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Becoming an Expat
4 points by adreamingsoul 7 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 8 comments
My family and I are in the process of moving abroad from the USA. We will be moving to a Scandinavian country from the west coast of the USA.

If you have done something similar, I would like to hear what your experience has been.

* Do you have any advice? * Do you have any regrets? * Did you have any anxiety or second-thoughts before the move? * How did your family handle the transition? * What would you have done differently?

I don't know anyone in my personal life who has gone through something like this, and so I figure the HN community would be a good place to inquire.






I moved to Sweden about 12 years ago from New Mexico. However, I was single. I am married now, to another American, with two small children.

(BTW, I consider myself an immigrant, not an expat.)

The questions you ask are entirely too generic. Moving to a large city like Stockholm is different than moving to a small one like Skurup ("When in Europe, visit Skurup"). Moving to Norway or Denmark is yet different again. Moving as a self-employed person is different than moving as an employee of a large company. Moving as a single person is different than moving as a family.

I will therefore answer generically. I found "Culture Shock: Sweden" to be helpful, though it's 15 years old now and almost certainly dated. There are vlogs on YouTube about people from the US moving to/living in Sweden, e.g., https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=moving+to+Swede... . Perhaps check them out? There are many other web sites which offer advice for those moving here, including pages hosted at universities for visiting professors.

Regrets? No, not really.

Anxiety or second-thoughts? Yes, absolutely.

My family? My parents lived in Ecuador when I was young. My g'parents from Canada lived in Cuba when my Dad was young. It wasn't a problem.

I was single, so not a problem with the rest of the family. My wife moved here after we got married. She misses much more of US foods than here, so uses services like (the currently closed) https://tastyamerica.se/ .

Done differently? That's a hard one. Oh - get a first-hand apartment rental contract early on, rather than second-hand/sublet for a few years. The housing crisis hit hard a couple of years after I moved here.

Housing is very difficult right now in the big cities of Sweden. If you aren't employed by an organization which will help its employees find housing, then start looking now. And fraud is rampant in the online housing offers.

There are also American clubs, like http://awcgothenburg.com . Larger cities have American schools, if your kids are in high school age (for example) and you want them to continue in English, with a US-oriented education.


Unfortunetly I think it is hard to recommend Sweden to anyone these days. People have made huge amounts in the housing market and anyone getting there now is going to pay for it. Maybe Malmö is still good to make a life in, but it would still require careful consideration. At least Sweden, but maybe even Scandinavia, really isn’t what is was ten years ago.

Since the OP is moving to Sweden, there's no point in making a recommendation, is there?

It's hard to know what the OP is asking about.

The housing problem outside the big cities is much less of a problem. Even negative in some places. For all we know, the OP could be moving to Skurup.

FWIW, we moved to Trollhättan because the housing situation in Göteborg was untenable. It only took a few months to find a place here. To be fair, we also had good timing, but my point is that there is more to Sweden than the big cities.

It's hard to recommend Silicon Valley as well, but people keep moving there. ("No one goes there anymore. It's too crowded." - https://quoteinvestigator.com/2014/08/29/too-crowded/ ).

Is there anywhere like it was ten years ago?


> Since the OP is moving to Sweden, there's no point in making a recommendation, is there?

"to a Scandinavian country". Presumably that means looking some sort of quality of life. I would say that Sweden is probably the worst among the Scandinavian, or Nordic, countries in this regard at the moment.

> The housing problem outside the big cities is much less of a problem. Even negative in some places.

This has mostly changed in recent years. There are only three counties (kommuner) with a housing surplus at the moment. They are in the middle of nowhere.

> FWIW, we moved to Trollhättan because the housing situation in Göteborg was untenable.

Sure, the situation is easier, but not necessarily easy for a foreigner. People select bigger cities because there are less compromises. As someone having lived in Sweden for awhile you presumably know better what you want and what to expect. For someone just arriving in Sweden it is going to be much harder to make an informed decision when moving to one of these smaller cities. From what I can tell the housing queue in Trollhättan is still 3 years, but it might of course be less in reality.

> It's hard to recommend Silicon Valley as well, but people keep moving there.

It isn't hard to recommend Silicon Valley if you are there to make a career in the tech industry. They have the highest salaries, the most opportunities and the best services. I wouldn't personally move there, because I don't find it appealing, but for someone who is looking for just they would end up in the more favored group.

> Is there anywhere like it was ten years ago?

Everywhere changes, the important part is what is changing. Ten years ago you could for example look at the passengers on a train in Sweden and most people would be on relatively equal terms. Some people might make more money, have better education or professions. But that would a least in theory be based on merit.

Making the same thought experiment today would result in many people over 45 becoming a SEK millionaire in the last 10 years by doing nothing. And few under 30, who isn't there children, being able to attain a similar life as they have. I think that is a huge change. I might certainly be true of other places as well, but much of the appeal of Sweden is egalitarianism which in my opinion is essentially a joke today. Moving to Sweden today would to a large extent put you in the less favored group.


"to a Scandinavian country" Indeed. My error. My point remains that it appears to be past the time for a recommendation.

Is your goal to convince the OP to back out of the arrangement? Or is it to bad-mouth current life in Sweden? Or something else? Perhaps subtle advocacy for Vänsterpartiet and the Miljonärsskatt?

Because you aren't the type of person the OP was asking for a response from, your response don't seem to have addressed any of the OP's topics, and your list of complaints doesn't resonate with most Americans.

To give an example, you have a train system, and both your SEK millionaires and young ride it.

Immigrants are almost always in a less favored group.

You know what else has changed in the last 10 years? White supremacists who have decided it is proper to kill children in Norway and Sweden - including my adopted city - and the rise of white supremacist stickers and graffiti around town.


> Is your goal to convince the OP to back out of the arrangement?

My goal is that they should make an informed decision. If they want to live in Stockholm in a "second hand" apartment spending 15k SEK a month without any guarantee to be able to stay there while at the same time being hit with a 20% extra tax trying to increase their salary and there by being potentially one of the more income sensitive people in their workplace, if not the job market, then that is fine. They should however be aware of the situation.

However if that isn't what they were bargaining for they needs to be more careful about their decision. Be more selective were they try their luck in the region, or consider other places that might have similar characteristics.

> Because you aren't the type of person the OP was asking for a response from, your response don't seem to have addressed any of the OP's topics, and your list of complaints doesn't resonate with most Americans.

Sure, I mean I don't represent the incoming side. What I am trying to highlight things that most people wouldn't necessarily be aware of. I am not so sure these issues wouldn't resonate with Americans. In my experience many Americans find the almost universally rent controlled rental market concerning. As well as the hundred year mortgages. And that the housing market is plateauing. That is in addition to relatively low salaries and high taxes. Which you therefor absolutely needs to care about what you get for them, since you are paying for it anyway.

> Immigrants are almost always in a less favored group.

And that is a pretty bad thing if you are an immigrant.

> You know what else has changed in the last 10 years? White supremacists who have decided it is proper to kill children in Norway and Sweden [...]

There were white supremacists killing people in the '90s as well. Still it certainly isn't a good development. Up until the Sweden Democrats entered parliament, to much detriment to the government being able to do anything productive, Sweden was the exception among Scandinavian countries. Which was something worth highlighting, but it isn't true anymore. Now we have our own populists and people more extreme then them being validated as a result.

I would love to say "come to Sweden" and that everything on the up and up. That it is easy to build yourself a life here. That good apartments, salaries, health care and all the other things that gives you a good quality of life are plentyful. That there is a lot of potential, excess and that you are getting a good deal. I just don't think it is true and I don't see it getting fixed any time soon. That is the problem. Sweden isn't currently a very good deal short term, and there is a lot of uncertainty long term as well.

I am not an expat, but I have spent a lot of time with expats. So if I were to address the questions more directly I would say that:

A) It is important to make your investment (the time and effort) count. Everyone always comes in rosy-eyed thinking everything will work out. Even if you are making a high salary you also invest in friends, community and other things. There is a lot of people that after five to ten years completely change their mind on things they knew about beforehand, becoming rather bitter.

B) Your investment as an adult is one thing, but especially when kids get to an age where they start to have friends it gets more complex. This combined with the later parts of A isn't a nice thing, but essentially a lose-lose. You start resenting the place your are in, but you also feel bad about moving.

C) This will be slightly ironic, but they should probably do things sooner. A lot of expats will regret not going sooner and also regret not leaving sooner. If the author really wants to move to Sweden, they should do so for three months, six months or whatever. Just make sure having something productive to do and to come back to. If they don't like it after six months that is still a good experience and not much lost.

Of course Sweden comes up from time to time on HN as well:

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=12428682 https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=6584045 https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=19210577 https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18166055

I don't share all of these views, but at least what I am talking about isn't uncommon. Most people agree that especially the housing market was crazy even more than five years ago and by now the prices increased 50% and started plateauing.


Your original response to mine offered no additional information which the OP might find useful.

Thank you for including points A) - C) now.


Correction: the slogan is "When in Europe, don't miss Skurup", not "visit Skurup".



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