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PRESENTED BY INVEST STOCKHOLM

International living: how to find local knowledge and support

Whether you’ve already moved internationally, you’re busy planning a move, or you’re simply imagining a whole new life, one thing remains the same: the need to tap into local knowledge.

International living: how to find local knowledge and support
Photo: Getty Images

You probably have some clear ideas about any country or city you’re willing to make your new home. But how do they compare with day-to-day reality once you’re there for good?

As readers of The Local know, getting insider knowledge from people who really know the location can make a huge difference to your quality of life. Here, we look at how you can take crucial steps towards integration in three areas: lifestyle, family, and the challenges of bureaucracy.

Learn to live like a local 

After arriving in your new home country, it takes time to shake off the sense of being a tourist rather than a true resident. But how can you start to feel at home quicker?

Beginning to adopt local lifestyle habits may help. But is eating dinner later in Spain or making punctuality a top priority at all times in Germany really enough? It can also help to get inside knowledge of a city’s best-kept secrets – the places where savvy locals spend their time and the ‘life hacks’ that save them time and trouble.

The pandemic has made it more challenging than ever to make friends with locals who might help you out in this regard. But it’s worth checking the online resources your city offers to help you find your feet.

People settling in Stockholm, for example, can benefit from a huge range of insights from local residents, now hosted on one website. Tips include top picks for food and drink, outdoor workout routes (much-loved by the locals), and places in the city where you can de-stress with mindfulness.

Insider knowledge: get top tips about living and working in Stockholm from the locals who know the city best 

Feel you’re missing out on the cultural highlights of your new location? If you’re in a major city, you’ll probably find many exhibitions are now available online. Big names such as Paris’s Pompidou Centre and the Tate galleries in London offer an array of options for digital consumption.

Learning the local language can help you and your partner adjust quicker in any country. Have a look for state-sponsored language classes near you, like Sweden’s free, national Swedish for Immigrants (SFI) course.

Key steps to family fulfillment 

People who make an international move to be with a spouse or partner who has a job offer face unique challenges to settling in. A new country and lots of free time may offer opportunities for exploring new interests or reviving old ones. It can also lead, however, to feelings of being unfulfilled and may damage the individual’s self-esteem.

But today many business organisations, cities and even private companies offer spousal support programmes. Some offer tours of businesses and cultural attractions to help relocated workers and their partners integrate more quickly and develop local networks.

The International Dual Career Network (IDCN) is an association of international organisations and corporations that supports the partners of people who move for work. It focuses on providing guidance and professional networking opportunities, including via events and webinars. IDCN has networks in 14 global locations, including nine in Europe – click here to find out more.

Photo: Getty Images

Many countries and cities have similar services: these include Switzerland’s Spouse Career Centre and Dual Career Network Berlin.

In Sweden, the non-profit Stockholm Dual Career Network supports the partners and spouses of international talent who are looking for work. Members have praised SDCN for helping them to find a social life, as well as a “social expectation” in Stockholm that everyone should enjoy quality, family time. 

As an international talent and tech hub, Stockholm is always seeking to attract skilled and creative people from around the world – from robotics engineers to fashion designers. Perks of living in Stockholm that many international people appreciate include a strong focus on work/life balance, generous parental leave, and large expanses of unspoilt nature to explore.

Find out more about Stockholm’s family-friendly credentials

Bureaucracy: go digital (if you can!)

Finding fun ways to adjust to a new lifestyle and helping loved ones to thrive are a big part of making a successful move. But ensuring your international relocation runs smoothly also means facing up to the inevitable bureaucratic side of things. 

Should this fill you with dread? Well, perhaps a little less than in the past (depending on where you’re headed!). Amid an international battle for talent, many cities are harnessing digitalisation to speed up administrative processes. According to the European Commission, the quality and usage of digital public services was increasing even pre-pandemic. In the EU, Estonia ranks top in this regard followed by Spain, while the likes of Italy and Germany languish below the EU average.

Sweden is one of the leading EU nations for digital performance as a whole, ranking second only to Finland. The Mayor of Stockholm recently told The Local that the capital city is now planning a “one-stop shop” International House that she hopes will make it possible to get a digital work permit in 15 minutes. As international people everywhere know, when it comes to making yourself feel at home, some things can’t come fast enough.

Want to know more about Stockholm? Click here to read more about the city’s appeal to global talent. Already in Stockholm? Find your way off the city’s beaten path with these personal tips from local residents.

 
For members

FAMILY

How does the cost of childcare in Sweden compare to other countries?

Parents in Sweden benefit from a cap on childcare costs, with parents paying different fees based on their household's income. But how does the generous scheme compare to other countries?

How does the cost of childcare in Sweden compare to other countries?

Preschool childcare is not free in Sweden, but fees are income-based, with a maximum fee across the country 1,572 kronor (€145) per child per month (fees for 2022).

There are also deductions for each child if you have multiple children attending preschool at the same time – in this case the maximum fee would be 1,048 kronor for the second child and 503 kronor for the third, with parents paying no fee for any further children.

Children over three are entitled to 15 hours of free preschool education per week, so these are deducted from your fee once your child reaches this age.

To get an idea of how much you would have to pay based on your income, you can use this calculator (in Swedish – similar calculators exist for other municipalities). These fees are adjusted yearly by the Swedish school authorities and are applicable to all municipalities. If your child has a preschool place, you have to pay even if you do not use it – over summer or during holidays, for example.

School meals and preschool meals are free in Sweden, meaning you don’t need to pay extra for your child’s lunch, breakfast, or any snacks served during the day.

Denmark

The exact amount parents pay for childcare in Denmark depends on the municipality. In Copenhagen Municipality, the cost of nursery (vuggestue up to 2 years and 10 months) is 4,264 kroner a month including lunch (roughly €573). For kindergarten (børnehave from 2 years and 10 months to 6 years) it is 2,738 kroner a month including lunch (roughly €368).

The government pays 75 percent of the cost of a place or even more if your household income is below a certain threshold. 

If you have more than one child using childcare, you pay full price for the most expensive daycare and half-price for the others.

Norway

The cost of nursery and kindergarten is capped at 3,050 Norwegian kroner, regardless of the hours attended or whether that facility is state-run or private. This means you’ll never pay more than roughly €295 a month per child in childcare costs.

Germany

The costs for daycare centres (Kindertagesstätte, or Kita for short) can differ greatly depending on where you live in Germany, as the fees are set by the local government.

In Schleswig-Holstein in the far north, parents pay on average nine percent of their after-tax income on childcare costs. In Hamburg, 4.4 percent of parent’s income goes on childcare as every child in entitled to five hours of free care a day. In Berlin, daycare is completely free. 

Spain

Costs can vary depending on whether it is a  private or public guardería or centro infantil (as nurseries are called in Spanish).

Public ones are heavily subsidised by the government and cost around €100-260 per month, depending on where you live in Spain and your situation. Private nurseries cost between €150 and €580 per month. There is also a fixed yearly fee called a matrícula or enrolment fee, which is around €100.

There is a 50 percent discount for large families and single parents don’t have to pay anything for childcare.

There’s also a deduction of up to €1,000 (cheque guardería) that is applied to the income tax return and works out at around €100 to €160 per month which is aimed at working mothers and is available up until the child is three years old.

France

In France, crèches tend to be the most affordable option and the cost is based on the family’s income. High earners might pay up to a maximum of €4.20 an hour (€33.60 for an 8-hour day), whereas low-income families might pay €0.26 an hour (€2.08 for an 8-hour day) at a crèche collective, which is for three months to three year olds. At the age of three, compulsory education begins in France.

The cost of a childminder is around €10.88 an hour and up to 50 percent of the costs of a nanny or professional childminder can be reimbursed by the government.

The OECD calculations on the percentage of income spent on childcare – based on two parents both working full time – is 13 percent in France. This is roughly similar to Spain and Italy.

Austria

Public nurseries and kindergartens are heavily subsidised and in some cases free, depending on where you live. For example in Vienna, parents only need to pay €72.33 a month to cover meal costs, with low income families being exempt from that fee.
 
Vienna also subsidises private kindergartens, paying up to €635.44 a month directly to the institution. 
 
In other provinces, kindergarten is free for part-time hours. It is mandatory for all children in Austria to attend part-time kindergarten from the age of five. They start school aged six.

Switzerland

The average Swiss family spends a massive 41 percent of their net income on childcare, three times the OECD average of 13 percent.

The average cost of childcare in Switzerland is CHF130 a day (€136). Due to tax breaks and subsidies paid out in the cantons, many parents will pay between 30 and 80 percent of this cost, depending on income. This equates to paying between €41 and €108 a day, roughly €902 to €2,376 a month. 

It’s even more expensive to hire a nannie, which will cost between CHF3,500 (€3,678) and CHF5,000 (€5,255) a month, including mandatory pension contributions.

United Kingdom

According to charity Coram in their Childcare Survey 2022, the average cost of full-time nursery is £1,166 (around €1,304 a month), which is even higher in some parts of London. There are some government subsidies available for low-income families and those receiving benefits and every parent is entitled to 15 or 30 free hours of childcare the term after their child turns three years old.

Childcare conclusion

The cost of childcare varies within each country, depending on family circumstances. However, for guaranteed low childcare costs for every parent, Sweden comes out best, with a maximum of €145 a month.

Average monthly cost of state-run childcare:

Sweden: €145 maximum

Norway: €295 maximum

Austria: €72.33 – roughly €500

Spain: €100 – €260 

Germany: €0 –  €368

Denmark: €368 – €573

France: €45,76 – €739.20 

Switzerland: €902 – €2,376 

U.K. €1,304 which reduces the term after the child turns three.

By Emma Firth and Becky Waterton

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