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Ten signs you’re becoming more Swedish than the Swedes

Has your definition of concepts such as nice weather or a crowded environment changed? Do you find yourself basking like a seal when the sun reappears in March after a long dark winter? You might be turning into a true Swede.

Ten signs you're becoming more Swedish than the Swedes
An outdoor beer when it's only 10 degrees outside? No problem. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

Swedish has started polluting your native language

Have you started saying ‘oj!’ in your native language in situations where it doesn’t make sense?

Do you overuse the words ‘precisely’, ‘absolutely’ and ‘exactly’, saying them in English where you’d say ‘precis’, ‘absolut’ or ‘exact’ in Swedish? If you haven’t noticed this, your English speaking friends or family back home probably have, although they may be too polite to point it out to you.

If you’re a native English speaker, Swedish grammar has started rubbing off on you, and you find yourself in the dark as to where the adverb in a sentence is actually supposed to go.  

Your definition of ‘nice weather’ has changed

In a similar vein, your definition of nice or warm weather has changed.

Previously, you wouldn’t have dreamed of eating outside or leaving your jacket at home in 15 degree weather, but Swedish outdoor serving areas with their patio heaters and warm blankets have changed this, and you find yourself suggesting eating lunch in the garden or on the balcony at temperatures you never would have ventured outside in in your old life.

You get overwhelmed by even quite minor crowds

Living in Sweden – a geographically large country with a relatively small population compared to many other countries – your definition of a crowd has also changed.

You consigned yourself to never getting a seat on public transport in your home country a long time ago, but you’re genuinely shocked when there’s standing room only on the Stockholm metro, a Gothenburg tram or a bus in Malmö.

This was only further emphasised by pandemic-related avoidance of crowds, which means that when you’re faced with an actual crowded situation, you still need a couple of minutes to get used to the fact there are so many people in such close proximity.

Seals basking in the sun in the Stockholm archipelago. Photo: Lars Pehrson/SvD/TT

You bask in the sun in spring like a seal 

Around March or April, when the sun starts to return to Sweden after months of dark, grey weather, you’re likely to see Swedes sitting on park benches with their eyes closed and the sun warming their faces.

If you come from a country with a lot of sun, you will most likely think this is odd, but I’m sure many of you who have been here long enough will appreciate how nice it is to feel the sun on your face in spring after a winter which has left you extremely vitamin D-deficient.

Your definition of ‘cheap’ has changed

Similarly, you’ll be shocked by the low prices in many (although admittedly not all) countries, particularly in restaurants.

You do the mental arithmetic in your head and are shocked when you discover that you can buy an entire meal in a nice restaurant – with a drink – for under 150 kronor.

Were things always this cheap, or are you just used to Sweden’s high prices?

Stacks of delicious cardboard. Photo: Ulf Palm/TT

You genuinely enjoy knäckebröd

Despite previously dismissing eating Swedish crispbread as a culinary experience similar to eating cardboard, you now find yourself craving it when you’re not in Sweden.

What’s more, putting a second piece of bread on top of a sandwich now increasingly just looks weird, as you’ve gone over to eating mackor instead of traditional sandwiches.

Plus points for Swedishness if you find yourself searching in vain for a wooden butter knife and resigning yourself to using a metal one, like some sort of uncultured swine.

You almost break up with your partner when forced to share a duvet

Although this is common in some other countries, Swedes expect two adults sharing a double bed to each use their own duvet. Somehow, this has not become common practice worldwide, meaning you may be forced to share a duvet when spending the night in another country with your partner.

Your habit of using two duvets in Sweden means that you spend the entire night waking up every time your partner moves, and are considering never talking to them again when morning finally rolls around.

You proudly translate the names of IKEA products for your friends

A newfound pride in your adopted homeland means that you feel at home when you spot branches of IKEA or H&M abroad, and get excited whenever you see someone in your home country wearing Haglöfs or Fjällräven products.

Your friends at home get you to translate the names of products at IKEA, although their excitement is somewhat dampened when they discover that most of the names are really quite boring in Swedish.

You are shocked by the low quality of housing elsewhere

Swedish homes are unsurprisingly, considering the weather, very well insulated, and heating systems such as fjärrvärme mean that, at least in inner-city apartments, your heating usually just works.

Not all countries can boast such a good quality housing stock, meaning you might need to get used to the lower standard (and the lower indoor temperature) in your home country (not singling any countries out here, but the author of this article does happen to be British)…

You do a double-take when you see alcohol for sale in supermarkets

Sweden’s relatively strict alcohol laws mean, if you drink alcohol, that you’re used to planning ahead for any events, such as dinner parties or birthday celebrations, where you might be expected to bring booze with you.

Visiting friends abroad, you might have to remind yourself that yes, you can just pick up a (chilled!) bottle of white wine or a six-pack from the supermarket on the way to a party on a Saturday evening, instead of having to plan ahead to buy and chill it in advance.

Member comments

  1. Uh, I don’t think I’ll *ever* get used to how warm Swedish homes are in the winter. As far as I’m concerned, 21c is too warm for anything more than a t-shirt and shorts! I much prefer to keep my home around 16-17c 😀

  2. Don’t worry, Garry, you’ll get used to it eventually. ;-))…. or just wear shorts and a T-shirt at home all the time. Bet you miss separate hot and cold taps in the sink as well.

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‘We all cheer each other on’: How we made friends in Sweden

Sweden is often rated as a difficult country to make friends in. We asked those who've been there, done that – or in other words, The Local's readers – how they met their closest friends in Sweden.

'We all cheer each other on': How we made friends in Sweden

“They are so supportive, caring and understanding,” said Erin Swoverland, a reader from the US, about her friends. “We all listen, lift each other up and cheer each other on. I feel so incredibly lucky to have such amazing women in my corner.”

She met most of them at a gym in Stockholm. 

“I attended a Friday training class for women and the rest is history. I will say I think it being a small, independent gym made all the difference as we actually spoke to each other. I haven’t had the same interactions at larger chains,” she said.

Erin was one of dozens of readers who responded to The Local’s question about how they found their friends in Sweden, sparked by a recent survey which showed that 13 percent of foreigners lack a close friend (double the number of Swedes who said the same thing).

A lot of readers alluded to the part-truth, part-stereotype that Swedes tend to compartmentalise their lives and prefer organised fun over spontaneous activities, and one of the classic strategies that always comes up in these discussions is to join some kind of club or society.

The benefit of “organised fun” is that Sweden has a vibrant föreningsliv (literally “association life”), with many people involved in for example their local football club, gaming hub, gardening society, trade union, hiking club, or even just being on the board of their housing association.

“As I always liked cycling, running, badminton, indoor climbing and a few other sports, I found groups on Meetup for such activities. This helped me meet like-minded people. Soon afterwards, some of us started to hang out together for beers or pizzas etc. Thanks to these people we started to invite other people to our gatherings. Finally today, I have a large network of very interesting and close friends (immigrants as well as Swedish friends). When I look back, I realise that it was much easier to get to know people in events having just six to eight people. If you go in a large group setting it is difficult to meet people as splinter groups start getting formed,” said a Pakistani reader.

“I have been in Sweden for over 15 years now. During this time our close friendship network has just increased. Like any friends, we fight and argue at times, but at the same time I know that my friends care about me. I feel at home in Sweden with this circle of friends.”

He wasn’t the only one who suggested joining a society (although one reader cautioned against “survivorship bias” and pointed out that not everyone manages to turn up at event and immediately make friends). Even if you don’t join a traditional club, readers recommended plenty of other networking opportunities, including sites or friendship apps such as Meetup, Bumble BFF, Panion and GoFrendly.

Nathan Lloyd, a Welshman in Malmö, recommends networking meetups, even if they’re not directly relevant to your own field, as well as Facebook groups. He met his best friend, Brian, via Grindr – not the only one we’ve heard of who made platonic friends on dating apps.

“He’s truly my best friend. Been friends for over six years,” he said. “We enjoy loppising together, going out in nature, birdwatching and art, a major thing we bonded over. He’s been there through highs and lows and helped me in emergency situations when I’ve needed someone.”

Nathan Lloyd, centre, with his friend, Brian, and partner, Tom, at the Konstrundan art weekend in southern Sweden. Photo: Private

Not being afraid of putting yourself out there and making the first move was another tip that came up in the survey, with many describing Swedes as warm friends – perhaps even surprisingly warm – once you break through the shell.

“First and foremost, don’t try too hard. Best friends are the organic ones that come in your life at the moments you don’t expect. Be open and give a shot to those who seem to be more open. Swedes who have been abroad frequently are exceptionally more pleasant to keep around,” said Hadi from Iran, who first moved to Sweden in 2010 and now lives in the south of the country.


Peter, a reader who works at Lund University in southern Sweden, befriended his new neighbour after knocking on their door to ask if he could use their wifi until he managed to get his own.

“We have been very good friends ever since, even after I moved to another town. I find Swedes to be very friendly in general, but sometimes I need to make the first effort,” he said.

Robert Blomstrand, a born Swede who lived most of his life abroad, says he and his South African wife, Vanessa, met amazing friends in church and were surprised by their warmth and care.

“Through this we learned Swedish and had many wonderful Swedish experiences (sailing, meals, celebrations). Still very good friends,” he said.

Robert Blomstrand’s friends on a sailing trip to the Gothenburg archipelago. Photo: Private

Ioannis, based in southern Stockholm, said he met most of his friends through university or work and then made sure that the friendships were maintained after studies finished or work changed.

“Important first step was to accept that it is me, the one that has to make an effort. Then show interest in others, learn about who they are and how they are like. Share experiences with them, also offer help and support and ask for help and support. Independence and individualism can be an obstacle in creating social bonds. Make the effort, without expecting same returns. Give it time.”

“I believe that if you want a friend, you have to be a friend first,” said Jeremiah from the US. “My friends are people who were willing to invest in a building a relationship because they didn’t have them locally. We connected over the shared experience of being displaced and learning how to adult again. The connections grew because we had other shared interests, were willing to spend more time together, and were willing to help each other.”

“Focus on finding people who like doing things that you enjoy, like going to museums, movies, etc,” said a Stockholm-based reader, who made friends with his colleague after inviting him to a drag show at the Abba Museum.

“It’s so much easier to make friends during the things you like. Like any relationship, don’t try and rush it,” he added. “Just continue to reach out for times to hang out, and be OK with them not always saying yes the first time. We’re all busy. I also found it easier to make friends with folks, particularly Swedes, who weren’t from Stockholm (or whatever city you’re living in) as they generally have smaller networks/ open to make new friends in Stockholm.

Several readers expressed sadness that they hadn’t made any Swedish friends and that all their friends were fellow foreigners.

“I made friends through work (international company) and from my country of origin. I don’t have any Swedish friends even though I have been living in Stockholm for 15 years,” said a Colombian reader.

Some readers, however, argued that it isn’t necessarily strange, or a negative, that foreigners end up with foreigners, as you share similar experiences. Having a community with people you feel close to and have something in common with matters more than who they are.

“Close friendships are built because you share some experiences in life. I was an immigrant in Sweden, hence like all immigrants in Sweden I faced many issues time after time, for example issues related to visa or bank accounts,” said the Pakistani reader from the start of the article. “It is much easier to connect with people when you share similar issues. Don’t be afraid to talk about your experiences. This helps to bring us closer.”