Five Survival Tips Through Swedish Bureaucracy For Expats

We have already explained what is possible to do in Sweden without having a personnummer. Now let’s reveal how to put all that theory into practice. These tips should help you with Försäkringskassan (Swedish Social Insurance Agency), Skatteverket (Swedish Tax Agency), schools, municipalities, hospitals, banks or anywhere where you get stuck in unexpected forms of red tape.

  1. Know your rights. Check all the laws, rules and guidelines that apply to your case.
  2. Don’t ask “is it possible” or “how to do something”. This will make your e-mails forwarded,  your requests denied and your problems ignored.
  3. Be straightforward and demand what you need. Instead of asking “Is it possible to get a doctor/bank account/course/form/grant?”, clearly request the solution. “I came to see a doctor!”, “I am here to open a bank account.”, etc.
    group of people sitting down near brown wooden with assorted laptop computers
  4. Be patient. Sometimes, you will have to explain what you need a few times, or even go from a counter to a counter until you find a solution. Even the same person can provide you a different answer if you ask them again.
  5. Know your terms. Sometimes, Swedish case officers and administrators behave like automatized chat bots, barely parsing your words in hope they will find a key word they recognize. You want a double degree – do not ask about “two degrees”. If you just want your teeth cleaned, but ask for a dentist, they will probably send you home without suggesting having your teeth cleaned by a dental hygienist.
    A friend of mine wanted to know is there a solution for a home purchase besides funding by a mortgage loan. She asked if there any loans with a higher interest rate. Since she didn’t use the word blancolån (unsecured debt), she went home without an answer. Even if you don’t speak any Swedish, it can be useful to learn the key words in Swedish.

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