"What's best? The education and health systems are so accessible"

Describe your roll at the company, and briefly your background / experience of living and working in other countries.

– I am from South Africa and I am a Marie Curie Fellow, currently undertaking a PhD at the Biomedicine Institute at Gothenburg University in Sweden after having been awarded an Initial Training Network (ITN) grant. My previous education include a BSc Honours (Medicine) Biochemistry, and a Master’s Degree from the University of Cape Town as well as a Bachelor Degree and National Diploma in Biomedical Technology from Cape Peninsula University of Cape Town.

What expectations did you have before moving to Sweden?

– I first visited Sweden in 2011 for a research collaboration project. Prior to the trip to Sweden, I had a brief understanding of the Swedish culture. My first impression was that everything was expensive; the weather was very cold, wet and dark. The language was too hard to understand, and funny too.

– I never imagined that I would stay in Sweden, although the prospect of me pursuing a PhD in Sweden or any other country, besides my own, would have been a positive move for my career. People seemed cold, kept to themselves and did not speak to each other, at least in my observation.

How did it turn out?

– When I finally moved to Sweden, I realised that there was more to Sweden than the cold weather. Sweden is one of the best countries to raise children, and the working parents have a great opportunity to take care of their children while pursuing their careers. The Swedish society creates a conducive environment for families such that they can live a balanced lifestyle.

What is the best thing about living in Sweden?

– The education and health systems are accessible. I strongly believe that education and health are human rights, and not a commodity and nor a privilege. I think that Sweden has gotten this right, because if you have an educated and health-catered society, you will have a prosperous nation. For me that is the best thing about Sweden.

Would you recommend others to move here?

– I would recommend anyone to move to Sweden, as long they know what they want in life.  Sweden is not a “one size fit all” country; some might find it difficult to live in Sweden due to the weather and other factors. All in all, it is a great country to live in.

What do you think of Sweden in regard to equality and other social aspects?

– Sweden is very progressive when it comes to the issues of equality. Raising a child here is not solely the responsibility of women; both parents are provided with opportunities which make it possible for them to stay at home and care for their children. As parents of 4, all under 8 years in age, my husband and I appreciate that we are in a country where we can both pursue our careers and still invest time to raise our small children. Having said that, it has not always been that easy to jugle between parenting and pursuing career.

In your opinion, which is the most beautiful place in Sweden?

– I like Gothenburg city, it’s not big neither small, with beautiful Archipelagos. It reminds me of a city back in South Africa; Cape Town. Both cities are the second biggest cities in their countries and both have that layback atmosphere.

Which is the best Swedish tradition?

– The Swedes have an amazing culture of FIKA, this is when everyone at work, church etc  take  a little break to drink coffee, an opportunity to engage with other people.

Yolanda Mthembu, PhD Candidate

University of Gothenburg (Sahlgrenska Academy)