What’s life really like when you swap the city for the country?

There are many reasons more and more people are swapping city for country life. The Local meets an international family who followed their passion for Scandinavia and the great outdoors and moved to the Örebro region in Sweden.

What’s life really like when you swap the city for the country?
Nina and her husband, Ralph, made the move from a German city suburb to a forest in Sweden in 2017. Image: Jesper Anhede

“You have just one life. You need to go for it,” says Örebro-based coffee roastery business owner and nature guide Nina Borgmann-Kaiser, originally from Münster in Germany. 

After owning a holiday cabin in Sweden for eight years, spending a lot of their free time there, Nina, her husband Ralph, two children and dog, eventually gave in to curiosity and moved their lives to the beautiful edge of the forest in Tiveden, Örebro in 2017.

Swapping their “regular” jobs and a home in the suburbs, they bought a local cafe business and Nina pursued her coffee roasting hobby, which she has now turned into a full-time business, Tiveds Kafferosteri.

Today, Nina focuses on her coffee roastery, selling to local cafes and across Sweden via its webshop, and also works as a nature guide. Tived, in Örebro is a stunning nature area, halfway between Gothenburg and Stockholm – just three hours to each. The pace of life is slower, they have beautiful deep forest literally in their backyard, yet they are just 50 minutes from Örebro, which has all the big city essentials they need.

Find out about the region that’s a haven for outdoor lifestyle, halfway between Gothenburg and Stockholm

“We had a good life in Germany,” says Nina. “We had good jobs, it was all very standard and the same each day. We were not bored but it was more the curiosity of doing something totally different that appealed to us.

“We were looking for an adventure and thought it was a good idea for the kids to live in another country, learn another language, get to know another culture.”

As lovers of the outdoors, they were drawn to the Tiveden area because of its outdoor activities, where you can hike, cycle, paddle, go horseback riding. It’s a unique landscape of ancient forest and waterways, and rock formations from the Ice Age, explains Nina. “It’s just amazing here – magical! – and the nature is a little bit like north Sweden. But north Sweden is hard to reach and here we’re in between Stockholm and Gothenburg. It’s 20 kilometres to the motorway. That’s why we thought, when we have a chance to move, why not move to where we love it the most? So that’s what we did!”

During the pandemic, it was not uncommon for people living in cities, working from home and confined to their apartments, to dream of escaping to somewhere bigger. Perhaps a house close to nature but also to convenient services? Remote working options have only made this idea more appealing and it’s no surprise that more and more people are considering living life beyond the bright city lights. 

For Nina and her family, their work-life balance has improved and she says they appreciate the smaller, simpler things, like the magic of the forest on your back doorstep, not being surrounded by shops, the special qualities of each season – and the quiet. 

Naturally, moving to the countryside of a foreign country had its challenges, particularly when setting up your own business. “The first year was hard,” says Nina, adding that they have managed to integrate well, and put in the effort to learn Swedish right away. They joined their local förening and immersed themselves into the community as much as possible, finding their new neighbours warm and welcoming. 

“I think it’s important if you want to really experience living here that you start to integrate yourself. So first it was learning the language. I told everybody from the beginning: Don’t speak English to me.

“But also it’s quite a melting pot here. There are some families that have lived here for generations. And there are a lot of people who choose to live here who come from other countries and other parts of Sweden. Everybody’s a little bit different and everybody accepts each other. It’s pretty nice.”

Of course, it is not only Tived that is a drawcard of the Örebro region

For those looking for more affordable living, a closeness to nature, a better work-life balance, but good connections to the conveniences of the city, the entire region has a lot to offer. 

Could the charming community of Nora be the next place you live? Image: Visit Nora

Nature, interesting history, picturesque towns and incredible food abound in Örebro’s towns, all within an hour of the city. If life in a beautiful wooden town with cobblestone streets and a historic steam railway could be your thing, perhaps well-preserved Nora is for you. It’s just 30 minutes from Örebro, has a vibrant community and Christmas market, and a cool industrial heritage quarter, Kvarteret Bryggeriet, complete with micro-brewery, small shops and eateries. Or Askersund, at the northern end of vast Lake Vättern? It’s a mix of port city and small town ambience, and also has a lovely castle, Stjernsund. 

Or maybe you could see yourself enjoying your days by the shore of Lake Hjälmaren in Katrinelund. It already has a couple of restaurants that have earned it a place on Sweden’s culinary map. Could your foodie dreams see you moving here to add to the region’s culinary delights? 

And let’s not forget Örebro itself. This city is not only pretty, but is a hub of innovation and creativity, with a world-class university and tech research facilities, a thriving startup scene and all the cultural events, restaurants and nightlife you could hope for.

Looking for new work opportunities and a better lifestyle? Click here for everything you need to know about a move to Örebro

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What to do if you can’t meet Tuesday’s Swedish tax declaration deadline

The deadline to submit your income tax declaration in Sweden falls on Tuesday May 2nd. Here's what to do if you haven't managed to get it together in time.

What to do if you can't meet Tuesday's Swedish tax declaration deadline

When exactly is the Swedish tax deadline and what help can I have to meet it? 

The deadline falls on the stroke of midnight on Tuesday May 2nd, so you still have a few hours to get your declaration together.

Sweden may have relatively high taxes, but the Swedish Tax Agency seeks to make paying them as easy as possible.

If you have any questions, it is well worth ringing the helpline on 0771-567 567.

Unlike the helplines of the tax offices in most other countries, the helpline is well-staffed with informed people who go out of their way to help you. 

The agency also has a good quide in English on how to file your return. 

What happens if you miss the deadline? 

If you fail to submit your declaration by midnight, you are at risk of having to pay a fee of 1,250 kronor, but this won’t necessarily happen. There is an element of discretion, and if you filed your return at 0.15am on May 3rd, you may well be let off. 

In any case, before the charge is taken out of your tax account or skattekonto, you will first receive a note informing you of possible impending late charge, which you can then appeal. 

So if you fell ill on May 2nd, or the internet broke down at your apartment at 11.55pm, you can inform them when you receive this note and you may be able to avoid a fine.  

If in a further three months (August 2nd), you still haven’t submitted your tax declaration, you risk a second 1,250 kronor fine. Finally, after five months (October 2nd), you risk a third fine of 1,250 kronor. 

How to get an extension if you are self-employed 

You can extend the deadline until May 16th by logging into your page on the Tax Agency’s website or calling them on 0771 567 567 (or +46 8 564 851 60 from outside Sweden).

To find the extension form, go to the Mina Sidor page on your Tax Agency account, press the Skatter och Deklarationer link near the bottom, and then press the Anstånd med inkomstdeklarationen link and filling in the form. 

Jan Janowski, a declaration coordinator at the agency, said that the agency prefers for people to do this than to knowingly submit an incomplete or inaccurate declaration. 

“We want people to live their declaration in as complete a form as possible, but if you are still waiting for some supporting documents we would like people to apply for an extension.” 

If you have an accountant, they can apply for all of their clients’ income declarations to be delayed until June 15th in a measure called byråanstånd, intended to help them with the last minute rush to declare.

This, however, has to be done for all of their clients and isn’t something they can do for you just because you are late. 

Is it better to file an incomplete declaration than a late one? 

If you feel unable to file your declaration even on May 16th, what’s holding you back is likely to be something like declaring capital gains tax on share or property sales, or confusion over calculating one of Sweden’s many tax deductions, such as the ROT or RUT deductions for cleaning or home maintenance. 

If you are employed, the most important element of your tax declaration – your income from your job – will already be filled in on the paper or online form.

Declaring your main income from employment is just a question of checking that the details Skatteverket already has are correct and submitting a declaration either using Skatteverket’s app, or by sending a text message including your personal identity number and signature code to 71144 from within Sweden, or by calling 020 567 100 and following the instructions. 

If you are still wading through spreadsheets of share sales, but have no issues with the Tax Agency’s record of your income from employment, you can make the declaration but inform the agency that you may have other capital gains or other income to declare later on. 

If you do this, it’s good to be as transparent as possible with the agency about what information you are waiting for when you make your declaration.

To do this, find the andra information, or “other information” section in the declaration, and write down, in either English or Swedish, what information you are waiting for. 

You could write, for instance: “I sold an apartment in Florida in 2022 but have yet to receive details of the proceeds and am waiting for my accountants in the US to calculate the capital gains.” 

If you do this, you are much less likely to be fined if the Tax Agency later discovers any undeclared gains. 

How long do you have to make changes to your tax declaration? 

Until the Tax Agency makes a tax decision, normally in June, you can resubmit your tax declaration using the same form on the website you used to declare it the first time, and the agency will use the most up-to-date declaration when calculating your taxes. 

Even after it has made a tax decision for an income year, the agency is liberal about any voluntary changes made in future. 

Once a declaration has been made, you can still request changes to the final tax decision based on new information or corrections you have made for up to five years. 

For the first 12 months after the end of the taxation year (IE, until January 2024), the tax agency will never levy a so-called tax surcharge (skattetilläg), even if one of its officers discovers that someone has failed to declare, or falsely declared, some earnings or income in your return. 

After the first 12 months, if you bring undeclared income or falsely claimed tax breaks voluntarily to the tax agency’s attention before the agency discovers it, you are also likely to avoid a surcharge. 

What happens if the agency catches you not declaring income or falsely claiming rebates? 

If you are caught evading taxes or make a mistake, the penalty is set quite high. You have to pay the tax you should have paid, plus a 40 percent surcharge.