Sweden – officially the Kingdom of Sweden is one of the Nordic countries.The capital city Stockholm is composed of several peninsulas and islands, and its beautiful townscape is said to have become the motif of the Ghibli movie “Kiki’s Delivery Service”.
It is also the birthplace of Alfred Nobel, a dynamite researcher and the origin of the Nobel Prize, and ceremonies of five kinds of awards other than the Peace Prize are held every year in Stockholm.
The official language of Sweden is Swedish, but it was in 2009 that it was legally recognized as an official language. In Stockholm, people from small children to the elderly speak English. The reasons could be ① Swedish and English are grouped into the same Germanic language and ② English education starts early. So if you don’t speak Swedish at all in your life in Stockholm, you probably won’t have any difficulty.
The main means of transportation in the city of Stockholm are (1) subways, (2) trams, (3) buses and (4) water buses operated by SL (Stockholms Lokaltrafik).
The single ticket is valid for 75 minutes, and you can use all transportations with one ticket at a flat rate regardless of the distance. As of August 2020, the single ticket is 37 SEK (= about 450 JPY).
Tickets can be purchased at any of the ticket vending machines, ticket offices, apps, and some convenience stores. Cash may not be available at some ticket vending machines. In most cases, it is not possible to purchase from the bus or tram driver, so be sure to purchase one in advance.
An IC card called the “SL Access Card” is convenient for moving around Stockholm. Just like Suica and Pasmo in Japan, you can top up it and use it repeatedly. The price is 20 SEK (=about 240 JPY) and can be purchased at subway stations, information centers or online.
In addition, SL’s official app “SL-Journey planner and tickets” allows you to not only purchase tickets but also check timetables and transfer information from your current location to your destination. It also has a navigation function, so you can go to the destination without getting lost, which is very convenient.
Before boarding, please make sure that your ticket is valid. In particular, if you purchase a ticket on the app, the ticket will be activated at the time of purchase. If you fail to show the valid ticket, a fine of 1,500 SEK (= 18,000 JPY) and a single ticket fee will be charged.
Let’s take a closer look at each transportation system.
There are 7 subway lines in Stockholm. All 3 lines pass through T-CENTRALEN station in the center of the city. You can download the route map here.
There are automatic ticket gates on the Stockholm subway as in Japan. The gate opens by scanning the QR code on the ticket or access card over the reader. You do not need to scan the ticket or card when you leave the station after getting off.
(2) Tram/light rail
Line 7 is said to be the most used line in Stockholm. You can download the route map here.
It is advisable to prepare your ticket in advance, as there may not be a ticket vending machine at some tram stop.
Before boarding, be sure to activate your ticket by scanning the card with a machine. At stations without machines, the driver would manually scan after the tram ride. When you reach your destination, give a bell signal and push the button to open the door and get off.
You get on the bus from the front door. When boarding, hold the ticket/access card over the reader or, in the case of the app, show the screen to the driver. When you are reaching the destination, press the button labeled “Stannar (stopping)”. When getting off, push the button to open the door.
(4) Water bus
Unique to Stockholm, the water bus is also used as a means of transportation by citizens as it has many peninsulas and islands. Of course, SL access card can be used.
The procedure for boarding is the same as for the subway, so scan the ticket/access card over the ticket gate to board.
Sweden has a home doctor system, which is similar to Kakaritsuke-i （かかりつけ医）system in Japan. If you get sick, you will contact a clinic called “Vård central” before receiving medical treatment from a medical specialist. This is set for each region. When a home doctor tells you that you need medical treatment from a specialist at the clinic, you can go to the general hospital.
If you have a residence permit of one year or more, have completed resident registration, and have been given a personal identification number, you can register the Swedish medical insurance system. In this case, you can receive medical services at the same price as a Swedish citizen.
If your residence permit is less than one year, you will not be given a personal identification number and will need to purchase overseas traveler insurance.
Most of the larger hospitals in Stockholm offer medical services in English. You may also get a free Japanese interpreter by consulting with the clinic.
Information about health and medical care is available from the site Vårdguiden 1177 (Swedish). In addition, there is a student counseling service (English/Swedish) via telephone/interview, so if you have any problems during your stay in Stockholm, please refer to it.
Cost of living
As with the neighboring Scandinavian countries, taxes are high due to the well-developed welfare and education system as well as the prices in Stockholm.
In Stockholm, rents are higher than in other cities in Sweden due to the fewer housing for student numbers. When you study abroad, you will live in a student dormitory designated by the university in most cases. However, generally the monthly rent is estimated to be 5,000 to 8,000 SEK (60,000 to 90,000 yen) for a furnished single room with a shared kitchen.
When it comes to food expenses, it can be said that it is the same as or slightly cheaper than in Japan.
Milk 1L…12.19SEK (150 JPY)
Cheese 1kg…90.48 (1,112 JPY)
12 eggs…29.77 SEK (366 JPY)
Chicken 1kg…108.40 SEK (1,332JPY)
1 kg of beef…159.81 SEK (1,964 JPY)
Apple 1kg…28.03 SEK (345 JPY)
1 kg of onion…15.25 SEK (187 JPY)
1 kg of tomatoes…31.21 SEK (384 JPY)
Water 1.5L… 17.62SEK (217 JPY)
As you can see, the dairy products, fruits and vegetables are basically cheaper than in Japan. (Reference: NUMBEO)
Eating out at restaurants and cafes is very expensive. Big Mac in Stockholm costs 60 SEK(=737 JPY). The price of a Big Mac in Japan is 390 JPY, so you can see that it is almost double.
Japanese companies are expanding into Stockholm, and there are MUJI and UNIQLO in the city center. The Prices, however, are generally more expensive than buying in Japan.
The purpose of studying in Stockholm is mainly to learn Swedish.
You can learn Swedish not only in private language schools but also in the language course provided by university and by the National University called Folkuniversitetet.
If you learn Swedish in Folkuniversitetet, the average price would be 5625 SEK = 70,000 yen for a course of about 12 hours a week for 3 weeks.
In addition, more and more people are studying abroad in Sweden for the purpose of going on to university/graduate school. Also, there are many English programs, so you can apply for the program even if you do not speak Swedish. From a few years ago, international students from outside the EU countries have been charged a tuition fee. The tuition fee differs in the subjects but the average is about 1 million yen per year.
Stockholm’s old town, Gamla Stan offers medieval views. There are many beautiful buildings, and you can see people chilling at cafes and restaurants at a storefront.
The Royal Palace of Stockholm, where the royal family used to live, has a spectacular view.
In addition, there are back streets everywhere in Gamla Stan, making it a popular hidden photography spot.
Fotografiska is a photography museum opened in 2010 in the Sodermalm district in southern Stockholm. Located along the harbor, the restaurant on the top floor has a panoramic view of Gamla Stan across. After enjoying the exhibits of famous photographers from all over the world, spend an elegant time at the restaurant.
Official site: Fotografiska