Aussies in Sweden

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EMERGENCY AND MEDICAL CARE

EMERGENCY NUMBERS

Emergency Number for ALL services is 112. This is a central number for all of Sweden. The operator will connect you to the appropriate service 24 hours a day

There is a website for Polisen, with information also available in English. They advise that in an emergency you should phone 112. Note that the emergency number is for use only when an immediate response is required. Use this number to contact the police in situations where a crime is happening now or if anyone is in immediate danger.

In non-emergency situations you should usually contact the local police in the area where the crime has occurred. To contact your local police you should either phone them or go to the nearest police station that has a front office open to the public. You can get a full list of addresses from the website. It's a good idea to be familiar with the location and opening hours of your nearest station.

Ambulance - Again, dial the emergency number 112. The service available depends on what the kommun in your area has arranged. There is no equivalent service such as the St John Ambulance in Sweden. Some kommuner run their own service, others buy services from companies

SOS Alarm The SOS Alarm company has contracts for local rescue services with most of the local authorities in Sweden.(S) (E)

Poison centre In an emergency, dial 08-33 12 31. Operators speak English. The Swedish Poison Information Centre has a site Giftinformation. (S) (E) This organisation also provides a poster (available at the BVC or by calling 08-33 12-31) with instructions on how to handle the various poisonings your child may encounter. It is a good resource to have in that it provides an exhaustive list of the various chemicals your child is likely to ingest and the actions you should take depending on the substance ingested.

Women's Shelters ROKS is the National Organisation for Women's Shelters and Young Women's Shelters in Sweden. There is information and help available in English. There is a great deal of support for battered women and police in Sweden treat the reports very seriously. ROKS is an independent non-profit feminist organisation co-ordinating the work of Sweden's shelters for women subjected to violence from men they know. (S) (E)

Terrafem run the only help line service for immigrant women. The number for that service is (020-52 10 10). The website shows who they are, what services they offer and where to go for help. They are a non-profit organisation that works for the right of women of all ages to live in a society without the violence and abuse of men. (E)

Useful Words:

Accident = Olycka

Ambulance = Ambulans
Dentist = Tandläkare
Doctor = Läkare
Chemist = Apotek
Emergency = Nödfall
Firebrigade = Brandkår
Hospital = Sjukhus
Poison = Gift
Police = Polis
Rescue Service = Räddningstjänst

Australian Embassy The Australian Embassy in Stockholm is open for queries from 8.30 am to 4.50pm. You can go to the embassy at Sergels Torg 12, 11th or contact by phone: +46 (08) 613 29 00 or by Fax: +46 (08) 24 74 14. There is an after hours emergency number. Check this page if you need emergency consular assistance.

Swedish Association for Victim Support or Brottsofferjouren aims to create the preconditions for centres for victim support to be set up in every police district. (S)

MEDICAL CARE

Seeing a doctor The great thing about the Swedish system is that medical care is available to everyone. Care facilities are located in nearly every neighbourhood, and except for some isolated areas of Norrland, they are usually easily accessible. The Swedish medical care system grew from a hospital-based background during the previous century, so there is no equivalent of the family doctor as we have in Australia. You are assigned a doctor through your local clinic (vårdcentralen). The doctor is assigned to you based on your address, though it can be possible to request a doctor that has English speaking skills. All appointments are made by phone through a nurse who assesses the urgency of your case and assigns a time.

To find out where your clinic is, you can use the telephone book. Locate your region and look at the information listed. If it includes a number under "Upplysning", that is the number you call to find out which heath care clinic you belong to. If you are inStockholm, you can also check out the Vårdguiden.

Doctors are free for children, but adults must currently pay 120kr.

Vårdcentalen centres usually include general practitioners, district nurses, a lab for simple tests, and physiotherapists. They also often include pre- and postnatal clinics (mödravårdcentralen).

Safety Net or High Cost Protection (or hökostnadsskyddet) - provides a cost limit for your health care. There is a ceiling to how much you must pay for health care during one year. The first time you visit a health care provider, ask for a card (högkostnadskort för sjukvård), which you get stamped every time you pay for a visit. If you forget to bring your card, keep your receipt and have it stamped the next time. But you do need the receipt as proof. When you have paid a total of SEK 900 in fees, you should ask for a free card (frikort). This card is valid for the remaining part of the year, counted from the first day when you paid a fee. You can start counting your costs whenever you want to during the year- you're not bound to a calendar year. Children under age 18 in the same family are counted together. You can read about it in Swedish from Landstingets Kansli (S)

Want an English speaking doctor? Most doctors speak English in Sweden. But if you feel you must have a native English speaker, you can check these lists to help you find somebody. There is a list at Parentnet (though it may be old) In Stockholm, there is also a private suite of doctors at Sophiahemmet who all speak excellent English. A full list is also available in the free booklet -Läkare Tandläkare 2005- available at any Apoteket which is updated every year. List of diseases You can use the Karolinska Medical dictionary to translate English to Swedish medical terms. There is also a medical dictionary here, but it is only in Swedish. However it does explain the symptoms in simple language.

Gynaecology, Pre and postnatal care. If you are pregnant, contact the nearest pre-natal care centre (Mödravårdscentral) (listed in the telephone book under "Barnmorskemottagning"). You will be assigned to a mid-wife who will meet with you on a regular basis throughout your pregnancy. If you are not happy with the mid-wife assigned to you, you can ask to be assigned to another one. These centres can also assist with birth control counselling, contraception, pregnancy tests, abortions, pap smears and advice about menopause. Visits are free of charge.

Mothers and Babies Clinics These clinics are called Barnavårdscentral (BVC) and are listed in the blue pages of the telephone book under that name. They run a lot like the clinics in Australia. You can have children weighed and measured and/or talk to a family health nurse. She will make doctor appointments for check-ups and immunisation injections. She also has telephone hours each day when you can call for advice. The BVC waiting room, by the way, is another good place to meet other mothers in the neighbourhood.

If your child has a contagious sickness, don't come into the clinic, but phone the nurse and she will refer you to the proper clinic. All BVC services (including immunisation and doctor's fees are free).

Immunisations Note that the timing of the childhood immunisation shots are a little different from Australia, though still within the WHO guidelines. If you intend to return to Australia, you may want to ensure that your child's are -up-to-date- by Australian standards. You can check the Australian immunisation schedule here

Blood Donation You will need to have a person number, be aged between 18 and 60 and be able to speak reasonable Swedish before you can donate blood, as you need sufficient fluency to read and be able to fill out the forms. But it's easy and who knows, you may get to save a life. You can read about it in Swedish or English.

Vitamin D Babies and children under two years of age need to take Vitamin D drops daily to supplement the lack of daylight during the darker months from August to May. For children under two years of age, these are provided free from your doctor or family health nurse. It is recommended that all children under 5 years take these drops.

Aids and HIV Noah's Ark - Red Cross Foundation was founded to prevent the spread of HIV, the human immune deficiency virus, and simultaneously to support people who are infected and ill, as well as their nearest and dearest. (S) (E)

Mental Health Riksförbundet för social och mental hälsa (RSMH) is a non-political, non-religious organisation, founded by those who have experienced mental illness. (S)

Dementia National Association for the Rights of Dementia Sufferers or Demensförbundet protects the interests of those suffering from dementia and of those of their relatives.

Aphasia Swedish Aphasia Society or Afasiförbundet is the national organisation for people living with Aphasia and their relatives. (S)

Haemophilia Swedish Haemophilia Society or Förbundet blödarsjuka i Sverige (FBIS) is the organisation for Swedish haemophiliacs, their relatives and supporting people. (S) (E)

Alternative Medicine There is a range of homeopathic services available. You can get information about these services from Alternativmedicin. (S)

Chiropractors I know of an excellent English speaking chiropractor in Stockholm. Her name is Eva Eastwood and her clinic is at Sveavägen 13-15 (T-bana: Hötorget). Tel 08-566 145 66. The cost (if you have a person#), is subsidised by the government for the first five visits. (Marie N)

In Helsingborg, there is an American trained chiropractor Annette Sikén, 042-125299

In Göteborg you can contact Dr. Brian Bungum, Tel. 031-286446

DEPRESSION

I have put this in a separate heading as it is one of the commonest medical conditions that expats seek advice about. It's not easy to move to a new country. All the new things: new language, culture, food, shopping experiences, clothing sizes, public transportation etc is sometimes overwhelming. And then there is the long distance from friends and family as well as the feeling of isolation and in winter, the darkness. (Marie)

You are not alone! You can discuss these with your doctor of course, but there are also some support groups that might help.

Counsellors There is an English-speaking clinic in Stockholm called Anxious or Blue. This is run by an American, David Schultz, who trained in the States. The clinic is at Hälsans Hus (House of Health), Fjällgatan 23 A (T-bana: Slussen) Tel: 08-93 81 48. The direct phone times are Mondays and Thursdays between 7.30am and 8.15am and messages can be left at other times. David works with all kinds of psychological disorders and is highly recommended by several cross-cultural families I know. Another American who works here is Beth Rogerson who offers family, marriage and individual counselling at Katarina Psykoterapigruppen at Katarina Bangata 56 (T-bana: Skanstull). The phone number is 08-55 80 12 66.

Support Group for Women This group meets at the Turning Point Counselling center and is both for women who are new to Sweden and those that are beginning to miss the support network back home. An informal friendly meeting place to make new friends, find support, share your experiences and help you make the most of your stay here. More details from Lysanne Sizoo at http://www.eng.turning-point.se

Support Group for Women This group meets every other Wednesday evening (even weeks) at Åsögatan 155, Södermalm (T-bana Medborgarplatsen - Bus 3 and 76). It is primarily for women who are new to Sweden.  An informal friendly meeting place to make new friends, find support, share your experiences and help you make the most of your stay here. More details from Lysanne Sizoo at Awatea Counselling

Winter Depression This is a common problem for both new comers and for Swedes themselves. It is a debilitating condition (often known by the acronym SAD - Seasonal Affective Disorder). It is induced by the lack of sunlight during the winter months. This problem is particularly encountered in Scandinavia where there are only a few hours of sunlight per day. It is more common among women, especially women who have not grown up in this environment.

It is characterised by a feeling of sadness or depression which begins in the late autumn and lasts into the winter. People report trouble sleeping and a feeling of tiredness and lethargy. It eases off as the lighter days of spring arrive. The treatment is to get outside every day for at least one hour during the lighter hours. For more serious cases, there are light treatment centres, as well as special full-spectrum lights you can buy for home use. We purchased a Philips Bright Light Energy HF3305 for 2,000kr which has helped a lot. Recently, a new one in a convenient small size has become available in Sweden. There is information and ordering details in both Swedish and English at Litebook. The herb St.John's Wort has also been recommended as a helpful remedy and is available from health food stores. You can read information about it, and lists of practitioners who offer light therapy in Sweden here (S) and there are now light therapy cafés (E) opening in bigger cities.

Suicide There is a national helpline at 020-22 00 60. The website is at SPES. The site is in Swedish only, but operators DO understand English.

URINARY TRACT INFECTIONS

This also deserves a separate heading as many Australian women, unused to the cold climate in Sweden succumb to these infections easily.

The symptoms of UTI, cystitis or bladder infections are not easy to miss and include a strong urge to urinate that cannot be delayed, followed by a sharp pain or burning sensation in the urethra when the urine is released. Most often very little urine is released and the urge to urinate recurs quickly and soreness may occur in the lower abdomen, back, or sides.

There are some easy steps you can take to help prevent these infections. Apart from the advice you can read on the website above, in Sweden you will also need to:

(1) Keep your kidney, bladder areas warm (so wear a coat that covers you well against draughts and chill).

(2) Women who have been brought up here also know that you ought not sit on a cold surface, so avoid the ground, cold outdoor seats, concrete ledges etc unless you have something between you and the seat. A newspaper is okay at a pinch, but even better is the special underlays they sell here. Liggunderlag is widely available in camping sections of department stores. You can also buy an inexpensive foldable Sittplatta at Clas Ohlson (Product Nr. 34-1572) that easily slips into a pocket or handbag.

(3) Drink cranberry juice every day. There is evidence that it prevents the bacteria from sticking to the walls of the bladder. The juice is readily available in 1 litre containers at the supermarket. It's called tranbär in Swedish.

I had one bad UTI for the first time in my life soon after I arrived in Sweden. Since taking the above steps, I have had no further attacks and recommend every Aussie woman here to try it out - it's easy to do and far less of a hassle than going to the doctor and getting antibiotics! (Marie)

DENTAL CARE

Dentist Or tandläkare. Dentists and dental care are not included in the medical care system. Dental care for children is free up to the age of 16 and annual check-up appointments are given to resident children from 3 years of age. However, for adults, dental services are prohibitively expensive. You can choose from the national service at Folktandvården or most towns also have private dentists. The national clinics have an excellent reputation. Note that if you are a new patient there is often a long waiting list. If it is an emergency, however, it can usually be fixed within a week. A check-up with cleaning and x-rays can cost between 500 and 1000 SEK. Be sure to talk to your dentist about costs before having any major work done!

Dental Costs You can go into this site at Tandvården and get an estimate of how much it will cost you. If you are between 20 and 29 years of age or 65 and older it is a little cheaper.

DISABLED CARE

Organisations of Disabled People or Handikappförbundens samarbetsorgan (HSO) acts as an umbrella body for 33 disability organizations with approximately 400,000 individual members. (S)

Federation of Disabled Persons or De handikappades riksförbund (DHR) is a democratic, non-political and non-religious organisation which organises physically disabled persons all over Sweden with a lot of information. (S) (E)

Swedish Handicap Institute or Handikappinstitutet (HI) seeks to improve the quality of life for people with disabilities. Its major tasks are to ensure access to high quality and well-functioning aids and to work for greater access to community life. (S) (E)

Independent Living Institute or IL! offers online services and information to people with disabilities. This includes such things as training materials, technical assistance, advocacy and peer support. (S) (E)

The Social Co-Operative Project or Sociala kooperativ projektet The goal of the project is to stimulate the municipalities in Sweden to take initiatives in starting work co-operatives with psychically disabled and other people outside the ordinary labour market. (S) (E)

Disabled Children Swedish National Association for Disabled Children and Young People
Riksförbundet för Rörelsehindrade Barn och Ungdomar (RBU) is the Swedish association for disabled children and their families. (S) (E)

SURVIVAL TIPS FOR THE MEDICAL SYSTEM

Don't despair! It can all be worked out. I've had some really positive experiences in the Swedish health care system, some that were so-so and I've heard of horrible experiences. But there are some tips that can help you get the most out of the experience: (Marie)

Be prepared! Find out where to get care before you need it. Find out where to go for emergencies before you have an emergency. Ask neighbours or friends where the nearest primary care centre (vårdcentral) and chemist (apotek) are located. Visit the care centre and find out how its emergency visits work. At most centres, you can come early in the morning and see a doctor for a quick visit. Good for your child's earache and other things that can't wait. Ask if you can sign up for a GP (husläkare) and make an initial visit. Ask which hospital you should go to for emergency care (akutmottagning).

Landstingsguiden (also called landstingskatalogen) is a publication that is delivered to every household in your county. Ours is called -Nynäshamns Guiden. It lists all the care facilities, phone numbers, and addresses in the area. It is not available in English. To receive a copy, call your kommun. There are also listings in the blue pages of the phone book.

Take a friend with you On visits to the doctor or others, take a friend with you. If you have a friend who is competent in Swedish that's great. (In principle, you have a legal right to an interpreter. But I have never been able to get one because there is a general -- mistaken -- impression that everyone knows English.) If you don't have Swedish-speaking friends, anyone will do. Besides having someone to wait with and help you figure out where to go, etc., health care personnel are more likely to give you more time and more respect if there are two people. Safety in numbers. And then you will have another person to help you remember what the doctor said!

CHEMISTS

Apoteket is the Swedish word for chemist. They have a website at Apoteket, which has seasonal advice, locations of chemists and information about medicines. It is in Swedish only.

Be prepared for a shock. Queues are always long and the dizzying array of over the counter medicine we are used to seeing in Australia is simply not available here, except by prescription. You can only buy analgesics at Apoteket (not in supermarkets). The opening times vary, but are generally short. There are very few open -after hours-.

Painkillers - Panadol - is called Alvedon in Sweden. If you require something with an anti-inflammatory properties, Ipren is very good as is the generic (and cheaper alternative) of Ibumetin. Anything with codeine (like -Panadeine-) in it will require a doctor's prescription (recept).

Cough medicine This is only available by prescription. And the same applies to the normal Aussie over-the-counter preparations like cold and flu tablets (such as Codral). In Sweden, you'll have to -soldier on- without it! Local forkylnings brus tablets can be a good defence against colds.

Period pain This was a real shock to me. My good old stand-by, Naprogesic (called Naprosin in Sweden), is only available on a doctor's prescription here. And doctors are reluctant to prescribe anything for period pain, so if you rely on it, bring plenty from Australia and beg your friends to buy it when they go home for trips.

Prescription Medication Many Australian medicines are available in Sweden, although under a different name. But not always. If you are looking for a particular one, take the packet into the Apotek and ask if they have something similar by checking the ingredients list. Likewise question the doctor if you have a special medication. If you rely on medicine for a chronic illness, make sure that it is available in Sweden before you come here. You can check here by calling Läkemedelsupplysningen at Apoteket on tel. 020-66 77 66 (day or night) or check out on the Apoteket site or the FASS site.

Other sites that can help:

Internet Medical Search This is a medical search engine that offers a service which translates foreign drug names into their generic terms and lists every speck of information about them. A very useful resource if you need to search for the active ingredient to show your doctor or apoteket. (E)

Läkemedelsverket.  The Medical Products Agency lists drugs that are available in Sweden. You can ring, write to or email them with queries that you may have over the availability of a particular drug here. They usually answer very promptly. If a patient is in need of a drug not available in Sweden, there is a possibility for the doctor, through Apoteket, to apply to MPA for permission to prescribe the drug. As a patient you get an ordinary prescription that should be handed in to Apoteket, who will order the product to Sweden

Safety Net or High Cost Protection Like Australia, Sweden has a system of Högkostnadsskyddet (read about it at the Apoteket site). It provides publicly funded protection for high costs so that everyone can afford medication. It is a step-by-step system, but the upper limit of spending in a 12 month period is SEK 1800. If you spend more than that on medication in a 12 month period, future medication will be free for the rest of the 12 month period. In order to benefit from this, you must have a person number and be resident in Sweden.

Part Payment This system is known as Delbetalning (read about it at the Apoteket site). It enables you to pay for your medication over a whole year. You are billed for a twelfth of what you owe, plus a handling fee of SEK 9 each month. There is a maximum of SEK 150 per month. You must be over 18 and resident in Sweden to be part of the scheme. Application forms are available from Apoteket.

DRUG AND ALCOHOL ABUSE

National Association for Aid to Drug Abusers or Riksförbundet för hjälp åt narkotika- och läkemedelsberoende (RFHL) has spent more than 30 years helping people in the battle against social exclusion, drug abuse, humiliation and addiction. (S) (E)

IOGT-NTO The IOGT-NTO movement is one of the largest non-government organisations in Sweden working in the field of alcohol and drug abuse. (S) (E)

Swedish Council for Information on Alcohol and other Drugs or Centralförbundet för alkohol och narkotikaupplysning (CAN) has information on alcohol and other drugs with 47 non-governmental organisations as members. Covers a wide range and has a lot of very useful data. (S) (E)

Swedish National Association for a Drug Free Societyor Riksförbundet narkotikafritt samhälle (RNS) is a Swedish popular movement campaigning against illicit drugs, founded. Its main role is to lobby for a restrictive drug policy in Sweden. (S)

Young Minds is a project in which Czech, Danish, Macedonian and Swedish students are using the Internet and international collaboration in order to explore links between youth, culture, and health, including issues of drug and alcohol abuse. (E)

FUNERAL CUSTOMS

When faced with my first death of a family friend here in Sweden, I sought help from some more experienced expats about the dos and don'ts of death and funerals here in Sweden. I wondered if there was a protocol I needed to observe. The sort of questions I needed an answer to were:
Should I send a condolence card or is that not done?
Is a personal note better?
Do I go and see my friend to offer condolence?
Does one send flowers in Sweden?
Is the funeral for family or can others go?
What happens at funerals and is there a dress code?

Death is a part of life A Canadian woman here sent me this link and it covers many of the questions I asked about. Other useful tips were that if you attend the funeral, you will need to bring a flower. The most common is a red or white rose although others colours and flowers are popular now. In Australia this is provided by the funeral director, but in Sweden you need to fix this yourself. Dress code is dark clothing.


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