Swedish Language Blog

Immigration to Sweden – A Few Thoughts Posted by on Mar 28, 2009 in Culture, Vocabulary

Last time we talked about Swedish emigration to the US, but what about foreign immigration to Sweden? This is a subject that everybody has an opinion about and when discussing those opinions, tempers can run high, even among normally very reserved Swedes.

I don’t know if as an immigrant myself, I should be even discussing this subject at all. After all, my take on the issue will be vastly different from what a true Svensson might say.

And some people won’t even consider me a “real” immigrant, because as much as I love this country, I do not plan on staying in Sweden for the rest of my life, or becoming en svensk medborgare (a Swedish citizen). Personally, I believe that acquiring foreign citizenship is one issue that should not be taken lightly. Because along with the privileges of a new citizenship also come serious responsibilities, and you can’t have one without the other.

So, what is it like to be an immigrant in Sweden? Impossible to describe it in just one word, so let’s use two: not bad. It’s not entirely good either, because it’s never easy to uproot oneself and settle in a different country.

But compared to many other developed nations, Sweden takes care of its immigrants. It’s a progressive, tolerant country with a live and let-live attitude. It provides services and support to new arrivals that are hard to find in other lands. The ubiquitous SFI (svenska för invandrare) program is but one example (and one that deserves a blog post of its own).

As much as the country has to offer, it is not the land of milk and honey, or cradle to grave welfare, that many misguided new (or potential) arrivals think it to be. You have to work for that welfare, and sometimes finding work can be problematic.

Here’s an interesting article on the subject from The Local. (Yes, I know, I know… but until a new English-speaking media outlet emerges in Sweden, we are stuck with The Local. At least that way I can be sure that even those of you who are not yet fluent in Swedish can understand what is being said.)

And here are a few useful words when talking about immigration:

  • medborgare (def. medborgaren, pl. medborgare, def.pl. medborgarna) – person som hör till ett land och har vissa rättigheter och skyldigheter där (en svensk medborgare) – citizen
  • medborgarskap (def. medborgarskapet, pl. medborgarskap, def.pl. medborgarskapen) – det att vara medborgare i ett land. (De har ansökt om svenskt medborgarskap.) – citizenship

Obs! Be careful! “Medborgare” is an “en” noun, but “medborgarskap” is an “ett” noun.

  • invandrare (def. invandraren, pl. invandrare, def.pl. invandrarna) – person som bor i ett annat land än det där hon/ han är född – immigrant
  • flykting (def. flyktingen, pl. flyktingar, def.pl. flyktingarna) – person som har flytt från t.ex. ett krig (till ett annat land) – refugee
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  1. Gimena:

    I read the article. Very interesting indeed.
    But after reading it, I came across some other article about a man kissing women, hahahaha, it was hard to stop laughing! He got arrested just because he kissed random woman? Hahahaha. Oh God 😛

  2. Luke (Sydney):

    Apparently he was arrested because he didn’t respect the local culture and kissed those women on the cheeks. Had he kissed between cheeks, he would be fine. lol

  3. Kenia:

    Well what he did was kind of crazy, i don’t think in any culture you go kissing and hugging unknown people on the streets, but swedes certainly take this kissing-on-the-cheek thing very seriously, even among friends.

  4. David from Oregon:

    Not bad!? I think that’s an understatement. I would say Sweden is fantastic for immigrants. Except for perhaps some crazy Aussies on the Gold Coast of Australia, the Swedes are the most generous people on the planet. When I moved to Sweden in the ’70’s, I knew absolutely nothing about Sweden. With the help of my Swedish wife (now ex-wife), I looked unsuccessfully for work. After a couple months I went to the employment office (arbetsförmedlingen). Not only did they send me to a free intensive language school but they even started paying me an unemployment allowance. That really impressed me. It wasn’t long before I was able to get a very good job. But after a few years I returned to the States.

    I retired recently and the Swedish authorities tracked me down and started sending me a nice pension that I didn’t even realize I was entitled to. Sweden still impresses me.

    So why did I leave the country I was so impressed with? It’s like you wrote: “it’s never easy to uproot oneself and settle in a different country”. Sweden was never my home.

  5. Kenia:

    Impressive story, David! =)

  6. Anna:

    David, sadly, a lot has changed since those days. Now arbetsförmedlingen is better known among expats as arbetsuselessförmedlingen, because they offer very little, if any at all, help when it comes to finding a job. Their paper pushers do exactly that – push papers and make you show up for a meeting every now and then.

    Luke and Kenia, one word – weird! LOL!

  7. nana:

    hi i’m from Iran and study sculpture in Tehran University. I like to immigrate to sweeden. Do you know what is the situation in there for the foreign like me (that studied sculpture) ? how should i start diong sth?

  8. Randy:

    I have visited Malmo 3 times. I would like to live there. I am a US Citizen. I know that I need an offer of employment to get a permit, but I haven’t been able to find out how cosmetologist (hair stylist) are regulated in Sweden or if a work permit would be issued. any information you can provide would be most appreciated. Thank you 🙂

  9. sher abbas:

    My Name is sher abbas , I am form pakistan , I want to travel Sweden and ofcoures work there. any help plz let me know..

  10. ALEX:

    Good day!
    Как переехать-иммигрировать в Швецию из России
    Immigration to Sweden

  11. Arthur:

    Hi! I am Arthur. I am from Armenia. I’d like to travel Sweden and live and work there. Please let me know how may I do it?

  12. Mamoud:

    I am a Palestinian student told the age of 22 years and live in the Gaza Strip and the area is the security situation which is very bad as well as the financial situation and standard of living and my hope to go to your country’s democracy and future construction and to continue university education, work, and service to your country and live in dignity with the I Science of the top students, but I could not get a scholarship to continue my education and travel abroad and I need your help to continue strongly and university education and building a future that I hope you help me to travel to your country’s democratic Sweden

  13. Sweden SIM Card:

    I have seen many places, they really awesome.

    1). Stockholm
    2). Uppsala
    3). Gothenburg
    4). Crystal Country
    5). Gota Canal
    6). Kalmar
    7). Swedish Lapland

    Scandinavian Airlines is the main airline company that operates in the country and also overseas.

  14. Cog Vladimir:

    A am from Russia, the Caucasus, 55 year old historian. How can I immigrate to Sweden?

  15. saied:

    hi i think swedeen is the best country in the world .my unkle has been living there for 35 years without any trouble . im a balooch youth becase we are minority in iran i have to go there for living gladly . anyway iran is a nasty place for living swedeen rock considering it my first home sweet sweety.my heart is with baloochstan.

  16. Elvin Lindholm:

    Great information, however, my interest is not imigrating to the US, I was born here. My interest is in leaving here and imigrating to Sweden. What are you thoughts on that subject? For the past eleven years I have been studying and reading in Svensk vardaglig. Också mycket sjuk av spanskaspråk, faktisk mexikansk.

  17. TellMe:

    Hi every body,
    well, before interfering i would better like to read the comments if, you all guys try to stick on the main subjects.
    i have never been in sweden before, but i’m intending to make a short trip in the very soon future, i was totally interested to pay a visit to that country of cold and beauty, though i came from a UE country, to me sweden is still a country where we can smell the Utopia’s perfumes even from a far distance a head, i think sweden is still a good country of big hearted people,i hope it will everlast so, anyway, i would be very glad guys, if you advice me what cities to see, and what to avoid, especially for someone who is intended to accmplish a research about the actual situation of illegal immigrants in Konungariket Sverige.
    all kind of relevant information could have a real value, thank you surfers 🙂

  18. chuchu:

    Hej, I read your article & wanted to know what you had to do before making the move to Sweden. My boyfriend lives there & he along with my children & I wants us to move there. But we are unsure of the process.Can you give me some advise? & how long that process takes because the Swedish embassy in Ny wont tell me much.


  19. noorullah:

    hi my name is noorullah i wanna go to sweden…i work with the u.s army in afghanistan…so if somebody help me out with this situation..i mean how the process works?

  20. Michael Nelson:

    Hope some one reads this, 2+ yrs since the last comment. I’m from the US, Seattle, and Swedish on my fathers’ side. My male genes come from Sweden. I am starting to wander if I belong there and if there is some kind of immigration help for the great grand children of Swedish citizens. I don’t know where any of my relatives are, or if there are any there. I don’t know what I’m asking exactly, just thought I’d see what options I might have later in life. Mike.