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The International Student Guide

In this guide we have gathered information that we hope is useful for you as an international student who intend to study at Umeå University and for you who have already begun your studies.

Welcome Fair
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Welcome Fair, September 2015.

PhotoUlrika Bergfors

At home

  • Immigration regulations

    We have gathered a few pointers concerning immigration regulations that you should check up on before you plan to travel internationally. For further information, you should contact the embassy in your home country or the Swedish Migration Agency directly.

    EU/EEA citizens

    As an EU/EEA citizen you have the right of residence in Sweden and may study without a residence permit.

    Non-EU citizens

    If you are going to study for a period longer than three months you will need a residence permit. To obtain one you have to be admitted to full-ti­me studies. You can apply for a residence permit through the Migration Agency's webpage or send your appli­cation by post. If you apply online, the Migration Agency can start to work on your application right away.


    Do you need a visa? For studies that are shorter than three months, citizens in certain countries must have an entry visa. If you are unsure whether you will need a visa to enter Sweden, you can consult the Swedish Government's list.

    How to apply for a residence permit

    List of foreign citizens who require Visa for entry into Sweden

    Swedish embassies and consulates

    Processing time for student permits

    The time it takes for you to receive a decision depends on factors including which kind of permit you are applying for and if the Migration Agency needs more information from you.

    If your application does not require any supplementary information or additional administration it fulfils the requirements for a quick decision. If you need to supplement your application the Migration Agency will contact you.

    It is very important that all students who need a visa/residence permit to enter Sweden, start the application process as soon as they receive their Notification of Selection results.

    Please note! If you have to pay tuition fees for your studies, this payment must have reached Umeå University before the Migration Agency will process your application.

    Work and study

    You may work over the same period as the residence permit. You do not need a special work permit. When you apply for work, you need to include copies of documents that show that you have the right to stay and work in Sweden. You also need to bring your residence permit card with you. The person that hires you will ask for a copy of the documents and will notify the Tax Agency of your employment.

  • Insurance

    As a student at the university you are covered by a personal injury insurance. Exchange students and fee-paying students are covered by a group insurance policy.

    We recommend you to look over your insurance coverage before you arrive in Sweden. If the insurances below are not sufficient you should take out your own insurance policy.

    Exchange students (Student IN)

    Student IN provides exchange students insurance cover twenty-four hours a day in Sweden. 'Exchange student' means a student who studies in Sweden in accordance with an exchange or acceptance agreement between the Swedish educational institution and a foreign educational institution.
    Student IN

    Tuition fee paying students (FAS Plus)

    FAS Plus provides cover to all foreign students who are accepted to, and undertake, higher education at the university or college and who pay term fees for the education. The insurance also provides coverage for students who have been granted scholarships.

    International students outside of formal agreements (Personal injury insurance)

    International students are covered by a personal injury insurance policy. The insurance policy applies in Sweden and provides students with an accident cover during study hours, and direct travel in between the university and the students home.
    Personal injury insurance

    European Health Insurance Card

    All EU citizens should make sure that they bring a European Health Insurance card. If you have the card you can prove that you are entitled to emergency care at the ordinary fee. If you do not have a card, you may have to pay the entire cost.

    If you obtain non-emergency care and do not want to pay more than the fee, you must have a certificate indicating that your country of origin will pay the rest. If you do not have such a certificate, you will be responsible for the entire cost.

    Personal ID number

    If you are going to study in Sweden for more than 1 year you may be eligible for a Swedish Personal ID number (civic registration number). In order to obtain an ID number, you need to be nationally registered in Sweden. Once you have this number, you are entitled to health care on the same terms as a Swedish citizen regardless of your nationality. If your residence permit is for less than a year and you are not nationally registered in Sweden, you are not entitled to this health care. In the latter case, you must check the agreements between your home country and Sweden or get an insurance that will cover the costs for your health care while you are in Sweden.

    Home Insurance

    We advise you to purchase home or renters insurance for your stay in Umeå. If something is stolen from your room, or if your or your landlord's property is damaged/lost during your rental period, you are responsible for covering the repair or replacement costs. If you have home insurance in your home country, make sure that you are still covered during the time that you are in Sweden. Labor and repair costs are quite high in Sweden and even a small amount of damage can quickly add up to several thousand kronors in expenses.

    Helpful sites

    Legal, Financial and Administrative Services Agency
    Study In Sweden
    Insurance passport for students

  • Money and Budget

    How high is the cost of living in Umeå? How do I get access to my money once I am in Sweden? How can I finance my time in Umeå? We are sure you have many questions, so let us try to answer a few of them.

    How much Money do you need?

    Although student budgets varies in relation to lifestyle and priorities, you should not count on being able to live on less than SEK 8190 a month, which is the minimum amount stated by the Swedish Migration Agency. This sum is also slightly less than what Swedish students live on. Therefore, before you leave home, make sure that you are able to financing your stay. It will save you a great deal of unnecessary stress and contribute to a much more enjoyable exchange experience.

    Financing your stay

    As a student at a Swedish university you are allowed to take up part-time work during the terms, without having to acquire a separate work permit. Getting a job is not always that easy though, especially when you do not speak Swedish. Employing students for odd jobs around the university is not an established practice in the way that it is in many other countries. With this in mind, we do not advise you to expect to finance your stay by working during your study period in Sweden.

    The university does not offer any financial aid of any kind to foreign students so you will depend on your own funding.

    Helpful sites

    Western Union

  • Things to think about

    What can I bring through customs? How should I dress for the Swedish climate? Do I need to bring an adapter? As you prepare to travel to a foreign country it is easy to forget about the little practical things that might be different from your home country. Here are a few pointers that are good to keep in mind before you leave for Umeå.


    It might be wise to check the customs restrictions on items like electronics, alcohol, tobacco and biological materials. Remember, alcoholic beverages may only be brought in by a person who is at least 20 years old, tobacco can only be brought in by a person who is 18 years of age. If you are uncertain, refer to the Swedish customs or ask at the embassy before you leave home.
    Swedish customs (Tullverket)

    Electricity and Compatibility

    If you plan to bring a laptop, it may be necessary for you to make sure that you have arranged adapters and/or converters for your laptop. This way you can avoid problems with your laptop in Sweden.

    If you are planning on bringing your mobile phone with you to Sweden, make sure that it is not locked to a specific operator (since it gets very expensive to call with your domestic operator in another country). In addition, make sure that your phone operates on the same system as the Swedish ones (not a problem within the EU, but may be an issue for overseas students).

    In Sweden, the current from wall outlets is 220 volts, 50 cycles (Hz), rather than the 110 volts that you may be familiar with at home. The outlets or plugs might also be different. Therefore, in order to use your computer, electric razor, hair dryer, mobile phone charger and so on, you may have to use an adapter and/or converter. We advise you to buy these items in your home country as it can be difficult to find adapters for other systems than the Swedish system here in Umeå.

    Preparing for the climate

    We advise students from warmer climates not to try to buy warm clothes at home for the winter in Umeå. It is possible that the clothes that you buy will not be what you need once you arrive in Umeå, and especially if you have no previous experience of dressing for cold climates. It would be better if you budgeted for buying a few well chosen winter items once you get here.

    How you do things in Sweden

  • Buddy Programme

    Arriving in a new country can be exciting, but can also give rise to difficulties. The Buddy Programme provides a helping hand as you settle down and get to know student life. The International Office at Umeå University organises the Buddy Programme as a service for international students.

    Buddies are students at Umeå University who volunteer to introduce you to the Swedish way of life. As a participant in the Buddy Programme, you will be part of a buddy group that consists of approximately 8-10 buddies and 25-30 international students. The Buddy Programme involves the possibility to participate in a variety of fun social activities, for example sports, parties and travel, or just having a cup of coffee with your group members.

    As an international student at Umeå University, the International Office invites you to participate in our Buddy Programme. You and the other students decide what you would like to do within the framework of the Buddy Programme. To attend the activities arranged within the Buddy Programme you need to enroll.

    How do I apply?

    Up until the first day of the term it is recommended that you apply for the Buddy Programme by filling out the Buddy Programme application form.

    If you want to apply thereafter you should send an e-mail to


Getting to Umeå

  • Travel directions


    Umeå Airport is located only a few kilometres from Umeå University. If you make a stopover in another city on the way you need to find out if your luggage is checked through to Umeå, or if you need to bring it through customs yourself.


    If you are flying and need to transfer between airports, or if you arrive in Stockholm by a different means of transport than you will travel further with, it is important that you plan how long it will take you to get from one travel center/airport to another.

    Transfer times from one travel center/airport to another Transfers Transfer time
    Skavsta Airport - Stockholm City Terminal (Airport bus) 1 hour 20 minutes
    Arlanda Airport - Stockholm City Terminal (Airport bus) 40 minutes
    Arlanda Airport - Stockholm City Terminal (Arlanda Express train) 20 minutes
    Bromma Airport - Stockholm City Terminal (Airport bus) 20 minutes


    The train companies that services Umeå are SJ and Norrtåg. There are overnight trains and day trains, with some connecting to bus lines. Umeå East (Umeå Östra) railway station is located near the University Hospital, adjacent to Campus Umeå.

    There are several buses servicing Umeå every day. Y-bussen takes you from Stockholm to Umeå, the trip takes around nine hours. When the bus reaches Umeå it will stop in the city centre, a few kilometres from the university.


    If you plan to drive to Umeå you should take the driving conditions into account. Winter tires are required during the winter season because snow and ice cover the roads.


    The ferry company servicing the route Umeå – Vasa (in Finland) is Wasaline. The trip takes approximately four hours. You will arrive in Holmsund by the coast, about 15 kilometres from Umeå. From there you can arrange for a taxi to take you into the city or the university.

  • Tips when traveling

    Perhaps you are a seasoned traveler, in which case you probably do not need the information on this page. However, if you do not have much experience traveling outside your own country, you might take a moment to look at the travel tips offered below.

    • Carry a small amount of the relevant currency for each country that you stop in during your journey. Credit Cards are not always accepted in the food courts and convenience stores at airports.
    • Keep your hand luggage with you at all times and keep money, credit cards, passport, tickets and other valuables in a safe place. Try not to openly show where you keep these items and try to avoid using large bills when you shop.
    • Check the weight limitations for luggage for all the legs of your journey. The weight restrictions may vary between different travel carriers and countries.
    • Check with your air carrier if they will ship the luggage all the way to Umeå. It is likely you will have to carry your luggage through customs.
    • Familiarize yourself with the custom regulations. Items or medicine you are used to carrying in your home country may not be legal to take through customs in Sweden.
    • Provide your family with your travel itinerary just in case something happens during your journey.

Arriving in Umeå

  • Getting to the University

    The university is easily accessible from most arrival points in Umeå. If you are a student of Umeå School of Architecture, Umeå Institute of Design or Umeå Academy of Fine Arts you will need to locate Umeå Arts Campus down by the riverbank.

    Airport shuttle

    Take the airport shuttle (bus no. 80) to the university. The bus leaves every 20 minutes during peak traffic time. The trip to campus takes about 15 minutes.

    Arriving by long distance bus or train

    The train station, Umeå Östra, is located on the opposite side of the main entrance to the hospital with only a few minutes walking distance to the university campus.

    By local bus

    The main bus stop in Umeå is called Vasaplan. From there it is easy to take a local bus to the university campus. The trip takes about 10 minutes and you can get off the bus at "Umeå Universitetssjukhuset" (University Hospital) or "Universum".
    Local buses

  • Finding your accommodation

    If you are an exchange student or a tuition fee-paying student and have housing through the International Housing Office, you will receive an Offer of Housing. The offer will specify the recommended arrival date and give you detailed information on where to go to sign your contract and pick up your keys.
    Arriving and moving in

    If you do not have housing through the International Housing Office you should make arrangements with your landlord in advance. Make sure you know who to speak to and where to go to pick up your keys and sign your contract. The person responsible usually only work during regular office hours and may not be available during weekends.
    Bostaden Area Landlord

    Student Housing Areas

  • Things to do on Arrival

    We know that you will have many things to sort out when you arrive in Umeå. The following information includes advice to help you with what you need to take care of.

    Reporting your arrival

    There is no need to notify the central administration of your arrival. You should follow the instructions from your department regarding course registrations. If you have questions regarding your courses/programme on your arrival, please turn to the contact person stated on the course web page.

    Getting a Personal identity number

    A Swedish personal identity number is obtained when you are registered in the Swedish population register. You need to be admitted to studies that last for more than 12 months to do so.

    To receive a personal ID number in Sweden:
    EU-citizens need to have the intention of staying in Sweden for a year or more to be given a Swedish Personal ID number. To acquire it, bring your passport and personally visit a Tax Office and they will help you.

    Non EU-citizen need to have a residence permit for a period of at least one full year to be given a Swedish Personal ID number. Bring your notification of admission, residence permit and passport and personally visit the Tax Agency and they will help you.

    Currency exchange

    Foreign currency is exchanged at Forex. The regular banks do not handle currency exchange. Forex has an Umeå office in the city centre.

  • Orientation

    Moving to a new country with an unfamiliar language, culture and customs can be a challenge. We would like to help you and ease that challenge so that you can focus on your studies. Therefore, we would like to offer you the possibility to take part in our Orientation, which begins before the start of each term.

    The Orientation consists of a series of lectures and activities that are designed to help you to become acquainted with life in Umeå and studies at our university. The course also offers a great opportunity to meet new people and make new friends. We strongly recommend that you arrive in time to take part in the Orientation Course.

  • Student cards

    When studying at Umeå University, you will need a UmU card for accessing buildings, borrowing books at the library and copying and printing. If you become a member of a student union you may also receive a student card along with your membership.

    UmU card

    When studying at Umeå University, you will need a UmU card, which is a multifunction card for the following functions:

    • Access card (not for NUS premises).
    • Borrowing card for University Library.
    • Copying and printing card, with a cashless payment system for students.

    As a new student at Umeå University, you need to activate your user account before you can get the UmU card. You will then receive an e-mail about how to apply for the UmU card. Once your card has been printed, you pick it up in Infocenter. More information can be found at:
    The UmU Card

    Student union membership

    If you want to be a member of a student union you should, as soon as possible after your arrival, go to the student union associated to your department. You have to show your Notification of Admission when you register with a Student Union.

    Umeå Student Union of Science and Technology - NTK (Faculty of Science & Technology).
    Location: MIT-building (level 3)

    Medical Sciences Student Union (Faculty of Medicine and Odontology).
    Location: The Union Building "Villan" in the Hospital Park (a grey two-storey stone house)
    Medical Sciences Student Union

    Umeå Union of Students (Faculty of Social Sciences, Faculty of Arts and Umeå School of Education).
    Location: Social Sciences Building on the ground floor, close to Lindellhallen.
    Umeå Unions of Students

  • Communications

    Calling home and keeping in touch

    As it is difficult for a non-citizen to acquire a telephone subscription and there is a rather substantial security deposit, most international students do not have a telephone in their room. They settle for a Swedish prepaid SIM card for their mobile phone. SIM cards can be bought everywhere where mobile phones are sold and recharged in the grocery store or on-line. It would be a good idea to have the same operator as your new friends in Umeå because making calls within the net of the same operator is often cheaper than calling other numbers.

    Another option for keeping in touch with family and friends at home is by Skype. As broadband internet is widely available in Umeå and wireless LAN connection is possible in most parts of the campus, this internet-based phone is a cheap and easy way to communicate.

    Internet access and e-mail on campus

    Computers are available for students in all of the buildings on campus. You will find information about where to find the computer labs at your department.

    In order to access the central IT systems at Umeå University, you need a user account to log into our central authentication service, CAS.
    Activate your user account

    Internet access in your accommodation

    All of Bostaden's student housing has broadband internet connection. To gain access to broadband internet you need to sign a separate contract with Bostaden's open network Bostnet (remember that you need to be registered on the first course and accepted as a full-time student to get the student discount), or another operator of your choice. If you do not have a Swedish Personal ID number, it may be difficult to gain access to internet through other companies than Bostnet.

    Note! If you are renting your room through the International Housing Office, the internet connection is included in your contract and should work from the day you move in, but you need to bring your own LAN-cable.

    Sending and receiving parcels and post

    To receive any post at all you need to make sure to put your name on your mail box in your corridor. The name needs to be printed and clearly visible on the front of the mail box.

    You can send and receive packages at kiosks, in grocery stores and at gas stations that display the yellow and blue post office sign. In the regular student housing areas the postal service is handled by Mariehemskiosken (Mariehem Centrum) and the post office at Ålidhem Centrum. If you receive a parcel, a notification slip will be left in your mailbox informing you that you have a package to pick up and where to pick it up from. The slip is written in Swedish, but you should be able to recognise it by way of the post office logo.


Practical Information

  • Medical services and emergencies

    Health centres

    The health centres is where you go to if you need to see a doctor. The health centres for the main student housing areas are situated in Ålidhem and in Mariehem. You always need to call in advance and book an appointment.

    Address: Morkullevägen 9
    Phone: 090 785 44 44
    Emergency number after hours: 090 785 83 12

    Address: Tvistevägen 2
    Phone: 090 785 44 58
    Emergency number after hours: 090 785 81 20

    Health Services

    Medical Advice Line

    If you need medical advice, there is a help line you can call: 1177. You have to pay the regular phone tariff for the call, but the service is free. For information in English press 5. You will get to talk to an actual person, and he or she will speak to you in English.

    The primary care emergency service in Umeå

    The primary care emergence service is located at Ålidhem's health care centre. It is therefore important that you call 1177 for health care advice if you fall ill during the night or weekend so that you can be advised as to the appropriate care service. When you call 1177 you will speak to a nurse who will assess your medical condition. You will be given self care advice or be recommended to go to:

    • Your health care centre the following day.
    • The primary care emergency service at Ålidhem.
    • The emergency room.

    Student Health Service

    The Student Health Service works with health promotion and prevention for students at Umeå University and at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences in Umeå. At the Student Health Service you gan get support in matters relating to your physical, mental and psychosocial health situation. All their services are free of charge. They observe confidentiality. Please note that there is no doctor working at the Student Health Service.
    Student Health Service

    Dental Care

    There are several public and private dentistry clinics in Umeå. The closest one to campus is situated in the University Hospital in connection with the Dentistry School. If you agree to receive treatment from a supervised dentistry student, you can get cheaper treatment.


    In Sweden you have to go to a pharmacy to get all prescription and most non-prescription medication. Sweden is quite restrictive when it comes to medicinal drugs and you will need a prescription to buy a lot of the medication that you might be able to buy without a prescription in other countries. Some non-prescription medications can be bought in supermarkets, convenience stores and gas stations as well. Most health centres have a pharmacy. There is also one at the University Hospital, one in Ålidhem's Centrum and a couple in the centre of Umeå. Most pharmacies are only open during weekdays and regular business hours. If you need to visit a pharmacy during the weekend, the university hospital pharmacy is your best chance.

    In case of emergency

    Sweden uses the European SOS number 112. In case of emergency you can call this number for assistance from the Police, the Fire Service or hospital/ambulance.

    Emergency room
    The emergency room is located under the helicopter pad at the University Hospital. From the central entrance, follow the signs to "Akutmottagningen," which are marked with the red cross symbol.

    Contacting the police

    The police station can be found on Ridvägen 10 on Dragonfältet, which is just west of the center of town. If you need to report a crime or loss of property and it is not an emergency, you can call the national number for the police 114 14.
    The Swedish Police

  • Religion

    Religious organisations on campus

    Kyrkan på Campus (Church on campus), is for both students and staff regardless of beliefs or philosophy. They are bound by professional secrecy and all counselling is free of charge. You will find them in the Natural Sciences building, level 2.

    Religious organisations and places of worship in Umeå

    There are a wide variety of churches and congregations with different Christian denominations throughout Umeå. Most of them can be found through the municipal online organisation register.

  • Student Organisations

    There are a large number of student organisations at Umeå University. On this page we aim to one day have gathered most of them, but for now we can at least present a few. Hopefully you can find one or two that interest you and that can help enrich your social life while you are here in Umeå.


    Are you curious about God or religion in general? Looking for other Christian students or people who want to find out about God? You are welcome to join us in Credo. They organise discussion groups, prayer/worship meetings, lectures, "fika", parties and so on.


    Humlan is a non profit cultural organisation who's main goal is to produce quality musical events, but also cinema and some theatrical events.
    Humlan (page in Swedish)

    Snösvänget - Student orchestra

    Snösvänget is Umeå University's student orchestra. They play everything from jazz to pop, rock and german schlager.

    Student radio station

    The student radio station consists of students producing radio shows for students. You can listen to the student radio via their website or on 102,3 MHz. Some of the programmes are in English, produced by international students.
    Website (in Swedish)

    UPF - Umeå Association for International Affairs

    Umeå Association of International Affairs is a politically and religiously independent non-profit organisation. They aim to increase awareness and promote debate concerning international issues by:

    • Organising lectures once a week on current issues
    • Arranging debates on varied political topics
    • Setting up movie nights and gasques
    • Planning educational trips to different countries
    • Writing, discussing and reflecting on political and global issues

    E-mail: or

    Student pubs

    These are run by students for students. Besides regular pub/club evenings they also arrange other events. As a student you can get involved and volunteer in one of them.

    A Student Pub run by the student association for the Umeås School of Business

    Kårhuset Villan
    The Student Union Building for the Medical Sciences Student Union

    Kårhuset Origo
    The Student Union Building for the Student Union of Science of Technology

  • Transportation

    The main means of transportation for students in Umeå is by bicycle, but it is not always the best way to get around. If you want to find out more about the different forms of transport and ways of getting around in the region, visit the Umeå Tourist Office website.


    Bicycles can be used all year around because there is a very good network of bicycle tracks all over the city. If you do not want to buy a new bicycle, there are used ones at reasonable prices at bicycle shops around Umeå

    It can also be useful to check the online notice boards, Blocket or Lokus (only available in Swedish), and local advertisements on the internet.
    Traffic planning for bicycles in Umeå

    Local buses

    The central terminal for local buses is Vasaplan in the city center. All bus lines are routed through this terminal. It means that if you catch any bus going in the direction of town, you will always be able to get off the bus at Vasaplan. You can catch a bus to any part of town from this terminal. The Travel Information counter for all local buses is also situated at Vasaplan.

    Long distance buses

    The bus station for long distance bus travels is situated in the centre of town at Järnvägstorget 2. For information about timetables and destinations visit Länstrafikens website.

    Please note! Cash is not accepted on buses. You can pay with most credit/debit cards (except for online cards such as Maestro or Visa electron) or buy a ticket at Reseinfo - Travel information and retailers. They are located at the central terminal Vasaplan, Umeå Bus Station and the University Hospital.


    The train station, Umeå Östra, is situated nearby the university campus, across from the hospital. Trains run daily to the north and south. The rails are trafficated by SJ. There are no trains that travel in an east/west direction.
    SJ website


    The airport in Umeå is called Umeå Airport. The Airport Bus follows a circular route between Umeå Airport, Umeå City Centre, the University Hospital, University campus and Ålidhem before returning to Umeå Airport. The travel time to and from the airport by bus is 20 minutes from the centre of town and 10 minutes from the university campus.

    Renting a car

    When renting a car, make sure that you know the terms of the renting contract. Pay special notice to things like liability, who can drive the car and so on. We also recommend that you buy the accident insurance that is offered. Finally, we want to remind you that winter roads can make manoeuvring the car much more difficult than usual. If you are unaccustomed to driving on winter roads, you may want to re-consider your travel arrangements, or travel together with someone who has experience of driving under these conditions. If you decide to drive yourself, remember to adjust your speed to the existing road conditions. Also, when driving on smaller roads in the north of Sweden, it is not that uncommon that moose, reindeer and other animals cross the road. Keep your eyes open, as a collision with a moose can be very dangerous.

    Rules for driving in Sweden

    If you bring your own car or are thinking about renting one there are some rules you need to keep in mind:

    • Sweden has right hand traffic.
    • Drivers has to be over the age of 18 and hold a valid driver's license.
    • The license must be brought with you when you drive.
    • A foreign driver's license can be used for a year.
    • There is zero-tolerance for drinking and driving.
    • Winter tires/studded winter tires has to be used between 1 December and 31 March. However, this rule does not apply if you bring your car from home (though it is recommended).
  • Food dictionary

    Finding your way through shelf after shelf of food products that do not look the same as they do at home, and that have names in a foreign language can be a challenge. We have compiled a small dictionary for your first few visits to the supermarket.

    Going to the supermarket

    Some useful information before you go to a Swedish supermarket for the first time.

    Our smallest coin is the 1 krona/SEK. Prices are always rounded up to the nearest 1 krona.

    Plastic and paper bags are to be found by the checkout and they cost extra. Small and thin plastic bags at the end of the checkout are free of charge.

    Unless you have applied for a "self scan" service at one of the large supermarkets, the fruit and vegetables are weighed by the cashier.

    "Extrapris" – the price has been temporarily reduced.

    "Kort datum" – the product's expiration date has almost been reached.

    "Bäst Före" – the date printed on the product is the recommended date for the product's consumption.

    "Ekologiskt" – the product has been grown/produced without artificial pesticides, hormones and so on.

    "Bra miljöval" – the product has been certified as having a low impact on the environment (for its product category). The products are marked with a green and white logo with a stylised swan.

    Dietry preferences

    Asian store
    A store for Asian food products can be found on Pedagoggränd 5A in Ålidhem.

    Middle Eastern produce
    Kryddhyllan at the Ålidhem Centrum has an assortment of Middle Eastern food products.

    Halal meat
    Halal meat can be found in the freezers of the larger supermarkets (ICA Maxi, Coop Forum and Willy's). If you cannot find it, ask at the information counter in the entrance.

    The large to middle-sized supermarkets all have a pretty good stock of produce for vegetarian cooking. For instance, Willy's supermarket in Ersboda stocks large sacks of beans and peas.

    Lactose intolerance
    Look for products marked "Laktosfri". There is quite a good assortment for lactose intolerant people in most large to medium sized supermarket.

    Fish and seafood

    • Flundra - flounder
    • Lax - salmon (can be sold fresh, frozen, smoke-cured/rökt or raw spiced/gravad)
    • Röding - charr
    • Sej - coalfish
    • Sill - herring (when sold in glass jars the herring is pickled and comes in different flavours and sauces)
    • Strömming - Baltic herring
    • Torsk - cod
    • Kräftor - crayfish
    • Musslor - mussels/clams
    • Räkor - shrimp or prawn (Ishavsräkor - shrimp from the Arctic Ocean)


    • Apelsin - orange
    • Blåbär - blueberry
    • Citron - lemon
    • Fläder - elder (berry or leaf - cordial is often made from the leaf of the elder bush)
    • Hallon - raspberry
    • Hjortron - cloudberry (a northern speciality)
    • Jordgubbe - strawberry
    • Lingon - lingonberry/red Whortleberry (not very sweet, often served with game meat)


    • Fläsk - pork
    • Hjort - venison
    • Kalkon - turkey
    • Kalv - veal
    • Kyckling - chicken
    • Nöt - beef
    • Ren - reindeer
    • Vilt - assorted game
    • Älg - moose/elk

    Meat products

    • Blandfärs - minced pork and beef
    • Blodpudding - blood pudding/black pudding (made from pigs blood)
    • Falukorv - a type of pork sausage
    • Isterband - spiced sausage-like product made from the fattier pieces of pork (Ister=fat)
    • Kassler - boneless smoked pork chops
    • Korv - sausage (sausages usually contain pork, unless specified otherwise)
    • Köttfärs/Nötfärs - minced beef

Umeå, Sweden and the Swedes

  • Climate and Seasons

    Umeå has four distinct seasons which means there is something for everyone. Snowy winters with ski slopes are perfect for sports oriented people. Spring is the time when barbeque grills are brought out, followed by bright summer nights when a sauna bath caters to our more relaxed side. The fourth season, fall, is usually wet and cold but gives us a perfect excuse to sit inside and sip a cup of coffee or tea, or browse around the shops.

    Climate and seasons

    Sweden is located so far north in Europe that the Arctic Circle slices through its northern most province, Lapland. However, it is not an arctic country. Thanks to the warm Gulf Stream in the Atlantic, Sweden has a rather mild climate. The difference between the southern and northern parts of Sweden is marginal during the summer, but greater during the other seasons. Northern Sweden is covered by snow between December and March/April, while elsewhere the snow cover varies from region to region. In the far south, for example, it often rains during the winter season.

    In Umeå, the seasons are very distinct from one another: Autumn brings colder weather and quite a bit of rain, but the trees undergo beautiful color changes. During the winter the number of daylight hours decreases but the snow brightens up the city. Spring arrives sometime in April/May, the snow melts and the days get longer. Summer usually lasts from June to August with an average temperature of 15 °C (60 °F). In the far north you can see the midnight sun, an unbroken 24-hour period of sunlight.

    The climate that we live in is not new to our part of the world and therefore we build our houses accordingly. All the buildings, whether they are private residences or public buildings, are well insulated and have central heating. This means that even when it is below zero outside, the temperature inside is maintained within the recommended range of plus 18 – 22 °C.

    How to dress for the weather

    There is an old Scandinavian proverb that you will probably come across: "There is no bad weather, only bad clothing". It means that the climate in Sweden is nothing to worry about as long as you dress for it!

    It is said that the winters in northern Sweden are dry and there is very little water in the air during the winter months. Therefore, it is easier to keep the cold out by dressing in warm and windproof clothing. As long as you dress correctly, temperatures that are below zero are nothing to worry about. You do not need to buy expensive and bulky winter jackets to keep warm. Your body heat warms up the air around your body and the trick is just to keep the warm air close to your skin. This is best achieved by dressing in layers (for example T-shirt, shirt, sweater, thicker sweater) with a windproof jacket as the last layer. The good thing about this way of dressing is that you just have to peel off or add a layer if the temperature changes during the day.

    The Northern Lights

    Aurora Borealis, or more commonly the Northern lights, is a natural light display in the sky that is visible particularly in the high latitude (Arctic and Antarctic) regions. The Northern Lights are most often red, green, or purple in color and lasts anywhere from a few minutes to several hours.

    In Sweden, the Northern Lights usually occur during the winter months through late March or early April. Your best chance of catching a glimpse of the Northern Lights is on cold winter nights when the sky is clear and dark with little to no moonlight.

    Midwinter darkness and the Midnight Sun

    Due to Umeå's northern location, the number of daylight hours varies greatly between winter and summer. December is the darkest month with days that last only around 4 ½ hours. In contrast, the sun only sets for 3 ½ hours in June.

    By traveling a little further north, you can even experience the midnight sun. Here are a few suggestions of places and dates in which to spend a 24 hour day (the numbers indicate the place in meters above sea level).

    When and where to see the midnight sun

    Karesuando                       330      May 26 - July 18
    Riksgränsen                      520      May 26 - July 18
    Njulla by Abisko             1163     May31 - July 16
    Dundret in Gällivare         823      June 2 - July 12
    Kierkau by Saltuluokta   1187      June 7 - July 5
    Jokkmokk                          340     June 5 - July 6

  • Characteristics of the Swedes

    Are all Swedes blonde and tall with blue eyes? You have probably already noticed that this is not the case at all. On this page we attempt to cover some basic preconceptions and areas where our culture might be different from your own. You will probably discover that some of the things are closer to reality than others.


    Swedes are usually very punctual. If you want to be like a Swede, it is better to arrive five minutes early than five minutes late. In informal situations, being late is normally not a big problem, but if you have a professional meeting of some sort, being late will be considered quite rude and in need of an explanation.

    The exception from the rule is the akademisk kvart/academic quarter that only exists in the university sphere. Lectures that are said to start on the hour (10 am) actually start fifteen minutes later (10:15 am), unless it is an exam or if the time is stated as 10 am sharp.

    Social life in Sweden

    The saying is that Swedes are reserved and difficult to get to know. This is true to some extent, but foreigners do make comments about the Umeå population being both friendly and eager to help if you take the first step and approach them. Student activities, the Buddy Programme and the people in your corridor will hopefully provide you with plenty of opportunities to break the ice and to make new friends. If you find it difficult to get to know Swedes, one trick can be to propose things to do. Swedish people normally get to know each other by engaging in social activities. This can involve anything from preparing dinner together to going on a ski trip.

    Changing with the seasons

    In the northern parts of Sweden where the winters are dark and the summer brings long days, the mood and behaviour of the people can often change. During the winter season, you may see wrapped-up people hurrying from point A to point B, with no intention to stop and talk. It might seem that Swedes are not very social, but they do in fact socialise – indoors. Because of the cold, Swedes spend time together at someone's home so the trick is to get invited or start inviting people to your own home. You can also go to a hockey game, a ski slope or a pub in order to see the Swedes come out of their winter shell and become more accessible.

    In contrast, as the light returns and the days become warmer you will see many more people out and about, having barbeques in their backyard, enjoying picnics in the parks or eating and drinking at a beer garden or restaurant in town. When the warmth of the sun does return, the Swedes seem to thaw out and become more open and social.


    Even though Sweden is officially a Lutheran (Protestant/Christian) country, the Swedish people are generally not very religious. It is not so common for Swedes to regularly attend church services or take an active part in a congregation. However, Swedes have not left the church altogether. Weddings and funerals are still commonly held in church and many people still baptise their children.

    Dining out and picking up the tab

    Dining out has become an increasingly common practice in Umeå. The number of restaurants, pubs and cafés has increased rapidly over the past ten years or so. Restaurants used to have to struggle to fill their tables, but today you will most probably have to book in advance or wait for your turn even on a weekday. "After Work" with special offers on food and drink on Friday evenings has really taken hold in Umeå, and on Fridays every restaurant in town is bursting at the seams.

    The concept of picking up the tab is an unknown phenomenon in Sweden. The bill is divided after what and how much you ate or drank. Tips are included, but it is always welcome if you leave some.

    Answering the telephone

    If you usually just answer the telephone with "Hello," you risk being considered impolite in Sweden. The common way to answer the telephone in Sweden is by stating your name.


    Swedes are known to be law abiding and fairly fond of standing in lines. Whenever waiting is involved, at cinemas, paying in a shop, in the library and so on, you will be expected to wait in line. If you push your way into the line, no excuse is good enough.

    The modern version or solution to the line system is tickets: you have to take a piece of paper with a number on it from the 'number-dispenser.' The number on this ticket indicates when it is your turn. The advantage of this system is that you can move around freely while you are waiting. Therefore, do not forget to take a ticket, to locate the whereabouts of the number display and to check it regularly so that you do not miss your turn.

    "Excuse me"

    Swedes sometimes express themselves or behave in a way that might be perceived as rude by foreigners. One example is the phrase "Excuse me". If someone bumps into you, it is more likely that you will hear "oj" or "oops" than "ursäkta mig"/"excuse me". When you are talking to a Swedish person and they do not hear what you have said, you will most likely hear a Va?/What?, not excuse me. This does not mean that Swedes are an extremely rude people, it is just means that the phrase ursäkta mig/excuse me is not so widely used in Sweden.

    Have They no shame?

    Swedes are rather direct people. They get straight to the point and tend to tell you exactly what they are up to. If you are having a coffee with a group of people and one of them is a Swede, do not be surprised if the Swede suddenly stands up and announces that he/she is going to the toilet so that the whole group can hear. It is not that he or she thinks you will all want to know, but that it would be rude to just get up and leave. Furthermore, if you are going to say something, tell the truth.

    Taking a compliment

    Swedes are notoriously bad at accepting a compliment. For example, the response to the words, "That was great! You are so good at this," will seldom be "Thanks, I was rather pleased with it myself," but rather "It was nothing, I messed up in the middle," or perhaps just an embarrassed blush. However, do not let it bother you, they are actually happy to hear you say it.

    Only one chance

    If a Swede asks you if you want to join him on a skiing trip, or if you want another cookie, make sure you know what you want before you answer. Unlike many other cultures, Swedish people will not coax or insist. They will ask you once and then accept your first answer. Therefore, if you want another cookie, you had better take the chance and accept the offer the first time around.

  • Written and unwritten rules

    laws and written regulations are easy to learn about and everyone knows you have to follow them. However, the unwritten rules or customs of a foreign society is usually something you learn as you go. On this page, we will provide some information about laws/regulations and customs that you may find useful while you are here.

    Arms-length distance

    This is the distance Swedish people normally stand apart from each other when talking. Swedes are quite reserved about personal space and if you get too close, you will probably see that the Swede will start to back off. Do not feel offended by this, as it is just normal for us to keep some distance between each other.


    Swedish people like consensus and do not like open conflicts. If you have a conflict with a Swede, it would be better to have a discussion about it rather than to show a great deal of emotion or to become openly angry.

    Walking, biking and driving

    Whether you are on a bicycle/walking a track or driving, you will be expected to walk on the left-hand side and bicycle on the right. Keeping this in mind might save you from unexpected collisions. Motor vehicles are always driven on the right-hand side of the road.


    When riding an escalator you will be expected to stand on the right-hand side so people who are in a hurry can walk up the left-hand side.

    Taking your shoes off

    This is a strange habit for most foreigners, but when you enter someone's house or flat, you will have to take your outdoor shoes off in the entrance. It is normal to walk around in your socks, even at someone else's house.


    Smoking is not allowed in restaurants, pubs or in public buildings. If there is a designated smoker's area, usually outside, this is the only area that you are allowed to smoke. If there is a designated area for smoking inside bars and clubs, no drinks or food can be served or brought into it.

    The number that makes our country tick

    After you have lived in Sweden for a short while, you will notice that ten little numbers make the world go round, or at least make life in Sweden a great deal easier. Those are the numbers that make up the Swedish personal ID number. In Sweden, this number is used for just about everything that involves the need to identify who a person is. Things like opening a bank account, buying insurance, using on-line booking systems and services or subscribing to a magazine are much more easier if you have these ten little numbers. However, do not despair, there are usually ways around it.


    If you own a TV in Sweden, you are required to report this to the "radiotjänst"/TV license authority and pay the TV license. Every now and then, the TV license authority sends out controllers to visit people who have not reported that they have a TV in order to make sure that their information is correct.

    Drugs and alcohol

    The purchase and consumption of alcohol is subject to a number of laws and rules. Only persons of 18 years of age or older are allowed to purchase or consume alcoholic beverages. Only licensed serving places and the state owned Systembolaget are allowed to sell alcoholic beverages that are stronger than 3,5 volume percent. If you buy alcohol at a licensed serving place (pub, bar, restaurant), you may not take it outside. It is also forbidden to bring your own alcohol into a bar, pub or restaurant. It is always forbidden to consume alcohol in "public places". This does not include the outdoor serving areas of licensed pubs or restaurants or your own back yard.

    Sweden has a rather strict view concerning drugs. The purchase, possession and consumption of drugs of any kind (including marijuana) is strictly illegal.

    Car insurance

    If you buy a car in Sweden, you are required to insure it from the first day that the ownership of the car is transferred to you. It is the responsibility of the seller to send in the paperwork for the transfer of ownership, but you should check that this is done. If you do not insure the car right away (traffic insurance), you will be fined, and the fine is not cheap. Swedish Motor Insurers have more information.

  • The Right of public access

    The Scandinavian rule of "Allemansrätt"/Right of Public Access provides everyone with the right of access to privately owned land (provided they abide by the rules), and thus to the pleasures of the forests and countryside from one end of Sweden to the other.

    However, this is a right that also brings responsibilities. If the right of public access is to work, we all need to be responsible for our conduct when we are out in nature, and to take care not to disturb and to damage it. Therefore, do not disturb animals or other people with whom you share a given area of nature, and do not damage the environment. Do not damage bushes, cut down trees or leave garbage behind you. Remember that the right of public access lets you walk around on other people's property, but that does not involve their back garden. Therefore, do not walk into the immediate surroundings of houses and you will be fine. For a thorough run through of the public right of access, see the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency.

  • Miscellaneous information

    Holidays and measurements

    Public holidays

    Sweden's National Day (Svenska Nationaldagen) is celebrated on the 6 June in memory of King Gustav Vasa's accession to the throne in 1523 and the signing of the Government Act in 1809.

    Other public holidays - when stores are usually closed and people off work:

    New Year's Day - Nyårsdagen
    Epiphany Eve - Trettondagsafton
    Epiphany Day - Trettondagen

    Good Friday - Långfredag
    Easter Monday Annandag Påsk

    May day - Första Maj
    Ascension Day - Kristi Himmelsfärdsdag
    Whit Sunday - Pingstdagen

    Sweden's National Day
    Midsummer's eve - Midsommarafton

    All Saints' Day - Allhelgonadagen

    Christmas Day - Juldagen
    Boxing Day/St Stephen's Day - Annandag Jul

    Most State employees (which includes university staff) are also off from work on weekends; on Midsummer's Eve (Midsommarafton), Christmas Eve (Julafton) and New Year's Eve (Nyårsafton). If you look in a Swedish calendar, you will notice that all Sundays and holidays are written in red, which is why they are sometimes referred to as red days (röda dagar). Check with your department for information concerning the exact vacation days during the semester.

    Conversion tables

  • Cost of Living

    A sample student budget for living and studying in Umeå. The budget is calculated for a student who lives in a student corridor room and cooks most of his/her meals in the corridor kitchen, with the occasional lunch at one of the cafés/restaurants on campus.



    Food 2000
    Accommodation 2900
    Student union, fees, books  500
    Phone, TV, Internet  300
    Local travel  500
    Medical care, hygiene  300
    Clothing, hobby/leisure 1100
    Total: SEK 7600*

    * Please note that if you are applying for a residence permit, you must prove to the Swedish Migration Agency that you will have a guaranteed sum of money at your disposal throughout the entire period of your studies. The amount, SEK 8190 per month for ten months of the year, is set by the Migration Agency.