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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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READER INSIGHTS

How to find a job in Sweden: Five tips from those who’ve been there, done that

The Swedish job market poses unique challenges for newcomers. The Local's readers share their best tips for cracking the career code.

How to find a job in Sweden: Five tips from those who've been there, done that

Network, network, network!

A statistic that often gets tossed around is that seven out of ten jobs in Sweden are obtained through personal connections, and there’s no doubt that a good network is crucial to your job hunt, making the labour market extra challenging for newcomers to the country.

In fact, networking was the main tip mentioned by The Local’s readers.

“The job market is quite hot in Sweden, and talent is in short supply. People hiring do not have a lot of time to find the right talent, and tips from friends, colleagues and former colleagues are the way to first, find out organisations are hiring, and secondly, get your CV on the short list,” said Kyle, a Canadian reader who works in innovation management in Gothenburg.

“If you are going for a major employer like Volvo, network gets you in the door, as HR does not have much to do with hiring… the hiring managers do all of it and have no time, due to the insane number of consensus meetings. If you are looking for smaller organisations, they have even less time to find people, and networking is their primary way to find talent,” he added.

NETWORKING IN SWEDEN:

Some of the networking tips readers mentioned were going to job fairs, getting an internship to help you establish connections in your preferred field, joining clubs (this could be anything from your local gardening association to meetups for coders, but focus on clubs that may be popular among people working in your chosen field), and drawing on your organic network of friends, neighbours and others.

Don’t neglect the groundwork

The saying “dress for the job you want, not the job you have” is getting worn out (and people may look at you funny if you turn up to interviews in a Batman suit), but there’s truth to the notion of making sure you know what you want – and preparing for it.

In other words, don’t wait for a job ad to appear before you start to customise your CV and figure out what skill set you need. Create your CV now so that you’re ready to tweak it to your dream job – you could even have a general look at job ads in your field to see what requirements are needed. And don’t forget to spruce up your LinkedIn profile so that it fits with your career goals.

“I believe that several factors contribute to successfully landing a desirable job in Sweden. It’s essential to prepare to meet the requirements beyond just having a university degree. Many individuals realise these requirements only after completing their studies when they start searching for a job, which can be too late,” said Adnan Aslam from Pakistan, who works as a food inspector.

“I recommend identifying the job advertisements for positions you aspire to hold in the future and then preparing for those requirements during your studies. For me, acquiring a basic level of proficiency in the Swedish language and obtaining a Swedish driving licence were crucial. I pursued these goals during my studies and was able to secure a desirable job before graduating,” he added.

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Felipe Cabral even has a GPT assistant trained on his own CVs and old cover letters, and said the set-up only takes ten minutes if you already have your documents. “With that in place, you can give instructions like: Read this job description and create a tailored version of my CV and letter for it. (…) Remember to always review and ask it not to create data aside from your documents.”

Be flexible and ready to adapt

Moving to a new place inevitably means having to learn not just the practicalities such as how to write a CV or which websites to use to look for job openings, but also learning how to navigate a new culture with all its unspoken expectations.

Swedish workplaces are generally less hierarchical than many other countries, but that doesn’t mean you can say whatever you want whenever you want without anyone raising an eyebrow. Swedes are usually direct, but be careful of being too abrasive or boastful: raising your voice, even during a spirited argument, or banging your own drum to show off your skills may not go down well.

“Talk, deliberate, complain like a Swede and you’ll come across like you know what the job entails, so your trustworthiness increases,” said an Indian data analyst who preferred to remain anonymous.

“Office politics are just as strong in Sweden as anywhere else. The flat hierarchy is deceiving as social hierarchy is enforced quite a bit in that lack of formal hierarchy. Take your time in learning these dynamics wherever you work before revealing your talent and capabilities. Expect those internal politics to happen, and they won’t hurt so much when they do,” said Kyle, the Canadian reader in Gothenburg.

This article about Swedish office politics may be useful.

Stay true to yourself

Adapting to your surroundings is one thing. Completely changing who you are is another.

For one thing, your happiness is as important as your career progression, and for another, your foreignness need not be an impediment: it’s also a skill that sets you apart from the rest. It means you have unique experience, and also, in the right setting, provides an opportunity to sometimes violate those social rules we mentioned above, because people assume you will, anyway.

“Trust is key. Build trust in your network, work with integrity. It’s OK to violate jantelagen if you are maintaining integrity. Sometimes your outsider and more honest/open opinion will burn bridges, especially those that may feel threatened by talent. But it will build trust with other colleagues who see it as brave and more trustworthy to work with,” said Kyle from Canada.

Hunker down for the long haul

We don’t want to scare you, because there are plenty of examples of people who quickly find their dream job in Sweden and settle into their new workplace, enjoying perks such as long summer holidays, generous parental leave and the famous work-life balance.

But if you do find it tougher than you expected: know that you’re not alone.

Several readers who responded to the survey said they were still trying to find a job in Sweden.

“I found jobs all over Europe but not here. They say they have a lack of experienced senior engineers but the don’t seem to be doing much to solve this,” said a Brazilian in Gothenburg.

A reader from Bangladesh said she was “at a loss” as to how to make a career change from her current AI role in Stockholm, despite many years of experience as an IT project manager.

“Over the past 18 months, I’ve submitted over 600 applications to various organisations. Unfortunately, despite being overqualified for some positions, I’ve faced rejections at every turn, from both large and small companies. The job market here, especially for foreign-born women, feels overwhelmingly challenging,” she said, adding that the struggle had impacted her mental health.

The Local has on several occasions reported on foreign residents’ struggle to get a foot on the Swedish job ladder, with many facing hurdles such as employers’ unfamiliarity with international degrees, discrimination, or a lack of network that can provide paths into a company.

So during the job hunt, don’t forget to care for yourself. Share your concerns with fellow job-seekers, ask for help and join networking groups – this is good not just for creating new contacts, but also in terms of your social well-being and meeting people who are in a similar situation.

And finally, as one British reader in Stockholm advised, keep looking: “Be open-minded with the opportunities that present themselves. It isn’t an easy market to enter and doesn’t feel inclusive.” But he added, “don’t give up”.

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