Inspirational tips from a newcomer in West Sweden

Mónica Andrea Cabarcas
Mónica Andrea Cabarcas

Meet Mónica Andrea Cabarcas, former intern at International House Gothenburg and get her best tips as a newcomer to Sweden.

After working as a communication specialist with victims of armed conflict and refugees in Colombia, and gaining valuable experiences living in Argentina, Spain, and Germany, Mónica made a big decision three years ago to move to West Sweden. She was determined to embrace her new home and continue her career in the Nordic region. Mónica relocated to Trollhättan when her husband got a job in the IT sector. 

Mónica, how has your experience been living in Sweden?
In the early days of my time in Sweden, my mind and projects were across different places. I often traveled to Poland with my husband, and I had my studies to focus on in Spain. Additionally, I made sure to stay connected with my relatives in Colombia to stay updated on their lives. As a result of living in different countries, I enjoyed the deliciousness of tapas Catalanas, developed a love for Polish vodka, pretzels in Munich, and I miss so much karaoke parties and the taste of Colombian coffee.

Understanding the cultural differences in Sweden was a crucial starting point for me. I was surprised by the level of trust the Swedish people have in their government, how Swedes take care of the environment and the role of technology in facilitating access to various services. One thing that really caught my attention was how convenient it is to not carry cash around in Sweden. Digital payments are the rule and getting a BankID is essential. I mean, you even use it during phone calls with government officials!  When it comes to buying a house in Sweden, you go through an online bidding process where you compete against other potential buyers.

"For newcomers, it's crucial to understand the differences in industries, available positions, and work environments in Sweden. And for companies, it's vital to explore the distinctions among international talents: those seeking jobs in their expertise, career switchers, students, or individuals starting their own business."

How did you come across International House Gothenburg?
While participating in the Jobbsprånget programme, I had the opportunity to support the organisation of various events at International House Gothenburg (IHG) and contribute through guidance in their advisory services. This experience has been one of the most valuable things that has happened to me. It let me connect with people from different countries and gain an understanding of the critical role skilled individuals play in a country's development. 

IHG provides guidance and support on our Swedish journey, but what's even more important is the opportunity for newcomers to create new projects and support one another. I consider International House as a hub of diversity and inclusion.
When I connected with other newcomers, I paid attention to their reasons for relocating. Some were accompanying their partners, seeking asylum, or working towards securing rights and a better future for their families. For example, individuals from Syria, Iran, and now Ukraine play a crucial role in this diverse community. 

What do you appreciate most about Sweden?
Learning how to navigate the Swedish system may not be easy, but it's a journey that allows you to understand the significance of trust in a country's development. Trust is deeply ingrained in the core values of the Swedish people, and it plays a vital role in shaping their society.
One aspect that I truly appreciate about Sweden is its job environment culture. There's a strong emphasis on work-life balance, which allows individuals to prioritize their psychological well-being. Sports are also important here, and people continue to engage in physical activities like running, even when faced with challenging weather conditions like strong winds and cloudy skies.
What insights can you share from your experience living and working in West Sweden?
When searching for a job: it's essential to explore your own skills and the application process. Pay attention to the position names and their functions, as they may change across countries. It is also crucial to consider that the Swedish job market is flat, and company structures and operations can differ as a result. For networking, LinkedIn is the go-to platform. It serves as the primary channel for connecting with professionals and establishing crucial career connections.

Language proficiency is important: Being open to learning both Swedish and English, depending on your background and profession, increases your chances of success. However, don't forget to look for job opportunities that may require your mother tongue, as West Sweden is a multicultural region. It's practical and necessary to start with the correct pronunciation of the names of government institutions, such as Arbetsförmedlingen!
Customization is key. Various initiatives help people find jobs in West Sweden, but as I observed at IHG, international talents require different types of training based on their professional background, culture, and position in their Swedish journey, being aware about our cultural bias for example.
Switching careers can be a viable option to enhance job prospects, but it's crucial to tailor your CV accordingly. Professionals can also seek opportunities that align closely with their field of interest, focusing on their soft skills in addition to technical knowledge.

International talents advocating for their rights. Many international talents moving to West Sweden seek access to rights they may not have had in their home countries, such as security, freedom, women's rights, and equal educational opportunities. Some are also escaping armed conflicts and wars. These motivations can positively impact their job performance.

Mónica now holds the role of Project Coordinator at Lindholmen Science Park, where she actively contributes to the Care Connect with Ukraine project.

Writer: Fernanda Aragao, intern at International House Gothenburg

International House Gothenburg is a non-profit organisation, founded in 2021 and is a collaboration between the City of Gothenburg, Business Region Göteborg, Region Västra Götaland, Labour Market and the Adult Education Committee City of Gothenburg and Move to Gothenburg.