Tell us about your work at SMHI? What are your duties? How long have you worked at SMHI, lived in Sweden?
I am a Climate Researcher at the Rossby Centre, SMHI’s climate research department. I analyze global climate simulations which are produced by me and my colleagues here but also by other modeling centers worldwide.
My main research focus is on decadal climate predictions – how will the climate evolve within the next 5-10 years and how good are we actually in predicting that – and meteorological extreme events, such as large windstorms related to extra-tropical low-pressure systems.
I moved to Sweden in January 2019, accompanied by my whole family that is my partner and our three kids. I started on a 2-year PostDoc position but meanwhile I got a permanent contract. The family is doing well, so we might stay longer ;-)
What challenges did you encounter while moving to Sweden?
There are many of the general challenges which people face when moving into another country. Basically everything is a little different from what you know in your home country or other places you have been living in before.
I am from Germany and I thought (and still think) that these differences are comparably small: culture, food, organizational structure at work but also public administration and so on show many parallels between Germany and Sweden, even the language is closely related.
However, there are still a lot of things that are not easy in the beginning. I got the impression that people in Sweden are very strict about rules and procedures (and I think it really means something if a German says that).
Directly after moving here from abroad this sometimes poses specific challenges, can be frustrating from time to time, and sometimes gets almost ridiculous. One particular example is the search for a place for living. Many companies hiring out apartments require a Swedish social security number (the most important thing in Swedish public administration), but the problem is that you cannot apply for this number before you have a place to live in Sweden.
Another issue more related to the everyday interaction with people is that Swedish people are very much consensus-oriented. I think, this is a very nice characteristic but my impression is that this tendency is so strong that discussions sometimes end prematurely just because there might be a conflict arising.
And of course, you have to queue… always, everywhere. Even if you are on a highway with a construction site one kilometer ahead, if everyone queues on the right lane… do the same. One of the few things Swedes get mad about is when people don’t queue properly.
What is the best thing about working at SMHI?
First, I really like and enjoy the collaborative way of working here. This may depend on the specific group you are in but I made the experience that teamwork is much more pronounced and lived everyday here than in any other institution I have been working at before. Closely related to this is a very horizontal organization of work life. This means that – at least in my department – there is no huge distinction between supervisors and subordinates, it is a very balanced and cooperative way of working and communicating with each other.
Second, I feel that everything at SMHI is very much oriented towards the well-being of its employees which is realized by the sum of many small things. SMHI offers a specific amount of money on top of your salary for health benefits, there is free coffee and tea, free fresh fruits are delivered twice a week, there are almost two dozens of different sports activities in which you can participate, and there is the arts federation which organizes concerts, arts exhibitions, workshops and more.
And the colleagues working in the administration, at the reception or in the facility management are really supportive in everything they do.
Is there anything important you would like to tell someone who is in the position of moving here?
One of the first things to organize is finding a place to live. Don’t be frustrated. Apart from formal problems like mentioned before it is a fact that the housing market – especially for rental apartments – is small, probably you will have only very few options.
Once you moved, you should start quickly to learn the language. In principle you can probably do everything necessary for living here in English, too. But learning Swedish is the key to all further progress in integrating yourself.
Learning itself may be hard – depending on potential previous knowledge and your own mothertongue – but it’s extremely easy to get to learn: there are free Swedish courses for foreigners offered by the municipality and there is even a weekly course directly at SMHI.
And regarding all kinds of challenges and problems you are facing: ask your colleagues for help and advice. They will be willing to help and may have been in the same situation.
It’s worth the effort. My personal point of view is that Sweden offers a great quality of living with very high social and legal standards, it’s something like the role model for a family- and children-friendly society, and the country is just beautiful.