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How's life in Sweden?

Somebody asked, "How's life in Sweden?" I'm taking my answers to this blog post.

I have been here for 2 and a half months now and I must say that although I really miss the sense of familiarity in Singapore and the tropical weather, Sweden is family-friendlier to live in. Family-friendlier as in, if you are married with child(ren). Not forgetting, less stressful and leading a higher quality of life without worrying about financial issues. Other than the cold weather here, there is almost nothing here I can complain about.

According to Business Insider, Sweden ranks no. 2 in the Top 15 Countries with the Highest Quality of Life. The article is published in 2013, but, in 2015, Insider Monkey ranks Sweden the 4th, which is not a big drop from the 2nd. And where is Singapore? I'm betting on never seeing it appear on any articles listing the top countries for at least the next 50 years.

Why do I prefer Sweden?

Expressing my opinions as a mom, which mother wouldn't like to spend at least the first 2 years of their baby's life with them? They are only going to be your little baby for that long, and you gotta miss most of it due to work. What is 160 days compared to 480 days? 

Parental leave can be taken up until a child turns eight and the leave entitlement applies to each child so parents can accumulate leave from several children. Paternity leave in Singapore? 1 pathetic week. Whereas in Sweden, you can share the 480 days with the husband with no limits on how much they take and 2 months is actually reserved for them so they have to take it no matter what.

Even if you are unemployed, you get the minimum parental benefit from the government, which is 225 SEK/day, converting to SGD $37, for 480 days. That adds up to SGD $17,760. And that amount is on top of the child allowance of 1050 SEK/month (SGD $171) for 18 years. 18 YEARS! Let's calculate that as well: 18 years converts to 216 months, $171 x 216 = $36,936

Total 'Baby Bonus' (as Singapore calls it)

SGD $54,696 CASH 
(according to the exchange rate at the time of this post)

And if you're working? 80% of your salary will be given to you for 480 days, while you stay at home spending time with your little baby. That would definitely total up to MUCH MUCH MORE than SGD $17,760. If you're self-employed or unemployed in Singapore, you basically have no 'maternity leave'/income/allowance for that 4 months.

Again, what is $6,000 + $6,000 (money in CDA account that you CANNOT withdraw and will only be matched when you deposit your own money in) compared to mentioned amount above? $6,000 is not even enough to cover the cost of giving birth and hospitalisation (if you don't work in the hospital you are giving birth at or have a CSC card, that is). And regular gynae checks and child birth are free here.

Speaking of CDA, I'll move on to the childcare and education here. If you're career-driven and prefer to put your career on top of your family, childcare is shockingly (comparing it to Singapore) affordable and reasonable here with the fees being 1-3% of your pay (capped at a maximum of 1,260 SEK/month ~SGD $204) if you are working and free if you are unemployed. You don't have to feel unjust when almost a third or more of your pay goes to childcare just because you want/NEED to work (to survive and pay for housing/cars/papers in Singapore). After 6 years old, education is free with lunch provided through University. 

While parents in Singapore are scrimping and saving (after they are done with that for housing and vehicle's costs) mostly for their children's studies, Uni fees and allowances, parents in Sweden do not have a worry.

Do I need say more? 10 things that make Sweden family-friendly here.

The Swedish government also provides housing allowance every month which will help offset rental costs. Other than that, there is something called the Unemployment Insurance Fund, which is a monthly income they will provide you with if you have to leave a company due to various reasons and become unemployed. 

During the period of umemployment, you don't have to worry about not having any income. I know that a person is supposed to be on the ball of his feet to actively look for a new job but shit happens. And when it does, this would at least help to 'clean up the wastes' for you to be more comfortable and less stressed whilst continuing the job hunt.

The food, water and air here are also of better quality. More organic food ranges which do not have a big jump in price from the non-organic like back in Singapore. You can enjoy the cool water right from the tap which is not treated with fluoride. The tap water is so clean that you rarely see any bottled water selling in stores at eye-level.

Let's talk about housing here. We are currently living in Falun, Dalarna. I have been looking at apartments and houses for sale in Falun and Borlänge on Hemnet. The prices really are jaw-dropping. Once you see them, you can never look at Singapore's housing and prices the same way, ever.

An example? A 91 sqm beautifully done up 3 bedroom apartment with a walking distance to town, can cost only about SGD $200,000 including the broker's fee and stamp duty. It is really stunning and looks like it would cost $50,000 - $80,000 for renovation to Singapore's HDB flats to look like it. I didn't manage to save the pictures of the flat and it's sold already.

Here's another 93.5 sqm apartment that is also right in/close to town that costs about the same, 
$200, 000. It is not as nicely done as the one I mentioned above but still pretty neat.

What can you get for SGD $200,000 back in Singapore? A tiny box probably.

Here's another one I saw in another town 20 mins drive from Falun, which is in Borlänge.
It is 76 sqm and not close by to town, about 1 hour's walk, 9 mins drive. Let's take a look at the pictures before the price. It's also sold already by the way.

 Guess how much this place would cost in SGD including broker's fee and stamp duty?
SGD $65,000 - $75,000!!!!
 (depending on exchange rate)

It is so freaking cheap and it doesn't matter it's not close to town because cars are super cheap here too anyway!

People in Singapore also HAVE to get health/hospitalization/accident/life insurance and the fees increases with age, if not, you have to constantly worry about when someday you might need intensive healthcare which will cost you your whole life assets or more. Again, something you needn't worry about in Sweden. Basically, you are well taken care of from head to toe, birth to death, by the government here, whether rich or poor (I believe there's no/not much poor to begin with), employed or not.

Sweden is also a very safe country, with prisons having to close down due to the low crime rate.
But whenever I go on Facebook, I will see some 劲爆 happening news about Singapore. Political, homicidal, accidental, drug-busting etc. How can it hold it's peace for long with the foreigners outnumbering the locals soon?

Above all, Sweden have strict food safety regulations that according to Svensk Fågel,
 "Sweden has achieved efficient control of Salmonella, despite the industrialisation of animal production. Due to the control, both red and white meat produced in Sweden can today be claimed to be virtually free from Salmonella."

Pension VS CPF. You will definitely get pension as long as you have worked and paid tax, even for just a short period of time, here. You don't have to slog at an old age just to reach the $161,000 minimum sum to be able to receive your OWN hard earned money back. 

Seriously, what would you complain about here other than the cold??
Please let me know so that I can have other perspectives to reevaluate.

How's life in Sweden?
Two words.
Definitely better.

And if I could bring my family over, I would.
What beats having the best of both worlds?

Oh yes, I love their NRJ radio station too!
Not sure if you'd be able to listen to it from wherever you are but here's the link to the live radio.
>> Radio Play. <<


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