Monday, March 03, 2008

Moving to Sweden - What to Bring

Make sure to check out the other exciting Move-to's:
Moving to Sweden – The Swedish Language
Moving to Sweden – Finding a Place to Live
Moving to Sweden – The Metric System and You
Moving to Sweden – Getting a Cell Phone
Moving to Sweden – Getting from the Airport to Stockholm City
Moving to Sweden – The Weather
Moving to Sweden – Swedish Citizenship Test
Moving to Sweden – Public Holidays
Moving to Sweden – Finding a Job
Moving to Sweden – Culture Shock: It's the Little Things
Moving to Sweden – Making Friends
Moving to Sweden – The Laundry Room
Moving to Sweden – Marijuana
Moving to Sweden – Most Common Jobs and Salaries

I’ve decided that it might be helpful to write a few posts about moving to Sweden. Seeing as how that is what I did. And what this blog is about. And from the comments and e-mails I receive it also seems to be something that is of interest to people. So I’m going to intersperse a few posts about the different aspects of moving to Sweden.

Of course this will all come from my 23-24 year old perspective. And with the idea that while I’m going to be here for a while it is not permanent. And also from the perspective that I was living with my parents after college and before moving here. Yup. Boomerang generation.

Obviously this will not be a foolproof guide. It probably won’t even be in any sort of logical order either to be honest. So feel free to leave comments, other suggestions, compliments for my glorious public service, you know… the usual. And I would love to hear from other people who have done the same thing. So here it goes:

Moving to Sweden – What to Bring
I filled two suitcases with stuff and shipped the rest. But those two suitcases are important.

Clothes. You are going to need a wide variety of them. It can be ridiculously cold here. It’s only a couple hours flight to the Arctic Circle. It can also be ridiculously warm here. The summers are spectacular and they can get hot. Plus, it’s a bit humid. So it feels even hotter.

Depending on the time of year you come pack your suitcase accordingly. Moving in June means pack the summer clothes and ship the winter clothes. Moving in December means pack the winter clothes, ship the summer clothes. You get the idea.

Furniture. Maybe you have an established life. With established furnishings. In which case you do what you want. As I said. I lived with my parents. I brought a couple of reading lamps. That’s it. I used IKEA and scrounged for the rest of it. Being in student housing allowed for a lot of free furniture from students who were moving out. Also, check and for good deals on used furniture. And of course, IKEA. That hallmark of Swedish ingenuity. Use it wisely.

Bedding. Bring something. A light set of sheets and a pillow is probably enough to start with. Then either ship the rest of your stuff or… IKEA. This will become a resounding theme.

Dishes. A few plastic dishes, maybe a pot or two. That’s it. Dishes are heavy and not worth it. Yup… IKEA. Cheap dishes that will last a while.

Books. I know… I’m a nerd but hear me out. It will take you a while to make friends. It will take you a while to get a job. It will take you a while to settle in. And books are a glorious way to pass those late, very light, summer nights when you first set foot in Sweden.

Toiletries. I love Old Spice anti-perspirant. It is the best deodorant I have ever used. And I am a sweaty man. They do not sell this product here. So I brought a few extras. Bring a few of those toiletries you really need. It will take a while to find everything you need over here and no one wants to be the stinky guy in a new country. And some things just can’t be found. Like Old Spice anti-perspirant.

Food. Peanut butter is like gold over here. Ridiculously expensive. You can’t even find ramen for 10 cents like in the US. If there is anything you just can’t live without. Shove an extra one in your suitcase. Peanut butter and ramen has come to my rescue more times than I can count. Because sometimes, trying to feed yourself is a chore.

Everything else can be shipped. All those extra clothes, your toys (bikes, tents, ski gear), even more books, all those little things like pictures and knick knacks. They are nice. But ship them. You can go a while without them.

And Welcome to Sweden.

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  1. I love this topic. Great suggestions. I've essentially been "camping out" for the last six years or so. My life is in storage. Except for what fits in my auto. And that's all I've needed. Pretty cheap to ship, I'm guessing. I'd suggest one backpack for the essentials. A week's worth of layerable clothing (one can buy more as they wear out). Two pair of shoes (again, an additional pair or two can be purchased in the new place). And while it sounds radical, sleeping in a sleeping hammock (I have two great links on the sidebar of my blog) has not only been more comfy than a bed (it eliminates back pain), but it's a cinch to roll up and move. :o)

  2. above all else, bring a love for coffee!!

  3. Dude! I arrived five days ago!!! This post would have more useful then :P

    But alas, this is what I brought with me:
    Down comforter + blankie
    2 pillowcases (no pillow though)
    Two winter boots
    2 Winter Coats
    2 Ski Jackets + pants
    3 pairs of gloves
    3 high heels (Yes, I am a woman)
    5 business suits
    Formal Dresses (Opera, party, whatever)
    Lots of jeans
    Lots of socks and underwear
    6 or so sweaters
    Dozen tank tops (goes well with layering)
    Face wash/cleansers/loofahs
    Contact Lenses
    Candles (just a few really good ones)
    Gym clothes
    hiking sneakers
    Ski goggles
    Pens and highlighters
    indoor flippers
    Plastic bags (target style or safeway)
    first aid kit
    Vitamins and supplements
    Stuff for my bunny (toys, pellets, medicine)

    2 Le Creuset soup bowls
    1 All Clad 12'' skillet
    Set of knives
    2 Cake pans
    Muffin pan
    Wooden spoons (for stirring)
    Chocolate, chocolate and more chocolate
    French Coffee press
    Granola bars
    Some cereals

    Plug changers
    S-video cables
    Audio cables
    Ipod cables
    External hard drive
    USB Memory stick
    Extra CF/SD cards

    What I forgot to bring and really need now (anyone want to bring me some? :D) :
    Clorox wipes
    Snickers candy
    A few toilet paper rolls
    Crunchy peanut butter
    Some books (such a dumbass I am)

    I'll post more when I remember or rearranging my bags.

    Also, I was able to bring 6 bags (my dad traveled with me) and because of our flying status we did not pay any penalties on excess baggage. This stuff will really not fit into two suitcases at 50lbs (unless you're a dude or a great packer). But, at a $100 fine for baggage, you may consider that extra bag...shipping is extremely expensive

  4. And for the cooks and audiophiles out there, I'm bringing this into the country next time around:

    Kitchen 4.5Q Mixer (it retails for SEK3000 (ekkk!!!) rather than $200 in the US)
    --> I know about the voltage difference but you can bring a power transformer (or build one)

    Klipsch 5.1 speakers

  5. If I would move to the US I would bring some:

    *Milk (not that they don't have milk in America, but Swedish milk is simply the best thing in the world)

    *Earplugs (heard that people talk a LOT over there) sometimes you need a moment or two, just for yourself

    *Windflowers. Simply because they are so beautiful and quite and cute

    *A small piece of the Swedish west coast archipelago. It's the landscape of my childhood, and I think you should carry a small part of that with you, wherever you may go in life

    *A huge chunk of self-confidence (all Americans seems to be so confident) which is the opposite to Swedes, where the law of jante is the law for all human beings.

    Hairy, what would you NOT bring to Sweden? Kentucky fried chicken? Bush?

    Have a nice day! /Sandra

  6. What about vanilla extract and chocolate chips for delicious american choc chip cookies!!

  7. Must agree with Anonymous! yummyy....

  8. toilet paper rolls?

  9. so many excellent comments:

    @isle dance - I love the hammock idea.

    @travis - I came with a distinct dislike for coffee. which remains 9 months later. I even wrote a whole blog post about this. and just recently I was at a meeting at a cafe and the guy I was meeting with ordered for the two of us. coffee it was. I filled mine about a quarter of the way then dumped milk cream and sugar in. and it made me feel sick. and jittery as all hell. just a pretty miserable experience all around.

    @sapphire - I really dropped the ball on the electronics. good catch. transformers and converters are key. they are expensive here. and also a good call on the suitcases. flying with a parent or someone who will be returning to the US is the way to go. gets you an extra bag or two.

    @sandra - good question... I probably wouldn't bring the crappy American TV (which unfortunately is already here), the need for sensationalized news, the need for celebrity news. I would leave behind the extreme left and right because sometimes it is just exhausting. I would leave behind parts of Wyoming. Seriously, some of it sucks. and of course I wouldn't bring hippies.

    what wouldn't you bring from Sweden? I actually quite like this question... anyone else want to take a stab at answering it from whatever country you're from.

    @anonymous - DCP had some vanilla extract imported from good old NBC (you're not really old... just an expression)

    @isle dance again... very yummy

    @anonymous - Im confused. toilet paper is quite eay to get a hold of. although one roll might not be bad just so you have a little bit of wiggle room.

  10. Hairy-I couldnt agree more. I am anti coffee myself but when I was visiting in sweden i felt like such an outcast!!!! Here i was at eveyr single fica (spelling?) drinking juice or a julmust...i felt like i was 10!

  11. I always drink saft or cola... But that's who i am!

  12. Hairy:

    I wouldn’t bring the weather! (only the really good weather, which appears maximum 2 weeks in a row/year)
    I probably wouldn’t bring the mentality of everything being so "lagom" -different is good!
    Neither would I bring the offensively bad radio/tv shows
    Maybe I would leave Carola and Örebro behind as well. Both just seems quite annoying and unnecessary

    If we shall go on with this… What would you bring with you from Sweden to the US?

  13. I'm so glad there are others like me. I usually snag juice, a smoothie, or a hot chocolate. I just can't do the tea and coffee thing.

    @sandra - From Sweden to the US - bilar and the other delicious candy, the sun worship, the sexual attitudes (to an extent), the smallness of it all (its just such a difference from the enormity that is the US), and of course the history.

  14. I've never been a coffee person either. Glad to hear others here "get" it!

  15. Sandra- I know you asked Hairy but I wanted to opine on what I would want to bring from Sweden to the U.S.

    the fashion...althought hairy might disagree
    Jens Lekman...he's in the u.s. a lot anyway
    the lack of reliance on cars
    the women
    The sauna experience

  16. Hairy Swede- I drink tea and hot chocolate, I feel your pain too

    And it's snowing today!!! :D

  17. good call with the sauna experience

    and I love that the non coffee drinkers are coming out in full force.

    and also that it is snowing today after my post about spring already being here.

    the lesson there: never listen to me.

  18. I saw a lot here hates cofee and I hate it too but I love cofee flavoured ice cream! It's really awesome!

  19. Travis!

    I totally angree on bringing Jens Lekman, he's the best! The car thingie I agree on as well.
    When it comes to the rest: All women are beautiful, no matter what country they're from, and sauna's you can find anywhere.. Zlatan is quite hot too :)

    to all you coffeehaters; Coffee is the best thing in the world (especially Gevalia), and I could never go without it. Guess I'm quite Swedish after all..!

  20. anonymous - I can't even do the coffee ice cream.

    oh man Sandra - you definitely showed off the Swedishness with your love of Gevalia

  21. How did you ship your belongings? I'm moving in a few months and I'm looking for the cheapest method for shipping clothing & shoes. Any ideas?

  22. used a company that shipped by boat. worked pretty well actually. Im going to try to dig up the name of the company in the next couple of days and Ill post it here.

  23. American Baggage Inc.

    Sorry it took so long...

  24. All this, but no mention of the most important thing--how do you get a residency permit?

  25. gotta find yourself a swede or a job Im afraid. or be a refugee.

  26. Ok, so I have a question, im actually moving back to Sweden this summer(originally from there moved 3 years ago), and I would like to Bring a Xbox 360 with me (save like 200$) now I've heard i can't use it due to the problem of discs, but can I bring an American tv with me?

  27. @bjorn - tv shouldnt be any problem. just have to make sure that the voltage and amps and all of that match up and are compatible with Sweden and obviously the actual plugs are different.

  28. I brought both my 360 and my TV, and we use a giant adapter that works for both. The discs are not an issue as long as you have a friend in the states that wouldn't mind shipping you games. Postage is only like $5 so it isn't a big deal. This is what we did and it works just fine.

  29. good call, it helps to have good friends willing to do that for you. Because inthe end, it will probably be a hell of alot cheaper than buying the stuff here.

  30. Hi. would you guys recommend bringing scanner and printer devices from us or just get them there? My scanner + printer are all at 110V at this point *sigh...

  31. I say no actually. I brought a printer with me and it was a waste of space. Instead put away a bit of money and by one here They are cheap and if youre going to be here for a while it will make the most sense to get a Swedish one instead of worrying about the different adapters needed.

  32. greetings y'all. so glad i found this page, i am moving back to sweden in a few weeks after 13 years over here so i was curious how to bring home things. main concern was my external hdd's. but the link to the shipping was excellent, now i gonna bring more stuff home!!
    thanx y'all.

  33. glad you've been able to get some use out of this!

  34. hey Hairy! What should I do since I literally own zero winter clothes? I only have six sweaters, and no big jackets or anything- just light sweatjackets / hoodie type things. Do you think I should try to stock up here in California... or should I just wait until I get to Sweden in August? Thanks!

  35. oooh... it's a hell of a lot cheaper to buy the clothes in the US. That being said, they take a whole lot of space in suitcases.

    I would suggst buying yourself a good coat in the US. The hats, gloves, vests, lighter jackets, anything else you might need can be bought in Sweden. But buying a good coat in the US will be worth the loss of suitcase space because they are damn expensive here.

  36. Hi there,
    I'm moving from Australia to Stockholm in November and I am somewhat scared about the weather and the clothing I own... I have been told to bring boots with good tread because of the snow and ice. The problem is that Winter in Australia equals approximately the same temperature as a Swedish summer, meaning that it is really tricky to get warm/appropriate Winter clothes here! I feel like I will be arriving quite unprepared, so if anyone has an ideas of markets/second-hand clothing shops where I can get some nice and appropriate gear for the Swedish Winter, I will buy you a coffee/hot chocolate/juice! x

  37. @Jessica, November shouldn't be too bad, maybe around 10C. Best way to keep warm in Sweden is to have layers of thinner clothing but with 10C you should be OK with just a pullover and a jacket, normal jeans will do as well. When the temp goes below 0 you would need a bit more sturdy shoes/boots. The pain with November is the rain so better have wind-/rain-proof jacket and shoes.

    Have fun!

  38. @Jessica – Stockholms Stadsmission is like Salvation Army and might be worth checking out when you get here. Sites like and should help you out too. Also, theres a post about the weather that will give you a good idea about Stockholm:

    You should be able to get by with what you have for a few days while you get new stuff. And also remember that Stockholm tends to be pretty mild despite its reputation.

    @anonymous – good advice. November is definitely more rain in Stockholm.

  39. Good survival guide for Sweden. Remember if you're driving there that you can't make a righthand turn on a red light, I got busted for that. Found another good blog on life in Sweden.

  40. A great point, and an easy one to forget for most Americans.

  41. I will move from US to Stockholm next month. I think your postings guide me to get ready. Appreciate it. How did you ship your stuff? Which service did you use? I'm looking for a cheaper way to ship boxes of my stuff.

  42. I took as much as I could in luggage on the plane and then shipped the stuff I didn't need right away by boat. I used a company called Hecksher. Might be worth checking out.

  43. Your blog has been good reading.

    I am planning a trip to Sweden with my son, and fiancee in June. We are staying with family I found through a few years ago. They're on the coast in Ullånger. We're looking to take something with us for them...maybe something not so easy to get there? Besides peanut butter, lol.
    OK, legal of course.

    Anything you miss most back in the States? or just good ideas?

    Jim "Sunny" Sundquist

  44. well I miss food things. like cholula hot sauce. peanut butter. good steaks. but really, just bring something that reminds you of your own home. thats the one thing that is always hard to find.

  45. Hey! It's a really useful blog you got there. I'm doing an exchange in Stockholm from August till January and all this info will definitely come in handy. Erm, I have a request ... could you list things that are really expensive so I know to bring it from home. I'd probably leave a lot of stuff at home thinking I could still buy it there, but I know it can be very pricey. And pricey is never good for a student budget. (yes, I am aware that budget and Stockholm juxtapose, but hey)

  46. I'll see if I cant pop out a post about that.

    Right off the bat though, clothes (like witner coats for example) are pretty expensive, and alcohol. Although that is harder to bring across.

  47. This is a great site! My son is leaving next weekend for Sweden for year as exchange student. We're getting down to the wire, but there are some good reminders on what to bring - and I guess we better look for a good winter coat as he'll be several hours north of Stockholm. Thought it might be better to wait...but doesn't sounds like it.

  48. you cant go wrong with getting plenty of winter clothing.

    hope the move goes well for him!

  49. Hey Hairy! Love your blog! I'm moving to Sweden in January so I've been looking through some stores online and I found the H&M website. I think is cheap clothing if you compare to the city where I live now Lima-PERU, what do you think about H&M clothing?

  50. H&M was just about the only place I bought clothing while in Sweden. They are pretty inexpensive and halfway decent quality.

  51. hi!
    im currently looking into moving to Sweden
    but having the hardest time finding ways to ship things there,
    obviously the least expensive the better,
    any suggestions?