Tips for those relocating from the USA to Scandinavia

Tips for those relocating from the USA to Scandinavia

Scandinavia has lots of marvelous things to experience, advanced technologies, robust social security system, futuristic jobs and a people highly influenced by the law of Jante. For someone coming from the United States of America right into any of the Scandinavian countries of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden, some learning is definitely necessary. 

Snippet of how life in Scandinavia, Sweden may be different from that in the USA for a newcomer

As a starting point, the sobering reality that someone jetting into Scandinavia from the USA needs to accept is the cultural differences. When someone talks about culture shock, people often tend to imagine that the person wasn’t as much exposed before. Far from it, even for those of you who may be fairly exposed by the time of relocating to Scandinavia, a couple of things may appear astounding, sometimes weird. So, embrace the attitude to learn, unlearn and relearn.

Things Americans moving to Scandinavia must carefully watch out for

Scandinavian countries have a historical attachment. You’ll quickly notice that the cultures of the countries have a similarity which means fitting into one pretty much places you at a good point. While at this, remember that the best way to adjust to life in Scandinavia is to maintain a high sense of self awareness and a knack for adjusting. 

1. Adjusting from English to Scandinavian languages

As soon as you touch down at the port of entry to Scandinavia, your English may help you only for so long. Yes, the Scnandinavians speak English as well, especially in major cities but over time, it becomes burdensome for you to have to excuse yourself to speak English.

You don’t want to imagine a situation where you’re trying so hard to make new friends but feel so left out when they sometimes retreat to make stories in Danish, Norwegian or Swedish-depending on the country you live. The same scenario will play out at work, in the stores and virtually everywhere.

Local companies will favor speaking the country’s language even if the workplace policy accommodates English for internationals. Actually, it may not so much matter whether you work for an international company. To some extent, people digressing to speak the national language will constantly be a reminder that “yoh man, you’re not in an English speaking country.”

Once you’ve made up your mind to make any of the Scandinavian countries your home, quickly start off language classes. You may not need the language to keep your job in Scandinavia but definitely it will be a requirement to get citizenship or even get life going easy with you. Just be open minded and learn at least the language of your new country of residence. If time allows and you become more enthusiastic, learn all the three Scandinavian languages then that gives you a pass to move and work freely in any of them.

2. Daily interactions and making friends

As an American or long term resident of the USA, there’s this impervious tendency to be bold, outspoken and not taking things lying down. In speech and action, you’ll be likely expressive, sentimental and taking no prisoners at the very least. This defines what you may have known and nothing entirely wrong with it but Scandinavians will simply walk away.

Just to say, you won’t need to forego yourself to feel welcome in Scandinavia but at least, it matters for you to compromise a bit of personality. Actually, nobody wishes to experience being deserted by colleagues and friends just for holding tightly to a repulsive character.

Tips for those relocating from the USA to Scandinavia
Making your perfect choice of clothing and wears in Scandinavia

When in Scandinavia, you will have to listen more and talk not so much. Also, act with moderation. Indeed, situations where an American would stick the neck out and prove a point, Scandinavians simply desert and withdraw. Seems they read from a common script of not fighting to be right. 

Making friends or even dating in Scandinavia may take a toll on you as  a newly arrived American. Here, the locals have long term friendships made from childhood. They tend to keep childhood friends to old age which means that you coming in along the way may not be much welcome. Of course they will accommodate you but not as tightly embraced as the long term ones.

Don’t feel left out at all with friends made in Scandinavia. They simply consider friendships not so easy to keep.Once they form them at a young age, they understand each other and keep that circle largely closer for newcomers to penetrate. Just accept being a peripheral friend and nothing wrong with that. Don’t fool trying to be a best friend; if it happens naturally, well and good. 

3. Dressing and fashion choices

You definitely want to look dapper in your suits and ties where professionals, business executives and consultants have their operations, the rest of them in Scandinavia as is the case in the USA. Yes you want to keep your short dresses and high heels everyday but not much of that will find space in Scandinavia.

Tips for those relocating from the USA to Scandinavia

Any keen person will notice that apart from major cities in Scandinavia  countryside has skilled work only. This means that on any single day, people keep away their official and dope clothes at home. Just be ready to dress in work clothes and preserve the dapper clothes for special occasions only. 

When it’s time for special events like parties, religious confirmations and more, then the wardrobe choices completely change. You’ll have to take out that perfectly fitting denim jeans, tight that gives your shapely contours. Also men never hold back from donning the slim fit trousers and shirts that make the biceps stand out. The case is almost the same in Summer when the heat forces people to expose acres of skin to kiss the rare heat. Ladies go for their booty shorts, beach dresses and bikinis more. 

4. Work culture and salaries

If you’re among the lucky chaps who get an employment contract in Scandinavia, be sure to have a host of experience with it. The labor protection in Scandinavia, especially for the jobs for which internationals get slots remains high. In simple terms, just the fact that a company sources your talent from outside Scandinavia and the Schengen region means that they badly needed it to move forward. As a measure to retain you, they tend to go all out of their way to offer best terms and conditions of work.

Most jobs in Scandinavia that employ international workers, especially professionals, are those that they completely can’t find matching talent within the region. So, the expectations on you is meticulous conduct and ability to get on the go from day one. Of course the onboarding process is seamless to prime you for success but once you hit the ground, quality and efficiency can’t be compromised.

Whether working in a blue chip company or taking the menial unskilled jobs in Scandinavia, quality is not to be compromised at all. Sometimes you’ll be as if in a crucible but be sure that your employer will be more than ready to facilitate whatever you need to excel-this makes the whole difference. They will avail costly support provided you justify it. 

On a general scale, the average salary for workers in Scandinavia outdoes that in the USA. But also be aware of higher taxes and higher cost of living . Just to mention, jobs that absorb internationals tend to even have more competitive employment packages and remain flexible to post employment renegotiations. Coupled by the fact that you get a favorable social security, your salary will largely be to meet private expenses which even payday loans can help.

5. General living

Living in Scandinavia can be fairly more amazing than in the USA. The only downside is that without a good social support system, friends and family, chances of feeling a bit lonely may be high. But if you take a little time off some busy life, it shouldn’t be hard to make a few useful connections. 

Interestingly, your lifestyle in Scandinavia will largely influence how easy it would be to live there. Of course you will easily get an apartment to rent in Scandinavia and get reasonable lease agreements. The utilities including heating, water and electricity may not be so costly compared to rent itself. But in some cases, the social security system may give you a housing allowance which then reduces the actual amount you pay out of your own income.

Tips for those relocating from the USA to Scandinavia

Away from rental and costs associated with it, living will mean everyday life. To be smart in Denmark, buy off-season and take advantage of discounts. Some may argue that should everyone choose off season and discount purchases then who pays the premium price. But don’t bother about such. Yours is to save as much as possible yet still get the same value as someone who pays the actual prices.

Actually, commodity prices may be comparably so high in Scandinavia compared to the USA. Many people choose to buy online or identify low cost stores for their foodstuff and groceries. Just choose the option that suits and makes you remain financial afloat as a foreigner.

6. Tax regulations 

Scandinavian countries don’t bluff when it comes to tax and payment of taxes. To support the robust social security run by the countries, faithful remittance of taxes isn’t to be compromised. To be on the safe side as an American working in Scandinavia, know your tax obligations at all times.

For an important guide for tax payments, check for Sweden, Norway and Denmark.  

In all, the situation becomes so dicey when caught on the wrong side of tax regulations in Scandinavia. So as a remedy from facing the wrath of tax agencies, ring them and be sure to clarify your status in the country of residence so that they inform you as an American. Ensure that they send to you written material about their guidance on tax obligations. 

Final takeaway

As an American moving to start life in Scandinavia, be sure not to be a victim of the 21st century illiterates who fail to learn, relearn  and unlearn. Yes you may be adequately exposed and come from a highly esteemed country but that doesn’t mean Scandinavia will just be a walk over.

To be on the safe side, take time to adjust and slowly sip in the nuances that define the Scnandinavians. They will come out as deceptively meek but really that’s their strength. When you make an error, be honest with it and to make friends, just consider that you’re coming into their lives a little later when they’ve  already grown up. 

Author photo
Publication date:
An avid storyteller and passionate writer with a penchant for letting people know that which they don't know while at the same time telling people more about what they may already have known. At the end, you stay informed, be curious, and get cosy.