Emina Hlebian: Life in Sweden is better, it’s more comfortable

In November 2016, Emina Hlebian made a decision that would change her life for the better. Along with her husband and their 2.5-year-old daughter, they decided to move to Sweden for a better life, and she hasn’t regretted it for a moment. “In Sweden, you can do whatever you dream of, as long as you want it,” she asserts.

Until the age of 27, Emina lived and worked in Serbia, and then moved to Greece where she studied nursing at TEI Larissa and simultaneously attended a Greek language learning program at the Kapodistrian University. She then started working, but the jobs offered to her were poorly paid and far from ideal conditions.

Through research, she discovered that Sweden is a country with a high quality of life that provides privileges to families and at the same time meets the conditions for professional recognition.

She moved to Sweden without having found a job, but she knew that there was a great need for nurses. She stumbled upon Nordoc AB and contacted the company to help her find a job. And that’s exactly what happened. Since then, she has been working at Karolinska Hospital in the upper abdominal surgery department. “Nordoc AB put me in touch with the supervisor. I am very satisfied with the company. I achieved what I wanted. If you have the will and the goal, you can achieve everything!”

But how difficult was it to adapt to another country? “Adapting to Greece was more difficult, but over time you get used to it. When I came to Sweden, I didn’t allow these things to influence me. After all, life here is better, more comfortable in every way,” emphasizes Emina. “Anyone thinking of moving to Sweden should not allow nostalgia to hold them back,” she adds.

Sweden is known for the family benefits it offers, including child allowance, childcare allowance, study allowance, and housing allowance (if eligible), which is why it is considered “ideal” for those with children. However, apart from all these benefits, it is worth noting that transactions with the Swedish government are largely conducted online, which facilitates citizens. “The Swedish government has no relation to the Greek one. Here, most transactions with the government are done online,” she explains.

Child and Education

“Enrolling the child in school is done online, everything is done online,” adds Emina. As for school and teaching methods, there are certainly significant differences compared to Greece. “My daughter is 9 years old and attends second grade. School in Sweden is simpler. She has a weekly assignment at home, brings a small booklet that answers 3-4 questions, and that’s all. Generally, there is no pressure on the children.” School classes take place from 8 am to 2 pm, with children having an hour for lunch provided by the school, and they can only bring one fruit from home. For working parents, there is the option to drop off their children at school at 6:30 am and pick them up at 6 pm. “Full-day” in Sweden costs about 100 euros per month.

In the case of single-parent families, there is great support from the state. Apart from the monthly child allowance (1,250 kronor), which is provided regardless of family and financial situation, there are other benefits such as housing allowance.

One of the positive aspects of the Swedish education system, as Emina tells us, is that by the 6th grade, children must know how to swim. “Physical exercise is like a trip. Throughout the year, children go ice skating and swimming, and all this is part of the school program. Of course, if you want your child to engage in some other extracurricular activity, they can, but generally, the school allows a child to pursue what they like.”

Additionally, the Swedish state provides the opportunity for anyone who wishes to learn their mother tongue (e.g., Greek) with a teacher within the school for one hour per week. “We chose to enroll our daughter in the Greek school, where she goes every Saturday and spends three hours learning Greek language, grammar, etc. Her participation in the Greek school costs only 1,600 kronor per year (!), and the positive aspect is that later she can take exams and, if she wants, study in Greece,” says Emina, emphasizing that there are many alternatives depending on what each parent desires for their child.

It is worth noting that in Sweden, dental care is free until the age of 21, as well as vaccinations for children.

Also, Swedish families do not need to pay for their children’s education expenses as there is the option of low-interest loans from the state agency CSN in combination with significant student grants.

But what happens if your child gets sick and you can’t go to work? “No problem. If the child is sick, you simply call and inform that you won’t go to work. They don’t make it an issue. You just inform them when you will return,” emphasizes Emina. “The same goes for us. If I get sick, I call and inform that I will be absent. The first week, you don’t need to do anything. In the second week, you need to provide a doctor’s note,” she adds.

In the event of bereavement, you are entitled to 10 working days of leave paid by the employer. “In such situations, you stay at home and get paid as usual,” she adds.

There is much talk about high taxation in Sweden. But how does this negatively affect the lives of people living there? “In Greece, people pay taxes too, but they don’t see returns. In Sweden, you get back a large portion of the taxes you pay, either through education or healthcare,” she says, making complete sense.

Finding Housing

A major issue in the aforementioned Scandinavian country is finding housing. In the big cities, while there is difficulty in finding a house, as Emina says, “there are some big companies where you register to get on a list, and when something is available, they inform you. They are economical. Apart from that, there are also smaller private companies. Another option is renting a house from a ‘second hand.’ That is, you rent the apartment from an individual rather than a big company. This way is much more expensive. Also, until the age of 25, there are student apartments offered by these companies, making it easier to find a home. There are alternatives.”

Noteworthy is the fact that although she has only been in Sweden for 7 years, her family has already acquired their own house. “I live in Stockholm in an apartment. Although I grew up in a detached house and my husband wants us to live in one, I don’t want to. The detached house needs care, it has other expenses. We bought an apartment and it’s enough for us. Besides, if you want greenery and forests, you can find them everywhere,” she adds.

“The people here are different from Greece. Most of my friends are Greeks. We are different from the Swedes, they have different habits, but we get along well,” she notes about the different culture between Greeks and Swedes.

Much Better Working Conditions

“There is a balance between family and professional life. I only work nights. It’s my choice. In the mornings, I do things for myself, read, sleep, relax…” emphasizes Emina, noting that “if you want to save money, you can work on your days off, which pay much more. Morning shifts are good for those who start so they can learn the routine, the language, feel better with their patients. The positive thing is that you choose whether you want to work in the morning or at night. No one can force you to work nights if you don’t want to.”

“The job of a nurse is demanding. The system here is different because the nurse has full control of the patient. Doctors come, check, and leave, but I can communicate with them at any time. I have at most 4 or 5 patients to take care of. Of course, if I say this in Greece, they will laugh, but our jobs are not the same. The difference here is that you have full control of the patient and no help from their relatives, unlike Greece,” she mentions about the role of the nurse and adds: “There is an assistant nurse but we do different jobs. She can offer food to the patient, help them with the bathroom, take their blood pressure, the rest is the responsibility of the nurses.”

She points out that working conditions are much better and it’s important that she chooses how to arrange her schedule.

The fact that Emina works the night shift gives her the opportunity to work somewhere else to increase her income. “I found a rehabilitation center where I go once a week, that is, four times a month. I really like it because you face something else plus you get extra money.”

However, the alternatives do not stop here… For those who wish, they can join private companies that rent nurses to hospitals. You work less time and get paid much better. “This is good for a nurse with experience, who has worked for many years in hospitals. And of course, who is available to go wherever they ask,” she emphasizes.

As for her future plans, Emina wants to specialize in anesthesiology nursing. “In Sweden, everything is possible. I am thinking of specializing in anesthesiology nursing to deal with it in the future. It’s a part I don’t know but I’m sure it’s very interesting. Besides, I like to learn new things. With anesthesiology nursing, you have the opportunity to work in many private clinics.”

She also explains that “if I want, the hospital can pay for my education and ‘commit’ to work there for 1-2 years. I can work nights and then have my days off free to attend my classes. Everything is possible!”

In conclusion, she sends a message to the nurses who will join the Swedish healthcare system with the help of Nordoc AB. “Things will certainly be better for the new kids who come because we are here and we will help them as much as we can,” she promises and adds: “If they are open, they will take a lot from us and become even better.”

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