesulin device begins visibly to count the numbers of seconds, minutes and hours since you last took your shot. It’s simple, effective and easy to use and best of all it could just save lives. In a word, it’s genius.

Before inventing Timesulin, Sjölund worked for Acceleration E-Marketing in Cape Town, South Africa. The company enabled him fantastic opportunities to grow, learn and travel, as he worked for their offices in Cape Town, New York and London, where he eventually left to start up Patients Pending LTD, the company behind the product, Timesulin.

After founding the company in September 2010, the Timesulin team opened an additional office in Stockholm in January 2013, from where they cover the Nordic markets and manage all online sales.

“Stockholm has proven to be a great place, both to live and work from. We are surrounded by smart people who share the common value system of helping others.”

“The city is also a hub for innovation and design – both elements in which Timesulin shines. I feel very lucky to have been able to plant our roots in the UK and now blossom this tree over here in Stockholm.”

Little Fish, Big Splash

And blossomed it has.The Timesulin device is already a best-selling product in Europe’s largest diabetes charity organization, Diabetes UK, and the company has distribution partners in over 45 countries around the globe. Sjölund himself was listed as one of the TOYP (Ten Outstanding Young People) in Sweden in 2012 and was invited to meet British Prime Minister, David Cameron, at Downing Street to talk about being a Small/Medium Enterprise in the UK.

“To be honest we’ve been very surprised at the reaction we’ve received from the market for such a simple device,” says Sjölund.

“Most importantly for me, though, are the letters we receive from Timesulin users from all over the world saying that we’ve helped them live safer, more balanced lives with diabetes – that is my ultimate goal.”

But despite their success, it’s not always smooth sailing.

“We’re a small business in a land of huge, mega pharmaceutical companies and the barriers to entry in a new market with a medical device is high. But we’re thrilled with the support we receive from our customers and fans and we’re continuing to expand our relationships with bigger pharmaceutical companies and diabetes associations. We also have some exciting new launches planned for next year; including product ideas that we believe could make a huge impact.”

The prospect of making a bigger impact is certainly an exciting one. If a product like Timesulin could reach more middle and low-income countries where, according to the WHO, 80% of diabetes-related deaths occur, the effects would potentially be literally life altering. This kind of goal would take a lot of support and more years of hard work, but luckily for this young entrepreneur, time is on his side.

 

Check out Timesulin’s super funky, informative ad:

 

*Timesulin is currently looking for investment into the business to help improve the lives of those living with diabetes. If you’d like to be part of the next phase of Timesulin, contact them on +44 200 333 1879 or via e-mail at biz@timesulin.com. To find out more about Timesulin, visit their website, Facebook page or follow them on Twitter to show your support.

 

Kirsten Smart

Kirsten blindly followed her husband from South Africa to the land of snow and snus in 2011 and proceeded to procreate. When she isn’t discovering the 101st use of the humble wet wipe, she can be found writing adjective-laden articles for YLC.

me1 1 e1381346897680 Extraordinary Expats: Arno Smit of FundedByMe

 

Follow Kirsten and Your Living City on Twitter! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

British businesswoman and extraordinary expat Lucy Robertshaw shares with YLC readers her experiences from the Swedish business sector – this month she met with expat entrepreneur Nick Chipperfield.

nick-chipperfield

I recently met Nick Chipperfield – a UK-expat of 14 years – for lunch on the beautiful island of Gamla Stan (the Old Town) in central Stockholm. Over a typically English portion of fish and chips, we chatted about everything from the weapons trade to Swedish social policy.

Nick came to Sweden to work at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) on a twelve-month contract. SIPRI provides data and analysis on international security. While there, Nick researched the trade in major conventional weapons.

So, how did twelve months become 14 years and counting? One important reason was love: he fell in love with his neighbour, a lovely Swede. And crucially, Nick also found that the burgeoning Stockholm job market had plenty to offer.

“There is so much to do here – if you’re willing to take the first step and be flexible,” says Nick.

After SIPRI, he turned his hand to retail, working with leading (formally Swedish) clothing brand Gant. Then there was also a stint at French news agency AFP, and a year at Swedish Radio’s English Service where he was a reporter and producer.

 

Setting up single-handed

Following a further five years at international marketing agency Open Communications, Nick now runs his own company, Chips with Everything, that supplies a wide variety of clients with English content – text and voiceovers – as well as PR, editing and translation services.

Nick says that he feels the Swedish labour market is flexible, and while he says Sweden is a country where you “don’t have to worry about speaking the language at first, it’s extremely useful to learn.”

“Learning the language also helps your integration into daily life – and therefore your happiness – enormously. Also, if you’ve decided to set up shop in a country, it’s a bit rude not to!” he adds.

 

Lingo-bingo

This is a particularly interesting point. Many of the expats I meet in Stockholm have trouble finding work because they haven’t learnt Swedish.

“I reckon you have a two-to-three-year grace period to learn the language,” Nick says.

This immediately makes me really hope that I am on the road to getting there with the lingo. Nick goes on to say that in a business situation you tend to need to speak Swedish convincingly to build trust and form a bond with clients – especially in sensitive discussions such as those related to budgeting and contracts. I find that after living here for more than six to 12 months, you need to make a decision on whether to stay and make a life here or not, and I think this is really important to growing roots.

 

Model society?

But why is Sweden so popular with expats, and why is it often cited as an example of how to do things by other countries? A number of high profile figures have visited the country in recent weeks: Vince Cable MP and President Obama for example. I asked Nick why he thought that these people and others are heading to the “Capital of Scandinavia” and Sweden as a whole.

Nick says that while flaws remain, and inequality has grown in recent years, Sweden has managed to incorporate elements of the free market and the welfare state.

“And yes, taxes are harsh, but I think you see where the money goes here more than is perhaps the case elsewhere.”

The economy remains buoyant, and there is, in his view, a healthy work-life balance with, for example, generous benefit payments to encourage parents, and specifically fathers, to spend more time with their children.

Sweden also scores highly on sustainability and reducing environmental impact. According to recent reports, Sweden is so effective at recycling waste, that it is now importing some 80,000 tonnes of rubbish from neighbouring Norway annually. And this is important to many, Nick included.

“I like living in a country where genuine emphasis is placed on the environment,” he says.

 

Lucy Robertshaw

lucy-profile-pic-small

Originally from Manchester UK, Lucy has over 15 years experience working in the business sector. After moving to Sweden two years ago she started her own company offering clients International Business Development. Although a self-professed and successful socialite when it comes to business networking, Lucy lives in the middle of the forest in Hölö, loves the tranquillity and finds this a very inspirational place to work.

Namibian-born Arno Smit has made it his business to help realise the dreams of others. He’s well spoken, intelligent, driven, handsome and, while my mother would call him “a very nice boy”, we at YLC would say he’s downright extraordinary.

 Arno Smit_b&w-1Arno Smit of FundedByMePhoto: Daniel Diaz

Crowdfunding is not a novel idea. In fact, when the Statue of Liberty was being shipped from France in the 1800’s, its committee ran out of funds for her pedestal. Luckily for Lady Liberty, Joseph Pulitzer (yes, him) stepped in and started a newspaper campaign, encouraging the citizens of New York to donate whatever little they could. Over 160 000 donors participated, from children and street cleaners to businessmen and politicians, raising over $100 000 in just five months, enough to finally furnish the statue with her iconic pedestal.

This, essentially, is one of the first recorded examples of successful crowdfunding, a process whereby a large pool of ordinary people each donate a small amount of money in order to fund a project, business or campaign. And it’s also what’s at the core of Sweden’s first ever crowdfunding portal, FundedByMe.

On Funding Funded

Co-owned by Arno Smit and Daniel Daboczy, FundedByMe is the offspring of ambition and frustration. Having followed his Swedish wife to the land of cinnamon buns, Smit found himself working with Daboczy at web agency, Dabber.

The duo then branched off together and came up with an admirable project, “Ideas for Change”, but attempts at gaining funding for it via Kickstarter, the world’s largest crowdfunding platform, were thwarted due to the project not being based in the US. They decided to see this underrepresentation in the crowdfunding market not as a hindrance, but as an opportunity to do something about it.

They used paid incentives to fund the launch of their business, offering everything from 100 sek hugs to 5000 sek speaking gigs.

In just 60 days, they had raised 104 670 sek, just enough to jumpstart their idea. Now, a little over two years later, FundedByMe can be found in Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland and Spain, having already funded around 760 reward-based projects.

On the workings of Funded

Smit explains that crowdfunding has developed into two things: reward-based and equity crowdfunding.  Reward-based crowdfunding is the initial funding of a campaign through many investors investing small amounts of money for correspondingly small rewards. “It’s used when you’re looking to launch a product on the market and you need customer validation. You want to see whether someone is looking to pre-purchase or order it eventually.”

So, essentially, before deciding whether to invest your life’s savings into your second-hand sock business, you can test the market to see whether it’s a viable idea.

Equity-based crowdfunding, on the other hand, is mostly for those who are already existing business-owners looking to expand their network, bring in more investors or break into new markets. In these cases, the investors would be rewarded with a share of the business.

On being Flippin’ Awesome

One shining example of the company’s success is that of Stockholm’s devastatingly cool burger joint, Flippin’ Burgers, voted by CNN as the 5th best American restaurant in Europe.

In his previous life Flippin’s owner, Jon Widegren, was just a regular consultant who had the hots for hamburgers when he decided that he was going to quit his job and pursue his passion for meaty buns. After being rejected by banks for a loan to start up a burger joint, he turned to FundedByMe, who gave him the platform he needed to launch his seemingly nutty idea. In just 14 days, Widegren had accrued over 36 000 sek by setting up a reward system of buy one hamburger and get one free when the restaurant opens. “So you had all these people buying it just because it was cool and random.”

“People would tweet: ‘I just bought a hamburger that doesn’t exist!’ It became viral.”

Widegren took this overwhelming response from the market to the bank, which promptly furnished him with a high-risk loan. A year and a half later, business is booming at Flippin’ Burgers. You can tell by the seemingly constant, hour-long queue of hungry hipsters waiting to be seated.

On how to get funded

The recipe for Widegren’s success isn’t just in his secret sauce; it took a lot of hard work on his part. “I always say to people that input equals output, so the more work they put in, the more exposure we’ll give them.” Says Smit.

And if you’re willing to put in the effort and you have a great idea, there’s really no reason not to apply. It’s easy to do and it’s entirely online. All you have to do is visit the website, fill out a few forms and create a presentation (preferably in English). “From there, you have the ability to share it via social media, engage people at an early stage and get them interested, involved and invested.” Says Smit.

On expat integration

And though the projects are primarily in English, Smit very much believes that learning Swedish is an important part of integration into the Swedish culture. When he first arrived, he dutifully attended SFI classes every day for three months and read as much as he could.

“I believe you must immerse yourself in the language to learn it. You have to understand the cultural barriers that are in front of you in order to break through them and language is a good way to do so.”

His language skills have also helped him within his company as he reveals that a lot of their business and board meetings are conducted in Swedish. In fact, he insists that even if you are living in Sweden and applying for a job in a company where English is the lingua franca, it’s still important to be able to converse in Swedish and it’s even more important if you’re attempting to set up a business here.

On starting a business in Sweden

Smit is only too familiar with the tribulations of being an entrepreneur in Sweden, “Starting a business takes a lot of hard work; a lot of sweat and a lot of tears.” But he urges entrepreneurs not to become frustrated and give up.

“Whether you’re looking for your first job or starting your first company here, just remember that things take a lot longer than you expect.”

But in order to bolster your chance of success, Smit recommends that one “attend meet ups, network, find a mentor and build a great team, because a product is nothing without a great team.”

He says this as he glances in the direction of his own team, casually dressed and happily slurping their coffee while they sit side-by-side at their desks, working toward turning more dreams into real, successful businesses.

 

*For more information on FundedByMe and how to submit your ideas to them, visit their website or follow them on Facebook, TwitterLinkedin and Google plus

 

Kirsten Smart

Kirsten blindly followed her husband from South Africa to the land of snow and snus in 2011 and proceeded to procreate. When she isn’t discovering the 101st use of the humble wet wipe, she can be found writing adjective-laden articles for YLC.

me1 1 e1381346897680 Learning Swedish: Public or Private?

 

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Emma met Frankie a year ago. This summer they took the plunge, moved to Sweden and set up shop. Only a few months in and they are already taking Stockholm by storm with their unique mobile coffee shop experience. Oh yes, and Frankie is a car.

IMG_8672

Originally from Austrailia, but having lived in the UK for the last 10 years, Emma Jenkins met Frankie in London, fell in love and now they sell coffee and cake at the Hornstull market every Sunday. YLC caught up with her to chat about owning Frankie, setting up a business in Stockholm – and salted caramel.

 

On Emma

Having studied architecture and design in London, Emma always wanted to own her own company, preferably incorporating into it her design knowledge, but she felt she needed a bit of a break before going on to study toward a master’s degree. So last year, serendipity stepped in and led her to a food truck named Frankie, which was being sold by his doting and eccentric French owner. Naturally, Emma decided to do something some may think is just a little bit loopy…

“I thought, why not take a year off and just do it?, Emma told YLC.

“Summer was coming and I thought, ‘this is an opportunity to do something different.’ I had been to Stockholm to visit friends before and I knew the idea of a foodtruck isn’t very common there. So I thought: if not now, then when?”

So she bought Frankie, shipped him and herself off to Stockholm and opened up a mobile coffee shop.

 

On Frankie 

“Frankie is more than just a motor vehicle; he is also a vehicle to do this unique thing”

Emma once again pointed to the fact that the food truck business is something new to Stockholmers.In fact, the concept is so new to the city that the first food truck license was only granted in the middle of this year. This means that a year ago, there were no regulations. There were also no food trucks.

“Swedes seem to like it, but I get a lot of curious looks a lot of intrigue and confusion. I often have to explain where I come from and how normal it actually is.”

“I think Fred’s Food Truck was one of the first; he actually worked with the council. He got the idea when he went travelling to the US. It’s popping up and it’s a great idea, especially in summer because everyone wants to get outside into the sunshine and walk around, have lunch, take a break. You can follow on social media where food trucks are going to be so you can make a little journey to them and experience them.”

But buying food from a truck isn’t the sum of your experience. It’s also about engaging with nature, different people, alternate cuisines and ideas; adding a whole new dimension to “dining out”. According to Emma, the part about food trucks is that you’ve got to activate spaces. And the thing about activating spaces is getting people together and exposing them to new ideas.

“That’s where Frankie comes in. He’s a great character and provides a talking point for customers. People come up to us and stand around and chat for hours. I get to meet all types of characters.”

 

On Sweden

Hornstull market is perfect for people in the summer to come down and explore the local community, engage with other people, taste different cuisines… it has a little bit of everything”

It’s a bold move, relocating to Stockholm, but Emma isn’t naive about Sweden and a few of its pitfalls. She’d travelled to Stockholm a few times to visit friends before deciding to move and has experienced it’s icy winter.

“It’s actually pretty exciting. I’m from Australia, so I’ve never had a white Christmas. I am aware it can get very cold though.”

But it’s not only the weather that can challenge an expat. We all know the Swedes are masterful at the English language, so the decision not to learn Swedish at all can be a tempting one, but Emma believes it’s important be able to communicate with locals, especially as she has a business here.

“I’m studying SFI in the evenings. It’s not so difficult; it’s actually fun. People walk past and say ‘Ah, en fin bil!’ and I’ll understand that, but then they might ask questions about the make or model of Frankie and I get a bit lost. I’m starting to understand more now though. It’s all a game of give and take; sometimes I’ll ask people a question and they’ll respond in Swedish and I learn a lot that way.”

 

On starting a business 

Sweden has a system. For everything. You stand in a queue to claim a ticket just to stand in another queue. It all works out somehow, but the bureaucracy can boggle your brain at times.

“The biggest challenge for me has been the bureaucracy.”

“There is a lot of paperwork. It’s more difficult than I expected and it’s more difficult than the Swedish authorities say it is. It all took time, time that I didn’t really have to spend on it. But saying that, I’m sure it’s the same all over the world. The personal number was like gold for me. You really do need it before you do anything else. It was the biggest thing that took away some of the excitement and creativity away from what I was wanting to do.”

It may have been tough to sort out the legal technicalities, but finding a platform from which to launch her idea was serendipitously fluid.

“The people who run Hornstull market want it to be different and unique and colourful and vibrant. They loved the idea of Frankie and welcomed me very warmly. They also didn’t want too much competition between the vendors, so you’ll see at the market that we aren’t all selling the same thing. Each of us brings something new. This is one of the only markets of its kind in Stockholm, hopefully it will expand.”

 

Pragmatic advice for latent expat entrepreneurs 

“Whatever your business is, it motivates you when people get excited about your ideas. So get people excited, get excited yourself and don’t give up when things get tough.”

Starting a business is tough. Starting a business in a foreign country is a whole other level of tough.

“The first and best thing to do is to go to Skatteverket, they have an evening course that they run every week or so on setting up a business in Sweden and it goes through a number of key points that you need to do to set up a business. It’s in English, it’s free,  it’s frequent and it’s a good place to meet people starting up their own businesses and going through the same thing as you. Also it’s obviously easier if you’ve been here a while and have your personal number sorted.”

But once you know what’s potting, you’ll have to get yourself out there and spread the word. Stockholm is an especially tough nut to crack when it comes to networking, yet Emma thinks it’s vital to your success as an entrepreneur in Sweden.

“I think my best piece of advice would be to network.”

“Stockholm’s quite a small place, but if you know a lot of people, Swedish or otherwise, tell them what you’re doing, expose them to your ideas because that’s what has made people excited about Frankie’s coffee; it’s word of mouth via friends and friends of friends. That’s how you get ahead here.”

 

Useful info on Frankie’s Coffee:

  • You have one month to meet Frankie and sample the food truck experience that everyone’s been buzzing about as he’ll be going into hibernation in October. He will, however, be rocking Hornstull Market next summer.
  • If you want to go to heaven in just one bite, try out Emma’s homemade Salted Caramel, Coconut and Dark Chocolate Slices.
  • Visit Frankie’s website for more info or follow him on FacebookTumblr or instagram @frankiescoffee

 

Kirsten Smart

Kirsten blindly followed her husband from South Africa to the land of snow and snus in 2011 and proceeded to procreate. When she isn’t discovering the 101st use of the humble wet wipe, she can be found writing adjective-laden articles for YLC.

Follow Kirsten and Your Living City on Twitter!

 

 

Creating a solid professional network is a tricky task in any language and in any culture. It is especially tough as an expat in a country where English is not the national official language. Check out the YLC guide to professional networking in Sweden!

Sofia Sabel/imagebank.sweden.se

Sofia Sabel/imagebank.sweden.se

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Networking in Stockholm

Foreign Nationality Clubs

Transition as Opportunity: Your Dream Job Abroad

Hiring is often contingent on personal connections. The same applies for new client acquisition – most new customers and clients come from word-of-mouth referrals and personal connection. So how does one create a solid professional network as a foreigner in Sweden? Here are some tips from Your Living City:

 

1) Learn Swedish.

No really. You need to, sorry. OK, maybe not if you’re only staying here to work on a contract for a year or two. But if you are here for the long-haul and intend on working here, it’s really good to speak the language. Even if you live in awesome-at-English-Stockholm. The absolute truth is that most Swedes are better at their native tongue and will cover heavier hitting and deeper topics more comfortably in Swedish. If it comes to hiring, I’d estimate that 9 out of 10 hiring managers would prefer to have a bilingual Swedish and English speaker than an English-only speaker. Even if you work at one of the international English-as-company-language, many of your co-workers will be Swedes and speak Swedish amongst themselves. If you’re alright with not knowing the murmurings and social happenings of your environment, well OK, that is a bold choice. I’m not that brave myself. I need to know what is happening and to stay current. I also believe that you forge deeper connections with people and show something about your character to give it a go in Swedish. You might surprise yourself!

 

2) Write fan-mail.

I feel fairly dorky when it comes to this but I’ve found it incredibly effective as a person who is shy with approaching strangers cold. I read a LOT and do a lot of research (hell, I’m still a librarian at heart, y’know?) and I enjoy reading the Facebook statuses websites and blogs of people working with things I admire. This is also a great way to practice your reading Swedish too! When I find a concept or person or business I admire, I send them a brief email telling them that I like what they do, and I tell them what I am doing (er, well, hoping to do – I’m just at lift-off phase now). Sometimes I hear nothing, but more often than not, I get a kind reply. Sometimes I even get invited for a fika to meet in person. Even if nothing professional comes of this contact, it’s great to get your name out there and become part of a network amongst people who work with things you would like to. Which leads to:

 

3) Meet people face to face if you can.

That’s the tricky part. Especially here in Sweden where people are generally much shyer and more reserved than Americans and other cultures. You might feel silly or awkward trying to meet face to face, since it can spark fears of rejection (or just weird behavior). The best way to buffer this is to send an email or call beforehand and set up a time. Or create a natural situation to meet up in. Like, if you know that the owner/creator will be present at a convention or professional show, be there and introduce yourself. They are there to present and to sell their products/ideas AND to make new contacts. Be one of them!

 

4) Become a fan on Facebook or Instagram.

That is a really easy passive way to quietly let a business contact know that you think they are cool. It’s not as awkward as “friending’ them as a stranger personally on a network. But yes, liking or commenting on posts is always appreciated. It’s nice to know that people admire what you are doing!

 

4) Be open about what you are looking for, even in your social circles!

I am a member of a few Facebook groups for English-speaking expats in Sweden and these are a great source for creating a social and personal network. That said, one often sees posts for job openings or houses for sale/apartments for rent or other opportunities that you might not have otherwise heard of. When you are looking for customers or for a job, just put it out there. You don’t know who your online friends might know. Although I live quite far away from many of my FB group friends, I love to meet them for a fika if I am visiting. Some of the most wonderful people I know have become in-real-life friends this way.

 

6) Know and accept that stuff works differently here.

Try not to live in a bubble. This creates resentment and negativity. Swedes do behave differently socially and professionally than the people from where you come from. Celebrate these differences. Vent about them (privately) if you need to. But it is more constructive to learn about these differences in practice and expectation so that you are prepared.  In New York, for example, phone calls and emails were responded to immediately. Here, the person you contact might be on mammaledighet or away with her family. She might be waiting for the right moment to craft a thoughtful response. It’s not rudeness. It’s just different.  Different, not wrong should be your motto.

 

Good luck with your search, YLC readers!

 

Amy Johansson

Amy moved to Sweden in July 2011 with 1 child, 1 Swedish husband, 2 large suitcases and no idea what she was going to do with her new life in Swedish subtitles. Two years and two more children later, she is starting up a retro­-modern vintage children’s store.

You can find out more about her experiences at www.expatmompreneur.com.amy-johansson

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Camelia’s Cupcake Blog: Business advice for newcomers in Sweden with mouth-watering cupcake talk sprinkled in….

Hello everyone, hope you are all enjoying the last few weeks of winter!  As we approach the spring time, we notice the changes taking place in the natural world around us.  Just as the seasons change every year, change comes in life, whether we like it or not. Since change is an inevitable part of life, it is the same with any business, you must adapt to change in order to survive.

My husband and I have a big change coming into our lives this April, we are welcoming our first child into this world, affectionately called Baby Cupcake for the time being. With this life changing event, I had to evaluate my options with the business.  Needless to say, getting pregnant two months after buying the café was NOT in the business plan, but it is what it is and I had to adapt the business to this change.

After I found out I was pregnant, I decided I needed more help in the café. Between the constant nausea and aching back, I could not continue to work the long hours on my feet, baking and serving customers six days a week on my own. I was very lucky that my husband’s cousin was able to move here from Norway and help out part-time at the café and I also hired a friend to work part-time. Getting all this extra help really took the pressure off me and allowed me to focus my energies on marketing and booking events for the business, as well as managing the cafe.

Where you can turn to for new business support:

During this time I also looked at more long-term solutions to the labor situation in the cafe. As I progressed in my pregnancy, I was able to spend less and less time on my feet, so I had to look at hiring more people to help. Since the business was new and on a limited budget for wages, I had to look at other alternatives. I contacted Arbetsförmedlingen and I met with one of their agents.  She described a number of different programs that help businesses hire people who are either new to the country or have been out of work for more than six months. When you hire someone who is eligible for one of these programs, Arbetsförmedlingen would reimburse you up to 80% of their wages for the first 6 months of employment, on a full-time basis, or up to one year for part-time.  Here is more information in English about one of the programs: http://www.arbetsformedlingen.se/download/18.324e0e4212ca1149f518000268/nystartsjobb_arbetsgivare_engelska.pdf

This support from Arbetsformedlingen is great for new businesses that need financial support to hire new staff in the beginning, since labor costs are quite high in Sweden, when you factor in the hourly wage and the taxes. The agent sent me some CV’s of eligible people to interview, and the agent would act as a support during the hiring process. I would highly recommend utilizing this program if you have a new business and need to hire additional help.  Unfortunately, given my situation with the baby coming soon, I realized it was not just additional help I needed in the café, but actually someone who could run the business for me while I would be on maternity leave for at least one year.

I kept battling out different scenarios in my head, what to do with the business, what to do with the baby, could I juggle both at the same time?  I really admire all the women out there who have families and run their own business, it is a lot of work and they really are “superwomen”. I realized that since the baby was my priority, I did not want him to suffer the consequences of me trying to juggle both motherhood and the business. And since it was near impossible to find someone to take over the business for a year, after much soul searching and consultation with my husband, we decided the best thing for the family and for the business would be to sell the café.  It was a heart-breaking decision that took a long time for me to come to terms with, but I could not find another way around the situation. The café and the business had been my “baby” since moving to Sweden, I had put all my time, energy, and passion into it, and now I had to sell it in order to focus on my real baby.

I know this is a dilemma many women face with their careers and families, and there is no right or wrong answer.  You have to choose what is right for you and your situation. Initially, I felt like people would judge me if I gave up the café to be a full-time mom, like I was giving up on my career. I kept beating myself up about it, thinking I was a failure.  But then I realized that it doesn’t matter what other people think, it’s what I think that matters. And choosing to prioritize my baby over the café was not an act of failure or giving up. It was a change of circumstances in my life that I had to adapt to, and I had to make the right choice for me, not what society or other people would think is the right decision.

Once I accepted the fact that the café had to be sold, I listed it with an agent and said I would wait until I got the right price for the café.  I did not want to sell at a loss. After two months of people coming to check out the location on a daily basis, the café was sold at the price I wanted. Our last day at this location is February 28, so now begins the process of packing and cleaning for the move.

Although the café has been sold, I have kept the business, Camelia’s Cupcakes.  I am returning to catering from a kitchen location and focusing on weddings and events, since those were the areas that brought in the most profit. I will be able to work-part time as needed, and call in extra help for the events. It will be much more manageable to juggle catering with having a baby, instead of having to run a café!

As life continues to change with its twists and turns, surprises and challenges, so does the life of a business owner continue to change.  All you can do is accept the changes and try to adapt to them the best you can. As I enter a new chapter in my life, I am excited to see how I can continue to grow Camelia’s Cupcakes as a catering business instead of a café. I already have two weddings booked for the spring and I am talking to different cafes about catering to them and hosting decorating parties in their locations, so we’ll see what other exciting new opportunities arise.  So this is not the end of Camelia’s Cupcakes, just a farewell to the café.  I will continue to have updates on Facebook and the website, and customized cupcakes will be available for order through our website. There will be delivery and pick-up (from Nacka Forum) options as well, so please keep Camelia’s Cupcakes in mind for your special events!

Next time I will talk about marketing strategies you can utilize for your new business!

Baking Tip #4

Check your oven temperature.  Most ovens have a hot or cool spot, which can lead to un-even baking.  Get an oven thermometer and use it to test the temperature in all 4 corners of your oven. If you do find a hot or cool spot, remember to rotate your trays in order to ensure even baking. When baking cupcakes, I always rotate the trays front to back, and then rotate between the top and bottom shelf, and this guarantees that all my cupcakes will be baked evenly. Since most recipes call for 22-25 minutes of baking time for regular sized cupcakes, do not open the oven door for the first 15 minutes of baking.  This will give the cake batter time to rise before you open the door to rotate the trays. If you disturb the baking process before the first 15 minutes are up, you risk having flatter cupcakes. Happy baking everyone!

Your Living City loves to learn about our readers experiences and ideas. If you want to share your story of relocating to Sweden send us a mail with a writing sample and we will get back to you shortly.