Our tour guide in Stockholm was not Swedish, but Albanian. She stood 5 feet 1 inch tall thanks to three inch heels. As we walked towards Old Town to see the Royal Palace, I often wondered whether she had ever twisted her ankles traversing the uneven cobble stone roads.
Bianca told us she’s a full-time lawyer who enjoys playing tour guide on the weekends as a part-time job. She’s been studying for six years and is getting a second Masters degree in international law. When I asked her how much tuition costs in Sweden, she surprisingly mentioned, “Free!”
“All citizens and EU residents have free tuition if they want to study university here in Stockholm, Sweden,” Bianca went on to say.
I can’t verify the veracity of her statement, however, with law school tuition commonly over $35,000 a year in the US, Bianca clearly has a good deal!
“I love everything about Stockholm! We have 1/3rd parks, 1/3rd water, and 1/3rd land. The government cares about us and you don’t have to work very hard to live a good life. Back home in Albania, the average person only makes 300-350 Euros a month ($390-$450 dollars),” Bianca explained.
I asked Bianca about the local tax rates. She didn’t know for sure, but said she pays about a 32% income tax through the Pay-As-You-Earn (PAYE) employer witholding system. She also pays a 25% VAT tax (consumption tax) on all goods. I was expecting Bianca to highlight a much higher income tax rate since 32% is similar to my effective tax rate, so I was surprised. But then again, our income levels are drastically different as you will discover below.