How do you say "homeless" in Swedish?
September 19, 2010 6:29 PM   Subscribe

I will be applying for a master's degree program in Stockholm, Sweden. Can you tell me about the specifics of life in Stockholm—housing in particular—as well as Karolinska Institutet, or point me to places where I could get more information?

If I get accepted, I'd be moving there next fall with my partner. Since he'll keep his job, and my tuition will be free, we'd like to live in a somewhat decent 2-bedroom apartment with all the modern amenities, preferably close to everything. Is finding one going to be a problem?

In conversations with my colleagues, words like "tenant waiting list" have come up, and I'm nervous about a potential move there. This will be a temporary, 2-year move with the full intent of moving back to the States after graduation.

Any admissions advice or your own experiences as a graduate student in Sweden are welcome.

posted by halogen to Travel & Transportation around Stockholm, Sweden (7 answers total)
Finding a place in Stockholm is going to be an issue, but not an insurmountable one.

I lived in Sweden for one and a bit years in Stockholm. Accommodation was an issue. Sweden has a highly regulated real estate market. Swedes told me that this works well in most Swedish cities, except Stockholm. This post describes what I've seen and more of the Stockholm real estate market for renters.

I was there during the dot com boom which made it even worse. I was earning reasonable money but wound up with a tiny place in Sodermalm. The location was awesome. The place was not. One day I returned home to see that people had been renovating, some toilets had been removed. Good, I thought, it's great to see people renovating. What was not so great was that they had taken out my toilet. With no notice. The landlord was a nice guy but his English wasn't great and he'd failed to tell me. I got rent back but finding a new place at really short notice was really hard.

However, if I'd been prepared to rent a bit further out it would have been fine. This is what my friends did and it worked out well. Not trying to be in Kungsholmen, Sodermalm or really central may well be a good idea.

Stockholm's public transport (PT) system is superb. Find somewhere with good PT connections for where you will study and your partner will work and it will be good. Commuter cycling in Sweden is also the best I've ever seen anywhere, in Summer, in Winter some Swedes do it but you have to be pretty brave.

But going to Stockholm is a great idea and worth the irritation of getting a place there. Stockholm in summer is one of the most attractive places in the world and it's a great place to be generally. Good luck.
posted by sien at 9:04 PM on September 19, 2010

Yeah it's rough finding housing in Sweden. The post linked by sien seems accurate. You have pretty much no chance of getting a first-hand contract (that is, directly renting an apartment) through the big housing agencies; people are in queues for these for several years. You might have better luck with privately owned "fastigheter", but I'm not sure where to find a list of these for Stockholm.

You can also rent second-hand (legally); you can find these apartments on blocket. You can rent in third- or fourth-hand (this is illegal/sketchy; you have no security or enforceable contract rights), also on blocket. You can buy; see hemnet.
posted by beerbajay at 4:10 AM on September 20, 2010

The regular accommodation market is tough in the main Swedish cities, and especially so in Stockholm. The thing is, there is a cap on rent, so you can't just pay more to get a better location. Rather, there is a high value in a first-hand renting contract, and anyone who has one holds on to it, trades it for another renting contract or sells it illegally. As a result, the second-hand renting is unusually high, also among locals, and I've heard of people renting fourth hand. Short of buying a condo or living far outside the city center, this probably won't work out for you.

The good thing for you is that you don't have to be part of this market. You should instead contact the university and get in line for a student apartment. I don't live in Stockholm, so I don't exactly know how the process goes there, but the university will be able to help you. In fact, I'd be surprised if they didn't sort this out for you upon admission. In any case, the best thing you can do is to call them now and ask.

As for admissions, the Bachelor degree is uncommon in Sweden, and Master is the natural stopping point for most university educations. That means the Masters programs are designed to take quite a lot of people. Don't know much about Karolinska other than its international reputation is high.

My experience from an international MSc program in Nanoscale Physics is that most foreign students come from Asian or developing countries, and the credentials of those students are often hard to verify. Since Americans care so strongly about the name of the university being good and recognized back home, they don't show up in herds, and I believe those who try are quite well received. My friend's American girlfriend recently finished her MSc here in Göteborg after a BSc in the US. I'll ask him if there's anything special you need to know. Hold on...
posted by springload at 4:11 AM on September 20, 2010

Student housing isn't currently working out so well, either. You can read more here:

Because Aftonbladet won't allow Google Translate links, I've posted Google's translation below.
'Worse than ever '

Acute shortage of housing for students - Around 40 students at Stockholm University have nowhere to go

10 000 new training places and more admitted students than ever - but almost no new housing.

The sum of the bottom line becomes a record number of homeless.

- Housing shortage is worse than ever in the whole country, "said Beatrice High, chairman of the Swedish National Union of Students, SFS.

At Stockholm University queued new students throughout the night between Sunday and Monday to get an apartment. For 40 of them were in vain effort - it may start the school year as homeless.

- It's frustrating, "said Daniel Buck, 24, from Cologne.

He is here to study English and history but was not one of the lucky few who got an apartment on Monday morning. He has lived a few days of acquaintances familiar but do not know how long he can stay there.

Student Centre at the University of Stockholm had only managed to get 20 rooms and had to give about 40 people were told that no accommodation is available.

- I do not understand why the university receives as many exchange students if there is no chance of getting a house, "says Matteo Biancopino, 23, from Vicenza in Italy.

All homeless students who spoke to Aftonbladet has been sought on housing sites that block and but to no avail. Many have sent over 50 emails but only got a few responses, all negative.

- Many have been deceived and paid such huge advances rents so high that they hardly afford food now, "said Kyle Verboomen which is the student union coordinator for exchange students.

He is from Canada and myself have been in the same situation as the students who now are waiting for shelter. This year has seen the student body to organize the housing applicants who turned to the student center of a queuing system.

And those who were prepared to sleep outdoors to come first in the queue was rather spot on the floor inside the university premises.

The problem is more or less the same in most places with a college or university in Sweden.

- But the worst is in Stockholm, Gothenburg, Uppsala and Lund, "says Beatrice High.

High levels of youth unemployment, youth-sized hills and the continued expansion of the number of student places, while almost no new housing being built for students are the main causes of the problem says Beatrice High. a fact pointed out by her organization for many years.

- Ultimately, it is a political issue. From parliament right down to municipal level, "said Beatrice High, and think that educational institutions can hardly be expected to turn off courses for students of the lack of housing in the locality.

- Those who suffer most are exchange students and those who move far even in Sweden. They have no contacts in the community and has, in addition, no parents or siblings who have studied, many people are surprised by the chaotic situation in the housing market.
posted by McGuillicuddy at 4:43 AM on September 20, 2010

Just wanted to add to sien's link. If you decide to live further out make sure that it is along the lines of "pendeltåget". It is a pretty fast way to get to the inner city.
posted by furisto at 4:58 AM on September 20, 2010

I'm studying at Karolinska at the moment.

If you are offered student housing from KI, take it. I know at least one person who lives in a student apartment (2 bedrooms, kitchen, bathroom) with his wife and young child, so it should be possible to live with your partner.

As everyone else has mentioned, the housing market is crazy here. The government owns a lot of rent-controlled apartments. People sign up on "waiting lists" which allow them to pick an apartment to rent depending on their position in the queue. People wait for 2-20 years on these lists, depending on what kind of apartment they're looking for. It's so hard to find a good place to rent that people in their early 20s are buying. I would highly recommend that you start out in student housing and use it as a base from which to look for a "real" apartment. Just know that it will most likely be complicated and expensive.

As far as being a grad student in Stockholm goes: you're going to love it! KI is full of foreign students, and they all know what it was like to arrive and know no one. Everyone is extremely friendly and welcoming. It's harder to get to know Swedish people (I was lucky that I knew some before arriving), but once you do you'll find that they are also lovely people. KI is a great university, and there's an active student union with pubs every week and a big cottage in the archipelago. There used to be a sauna on the premises, but it burned down a few weeks ago. I was not involved.

Anyways, the point is that you should get student housing and then worry about finding another place. It's hard enough to do it when you're in Stockholm that I wonder if it's even possible from overseas. Good luck, and feel free to contact me if you need any info!
posted by snoogles at 9:29 AM on September 20, 2010

Oh, and to answer the title question, you say "hemlös" (hem-luh-ss).
posted by beerbajay at 12:28 PM on September 20, 2010

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