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/

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.

For members


EXPLAINED: How to apply for parental leave in Spain

If you're about to become a parent in Spain, things have got easier with new legislation making men and women equal when it comes to parental leave. But who is eligible and how can you apply? We've put together a step by step guide.

EXPLAINED: How to apply for parental leave in Spain

Who is eligible?

As long as you have correctly paid your social security contributions (for a minimum of 180 working days within the past seven years or 360 in your entire professional life), 100 per cent of your salary will be covered.

The money comes from the Spanish government, not your employer, though employers are liable for certain taxes that pertain to the salary, such as withholding.

Freelance workers or autónomos can also apply for 16 week’s parental leave from the government. The amount they receive is calculated based on how much you regularly pay into the social security system under the autónomo system.

Same-sex couples and adoptive parents

In same-sex couples, both parents are entitled to paid leave. However, one will have to apply for maternity benefits and the other for paternity (or ‘other parent’) benefits.

In order to qualify for paid paternity or maternity leave, each parent must have a legal link with the child. This means that paid leave will only be granted if you are a biological parent, or if you have legally adopted the child. Being married to the biological or adoptive parent of a child is not enough to qualify for paid leave.

In the case of adoptive parents, both parents are elegible for the same 16 weeks if the child is under six years old. If the child is older, both adoptive parents are elegible for the remaining optional 10 weeks that a biological parent would have after the first compulsory six weeks after birth.

How long can can I take for parental leave?

Spain became a world leader when it comes to equality between both parents in Europe last year, with a law increasing paternity leave to 16 weeks – the same amount previously only reserved for new mothers.

Under this new law, which came into effect on 1 January 2021, maternity and paternity are equal and non-transferable. This means that if one parent decides not to take the time off, their partner can’t take those weeks in their place.

The first six weeks must be taken immediately and consecutively after the child’s birth, whereas the other 10 weeks can be taken non-consecutively during the first 12 months of the baby’s life.

Where do I apply?

Since April 2019, maternity and paternity leave have been brought together under an umbrella term known as prestación por nacimiento y cuidado del menor or parental leave.


You can apply for parental leave online through your social security portal, either with your digital certificate or with your username and password with [email protected] (a digital signature system). To help with the process, you can use the social security portal’s virtual assistant, and if you need help with the [email protected] system, read this article.

You can also access it through the social security’s digital platform. Once you’ve logged in, all you have to do is fill in the details and upload the required paperwork. The portal will also allow you to estimate the amount of money you will receive, and the length of the parental leave according to the expected date of birth.

However, if you don’t have login details for [email protected], you can still do your application online through the social security website.

By post

If you would rather send the physical documents in the post, this is still possible. You can download, fill out the application and send it to your the branch of INSS (Instituto Nacional de la Seguridad Social). You can search for the address and phone number here.

In person

Finally, you can also go to your local Social Security Information and Attention Centre (CAISS) by prior appointment and fill out an application form there.

Which documents do I need to include?

In any case, you will have to provide the necessary paperwork. These include:

  • The application form, which you can find here. Here’s a PDF version.
  • ID of the parents (DNI, passport or NIE)
  • If you’re an employee, a certificate from your employer with the start date of the parental leave. This won’t be necessary if it has already been submitted by your employer.
  • A maternity form from your doctor
  • Your libro de familia: The marriage and baby booklet in which all births are recorded is in the process of going digital, but phasing out this century-old document will take time. For now, the Ministry of Justice has said it will continue issuing paper copies.

Other documents may be necessary depending on the circumstances. In case of adoption, you will need to include the required judicial documents establishing the adoption or granting foster care. If prior travel to the country of origin of the adopted child is necessary, you will also need documentation issued by the competent body of your autonomous community.

Who is eligible for extra leave?

Leave can be extended by one week per child in case of a multiple birth, and an extra week can also be applied for if the baby is born with a disability or health problems.

If the baby is premature or has to be hospitalised for longer than seven days, leave can be extended for up to an additional 13 weeks.