Sweden is a highly innovative country that attracts top talent from around the world. With its advanced technology infrastructure and forward-thinking companies, Sweden is an excellent destination for SAP consultants looking to take their careers to the next level. In this article, we’ll provide an overview of what it’s like to work as an SAP consultant in Sweden, covering working culture, practices, salaries, income tax, location, nationalities and languages, work permits and visas, cost of living, driving and transport, cultural differences to the UK, food, and weather.
Working culture in Sweden
Sweden is a country that prioritises the health and safety of its workers. The Swedish Work Environment Authority, supported by labour unions and anti-discrimination legislation, ensures that businesses take responsibility for their employees’ well-being. This approach creates a positive working culture where companies emphasise work-life balance and encourage employees to take their annual holiday allowance, which usually consists of four to six weeks a year plus 16 bank holidays. Many companies also shut down completely in July for what is known as “Sommarlov”, or summer vacation. This long-standing tradition in Sweden has been in practice since the early 20th century. During this period, most Swedes take time off work to enjoy the summer months, spend time with their families, and travel within or outside the country.
Moreover, Sweden is known for its family-friendly culture, and this extends to the workplace. Employees often have the flexibility to work from home, leave early to pick up their children from school, or take time off to care for them when they are ill. This approach not only supports employees’ well-being but also makes them more productive. It is common for Swedes to keep work and social activities separate, which is considered a sign of professionalism. This means that colleagues rarely socialise outside of work and use their time in the office efficiently, leaving chit-chat for coffee breaks.
Swedish culture values egalitarianism, where the collective well-being of society is prioritised over individual success. Therefore, displays of wealth or achievement can be viewed unfavourably. In the workplace, this means that women and men are respected equally, and decision-making is a consensus process. The CEO often works alongside employees in an open-plan office, and meetings are conducted through short discussions. Swedes rarely use “yes” or “no,” but instead use “it depends,” “maybe,” or “I’ll see what I can do.”
When it comes to dress codes, Sweden has a relaxed approach, with offices usually smart-casual. While meetings are often casual, there are a few rules to follow, such as punctuality, keeping emotions under control, and speaking about business straight away. Additionally, it’s essential to respect silences or ongoing conversations as it may indicate that an idea is being considered.
Transparency and honesty are highly valued in Sweden, with the country ranking among the lowest levels of corruption globally. Therefore, gifts can be considered inappropriate in the workplace.
In Sweden, the typical workweek for most SAP roles is five days, particularly in governmental organisations such as the energy sector. However, in the private sector, working hours can vary depending on the company. Many companies are adopting flexible working arrangements, such as three days on-site and two days working remotely. This approach provides consultants with greater work-life balance, as well as the opportunity to work from home and avoid lengthy commutes.
Additionally, the “trial and hire” concept is popular in Sweden. This approach allows consultants to work for a company for six months to determine if they are a good fit, with the hope of being hired on a permanent basis. This approach allows both the consultant and the company to assess whether they are a good fit, which can lead to long-term success for both parties.
Salaries and daily rates
In Sweden, SAP professionals typically receive higher salaries and daily rates in comparison to other European countries. These salaries are usually paid in Swedish Krona (SEK), the local currency. However, some companies may also offer payments in Euros, Pounds or Dollars.
Contracts for SAP professionals in Sweden typically include an all-inclusive rate, which means that accommodation, flights, and relocation expenses are generally not included in the contract. It’s important to note that the cost of living in Sweden can be quite high, especially in cities like Stockholm, Gothenburg, and Malmo. Therefore, it’s important for professionals to consider the overall cost of living when negotiating salaries and contracts.
Income tax in Sweden
As an SAP contractor working in Sweden, you can work up to 180 days per year without paying Swedish tax. This is one of the primary reasons many SAP consultants love working under contract in Sweden. However, it’s important to note that you may still need to pay tax in your country of origin.
If you are in a permanent position as an SAP consultant in Sweden, you will be subject to relatively high income tax rates, usually between 50-57%. However, these taxes are returned in the form of exceptional social benefits, including free education for all children between the ages of 6 to 19, free university for EU/EEA and Swiss nationals, free childcare, a monthly allowance for children, 18 months of parental leave per child that can be shared between both parents, pre and post-natal care, paid sick leave at 80 percent from day two, and low healthcare costs. Sweden is also known for its safety, cleanliness, and excellent work-life balance, making it an attractive location for SAP professionals.
Sweden’s tax system is simple and straightforward; income tax is deducted directly from your monthly salary. If everything is in order with your annual tax declaration, reporting your taxes can be as simple as sending a text message to the Swedish Tax Agency.
Sweden is known for its thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem, which supports innovation and creativity. Its capital city, Stockholm, has a vibrant start-up scene and has given birth to many successful companies, such as IKEA, Spotify, King, and many others. King, in particular, has made a name for itself in the mobile gaming industry with titles such as Candy Crush Saga.
Stockholm’s economy is strong and diverse, with a wide range of industries that require SAP consultants, including manufacturing, energy, and oil and gas. Gothenburg and Malmo are also popular locations for SAP professionals, with many job opportunities in these cities. Commuting to Malmo for work is a viable option for those living in Denmark near Copenhagen. The Malmo-Copenhagen “Øresund” Bridge makes travelling between the two cities easy.
Nationalities and languages
Swedish and English are the primary business languages in Sweden, and most SAP jobs require English-speaking consultants. However, clients in Sweden prefer SAP consultants with Scandinavian or European citizenship, as they do not require working visas. This is an excellent opportunity for Europeans looking to work in the Nordics and take advantage of its high salaries and daily rates.
Swedish companies often look for SAP consultants in Scandinavian languages, and since not all the required skills can always be found locally, this presents an opportunity for Scandinavian citizens who have lived abroad for several years and are looking to return to their homeland.
Learning some Swedish before moving to Sweden can help you find your place in the community and adapt to their way of life. However, if you are unable to learn the language before moving, free Swedish courses are available once you register in Sweden.
Work permits and visas
In Sweden, citizens of the European Union and Nordic countries can live, study, and work in the country without a residence permit. They can also start and operate their own private business in Sweden, and are only required to register to obtain a Swedish personal identity number through the Swedish Tax Agency.
Swiss citizens can work and live in Sweden for up to three months without registering. After this period, they will require a residence permit. Family members of EU and Swiss citizens who can support themselves financially in Sweden are also eligible to join them. Non-EU citizen relatives will need to apply for a residence card once in the country.
Citizens of non-EU countries must apply for a work permit, and there are certain criteria they must meet to be granted the permit. These include having received an offer of employment that matches Swedish regulations and meets the minimum monthly pay stated by the government. Swiss companies must also be able to prove that the job they are offering was previously advertised in the EU/EEA for at least ten days. Once in the country, non-EU citizens can register for a residence permit card at the Migration Agency.
There is a list of certain countries that require nationals to obtain a visa to work in Sweden. However, citizens with long-term resident status in an EU country can apply for an EU residence permit in that country, which may speed up the process.
When applying for a work permit, immigration laws allow you to apply for residence permits for your spouse or registered partner and children under 21. Anyone with a work permit can start working or studying right away, and once in the country, you can apply for an extension if your work permit is about to expire.
Cost of living
Sweden is known for its high cost of living, particularly for tourists, but when earning in Swedish Krona, life in the country is generally affordable. The average cost of living in Sweden is around 24% cheaper than in the UK, while Sweden is ranked 33rd vs 16th for the UK in the list of the most expensive countries in the world.
Housing is usually expensive, but it is still around 30% cheaper than in the United Kingdom. As Stockholm is one of the most costly cities, many people prefer to live in the suburbs, where the cost of living is generally lower. However, it is important to note that the housing market can be competitive, especially in big cities like Stockholm, Malmo, and Gothenburg, so it is essential to arrange housing as soon as possible.
In addition to housing costs, food, leisure activities, and transportation can also be expensive in Sweden. However, it is important to note that the country offers excellent public services and social welfare programs, including free education for children and free university education for EU/EEA and Swiss nationals. Sweden also offers a high standard of living, with excellent healthcare, safety, and cleanliness.
Driving and transport in Sweden
In Sweden, driving licenses from EEA countries, as well as from Switzerland and Japan, are valid and can be exchanged for a Swedish driving license. However, driving licenses from any other country are only valid for up to a year and can only be used on their own if they are written in English, German or French; otherwise, they will need to be translated.
Major cities like Stockholm, Gothenburg, and Malmo have excellent public transport networks. Although it can be expensive, it is generally cheaper than owning and maintaining a car. Public transportation options include buses, trams, metro, and local trains, and daily and weekly passes are available to make them more cost-effective. Additionally, biking is also a popular mode of transportation, and many cities have bike rental programs.
In addition to public transportation, Sweden also has a well-developed system of roads and highways, making it easy to travel by car. However, it is important to note that driving in winter can be challenging due to snow and ice on the roads. Therefore, winter tires are mandatory during winter, and studded tires are allowed between October and April.
Gender equality is a key value in Sweden, and it’s common to see both women and men running businesses, as well as taking care of their children in public spaces. In fact, Sweden has one of the highest rates of working women in the world, and both parents are entitled to parental leave, which can be divided between them as they see fit.
Parents can easily find baby-friendly areas with nursing rooms and changing tables, and it’s common for children to be given more independence than in many other countries. Children are encouraged to use public transport on their own, a testament to Sweden’s safe and trusted environment.
Swedes are typically reserved and adhere to an unwritten code of conduct known as “lagom,” which translates to “just enough,” “in moderation,” or “appropriate.” This reflects a culture of respect and consideration for others that extends beyond social situations into everyday life.
Swedes also cherish their natural surroundings, and exercising the “Right of Public Access” allows anyone to roam the countryside and camp overnight freely. Ice hockey is a popular sport, and the annual song competition called Melodiefestivalen attracts millions of viewers yearly. Literature is highly valued, with a wealth of books published for children and teenagers every year, as well as child-specific libraries with engaging activities like painting, crafts, and sing-alongs.
When it comes to social etiquette, punctuality is highly valued, and queuing is a deeply ingrained part of Swedish culture. If you’re invited into someone’s home, removing your shoes at the door is customary. At the grocery store, it’s essential to line up items with the barcode facing up and towards you rather than stacking them. Sweden is mainly cashless, with debit cards and mobile apps being the most common forms of payment.
Sweden is a green country that prioritises environmental protection. It’s important to follow recycling rules and bring your own bags when shopping to reduce plastic waste. While adjusting to cultural differences may take time, the country’s emphasis on family, equality and environmental protection makes it a welcoming and unique place to call home.
Swedish cuisine is a delicious mix of traditional and modern flavours. Swedish meatballs are a well-known favourite, often served with a side of lingonberry jam, while fresh fish is a staple due to the country’s long coastline. Cinnamon buns, known as kanelbullar, are a popular pastry often enjoyed during fika, a Swedish tradition of taking a break with coffee or tea and a sweet treat. In fact, cinnamon buns are so loved in Sweden that they have their own annual holiday, Cinnamon Bun Day!
Swedes enjoy a good cup of coffee and often gather with friends, family, or colleagues for fika. It’s an important part of the culture and a great way to socialise and take a break during the day.
While alcohol is legal in Sweden, it can only be purchased in government-owned liquor stores, restaurants, and bars. It is not available in supermarkets. This system, called Systembolaget, aims to promote responsible consumption and is a unique aspect of Swedish culture.
Sweden experiences a range of weather patterns throughout the year, with distinct seasons. Winters can be cold and dark, with temperatures dropping below zero and limited daylight hours, especially in the northern areas where there can be as few as three hours of sunlight a day. However, this season provides opportunities for unique experiences like dog sledding, skiing, ice skating, or viewing the aurora borealis. Many people also travel to neighbouring Finland to visit Lapland and immerse themselves in the winter wonderland.
In contrast, summers in Sweden are warm and bright, with long daylight hours. This is a great time to enjoy outdoor activities, visit beautiful Swedish beaches, and explore other Nordic countries, such as Norway and its stunning fjords. The summer months also offer an opportunity to attend various festivals and events around the country, from music festivals to food fairs and cultural celebrations.
Sweden is a highly attractive destination for SAP consultants looking to take their careers to the next level. The country’s positive working culture, focus on work-life balance, high salaries, and daily rates make it an excellent location for professionals. Although the cost of living can be high, Sweden offers excellent public services and social welfare programs, making it an ideal place to live and work. With its thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem and diverse range of industries, including manufacturing, energy, and oil and gas, there are plenty of opportunities for SAP consultants in Sweden. Whether it’s enjoying the winter wonderland, taking a break during fika, or exploring the natural surroundings, Sweden offers a unique and welcoming experience for those looking to call it home.
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