Produced by The Local’s Creative Studio in partnership with Skövde Municipality

The fast-growing Swedish city attracting global talent

The fast-growing Swedish city attracting global talent

“It still feels kind of unbelievable and really exciting to be here,” says Wade Wang, a few weeks into his new life in Skövde, a fast-growing city in central Southern Sweden. “Moving from China to Sweden was a very big step for us. But we got the opportunity to live and work together in another country, learn a different culture, and enjoy a different way of life. We see this in a very positive way.”

They’re not alone. Skövde is the principal hub of Skaraborg, Sweden’s fourth largest labour market region. Talented workers from across the world are relocating to work in its leading industries, which include fintech and game development, as well as the automotive sector. 

After working as a design engineer and quality engineer in the automotive industry in China, Wade is the new Head of Plant Quality at Aurobay Skövde, a joint venture between Volvo Cars and its parent company Geely Holding. His wife, Shirley Liu, works at the same plant in Skövde as a project engineer for electric engines. Both have permanent contracts and with their first child due in January, they’re looking forward to making Skövde their family home. 

“Once I got an opportunity to be here, my manager and my company said ‘Why don’t we also bring your wife here?’” he says. “Then, we also found an opportunity for her – and now our baby will be born in Sweden and will also have different opportunities!” 

Find out more about the exciting career and educational opportunities for international talents living in Skövde

Wade Wang working at Aurobay in Skövde

Skövde is surrounded by natural beauty. Photo: Skövde Municipality

Embracing a new life 

Wade previously worked for Volvo Cars at Skövde’s sister plant in Hebei province and had visited the Swedish city a few times on business trips. Only now is he able to appreciate the quality of life it offers.

“It’s a very peaceful city but has everything you want,” he says. “Life in China is more fast-paced. We will have more family time to enjoy together and there are a lot of new things we want to learn.”

Skövde is also well-connected. Stockholm is around two hours away by train and Gothenburg only an hour, which is another plus for newcomers to Sweden. Wade loves to try new things and feels he’s in a great location to do just that. Is he worried about the Swedish winter? No! Actually, he can’t wait.

“The temperature isn’t an issue because I came here from a city in China where it reached -26C or -27C in winter,” he says. “I’ve never tried cross-country skiing but that’s the first sport I want to try in Sweden. This country has such nice nature, with the forests and lakes, I imagine it must be very beautiful in the snow.”

He’s also excited about trying to cook Swedish food. “The fish, shrimps and crayfish here are much better in general than what I had in China,” he says. “I like cooking. I got a book from a friend about how to cook Swedish food, so I’m learning – but I haven’t really figured it all out yet!”

Paula Cal and Flor Coletta moved from Berlin to Skövde. Photo: Skövde Municipality

A special working culture

This appetite for throwing himself into challenges also applies in Wade’s working life – and he’s impressed by the local business culture

“The people here are very open and honest, they share their ideas and then we challenge each other with respect and discuss how we can come up with the best solution and a common understanding,” he says. “That’s something I really like.”

 

Approximately 1,700 people work at the Aurobay plant. English is used as the company language, which has helped Wade to settle in. “But I’m very interested in learning some Swedish and I plan to join some language classes.”

As the home city of Sweden Game Arena, Skövde is also firmly on the games industry’s international map. Indeed, the University of Skövde runs northern Europe’s biggest and broadest range of game development programmes.

 

Paula Cal and Flor Coletta, a couple from Argentina, first moved to Europe to live in Berlin. But when they wanted a change of scenery only a year later, a friend told them about opportunities at game developer Palindrome Interactive in Skövde and they were impressed by the firm’s title Immortal Realms.

 

“We decided to get in touch with them and after our first chat, we were sure there was something special waiting for us over here,” says Paula. They weren’t wrong. Paula now works as a senior animator at the company, while Flor is a 3D artist.

Their employer is “not only interested in what you can bring to the project, but also in your personal development and how you are feeling overall as an individual,” says Paula. “We value that greatly.”

Furthermore, Palindrome Interactive contacted Sweden Game Arena for support with the couple’s relocation, including finding an apartment. “I think it is safe to say that it’s the nicest apartment we have ever lived in,” says Paula, of the home she shares with Flor and their two dogs, Lexa and Tita. “We could not be happier with the way it turned out.”

 

Skövde 

“It's a very peaceful city but has everything you want. We will have more family time to enjoy together.”

A perfect location 

As the city grows, around 400 new homes are being built per year and a major new central district of homes and offices is in development. Science Park Skövde is also expanding, adding central premises to the evolving Skövde Science City district. But wherever you live or work in Skövde, you have nature on your doorstep.


Wade and his wife chose to live in Skultorp, a small town just a few minutes outside the city. “The location is perfect,” says Wade. “Driving from my home to work takes 10 minutes and driving to Billingen [a nearby mountain with panoramic views of the city] takes 10 minutes.”

In addition to planning a career and a family in Skövde, Wade and his wife also plan to get the most out of life by fully exploring the region’s impressive natural environment.

“In China, if I want to do something really fun, I need to drive one, two or maybe three hours,” he continues. “Here, I can drive to either of the big two lakes in around 30 minutes. There’s also another lake I really like, Lake Hornborgasjön. It’s known for having a lot of birds and in different seasons, there will be different birds there, so it’s a place I’d like to go to regularly.” For Wade and his family, the adventure of a lifetime in Skövde and its surroundings is just beginning.

For members

ECONOMY

EXPLAINED: What can foreigners in Sweden do about the weak krona?

The Swedish Krona last week hit a record low against the dollar, hammering the international buying power of anyone earning their salaries or holding assets in the currency. We asked Johan Löf at Handelsbanken what they can do.

EXPLAINED: What can foreigners in Sweden do about the weak krona?

How low is the krona right now? 

On Tuesday, September 27th, the krona to dollar exchange rate hit an all-time-low of 11.37, easily beating the previous record low for the currency of 11.04, which it reached at the nadir of the dot com bust back in 2001. At the time of the financial crisis in 2008, a dollar would have got you less than 6 kronor, meaning the currency has almost halved in value in less than 15 years. 

A euro now gets you 10.9 kronor, which is not quite a record, with it briefly topping 11.4 in 2009, but more than it has been for most of the past decade. 

The only major currency which is more or less stable against the krona is the pound, which will now buy about 12.39 kronor, down from 13 in February, but above the levels of around 10.5 the pound hit shortly after the UK voted to leave the European Union. 

Why is the krona worth so little? 

Johan Löf, the head of forecasting at the Handelsbanken bank, told The Local, that the krona always tended to take a hit at times of financial uncertainty. 

“The krona is a relatively small currency much like the Swedish economy is a relatively small economy,” he said. “You could compare it to a small boat sailing the big ocean, so when you don’t go on the course that you thought you were going, it can be a bit of a shaky ride,” he said.

“Right now with financial market conditions being volatile, with a lot of uncertainty and risks, the Swedish krona takes a hit. Investors and various agents of the economy don’t want to hold so much of this smaller currency. Instead, they they go to safe havens like the US dollar.

“So even though there are fundamentals that would suggest that the Swedish kroner will strengthen again over time, for the time being and for some foreseeable future, we think that the krona will remain quite weak.”

How are foreigners living in Sweden affected? 

It very much depends on their individual financial situation: which currency they earn their salary in, which currency they hold assets in, and which currencies they have the highest outgoings in. 

People who live and earn in Sweden, but travel regularly to countries with stronger currencies, or perhaps send remittances back to family at home, are likely be negatively affected, Löf said. 

“It makes you lose purchasing power in these other countries: you get fewer goods and less services for the money that you have in the Swedish currency.”

It’s a similar situation for people or small businesses based in Sweden, who need to, or perhaps only want to, buy goods outside of Sweden. 

On the other hand, for people who have substantial savings abroad in dollars or euros, this might be an opportunity to convert them into kronor for use in Sweden.  

“If you have savings abroad, and you feel the need to use some of those savings, when you then sell your foreign currency to buy Swedish kronor, then you will get more Swedish kronor,” Löf explained. 

What can foreigners living in Sweden do to lessen the impact of a weak krona? 

Change the currency in which you get paid 

The best way to protect against currency exchange shocks is to make sure that you’re paid in the same currency that you spend in, so if you live in Sweden but have a lot of your outgoings abroad, it’s an advantage to be paid in dollars or euros. 

If you’re considering getting a new job, perhaps favour international employers that can pay you in one of the major currencies, or if you work for a big international company, perhaps you can ask to be paid in a different currency. 

Get freelance or part-time work outside of Sweden

If you work as a freelancer, or have some spare time for additional work, consider getting part-time freelance gigs with companies abroad that pay in euros or dollars. The lower the krona sinks, the higher your real wage when you spend in Sweden. 

Time major spending for the best point in the market 

If you have savings in kronor and are considering, for instance, buying a holiday house abroad, it is probably worth waiting until the kronor has strengthened and the Swedish economy is back growing strongly. 

Similarly, if you have savings outside of Sweden in euros or in dollars, and have been planning on buying a property in Sweden, now might be a good time to consider doing so (although it may be worth waiting a few months until interest rate rises have been fully reflected in reduced Swedish property prices).

Get a multiple currency account 

It can be helpful to have an account in multiple currencies, such as those provided by banks such as Wise and Revolut. Keeping any cash in a combination of dollars, euros and kronor can reduce your exposure to any single currency. 

The advantage for foreigners living in Sweden is that you can set up US dollar, Euro and Pound accounts, each with their own local bank number, which you can use to receive and make payments domestically in each country. 

With the krona so low right now, it may not be a good idea to convert all your assets from krona to euros or dollars right now, as the currency is probably more likely to strengthen than weaken over the coming year.

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