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Why bright minds from across the world are choosing to live in Stockholm

If the world is your oyster, where do you choose to go and why? Today, many talented people decide by looking firstly for a city that fits their lifestyle – and then for the right job opportunities.

Why bright minds from across the world are choosing to live in Stockholm
Photo: Anna Hugosson/mediabank.visitstockholm.com

When it comes to achieving this balance, Stockholm offers a rare combination: it’s a global tech and start-up hub, a leader in sustainability, and big enough to make an international impact while remaining highly livable.

The Local spoke with two talented international residents – one with a family and one single – about why they’ve chosen to make the Swedish capital their long-term home.

Thinking of making a move? Check out Invest Stockholm's Talent Guide and Entrepreneur's Guide

‘It’s small enough to get to know key players’ 

Martin Hennig is a senior digital transformation consultant for Stockholm-based NoA Connect. He lives with his wife and two children in Vaxholm – the picturesque, self-proclaimed capital of the Stockholm archipelago, from which the city centre is under an hour away by boat.

But he and his family could so easily be living a very different life. German-born Hennig previously lived in Dublin, briefly in London, and in Connecticut in the US, which he and his American wife Laureen left behind for Stockholm three years ago. 

“We chose Stockholm despite knowing we’d earn less money here,” he says. “We did not know the language – we’re still learning. We have no family ties to Sweden. And my wife had never set foot on Swedish soil before moving here.” 

Even by the standards of today’s mobile skilled workers, it would seem a brave move to have made. “We have no regrets and we’re happy with our decision,” he continues. “Our work-life balance was rather miserable, so while my wife's family in the US did not love the idea of us moving, they supported our decision in the end.

“Stockholm is a really interesting spot with lots of entrepreneurs, innovation and internationally significant companies in fintech, gaming and so on. It’s also small enough to get to know key players in a short matter of time.”

Photo: Martin Hennig and his wife Laureen in Vaxholm

‘We literally googled “best places to raise families”’

So, how did this all come about? Hennig’s only previous experience of Stockholm was on a brief Erasmus exchange programme in 2004. “I thought the city was gorgeous and felt very safe,” he says. When he and his wife began to imagine a different life, these positive memories came flooding back – after a little technological prompt.

“We literally googled ‘best places to raise families’ and Sweden was in the top results,” says Hennig. “I remembered how nice Stockholm is. We started looking for work via LinkedIn and realised that many jobs in our field don’t require you to speak Swedish.”

His wife, a business analyst, soon had an attractive offer. They decided to go for it and had just 12 weeks to sort out the move, with Hennig finding his job later that year. The couple are convinced Google put them on the right track – for family and much more.

Their first child was born in 2015 in the US – where there's no national statutory parental leave and the little you do get varies across states. Hennig says his wife was only entitled to six weeks of ‘short-term disability’ benefits, while as a father he got no parental leave.

Their second child was born after their move to Stockholm. “Needless to say that experience was completely different,” says Hennig – not least in terms of the generous parental leave and low childcare costs. “Our priority was a family-friendly society, a safe place that’s liberal, progressive, social. We love our community and we like our work and career outlook too. Home is a bit of a difficult concept for me – but this feels like home.”

Want to work in a global tech hub that values quality of life? Find out more about Stockholm

‘I was aware of the great energy in digital innovation’

Growing up as a digital native in the US, Erik Cativo knew from his mid-teens that Stockholm was a centre for cutting-edge technology. The invention of bluetooth at Ericsson’s Stockholm offices and early adoption of peer-to-peer file sharing both earned his attention. “I knew there was great energy in digital innovation in Stockholm,” he says.

Fast-forward to today and Cativo works at Ericsson in Stockholm himself as a senior UX designer. In September, he took a 28 percent pay cut to leave Washington DC for his new home. 

“I believe in the Nordic model,” says Cativo. “Salaries in US tech are high – but it comes at a price. To get the qualifications I needed, I took on US$40,000 in debt at four percent interest.” He could be paying off the cost for decades, he says.

So, what about the innovation that first made him aware of Stockholm? “I pay my rent digitally with Bank ID, I make payments with Swish – it really is a digitally advanced society,” he says. 

Photo: Erik Cativo in Stockholm

Cativo is an example of the highly talented people that a recent report on talent from Invest Stockholm says “call the shots” on who they work with and where. In a “hyper-connected” world, location still matters; the report cites evidence that “two thirds of highly talented individuals choose the city before they choose the company or the job”.

‘I found it easier to get by with English in Stockholm’

Cativo visited Barcelona, Berlin and Paris in 2017 while studying in Scotland. But after he returned to the US, it was Stockholm that stood out as the place he most wanted to return to.

“There was something about Stockholm that felt very interesting to me,” he says. When he decided to look for new job opportunities, he ignored headhunters in the US and the appeal of Berlin to focus purely on Sweden.

“I found it easier to get by with English in Stockholm,” he says. “The level of English proficiency in Berlin didn’t seem to be as high as here.”

He visited several Swedish cities and soon realised that Stockholm was the natural fit for his talent. His appreciation of his new home extends far beyond its tech scene, however.

“Stockholm is incredibly beautiful,” he says. “They do a great job of balancing modern design with older architectural styles. I’m also in awe of how quick and easy it is to get around – by foot, by bus or on the tunnelbana (subway). I can get across the entire city in 20 minutes.”

Cativo was also attracted by the potential for a relatively quick path to citizenship, which you can apply after five years in Sweden. “I believe that long-term I’ll have a better life here,” he says. “For myself and my future children.”

Looking for new opportunities and a better quality of life? Click here to find out more about moving to Stockholm – and follow these links for Stockholm's Talent Guide and Entrepreneur's Guide.

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EXPLAINED: How to make a will in Austria

Making a will can be a daunting process, especially when living overseas. The Local spoke with lawyer Maximilian Harnoncourt to understand more about getting your affairs in order as an international resident in Austria. Here's what you need to know.

EXPLAINED: How to make a will in Austria

Making a will in Austria

Under Austrian law, a will is a legal document that states who should inherit which assets when someone dies.

According to the legal website Erbrecht-ABC, the easiest way to make a will is for someone to write it themselves by hand and then sign it. This is known as eigenhändiges Testament and can be done without the presence of a notary, lawyer or witness.

A will can also be typed (fremdhändiges Testament) but still has to contain, “This is my last will and testament” in handwriting. 

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: Property buying rules for international residents in Austria

In the case of a typed will, the law states it must be witnessed by three people who then sign the document.

Then there are notarial or judicial wills, although these types of will are rare. 

Any special process to be aware of?

Lawyer Maximilian Harnoncourt, from Schneider & Schneider Rechtsanwalts, said that anyone making a will in Austria should formally register it with a notary or lawyer so that it can be submitted to the Austrian Central Register of Wills

Harnoncourt told The Local: “The advantage of going to a lawyer or a notary is that professionals will make sure that the formal requirements are met and that your will is valid.

“Since lawyers and notaries are obliged to record the will in a register, you have the guarantee that the will is actually taken into account after your death.”

However, it’s worth noting that the Central Register of Wills does not contain actual wills. Instead, a lawyer submits an official record of the creation and filing of the will to ensure that when someone dies, the will can be found.

READ NEXT: Visas and residency permits: How to move to Austria and stay long-term

Can foreigners make a will in Austria?

Under Austrian law, anyone living in the country (even international residents) can make a will.

Harnoncourt said: “In principle, people living in Austria can make a will according to Austrian laws and are treated the same as Austrians.”

But the validity of an Austrian will overseas depends on where the person was living when they died or if there are additional assets to be considered, as Harnoncourt explains.

He said: “Whether a will is valid abroad can only be determined on a case-by-case basis. The question is mostly relevant if you move to another country or if there are assets in another country.

“In principle, in the EU (there are special rules for Denmark and Ireland), a will is also valid in another EU country if it is valid according to the regulations of the country in which it was made.

last will and testament

(Photo by Melinda Gimpel on Unsplash)

“However, you should always seek advice from a lawyer if you have significant assets abroad or if you intend to move your residence to a non-EU country.”

So, is it actually worthwhile for international residents to make a will in Austria?

Harnoncourt says yes – especially if you want to distribute your estate differently to Austrian inheritance laws (more on that below), or if there are special instructions.

He said: “As an international resident you can choose whether Austrian laws or the laws of your citizenship shall apply. For example, to avoid mandatory portions going to children under Austrian laws.”

FOR MEMBERS: Everything you need to know about Austrian inheritance laws

What is Austria’s inheritance law?

In Austria, if a will is not made, the entire estate will go to the heirs due to Austrian succession of inheritance laws.

This means the children (or grandchildren) will inherit two thirds of an estate, while the spouse is eligible for one third. Since 2017, parents are no longer included in forced heirship (known as Pflichtteilsrecht) in Austria.

If there are no heirs or life partner, then the Federal Government handles the estate of the deceased.

Additionally, there is no inheritance tax in Austria, but there is a real estate transfer tax, which is 3.5 percent of the purchase price of a property.

How much does it cost to make a will?

As with most things related to law, making a will is not free. But the costs can vary depending on the type of will made and whether you need legal advice.

The Austrian federal government website states there is a one-time fee of between €300 to €500 to hire a notary and register a will. This covers the cost of advice, professional drafting, filing and registration in the Central Register of Wills.

The cost of filing a will that is handwritten without any legal advice is around €100, plus expenses and sales tax.

The cost of hiring a lawyer to handle a will can vary and there will still be a one-time fee to submit the will into the Central Register of Wills.

Useful vocabulary

Will – das Testament

Inheritance – das Erbe

Notary – der Notar

Lawyer – der Rechtsanwalt

Useful links

Find a notary in Austria at notar.at.

Austrian Bar Association (Österreichischer Rechtsanwaltskammertag)

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