Interview with Croatian pediatrician Dragan, years after his family’s relocation to Sweden.
Interview with Croatian pediatrician Dragan, years after his family’s relocation to Sweden.
Dragan, a specialist in pediatrics from Croatia, relocated to Värnamo, Sweden, in 2019 together with his wife Patricia, a specialist in anesthesia and intensive care, and their two children. Before moving to Värnamo, the family participated in the language course in Calafell. We interviewed Dragan to talk about his family’s experience regarding MediCarrera’s recruitment process, the language course, their new life in Värnamo and working as a pediatrician in Sweden.
Thoughts on Our Recruitment Process and the Language Course
Before joining MediCarrera’s language course in Calafell, Spain, Dragan’s family participated in an intensive online language course. They appreciated the online course as they already had a basic knowledge of the Swedish language once they arrived in Calafell. They stayed in Calafell with their children and other candidates until they reached the B2-level.
Dragan thinks the language course was great, both in terms of its structure and the knowledge they gained. The teacher was very educational and comprehensive. A typical study day starts with classes in the morning and then a few hours off in the afternoon before homework in the evening.
Dragan says that everyone who participates in the language course is different, and he understands that everyone has different learning speeds. He believes that if you think about this practice as a part of your job, it works, it is very motivating, and everyone should be able to manage it. But it’s necessary to have the right mindset from day one.
Dragan and his wife came to Calafell with their two children. They admit they were a little worried beforehand and thought the whole process could be overwhelming for the children. Once in Calafell, the children joined the kindergarten, and everything worked out. Dragan says that the teachers at the kindergarten were wonderful and helped create a friendly environment for kids.
The Relocation to Värnamo
A few months later, it was time to relocate to Sweden, and MediCarrera took care of arranging the entire move. They got a rental car for the first week, which was very helpful, says Dragan.
When they first arrived, everything was new and a bit overwhelming. Dragan, his wife, and their two children arrived on a Thursday evening, and one hour later, the truck with all their belongings arrived. Monday was the first day of work and kindergarten.
The first weeks were challenging, says Dragan. Looking back at that time, he thinks it would’ve been great to have at least one week or more to prepare everything before the first day of work. Their children struggled with communication during the first weeks of kindergarten. Thankfully, they had been in contact with the Swedish language in Calafell, so they could adapt with time. After some months, it turned out that the children liked kindergarten a lot, and the post-relocation stress was no longer present.
When asked about what the children think about living in Sweden today, Dragan says: “They don’t want to go back! They are better at the language than we are and really like living here. After some time, they adapted very well.”
During the first six months after the family arrived in Sweden, Dragan admits that he thought it would not work out. But some friends from Croatia, who had already relocated to Sweden, advised them that it’s better to keep going when it gets hard. “Wait and stay in Sweden for two years, and after that, you can decide whether to stay or to go back to Croatia,” Dragan’s friends said.
Looking back, they are glad they followed their advice because today, the decision feels right, and the family thrives.
Dragan says that obtaining a Swedish social security number was one of the main complications. For some, it goes quickly, but Dragan and his family had to wait two months, which was frustrating because you need it for many administrative procedures.
This was especially annoying for the children as they were eager to try new activities, but they were limited without it. Except for this bureaucratic problem, Dragan says everything worked very well with the support from MediCarrera.
Living in Värnamo
Värnamo is a small town surrounded by forests and lots of lakes. According to Dragan, a smaller city like Värnamo is a lovely place to live for a family with small children. There are always things to do, depending on your interests, of course. Dragan laughs and says that he and his family are always busy doing some activities.
The family lives in a house, and the children have friends who live close and go to the same school. They cycle to school, and there is no traffic, so in that way, it is nice to live in a smaller town. The children can be quite independent and more by themselves. They like all kinds of leisure activities and are very committed. Right now, they are doing athletics, playing football and ice hockey, swimming, and taking piano lessons. “They want to be involved in everything, sometimes I think it’s too much, and they should stay home,” says Dragan, laughing.
There’s also a small ski slope in Värnamo, just 2 kilometres away from the family’s house, and 30 kilometres further, there are some bigger slopes, so in winter, they usually ski.
Sometimes Dragan and his family go to Gothenburg or Stockholm to spend the day. Also, Jönköping is not too far away. You can quickly go to any of these cities for a concert or something similar. Today, it’s not so relevant for the family, but Dragan says it might be when the children become teenagers. They might think that Värnamo is a little too small. But today, with small children, Värnamo is a great town for the family.
If you want to know more about life in Värnamo, you can read the interview (https://medicarrera.com/blog/pediatrician-in-sweden/) with the Lithuanian pediatrician Laurynas, who also relocated to the town in 2019.
Working as a pediatrician in Sweden
The practice in Värnamo is relatively small, and Dragan works with five other doctors there. All six of them are foreign doctors, and they come from Lithuania, Poland, Bosnia, and Greece, among other countries. No Swedish doctor is working at the clinic, something that Dragan sometimes misses. If there would’ve been a Swedish doctor there, the other doctors could have asked them for help and advice. Today, Dragan and his colleagues can improve each other’s speaking but with limitations.
But we can complain about the Swedes to each other and question some things they do, so it works well, jokes Dragan.
At the moment, Dragan works 20% in Jönköping. He started doing that 1.5 years ago at the children’s cardio clinic, so one day a week, he goes there. It allows Dragan to develop his career even further.In Croatia, Dragan worked in inpatient care at a place about the same size as Värnamo Hospital. They didn’t have inpatients there, so he also did reception work. It’s distinct working as a pediatrician in Värnamo as it’s an entirely different care system. Croatia has primary care with pediatricians, so there is either primary care or a hospital. There are not many specialized clinics for children like in Sweden. Where Dragan works, the patients who come to the children’s clinic have already met a general doctor, so the pediatricians deal with more complicated things. If a GP thinks they cannot handle the case or need support, the patient will come to Dragan and his colleagues.
In Croatia, there’s a mix of patients, and everything was possible. There, Dragan could have first contact with the patient many times. Now they have always gone through GPs, the child care center, or something similar before coming to his department for further examination. Sweden also has 1177, something that you can’t find in Croatia. The nurses working with me now feel highly trained, he adds.
When we ask him about the cases he treats, he answers: There aren’t that many infections at my job in Sweden. Right now, it’s RS and flu season, but the ROTA virus, for instance, hasn’t been around for quite some time in Sweden. In Croatia, there is a considerable group of patients with acute infections. Something which Dragan thinks there is much less of in Sweden.
According to Dragan, Sweden has a complicated healthcare system, and many actors are involved when it comes to the care needs of a child. It can be overcomplicated sometimes but, eventually, you learn how the system works, he says.
For Dragan, the best thing about working as a pediatrician in Sweden is that you can devote yourself to working with children and get time to do so, something he missed in his old job. The patients prefer it when you can really sit down and have a longer conversation.
He added that in the beginning, expressing himself in a Swedish way was a bit tricky. Dragan knew the medical terms and the medical language but did not always know how to say what he meant in Swedish. With help from the care administrator, he learned how to write and express himself better.
Differences between living and working in Sweden and in Croatia
Dragan experiences that there are cultural differences between Sweden and Croatia. He says Croatia is part of the “southern European Mediterranean mentality, ” and people there are rarely in a rush. They don’t see a problem with postponing things til the day after. In Croatia, people work fewer hours daily. If you start working around 7 am you have to be at work at 6.45 am. Then you finish at 2.45 pm, so you have the whole afternoon to do other things. We used to pick up our children from preschool at 3.15 pm, and then we had time to play or do other things together, says Dragan. He thinks that everyday life in Sweden is more adapted to longer working days, so there isn’t that much time to do activities in the afternoon. Most things close around 5-5.30 pm, so when he has picked up the children from kindergarten, if they don’t have planned activities in the evening or afternoon, they go home and find something to do at home instead. During the summer, it’s easier to spend time outside.
In Sweden, there are very specific coffee hours, also called fika hours in Swedish. You know when it’s time for coffee, says Dragan.
In Croatia, people are meeting up more spontaneously to go and have a coffee, but in Sweden, Dragan thinks people tend to plan everything in advance. Sometimes, he misses being spontaneous and just meeting up with a friend without planning.
The social life
Dragan thinks meeting new people and making friends in Sweden is more challenging than in Croatia. He says it might be easier in your twenties. Dragan moved a lot in Croatia before relocating to Värnamo. He lived in 4-5 different Croatian cities and moved every five years or so, so he had to meet many new people. Something much easier for him when he was 25-30 years old.
You move to a new country with another culture, and language. You want to make friends with whom you can hang out, but most people between 40-45 already have friends. Then, you mainly meet new people through your children and their friends. If the children want to play, you meet their parents, but it takes time, he says.
Dragan doesn’t experience Swedes as closed minded people, but they are more rigid than people in Croatia. He thinks it’s a bit complicated to adapt when you come from a country outside of Scandinavia with different cultures and healthcare systems. Especially at work, it’s hard to adapt to the new language, the cultural differences, and the care system that is completely different.
In our cultures, it is quite normal for a new person to arrive and then you offer your help and show this new person around. In Sweden, we have not experienced this to be the case. If you ask for help, you get it, absolutely, but if you don’t ask, no one offered it to us, says Dragan.Certain things are normal and evident for a Swede; it was completely new for us. It’s a whole new world that opens up, says Dragan.
We want to thank Dragan for taking his time and participating in this interview. We wish him and his family all the best with their life in Sweden.
If you or someone you know are interested in relocating to Scandinavia to work as a medical specialist, just like Dragan and his family did, don’t hesitate to contact us. We support you throughout the whole process. If you want to know more about our available positions for medical specialists in Sweden, you can find them here.