Living in Sweden – A Guide for PhD Students
Written by Chris Banyard
One of the most innovative countries in the world, Sweden is a natural choice for PhD study for many international students. If you choose to study in Sweden, you can experience a thoroughly modern nation that also offers picturesque scenery and traditional pursuits.
This guide covers useful information about living in Sweden while studying your doctorate, including student life, housing, living costs, work permits, setting up a bank account and transportation during your Swedish PhD.
Sweden is a tolerant and welcoming country, with progressive laws and citizen’s rights and a friendly attitude towards international students. This part of Scandinavia is also famously beautiful, with miles of Arctic coastline, forests, tundra and modern-designed cities.
Creativity, design and innovation are key tenets of Swedish culture – it’s why the country is the home of the Nobel Prize, Spotify, Bluetooth, Tetra Pak and IKEA and hundreds of other inventions and multi-national companies. This creativity can be seen today in Sweden’s many museums, art galleries, and interior design. You may also be familiar with Swedish crime fiction and Nordic noir – the likes of Stieg Larsson’s Millennium series, Inspector Wallander and The Bridge all hail from Sweden. And for lovers of cheesy pop music, let’s not forget ABBA.
Canoeing and kayaking around Sweden’s various archipelagos are popular summer activities, as are cycling and hiking. At other times of the year, you can experience the various winter sports Sweden has on offer, including ice-skating, skiing, snowmobiling. . . and dog-sledding! And if you’re feeling a little less adventurous, Sweden’s cities have plenty of events, bars and nightclubs to enjoy.
Although perhaps Sweden’s most famous foods are its meatballs and fermented herring (surströmming), this Scandinavian country has a smorgasbord (pun intended) of other traditional delicacies to try. Classic dishes include cured salmon (gravad lax) and potato pancakes (raggmunk), and there are lots of puddings to taste such as Fat Tuesday buns (semlor), cinnamon buns (kanelbullar), Swedish gingerbread (pepparkakor), princess-cake (prinsesstårta), and sticky chocolate cake (kladdkaka). Sweden is also well known for its spirits, producing internationally recognised vodka, gin, absinthe and whisky.
There are several types of housing to choose from as a PhD student in Sweden. The availability depends on your budget and city of residence. Although the overall cost of living is slightly higher then most of Europe, you may find that accommodation costs can be lower in Sweden in comparison to other countries.
The types of accommodation available in Sweden are:
- Dormitories – standard university housing, similar to UK halls of residence, with private or shared rooms and communal facilities
- Flats – privately-rented student flats managed by a landlord or letting agent, usually shared with other students
- Homestay – staying with a Swedish host family, often living in a spare room, and useful for integration into Swedish society
The cost of accommodation is a little higher than in the UK. You can expect to pay between €227 and €590 for student accomodation (depending on the size, type and location).
The overall cost of living for a PhD student in Sweden is slightly higher than in the UK, and the rest of Western Europe.
You can expect to pay around €778 per month, budgeting €415 for accommodation, €200 for food and €228 for miscellaneous costs.
The following table gives an indication of prices for some common expenses during a PhD in Sweden:
Student Cost of Living in Sweden - 2023
|Monthly Travel Pass
|Based on crowdsourced data published by Numbeo.
All international students who hold a valid residence permit and / or study visa are eligible to work part-time alongside PhD studies with unlimited hours. But your doctorate must be considered a priority, as you may have difficulties renewing your residence permit without proof of satisfactory progress and grades.
Note that part-time work outside of your university often requires you to speak Swedish and may be hard to find. Some universities offer part-time work suited for their international students, usually based on-campus or through campus-based programmes.
The Swedish currency is the Swedish Krona (kr or SEK).
Sweden is regarded as a ‘cashless society’, with most payments accepted using card or mobile payments. Therefore, you will probably need to open a Swedish bank account during your PhD.
Most international students will be able to open a basic payment account in Sweden. In generally, to open a bank account you will need to visit your chosen branch with the following documents:
- a valid passport
- your Swedish ID card
- proof of university acceptance
- address of residence details
- details of your Swedish national database registration (coordination number or Swedish personal identity number)
Most universities in Sweden have arrangements with their local banks to enable international students to open bank accounts – you should check with your university’s international office for more information.
There are many transport options for getting around Sweden. Most travel networks will provide student discounts for holders of valid student ID cards.
ScandinavianRail manages much of the trains in Sweden (and the rest of Scandinavia) and has extensive networks around the country. You will probably find that rail travel is the best option for intercity travel. You can find many rail passes for travel in Sweden from ScandinavianRail.
Swedish airports support air travel to most major cities in Europe and the rest of the world. Due to the vast size of Sweden, air travel is often used to move between the North and South of the country. Most airports In Sweden are operated by Scandinavian Airports System (SAS).
Sweden’s cities each have their own public transportation networks. Most cities provide buses, but Stockholm has a light rail, tram and underground network (Tunnelbana or T-bana) and Skåne has the extensive Skånetrafiken public transport network stretching across into Denmark.
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