Sweden update – snow and Finland and Russian food and stuff!
I haven’t updated the blog in a while and people have been asking me how it’s going in Sweden. I’ve also gotten a few emails from people who have actually been considering a move here and I still can’t really give any proper advice on this front because I haven’t been here long enough. But I thought I’d do a quick update about how things are going so far. Careful, this might get long.
Sweden is still great. Normally you hear people talking about things that annoy them or things that they may not like about every country and that’s totally understandable because no place is perfect. I think my only annoyance point is the phone queueing – it seems that if you call at a particularly busy time they just rattle off something at you in Swedish (which I do not yet understand) and hang up on you. No waiting in a line or leaving a number to call back – you just have to guess when the load won’t be as high and try again. At one stage I had to try to get through to a place for three days before they stopped automatically hanging up on me and then wait in a line for another 20 minutes.
The rest of it is awesome. I love the weather, even though it’s much colder than Perth; everything is very close together; public transport seems cheaper than Perth; the city is amazingly pretty; I already got to see snow (for one night); I’ve seen deer crossing the road; and there is a dungeon in the apartment.
I’ve been slacking off on learning Swedish – it’s just too easy not to considering the fact that most people here seem to speak English perfectly and don’t mind doing so. When we moved to the US from Ukraine I was forced to learn English because that was literally the only way to communicate at school, shops, etc outside of a very small circle of Russian and Ukrainian family friends in the area. Because we were thrust into a totally new language where 99.9% of people did not understand a single word of Russian (except for maybe “Da”), English was actually pretty easy to pick up – it’s not like we had a choice. Here, you can go into any shop and have a perfectly normal conversation in English. On the one hand this made the adjustment to the new country a lot easier for me, but on the other it kind of let me cheat my way out of learning Swedish. But I’ve decided to buckle down and start learning properly – it’d be great to add a third language to the mix.
Cost of living
Prices in general seem to be mostly on par with Western Australia. Some things are more expensive and other things are cheaper, but it all seems to even out. I’ve heard a lot about how expensive Stockholm is and I think compared to many countries this is probably true, but coming from Perth the cost of living didn’t end up being a big shock. I’m having to learn to work with a tight budget because I’m tapering off the business that I ran while in Perth, but I think it’s manageable if you’re used to Perth prices.
Within the city
In Perth my trip to the office would take more than an hour each way. Over here a trip to just about anywhere semi-central takes no time at all. It takes me about 10 minutes to walk to the subway station, then another 5-10 minutes or so to get to the more central part of the city. Subways seem to run very regularly all day (whereas in Perth you’d sometimes have to wait 20-40 minutes to get on a train except at peak periods).
Not only is it easy to travel within the city, but it’s very easy to travel to nearby countries as well. In Perth flying anywhere but Bali can cost an arm and a leg depending on location. Over here you can up and go to Finland for the weekend for something like $200 return, and that’s booking last minute (literally the day before the flight). Flights seem much cheaper when booked in advance. Also flight times are obviously much shorter (40 minutes to Helsinki!) Also because of these handy EU agreements, the actual airport/security process is simple and hassle-free. I didn’t even have to show ID at any stage when flying to and from Finland.
Also Finland was great. My favorite surprise was the amount of Russian speakers in Helsinki. I heard Russian everywhere and finally got to eat delicious Russian food again. This is how fun it was:
Seeing the sheer amount of games being made here was like Christmas (not that we don’t have awesome games being made in Perth, but here you can actually get paid for making them). There are so many places hiring here it’s ridiculous. However, most openings I’ve seen seem to be for experienced programmers and artists, and there are many great developers here to compete with. As someone who is not an experienced programmer, nor an artist, it took just under a month and a half to get the kind of job I was hoping to do. From my limited first impression (“limited” being the key word, do your own research) it seems like a great programmer or artist or animator coming here would have no problem finding work sooner, judging purely by how much demand there seems to be for those people.
It is fast. Faster than a speeding bullet. Blazingly fast. “How did that just load so fast?” fast. If it was an animal it would be faster than a cheetah fast. Never wait for YouTube to buffer again fast.
The people are great. I have heard Swedes described as aloof and even stand-offish sometimes, but haven’t gotten this impression at all yet. Everyone seems very nice even though I don’t speak a word of Swedish (maybe just a few words now). Sure they don’t randomly offer free hugs in the street, but that would be creepy anyway.
Cold and getting colder. I had to invest in a massive scarf, water resistant boots, and a proper hat. Thankfully the jackets I brought with me are still doing their job for now. There’s been one night of snow so far and I can’t wait until it starts snowing properly.
I think that’s pretty much it for now. In the words of Baz: back to code’n.