My Swedish teacher asked me what I liked least about Sweden. I told her, so far, nothing. And she said I was in love with Sweden, like in a romantic relationship, but that I will start discovering flaws after some months. Of course, I am pretty aware of that. Nothing is perfect!
Starting on the weather and geography, that are really harsh up here. But for now, I intend to keep this romantic relationship on fire!
Sweden is considered one of the most expensive countries to live in (10th place currently), but people earn accordingly, and much interesting, the difference between a cleaning lady or a bank manager is much more subtle here. Even the low skilled immigrants (Sweden was voted as the friendliest country in Europe, towards immigrants) earn enough to live a decent life here. What happens is that they want to send money abroad, so that their families can live better, and they don’t wish to spend so much on themselves, which is pretty much the same that happens everywhere else. Basic services are supposed to be affordable to everyone, wheareas luxurious services are highly taxed. An exception to this is the car/fuel vs. train/bus. In most countries it is much cheaper to travel on public transports, specially with the increasing price on oil (not so much these days…), but here it’s much cheaper to go on our own car, specially for short-medium distances. Of course that is really expensive to eat in a restaurant (but also because there are few restaurants, they always eat fast food…), or go to a massage or to the hairdresser.
So, ir order to make a decent comparison, I have to be specific:
1) Fuel prices here are a bit cheaper than in Portugal (specially bensin);
2) Electricity is cheaper;
3) Groceries cost, generally the same, sometimes less, with exception to highly processed foods, luxurious products (chocolates, alcohol) and vegetables/fruits (mostly imported from Southern Europe);
4) Cigarettes (this one really struck me out!) cost about 4.5€ a pack (almost the same as they cost in Portugal, but here, salaries are much higher!);
5) My car will pay a road tax 20% cheaper than in Portugal;
6) Housing tax on bought property is much lower, and people are exempted for the first 15 years;
7) Most things that in Portugal have VAT 23%, here are 12%, or even 6%! Of course they are happier here, wouldn’t you?
7) I will pay considerably less tax on my salary than I paid back in Portugal. And I will recover the full amount I paid when I retire! Sounds weird, right? We really pay a lot of taxes in Portugal and the worst part, is that we don’t see the return of any of it. And that saddens me the most…
And what do I get more? Roads always cleaned, even after a snowfall, public services like Tax Agency and Transport Agency efficiently managed, respect for people, for the disabled and for nature, thoughtful driving… And moreover, an opportunity to succeed and develop in my career, something that would not happen in my home country. So, that’s what made me come to Sweden!
I might fall out of love with Sweden, but now let me enjoy!