Hot lunches and food stamps

Today we had a visitor from our Amsterdam office.  He is planning to transfer to the Stockholm office in August 2011 so he wanted to come and check out the city, the office, his future colleagues, etc.

Kenneth in Amsterdam 2008

Kenneth in Amsterdam

Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you see it), Mother Nature decided to unleash a snowstorm on Stockholm today.

We took him to lunch and he asked a few questions about how the work culture was like in Stockholm.  It’s always nice to get new people in the office because it reminds me how I’ve become Truly Swedish – things that foreigners find interesting or curious don’t even faze me anymore.  The topic at lunch?  Hot lunches and rikskuponger, which I fondly call “food stamps.”

He wanted to know whether we always sit down and eat a hot lunch – and the answer was a resounding “yes!”  I don’t notice this anymore since it’s become such a part of my daily life.  I’ve forgotten how unique it is when compared to other countries.  We almost always go out at 11.30 to a nearby restaurant for a sit-down lunch!  It’s part of the Swedish culture – taking an hour out of our busy days to enjoy a warm and usually-nutritious meal.

Then we got into a discussion of one of my favorite things – Rikskuponger (or food stamps, or monopoly money, funny money, fake money, or whatever you want to call it.)  Subsidized food coupons.  What a fantastic benefit that our company provides us.   Rikskuponger, for those of you unfamiliar with the concept, is a little packet of coupons with monetary value that you get every month.  Each coupon is worth a different value: 10, 20, 50, or 70 SEK.  In total it adds up to 1520 SEK.  I think you pay about 80% of the actual value via a payroll deduction, and then you get the rest of the value for free (but you’re taxed on it).

It’s good 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and can be used almost anywhere in Sweden in exchange for food.  If I were in the US, I wouldn’t want to be seen carrying food stamps.  But here in Sweden, well, it’s actually a benefit that many employees really enjoy.  Fantastic!

I think today was a good first day for our Dutch colleague, despite the snowstorm. After all, he found out that we all take 1 hour lunches to enjoy a hot lunch, and our lunches are partially subsidized. Clearly, the #TrulySwedish way of life has its advantages.

5 thoughts on “Hot lunches and food stamps

  1. sapphire

    We don’t get them at my office but I’m curious for every 1kr in food stamp value how much you actually paid (including tax) on it. Wonder if they’re really “worth it.”

    1. calkenneth

      So this is how the math works, as far as I know. The books are worth 1520 SEK. I pay for 912 SEK of it, leaving 608 SEK. I am taxed at the 608 SEK as “additional income,” which is then taxed at your tax rate, which will vary based on a number of factors (income, where you live, how much interest you pay for mortgages, etc).

      30% of 608 is 182,40 SEK.
      912 SEK + 182,40 SEK = 1094,40 SEK

      1094,40 / 1520 = 72%

      So for every 1 SEK, you pay approximately .72 öre.

      Said differently, assuming a 30% tax rate, if you pay 1094,40 SEK you get 1520 worth of coupons!

  2. H

    what ifyou don’t want to eat a hot lunch and instead want to work through lunch and end work an hour earlier? we can do that in US

  3. H

    or, we eat lunch at ourdesk, and go home earlier! would rather have that option

    will take sushi over hot lunch any day too

    1. calkenneth

      H – you can actually do that too. No one is “required” to use the full lunch hour… But lunch is also a good opportunity to socialize and get to know your colleagues!


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