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Just moved to Sweden? Feeling like a fish out of water? There’s no need! Let the Global Expat Centre in Stockholm be your home away from home!

Named Best Practice in Talent Support by the EU’s BSR Project in 2013, the Global Expat Centre offers language training, cross-cultural services and job support, along with a wide range of social activities that will swiftly help you settle into your new life.

The centre was singled out for their exemplary work, being cited for their ‘total solution’ approach in covering the needs of international families and workers. At the Global Expat Centre, they don’t just teach you the language, they offer members a variety of activities to get you out and participating in the life and language of Sweden.


Language Courses: Swedish for Internationals

Learning the language is of course an important first step when arriving in a foreign country. Being able to communicate with people around you on a daily basis, whether it’s to order a meal or simply ask for directions, can’t be overrated. But when it comes to language training – what suits one, might not suit another – and that’s why the Global Expat Centre offers both group- and individual classes – tailored to the needs of expatriates and internationals.

All the teachers have experience of expat life themselves and can therefore provide students with the practical language knowledge necessary to make their time in Sweden more productive and enjoyable, both professionally and socially.

Lessons are built around day-to-day experiences, allowing newcomers to swiftly feel comfortable in everyday life situations.

Group lessons are kept small (8-10 students), giving students the benefits of individual coaching while not losing the opportunity to meet new people and make new friends. However, private lessons are also available and can be booked at the time and place most convenient to the student, whether at the centre, in the student’s home or place of work. Intensive courses, tailored to the specific needs of the student, are also available throughout the year.

To secure your spot or to find out more, contact the centre HEREall group lessons start Week 6  (3rd – 7th February) 2014.


The Global Expat Centre is located in Vasastan, close to Odenplan Metro Station


Cross-Cultural Training: Solving the cultural puzzle

Anyone who has relocated to another country knows that a new language must be put into context, and GEC therefore provides coaching in Swedish culture and social code. These go a long way in helping you avoid sometimes hugely embarrassing social or work faux pas.

You don’t want to be the one guest who shows up at a dinner party with flowers still in their paper, or waltzing into the living room with your shoes still on your feet!  

The Cross-cultural workshop Welcome to Sweden, Focus on Stockholm, helps answer questions and to introduce newcomers to the quirks (and irks) of daily life in a foreign city. If you have ever asked yourself questions like “Why do Swedes always remove their shoes indoors?” and “Why does no one want to chat to me on the bus?”– this is the course for you! The workshop is free of charge for Global Expat Centre members but is also open to paying non-members.

Whatever your particular needs – the Global Expat Centre provides its students with the tools to make the most of their stay in the city. To make your Stockholm experience one that will stay with you for a lifetime – HERE is where you join! For more information or to book an appointment contact Global Expat Centre Stockholm.


Activities and get-togethers are all part of the learning experience

Full Disclosure: This article is sponsored by Global Expat Centre Stockholm.  At Your Living City, we only choose to work with partners that we feel would help our readers; these select few are chosen for our sponsored articles. 

Getting cold feet as temperatures plummet and the kids want to make snow angels in sandals? No worries, YLC’s got your winter wardrobe woes covered – booties, bags and beanies!

Parenting +46

If you’ve been in Sweden for a while, you may find yourself well aware of what winter is like, but still overwhelmed by the daunting task of dressing your wee little tykes appropriately. YLC is here to give a breakdown of what you need for your kids to enjoy quality time outside, all winter long.

The Swedes like to say there is no bad weather, just bad clothes. Parents, take heed: Children in most Swedish schools, particularly preschools, spend a lot of time outside. But of course, depending on what age your children are – their clothing needs will differ. Let’s get started!


General advice for kids of all ages

Wool is your best friend when winter rolls around – not just for your own socks, but as the layer of clothing closest to your child’s skin. Wool keeps kids warm while wicking away moisture, unlike cotton, which locks it in. As the snow piles up you will be grateful for the existence of wool socks, wool bodysuits, wool long undewear, wool balaclavas, wool hats, and even wool shoe inserts. Layering wool with cotton or fleece (depending on the temperature) is also a wise move, but keep wool close. It may well take additional time to peel off more layers, but it’s practical to be able to remove or add some clothes depending on your child’s activity level.



During not-quite-frozen winter weather and not-quite-spring months, your ambulatory children would benefit from lined rain boots. Prices vary depending on the brand, but regardless, lined rain boots are a staple for dark, damp days. (No bad weather, remember?) Swap out regular socks for wool socks for some extra warmth.

And when you do need full-on winter boots, Gore-Tex is your friend. I repeat, Gore-Tex is your friend. Children’s boots range from expensive to even more expensive to “Are you freaking kidding me?” expensive.  Across this range of prices, you have boots with Gore-Tex waterproofing and some brands that claim to be waterproof (involving technology that is unfortunately not Gore-Tex). Cheekiest are those boots that are blessed with neither.

If you want your child to spend any amount of time outside, don’t even think about buying winter boots that are not waterproof.

To save money, look at Blocket, Tradera, and flea markets or second-hand shops to get a used pair. The smaller the size, the greater the chances that the boots were only used for a short time since kids’ feet grow so fast; buying used in this case can save you upwards of 400 SEK.


Newborn to crawling stage

Chances are that much of your time outside with a newborn will involve the child being already cocooned into a stroller bassinet (“liggdel”, or, for some strollers, this might be called a “mjuk-“ or “hårdlift”). When the weather drops below zero, many parents use a winter “åkpåse” (travel bag), which looks like a sleeping bag. These åkpåsar are available in a range of sizes and prices, with off-brand one-size-fits-most being the cheapest.

If you’re not going to be outside for long and your baby is inside a winter åkpåse within a bassinet, they won’t need much more clothing than a hat and perhaps some light outerwear overalls and a regular outfit underneath. It’s easy to overdress small babies, so keep in mind that when they’re protected from wind inside the stroller and in an åkpåse, they’ll be quite comfortable.


If you plan to be out longer or your child is no longer in a bassinet, some warmer outwear overalls, a hat and mittens, and boots should be sufficient coverage for short trips in the stroller. When it’s colder and you’ll be outside with the stroller for a longer period of time, go all out. Keep your child cozy and content with winter overalls, boots, hat, mittens, and that åkpåse.


Toddlers and preschool-aged kids (through age 5)

Outerwear options for small children include one-piece overalls and two-piece sets. A convenient advantage of overalls is snow can’t get inside even when kids roll in the snow. They are also faster to put on than separate pants and a jacket. However, it’s easier to peel off a coat indoors while running errands, whereas removing the top half of overalls usually results in them falling below the child’s hips as they walk.

Much like winter boots, winter outerwear comes in a range of prices and quality. Frequently you get what you pay for, but not always, so know what qualities you want in your outerwear.

They should be waterproof and hold up to use and abuse. Having taped seams and reinforced knee, bum, and elbow areas contribute to durability.

Some brands will include info on the tags describing the degree of waterproofing of the external fabric.

If you understand Swedish or have a patient Swedish-speaking friend, check out this year’s review of children’s winter overalls from product evaluation agency TestFakta here.

Many Swedes also swear by putting a sheep skin in the stroller, keeping your child snug and warm even in the coldest weather.


Children 6 years and above

Which outerwear you choose for your child will depend upon how much time they spend outside. If your child enjoys playing in the snow (which is pretty much a given for any child not yet a teenager) keep this in mind when you decide on the quality of outerwear you are willing to pay for. As with younger children – the trick is smart layering and most (children’s) clothes shops stocks wool undergarments (often called an underställ) for older children (and adults) as well. They won’t mind wearing them – all their friends will be too!

Again, bargains can be made on sites like Tradera or Blocket – but don’t rule out the sports shops like Stadium and Intersport. Often they will have a range of options to suit all purses.

Enjoy the snow!


Alexandra D’Urso

Boston-area native Alexandra moved to Sweden in 2009 and gave up cod for smoked salmon and Sam Adams for wine in plastic bottles with screw caps. When not bragging about the awesome aspects of Swedish life to people back home, she spends time writing and laughing loud enough to disturb innocent bystanders.

Follow Alex and Your Living City on Twitter!


You pratar lite svenska, you wear skinny jeans and drink coffee from 7-Eleven. Why do you still feel like the protagonist in Where’s Wally? YLC’s Kirsten Smart has one answer on how to get into the beanie-covered heads of the Swedes.

 mikko_nikkinen-ski_cap_-2157Mikko Nikkinen/imagebank.sweden.se

So you’ve decided to learn Swedish. Hurra! The next step is deciding whether you’ll go for private, one-on-one lessons or a public, group setting like SFI, both of which have their costs and benefits. Private is more expensive and it may be difficult to find a good, reliable teacher who can cater to your specific needs. Government-funded programmes are generally free, but the classes are often large, meaning there isn’t the one-on-one attention and everyone needs to march at the same pace, regardless of whether they are faster or slower learners.

Many jump straight into SFI because it’s free (private lessons can be very pricey), incentivized, challenging and effective.

But if you’re fresh off the boat and still looking at the metro map upside down, SFI can be somewhat daunting.

“I felt as though I was chucked into the deep end at SFI. Everyone in my class was speaking pretty fluent Swedish when I arrived and I felt like I was bringing the class down. I wanted to quit, but I didn’t. I’m so glad I stayed as I caught up quickly, but still, it was a somewhat brutal experience at first!” Australian, Vicky, tells YLC.

Moving to a new place where you don’t know the language is hard. It’s like starting high school all over again; you so badly want to fit in, make friends, know how things work and be fluent in the local slang.

You ultimately want to feel comfortable in your new surroundings; which is why schools have orientations, fun days and mentor programmes.

Wouldn’t it be nice if someone did all this for you when relocating to Sweden? They would teach you the language, show you where to buy groceries and let you in on inexplicable inside mysteries, like why cheese seems only to be sold in bulk and how “oj” can be used as an apology. They would provide a helping hand and a sympathetic ear, making your transition to Sweden as seamless as it could possibly be.

Enter Nina Mumm.


Mumm’s the word.

Nina  offers language lessons (one-on-one or group both in person and over Skype), cultural training (in which she provides insight into everyday life in Sweden and covers Swedish values, attitudes and business culture) as well organises free, Monday morning fika sessions for expats to meet, mingle and munch. Additionally, she organizes cooking events, day trips, museum visits and girls’ nights out.  She has studied Psychology, Languages, Linguistics and Bilingualism and uses her entire skill-set in providing the ultimate package for expats.

Of course, you don’t have to do the whole shebang. You can pick and choose what you’d like to sign up for and if you want to join in on the fika sessions, there is absolutely no obligation to take Nina up on any of her services.

In my opinion, the amazing thing about Nina is that she cares about you. She may not know you from Henrik, but she actually wants you to be happy and settled.

When I tried out one of her private language lessons (she offers a free lesson to anyone interested in learning with her) I felt as though I was sitting down with a friend who was extremely well-versed in all things Swedish. Not only did she give me a relaxed and informative lesson that she had catered to my level (which is somewhere between confused hamster and Swedish toddler), but she also asked me about my family and interests and doled out sage advice.

In fact, she even provided insights into Swedish quirks that irk (why in the heck do so few Swedes own a microwave?).

Nina explains that Swedes…just do life a little differently. Many foreigners enter a Swedish work environment and become frustrated with meetings that seem to go nowhere, lunches that last hours and whole summer months where business is put on the back burner. However, Nina encourages expats to rather go with the flow than try and change the system. Because, let’s face it, the system works; things still get done.

According to Nina, the key to integration is “patience, curiosity and an open mind. Having a positive attitude and building a new social network also helps.” This is the kind of inside information that sets Nina apart from regular private language tutors and overwhelmed public ones. She prides herself on giving her students her undivided time, attention and expertise in a non-judgmental, helpful way.

Truthfully, there are plenty of viable, economically conservative options available to aid you in the quest of becoming a Swedish language master (some of which may even have you nattering like a native within a matter of months), but if you’re looking for a gentler, more rounded experience, Nina has got to be the best of the best.

Now aren’t you glad I didn’t stay Mumm?


**If you have any queries, you can contact Nina by phone on +46707368127, or email at info@ninamumm.se. For more information, visit her website or Facebook group.


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 YLC Guide: Swedish November Traditions


Follow Kirsten and Your Living City on Twitter!




There are four little letters that put together mean a great deal to the Swedes. It’s a noun, it’s a verb and it’s synonymous with friendship, companionship, sharing and nourishment. That’s right, we’re talking about fika. Want to join us?


Did you know that, according to the International Coffee Organization, the Swedes come in second in the world (after Finland) for the most coffee consumed per person? This, in my opinion, is directly correlated to the deliciously ingrained ritual that is fika; where friends, family and/or colleagues get together every day to share a cuppa and something sweet (generally termed fikabröd).

In fact, research indicates that taking a short pause from work makes employees more productive. Not only this, but in Sweden, where fika often a mandatory break in any company, a great many executive discussions take place over a steaming pot of bryggkaffe.


“At my husband’s work, a lot of major decisions are made over fika.” Canadian expat, Katie, explains to YLC.


And one can see why; workers feel more relaxed, less pressured and oftentimes more creative in an informal setting, surrounded by caffeinated beverages and yummy buns. It’s almost as if fika is the Swedish equivalent of the water cooler. Except it has more of a ritual aspect to it. It’s a soul-enriching timeout from the hustle and bustle, where a small chunk of the day is set aside for some quality bonding time; making this tradition equally warming for the heart and stomach.

But for expats wandering into a cafe alone at 15:00, it can often be a time where we are reminded that we are not natives. The fact that we may not have someone to share fika with can make us feel even more alienated from the Swedish tribesmen. Let’s face it, if anyone needs to bond over a zillion cups of stomach-cramp-inducingly strong coffee, it’s us.

The feeling of belonging is right up there on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs; this need is all the more piquant when you’ve relocated to a different country (or continent). We need to feel connected to others through the sharing of experiences, exchanging of ideas and offering (and receiving) of advice.


Sometimes we just want to lament that the Systembolaget makes you feel like you’re in a prison commissary and that smoked moose meat and lettuce slapped onto a bun does not a breakfast make.


And sometimes, just sometimes, we just want to speak English without feeling guilty for not speaking Swedish. That’s where Nina Mumm comes in.

Nina is a highly trained Swedish language teacher who hosts an informal weekly English-speaking coffee morning from 9:00 – 11:00 every Monday morning. Although she is a native, she’s had her fair share of the expat experience, having herself lived and worked in Switzerland, Canada and Norway. She is therefore perfectly positioned to dish out advice on how to balance work with family life while living in a foreign country as well as offer an inside view onto the Swedish way of life.

There is usually a small group of around six expats at the Monday morning fika, but it’s a relatively new venture and it’s been growing steadily in popularity. How Nina has accumulated such a consistently lovely and helpful group of people is beyond me, but when I attended I felt like I had just been hugged by Santa Claus. Of course, we all nattered about living in Sweden and the trials, tribulations and frustrations that go hand-in-hand with being an expat, but the mood was unequivocally positive. All of us were of different ages and backgrounds, yet we all found commonality in our present experience. We were also all similar in that instead of sitting alone on our couches watching the sun set at 4pm, we were actively out seeking companionship… and coffee.

So if you’re looking to meet some genuinely good people to share your expatriate emotions (and perhaps your kanelbulle) with, I strongly urge you to pop in to Vete-Katten and join Nina and the crew. I can’t think of a better way to start a Monday morning, can you?

*If you want to join Nina and her group of drop-dead lovely expats, pop into Vete-Katten, Kungsgatan 55, on a Monday morning between 9am and 11am. It’s free (except if you want some coffee/tea or nibbles) and there’s no invitation needed! Anyone can join in and there are absolutely no obligations to attend every week.

**If you have any queries, you can contact Nina by phone on +46707368127, or email at info@ninamumm.se. For more information, visit her website or Facebook group.


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 YLC Guide: Five Swedish October Traditions


Follow Kirsten and Your Living City on Twitter!



Widely used in preschools in Sweden, the Reggio Emilia approach is an educational philosophy that has gained world-wide popularity due to its holistic approach, placing the natural development of the child at its core.

7551690792_0957eb8643_cPhoto: Penn State/ Flickr (file)

Loris Malaguzzi, the founder of the Reggio Emilia approach, had a vision for a public school that aims to combine the children’s welfare, education and fundamental rights with the social needs of families. His philosophy is founded upon three central beliefs; firstly, each child is unique, secondly, children construct their own experience and thirdly, a child-centered approach is central to learning. 

What is ‘Reggio Emilia’?

Reggio Emilia is named after a small city in northern Italy. After WWII and the destruction that it had caused, parents in Reggio Emilia decided that a new type of education needed to be established. Cue: Loris Malaguzzi, a local teacher and parent. Inspired by the ideas of pedagogical theorists such as John Dewey, Jean Piaget and Lev Vygotsky, she supplied the demand by founding the Reggio Emilia approach, an approach very different from the traditional school setting at the time.

One of the key principles in this approach is a belief in the positive image of the child. It builds on the concept that each child has the desire to connect with others, to engage in learning and to enter into a relationship with their environment.

What are its main principles?

  • Education based on Interrelationships – a network exists between the children, parents, and the teachers, all working towards the same purpose.  This network creates cooperation, collaboration and co-construction of knowledge.

  • Each person constructs their own intelligence from direct interaction with the environment and in social groups.

  • Child-centered philosophy – the child’s interests guide the curriculum.

  • The teacher’s role is complex; they are learners alongside the children while they are also the researcher and contributor to the child’s capacity to learn.

  • The school environment is “the third teacher”; a positive environment encourages participation and discovery. Space is organized for projects and children’s work is displayed around the school. The arrangement of structures, objects, and activities encourages choice, problem-solving and curiosity.

  • Long-term projects are undertaken as vehicles for learning – ideas may spring from both the children and teachers.

  • Documentation is a key element; it communicates the life of the school and the development and learning process of each child using many sources, such as photographs, note-taking and the child’s work itself.

  • Real-life experience, such as field trips, allow children to question the world and develop theories.

The Hundred Languages of Children


A child has a hundred languages, but is robbed of ninety-nine.  Schools and culture separate the head from the body, they force you to think without a body and to act without a head.  Play and work, reality and imagination, science and the fantastic, the inside and the outside, are made into each other’s opposites.

- Loris Malaguzzi

In Reggio Emilia, there is an expression: “A child has a hundred languages.” Whilst children explore, investigate and test their ideas, they are encouraged to demonstrate their understanding through a symbolic language, of which children have many (such as drawing, painting, dramatic play, and writing).

Key to understanding the mind-set behind Malaguzzi’s approach to learning is her poem, the Hundred Languages of Children:

The Hundred Languages of Children

The child is made of one hundred.

The child has

a hundred languages

a hundred hands

a hundred thoughts

a hundred ways of thinking

of playing, of speaking.

A hundred.

Always a hundred

ways of listening

of marveling, of loving

a hundred joys

for singing and understanding

a hundred worlds

to discover

a hundred worlds

to invent

a hundred worlds

to dream.

The child has

a hundred languages

(and a hundred hundred hundred more)

but they steal ninety-nine.

The school and the culture

separate the head from the body.

They tell the child:

to think without hands

to do without head

to listen and not to speak

to understand without joy

to love and to marvel

only at Easter and at Christmas.

They tell the child:

to discover the world already there

and of the hundred

they steal ninety-nine.

They tell the child:

that work and play

reality and fantasy

science and imagination

sky and earth

reason and dream

are things

that do not belong together.

And thus they tell the child

that the hundred is not there.

The child says:

No way. The hundred is there.

-Loris Malaguzzi

Founder of the Reggio Emilia Approach


For more information about this approach, contact the Reggio Emilia Institute in Sweden. They organize workshops and can provide material for you to read.


Dodd-Nufrio, A.T. Reggio Emilia, Maria Montessori, and John Dewey (2011).  Early Childhood Education Journal, 39, pp. 235-237.

Reggio Emilia Institutet, Stockholm  www.reggioemilia.se

Reggio Emilia Organization, New Zealand www.reggioemilia.org.nz



Sarit Grinberg

Heading back to work? Sending the kids to preschool? Some savvy Stockholm parents give us their top tips on how to handle the transition from holiday into every day.

437273743_654727dd8f_bPhoto: David Conklin/ Flickr (file)

Going back to work and leaving your child at nursery for the first time is an emotional time for any parent. On the one hand, you’re riddled with doubt about whether you’ve picked the right preschool. On the other, you’re feeling guilty about going back to work at all. And on the third hand (that you wish you now had), you’re also under time pressure in a way that you’ve never been before.

It’s a juggling act. And sometimes not a pretty one. But things can be made easier and with these top 10 tips from parents who’ve been there, we’re hoping working parenthood can be easier for you.

1. Be comfortable in yourself with your choices, whatever they are – Anonymous

One of the biggest issues parents face is doubt; it’s hard to know whether you’re making the right decisions and the impact on your family life can be huge. My tip is to question yourself as to what you’re doing. e.g. Are you working because you love your job? Because you need the money? Because you don’t want to stay at home? And conversely, are you not working because you love being at home? Because there’s nothing else you’d enjoy more? Because you don’t need the money? These are all valid reasons, but it’s you who needs to be comfortable with them. Apply questions to any decision you’re feeling unsure about and see whether you can justify those decisions to yourself. Once you do, you can face anybody who questions your choice.

2. Enjoy your work, don’t feel guilty and enjoy being ‘you’ – Eleanor

Sometimes, going to work and having a break from your children can make you appreciate them so much more than when you were with them. It can be easier to dedicate all of yourself to little ones when you’ve had the satisfaction of eating at an extremely non-pram-friendly place, not had to dash home for naps and, dare I say it, go to the toilet by yourself. Enjoy all the things about work that you can and come home feeling happy to be a mummy again.

3. Make sure you have time planned for yourself – Anonymous

When you have a day-job and then come home to the night job of being a parent, it can feel like you never have a break. To this, I would suggest writing down the three hobbies you’d most like to pursue if you were not working or a mummy and choose at least one that is easy to fit into your lifestyle. If it’s rock-climbing, designate a time for rock-climbing each week and agree it with your partner or whoever could help out; if it’s seeing friends, make sure you manage to get a night out as often as you can. Make the most of weekends and evenings, even if it just means fitting in bit more sleep than you’d ordinarily have during the week. For more sedentary pursuits, see if you can make a long commute pay off; a friend of mine manages to knit the most beautiful things on her 45 minute train journey; it probably helps a lot with commuter rage too! Don’t feel guilty about doing things for yourself. The last thing children need is a parent who’s resentful or depressed; it’s important for you to feel happy too.

4. When it’s time to go home after school, we always try and do something fun, even if it’s looking at a book together on the bus on the way home! – Khadra

Since you have reduced the amount of time you spend with your children, see if you can make that time fun for the both of you. Toddlers can find even the most mundane tasks (like laundry) thrilling and their enthusiasm is infectious! If you do want to do household chores together, I would recommend that you are prepared for the task taking approximately 3 times as long, being 5 times as messy and perhaps never being completed. It’s still fun, promise! You could also get out and about (a play-centre or park can be a good bet as children love it and you can meet up with other parents) or you could devise a special project to complete together with your child. Don’t put pressure on yourself (or your little one); it’s a time where you can both get a lot out of just being with each other, rather than completing a task or learning a skill. The key is that you’re doing something you both enjoy together.

5. When my son started pre-school (after in-schooling) I didn’t start work for a week. Having a week with him in school and not back to work gave me time to relax and mentally prepare myself….. Best thing I did! – Heather

Before you plan when to go back to work, you need to look at the in-schooling procedure at your nursery; some can be as much as 3 weeks long. Firstly, allow time for this and more if your child is very attached to you and you feel like in-schooling may be difficult.  Then allow at least one more week before returning to work; you have just been at one job for a good long time before returning back to a very different line of work. You deserve a break, some ‘me’ time and also some time to prepare yourself, both emotionally and mentally, for your job.

6. Prepare up front for your child to be sick; once in nursery, they pick up and pass on everything – Chantel

There’s no denying it; however much interaction your little one has had with other children before, it probably won’t have been the same as being in class every day with their peers. This has many benefits; children learn to socialize and work in groups. They also learn to share everything… including germs. Of course, if you’re a glass half-full kind of person, this is also a benefit in terms of building up their immune system. But it’s hard to be that person when you’ve had to take three days off work in order to be used as a sick bucket. Bear in mind that you will need to take time off for your children being sick; check your work policy and the Försäkringskassan website to see how you claim these sick days off. More importantly, work out a system with your partner as to who takes days off when; you do not want to be arguing the matter out over a sick child.

7. Do try and replicate the schedule you have at nursery at home – Anonymous

I believe that children gain a lot of security out of an established routine. If nursery always has lunch at 11 and nap at noon, it might be confusing for your child to manage until 12 for lunch and then not nap until 1pm. It’s not impossible and it’s up to you, but consistency of routine can help your child settle into nursery more easily.

8. To maximize sleeping time and reduce morning stress, get everything ready the night before… I even have my son sleep in his clothes for the next day if we have a really early start and then we just brush teeth, put on shoes and we’re out the door in under 10 minutes! – Rachel

I don’t know if scientists would agree, but I’ve always found the equation:

UWP + JWT = Chaos + Stress

where UWP stands for Unpreprepared Working Parent and JWT stands for Just Woken Toddler

to be a true one. Mornings are the times when you have the least amount of time and the most things to do.  Children need to be woken, go to the loo, have their teeth brushed, be changed into new clothes, have breakfast eaten and their bag ready before heading out the door…  not to mention your own routine. If you’re really pushed for time and have a long commute, you can eliminate everything but the first three actions. Lay out your own clothes and accessories and prepare your bag. It saves time and bleary, early morning fashion decisions. Do the same for your children and have breakfast ready to eat on the journey.

9. To help with a quicker drop-off,  plan a special routine between you and the kids – Rebecca

I’ve often heard (and indeed experienced) this story: you’re feeling nervous and guilty at drop-off and your child senses this. This makes it harder for them to let you leave; they may even play up on purpose. You linger, making the situation worse and leave a crying child, which makes you feel sick all day. No fun.

The best thing to do is to prepare your child in advance with a routine that you both participate in to signal that you’re leaving. It could be a secret handshake, waving at the window three times, two kisses on top of the head; whatever you’d like, as long as it’s got a timely and definite end-point. Let the teachers know about this, so they can then take over easily. Do not linger too long, but if you feel you need to, find a hiding place where your child cannot see you and check how they’re doing from afar. They’ll usually be fine. If the hiding place is not an option, call the preschool after an appropriate amount of time has elapsed; they will be able to tell you how things are going.

10. If you don’t have family here and you both work full time, get a babysitter for at least a few days – Caroline

Don’t be afraid to ask for help, paid or otherwise. Many of us are here with no family to help out and there will be people who are willing to share the load. If your partner hasn’t been as involved in cooking, cleaning and baby-caring, now is the time to kick-start them into action! If you can organize a pick-up or drop-off rota with a friendly mum, that can help things enormously. And if you can afford it, don’t be ashamed to get someone to help out; if it leads to less stress and more time, it’s money well spent!


Good Luck!


Farrah Gillani

Follow Farrah and Your Living City on Twitter!


Finding it hard to get to grips with the language? Want to be able to speak like a native? Check out YLC’s Amy Johansson’s top tips to get ahead in Swedish –  the non-SFI way!


I knew I had started speaking really good Swedish when people stopped telling me that I spoke good Swedish and instead started saying “Hur kan du så bra engelska?” (How do you speak English so well?) when they overheard me speaking English with my children. Admittedly, I do have an interest in languages and linguistics, but I worked hard to attain fluency and accurately mimic the tones and pitch of this language in under 2 years. You can too. It does take effort and time, but I am happy to share my tricks with YLC readers. In Plain English of course!


Here’s what to do:


1) Immersion

I live in a part of the country (Småland in the southeast) where English is not a de facto second language. Many people where I live are resolutely monolingual. Even if they understand English, or studied English at school, or listen to English on television, many here are too shy to speak it. This has its downsides of course, but it is a huge advantage when learning the language. Immersion is frustrating. It is lonely. But it works. There have been many times at the beginning of my language learning that I sat silent at my husband’s family’s dinner table listening and unable to participate. If you cannot find willing peers to practice with, go where you have no choice. Find small rural communities. Find the elderly. Talk to children. You might feel silly at first, but if you have no other choice, you will learn.


2) Don’t worry: Swedish is not a grammatically difficult language

Have you heard Finnish? Impermeable! Thai? The tones Oh my! Russian?! Wow, the cases! Navajo?! Swedish is a relative of English and there are many cognates. Also, you do not have to conjugate verb tenses – it is thankfully the same verb whether you are speaking about yourself, to another person and to multiple people. The most difficult obstacle I’ve encountered learning Swedish is that in some places people are extremely fluent in English and want to speak English so it is easy (depending where you live and where you work) to avoid using Swedish. Have no fears.


3) SFI Akademiker

Swedish for Immigrants is a much-debated, often maligned program. It is actually a generous program, if perhaps not well-executed sometimes. However, there IS sometimes an alternative to traditional SFI and that is SFI Academic. If you have a university degree from your home country, you are eligible for this faster-paced, more rigorous program. I enrolled in this program in my municipality and enjoyed both having great  teachers and the diverse group of accomplished fellow students.


4) Idiomatic Language

Watch TV, LISTEN (the best linguists are the ones who are good listeners too) to how Swedes speak to one another, listen to Håkan Hellström music, Kent, Evert Taube. This is how people really speak. If you are using quaint, overly polite, overly formal language, some Swedes might lose patience with you and switch to English. Speak like them. Make it easier for them to meet you halfway.


5) Accent Bootcamp  

If you totally alter the sound of the language, it can make you difficult to understand. Or if you have a thick accent that betrays you as a native English speaker, many Swedes will want to practice their English with you. Lose that Swenglish sound. Here’s how: Talk to native speakers and watch their mouths move. Try writing words out phonetically. Practice in front of a mirror. Peter, a linguist friend of mine in New York (and fluent in 4 languages) advised me wisely once:

“Socially you are more believable if you sound the part, even if you make grammar mistakes”.

He is right, native speakers of English don’t always speak English with correct grammar, but we recognize native speakers by how they SOUND. When I first came to Sweden, I sounded American when I spoke Swedish. I realized this and whilst working hard on morphing my accent, I also told people who tried to speak to me in English that I actually was Spanish speaking and didn’t speak English.

Gradually and with lots of practice and the patience of a Jedi, I lost my American accent in Swedish and gained a proper local Swedish dialect, which incidentally gets made fun of when I am in other parts of Sweden! At that point, I often switch to English and say in my best native Tri-State American accent “What’s up with THAT, yo?!”


Good luck to you in learning Swedish, YLC readers!


Amy Johansson

Amy moved to Sweden from Brooklyn, USA in July 2011 with 1 child, 1 Swedish husband, 2 large suitcases and no idea what she was getting herself into. Two years and two more children later, she speaks fluent Småländska and still does not “get” the appeal of salty licorice. 

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



Interested in applying to a Swedish university? Want to know what your international study options are and what to expect in fees? Take a look at our basic guide to enrolling in university in Sweden. 

The Swedish Council for Higher Education is the only agency responsible for admission to Swedish universities. It is through their two application websites (one for EU citizens/residents and one for international students) that students search for courses and programmes, create an account, submit their application and receive their Notification of Selection Results (admission decision).


Applying to a university in Sweden

International students now have their own university application website.  To apply for courses and programmes go to:


You can search for programmes and courses, and find out the application procedure and tuition fees.

If you are exempt from paying fees (you are a citizen or permanent resident of Sweden/EU), go to www.studera.nu to apply.

For those interested in applying to university in Sweden starting autumn term 2013 – the deadline for applications is looming – you need to have sent in your application by April 15th.

Note, however, that prospective students from outside the EU are advised to  apply earlier (January round)  leaving plenty of time  to apply for and receive your resident permit (if needed), arrange for housing and have enough time to plan for your time in Sweden.  Next early round (for Spring term 2014) is August 15th.



Until autumn term 2011, studying at Swedish universities was free for everyone – citizens, residents, and foreigners.  However, now students who are not citizens of the EU, EEA or Switzerland have to pay fees to apply and attend undergraduate and masters programmes and courses in Sweden (PhD programmes are free).

There is currently a 900 SEK (Swedish kronor) application fee which has to be paid by the deadline in order for your application to be processed. Students pay one application fee for each semester they submit an application for. The fee is paid to University Admissions in Sweden, through the application website.

Unlike the application fee, tuition fees are paid directly to the university you plan on attending. You need to search for the course/programme you want to apply to in order to see the fees and details.

Make sure to pay the first installment of the tuition fee before you apply for a visa/residency permit. The reason is because the Swedish Migration Board will not approve your visa/residence permit until they have verification from the university that you have made your first payment.

Sweden universities are now offering more scholarships for non-EU citizens. These websites have all the information you need to apply to higher education in Sweden:




Stockholm options: 

For specifics about some of the universities in the region see individual websites:

Stockholm city: 

Karolinska Institutet 

Konstfack – University College of Arts, Crafts and Design 

Royal College of Music in Stockholm

Royal Institute of Technology 

Royal University College of Fine Arts 

Sophiahemmet University College

Stockholm Academy of Dramatic Arts

Stockholm School of Economics

Stockholm School of Theology

Stockholm University

Swedish National Defence College

Södertörn University

The Red Cross University College of Nursing

The Swedish School of Sport and Health Sciences

The University College of Opera

University of Dance and Circus

University College of Music Education in Stockholm

Nearby (commuting distance):


For further information about living and studying in Sweden, visit: www.studyinsweden.se


By: Sarit Grinberg

Cover Photo: Orasis foto/Stockholms universitet

Photo:www.imagebank.sweden.se (c) The IT University in Kista/ The IT University in Kista


We published this article last year, but we have been in touch with the Red Cross and they now have a list of their classes for this year. So here is our new article, updated and 2013 ready.

List of Swedish Classes with the Red Cross

Learning the local language is the key to feeling at home in a new culture. However, not all expats in Sweden have the opportunity to go to one of Stockholm’s government funded language classes nor do they have the extra cash to pay for private lessons. If you fall into one of those two categories, why not check out the Red Cross Swedish language learning activities. They are run by a group of dedicated volunteers, are free and host activities for many Swedish language levels.

You may also like:

or check out the YLC Swedish Language Courses Section!

The Red Cross local branches runs language learning activities at different places in Stockholm. You can google “Röda Korset” and “part of the city where you live”; for example “Skärholmen, Kista or Ulriksdal”. When you have found the right homepage, click on “vårt arbete” and “träna svenska” and you will find information about where and when the activity take place.

Shephali Sardesai, a newcomer to Stockholm tested the Red Cross Swedish activity last year. Read her tale below.

As anyone will tell you, living in a different country with a new language and a new culture to grasp, can be exciting but equally as daunting. Communication is key to fitting into any society as quickly as possible.

I knew that learning the language was essential to immersing myself within the culture here in Stockholm. Even though English, being my first language, probably decreases some obstacles, (most Swedish people speak English so well and are delighted to practice with you!), I knew that learning Swedish would open up many more opportunities, helping the essential parts of living here, such as employment and making new friends. Also, I am in Sweden so I should really speak the language I might add!

However, unable to join the SFI classes (as I was awaiting my personal identification number) and finding it impossible to teach myself, how was I going to reach my goal of communicating within the environment I live in?

Well, when I came across the yourlivingcity.com website, I read about the Red Cross Swedish language learning activities. It offers a great free service to many people from all walks of life and great opportunity to integrate as quickly as possible through talking Swedish. The activities take place every weekday at the Red Cross Refugee Centre, 55 Lundagatan, Södermalm, but there are a number of other groups and activities around Stockholm on different days and times. People go there to learn from the volunteers, who in fact call themselves ‘colloquial leaders’. Many volunteers provide their services once a week, making a crucial difference to peoples’ lives. Activities take place in two hour sessions, with a short fika break in between! You can take as many activities as you want and see fit.

My first activity was a real confidence booster! I hadn’t realised how much I knew already from just trying to teach myself with the available tools, such as studying online, reading subtitles on television, radio, and listening to people around me. The volunteers speak mostly in Swedish, to encourage understanding and the real world, so it really pushes you to listen, watch and concentrate throughout. Each activity is as different as the volunteers are. This keeps it fresh, and if you find that certain words, phrases or subjects are covered, and it only refreshes what you know…the saying ‘practice makes perfect’ applies! Although everybody is at different stages, the class structure seems to work well.

Grammar and conversational phrases are covered every day, and the alphabet including the extra jaw muscle tester letters such as ä, å, ö! I find the volunteers’ cover just as much as our attention spans can take, which was longer than I thought! Beginner activities take place every day, with a separate group for the advanced level. There is no need to sign up prior to classes; it is essentially a drop-in centre. That’s why the Red Cross classes really work for me, as I can pick and choose any day to go, and never feel lost or behind.


One of the Volunteers kindly gave me an insight behind his personal reasons of helping the Red Cross. Meet Jonas Joelson, 32 years old, Stockholm.

A friend told me about it. I was concerned with some political factors at the time and felt it was a good way to give back to the community. Even doing something small makes a difference. Two hours a week of my time helps others more in need.

Are you a teacher by profession?

No, I am a Copywriter.

Do you have a particular teaching method?

By improvising you keep things fresh.

What do you find most rewarding?

When I can make people who are low or depressed smile, that makes me happy.

Does one need to have any particular qualifications in order to volunteer?

No, you just need engagement and being prepared to give something.

Why would you encourage somebody to give their time to the Red Cross activity or attend the classes as a learner?

Language is a part of integration. I am always impressed by those who want to learn a new language.