Healthcare in Sweden

We have always heard that healthcare in Scandinavia was rated amongst the best in the world. But how does it really work?

First of all, each municipality is responsible for the healthcare services in its area, whether it is a hospital or dental services. You don´t have to be a patient in the area where you live, being able to choose any location in the whole municipality, or even in another region.

Secondly, there is a useful website where you can find all the information related to healthcare in Sweden (how it works, how much you pay, available services, and even, a practical guide about diseases/health problems). This service is available in more than 10 languages, and if you call, you can ask for an interpreter! When you register for the first time, you will get a password, and from that point on, you can use a lot of services online, like booking an appointment, renewing your prescription…).

Unlike Portugal, where an appointment can have a long queueing list (depending on the regions and medical specialties), making people turn to hospitals, in Sweden, your first contact has to be with the health center, unless you have been shot or something similar. You call or use the online service, they evaluate the situation and book a time for you. Most of the times, you are not even seen by a doctor, since the nurses can perform a lot of tasks. If needed, a doctor is called in. So far, I have not waited more than 3/5 days for an appointment – even for the travel vaccination appointment (which can take weeks/months in Portugal, and I live close to the North Pole!).

One of the most interesting facts is the focus they put on nurses. If they solve your problem, it´s one less person a doctor needs to see, so the time is managed in a much more efficient way!

Whenever you get prescription, it goes directly into the system, connected with your personnummer, and you pick it up at any pharmacy!

There is a set price for every kind of appointment or examination you book. The difference is that there is a limit above which noone will have to pay more (around 200 €/year). Dentalcare is aside this limit, because it is extremely expensive, as in any other country, but for people who have recurrent dental problems, there is a possibility of getting high-cost treatment up to some extent.

Besides this, gynecological and prenatal care, amongst others, are free of charge. And of course,  health and dental care are free for all children! Some companies also compensate their employees, meaning you can get around 70% back for what you paid during the year.

All this is supported by the taxes. It is expected the system will collapse, one day, with the increasing influx of emmigrants and refugees, but for the time being, it´s a far nicer system than the one in the Netherlands, for instance. Even if you don´t go to the doctor, you pay around 10 times the maximum fee we have to pay in Sweden! It used to be worse in Portugal, but most of the people who can afford, still hire a health insurance company, to avoid expensive costs at the doctor, since waiting for the public service, is not always an option. The most surprising is that the tax we pay in Portugal is considerably higher than in Sweden, but thanks to corruption, the money goes to a lot of places, but healthcare!

Winter Sports

Just because it is Winter, it does not mean we cannot be active!  Rather the opposite – I’ve been spending a lot of time outside, even on the coldest days!

Though some sports tend to be more difficult during the Winter, they are not impossible. Hiking is more challenging, but you can still do it, if you wear snowshoes. I don’t feel safe biking, because all of the ice we can find on the roads, and buying a fat bike, just to use it 3 or 4 months a year, sounds too expensive…

Riding a kicksled can be quite nice, and I enjoyed a lot more than I expected! But if we have to go uphill…

However, from all of the Winter sports I tried, the skiing has delighted me the most 🙂 I tried cross-country skiing a few weeks ago, and though I am still working on my balance and brake, I loved it! I thought I would not even bother to try downhill skiing, because I was having so much fun with the cross-country! Big mistake… Glad I tried it last weekend, because I loved it! Now, I don’t know which one I should pick, at least for starters… Does not mean that I am not going to do both, but I don’t want to buy all the equipment at once!

And I have not even tried snowboard, which has always been in my wishlist… Unfortunately, snowboard is not so popular as it used to be (maybe due to severe injuries…) and classes’ availability is really limited. I will try it again next Winter.

As for the ice skating, I think it’s really beautiful to watch, but I don’t dare! It sounds too dangerous… Maybe when I feel more confident about the skiing!

The Winter might be too long, but who said it would be boring? I thought I was going to read a lot, but I haven’t managed to finish my booklist from 2015…

Jokkmokk’s Winter Market

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This is (possibly) the biggest event in Northern Sweden. At least, the one who draws more people to Lapland. And the oldest one!

Jokkmokk’s Winter Market has been taking place for 411 years! It is a place where Sami people gather and sell their products: skins, meat, shoes, jewellery, knives… Apart from the market itself, there are plenty of activities, like reindeer racing, dogsledding tours, food tasting, art exhibitions…

The Sami are the indigenous people of Scandinavia, a region that spans over Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia. They are semi-nomadic people, and they have always lived on reindeer and sheep herding, fishing and trading. They even have their own Parliament!

I had been in Jokkmokk in the Summer, and I had never seen so many people gathered in Northern Sweden! When I called to book some accomodation for this weekend, all the places asked me if I was booking for 2017 (this was in August 2015!).

Besides the spirit of the market, for me, one of the most interesting things, was being able to visit some Sami buildings, like the Sami school, which I could never visit at another time. It’s incredible that reindeer herding tradition goes on, along with the art of carving knives or sewing traditional clothes.

Unfortunately, there is still some discrimination against the Sami…