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Less trouble and strife: Swedes and the single life

Less trouble and strife: Swedes and the single life

Published: 29 Sep 2009 23:55 GMT+02:00
Updated: 29 Sep 2009 23:55 GMT+02:00

Fed up of being cut off from the couples-only dinner party circuit, Swedish singles are fighting back. As The Local’s Christine Demsteader finds out, they are throwing their frozen meals-for-one aside to attend Sweden’s Biggest Singles Party.

On October 3rd, around 3,000 revellers will descend on the small town of Strängnas in central Sweden for Sweden’s Biggest Singles Party. Looking for a future partner is only a small part of the proceedings; this is more celebration of the single life.

Party organizer Maria Kjell is 44-years-old. Married. Mother of three. Divorced. Today she calls herself a ‘professional single’.

“I enjoy being free,” she says.

“I can go wherever I want and do whatever I choose – I don’t have to ask anybody. If I’m in a relationship and it’s not really good I always feel bad when I do things for myself.”

She’s part of a growing army of happy-to-be single Swedes, spreading the word among the ranks of the lonely hearts.

“Some people are ashamed to be single and can’t enjoy it because they are bitter, sad and stuck in a period of suffering,” Maria adds.

“There are those who have been married for 20-something years who have only had a social life with couples. When they become single, they don’t get invited out anymore.”

And so the idea to create a big bash was born.

“It’s a party with our permissions,” she says.

Thirteen buses from cities and towns in the surrounding area have been organized, taking party-goers to and from the venue. It’s an all-day event with activities including golf, salsa dancing, wine-tasting, massage, a course on getting the most out of internet dating, and a club evening complete with disco bands – and a probable portion of flirting to boot.

Studies suggest Sweden has long-had a higher divorce rate in comparison with other countries. In the book “Swedish Mentality” (1996) ethnologist Åke Daun writes:

“Couple may break up their marriages or partnerships in order to achieve independence, and perhaps the high frequency of divorce in Sweden has some connection with such a goal.”

The divorce rate in Sweden has been rising significantly since the 1960s. According to figures from Statistics Sweden, there were 50, 149 marriages and 9,563 divorces in 1960. In 2008, there were 50,332 marriages and 21, 337 divorces. If the trend continues around 45 percent of marriages today will end before death does them part.

Daun continues:

“Independence as a contributing factor (to divorce) is hypothetical – difficult to test empirically. Nevertheless, one can say that independence, ‘to be able to be one’s own person,’ is viewed especially positively in the Swedish culture.”

Maria Kjell admits the Swedish system makes for an easier single life for parents.

”You share the responsibility of looking after the children one week at a time,” she says.

“So whilst I can really enjoy my motherhood, I can also enjoy my single life. And at work, many people can pick their kids up at 3pm one week and work late the next. So it does make you spoiled.”

But not all singles are either a) woman or b) have gone through the big D.

Johan Landgren is a 34-year-old Stockholmer has been single for three years with no previous marriage nor kids in tow.

“Young people want to explore life more before committing to a relationship today,” he says.

“It’s not the same as it was 20 years ago. I’m more relaxed about being single and enjoy it - I don’t think love will come when you are desperately looking for it or going on 1000 dates a week.”

Landgren is co-founder of www.shakemyworld.com - an internet-dating site that challenges the match-making norm. It’s about getting singles off their lonesome sofas to network and enjoy activities together – inspiring a fun way to make the most of it together.

“There are single people out there, it’s just knowing where to look,” he says.

“Take Stockholm – it has the highest percentage of singles per capita of any other city in the world.”

Single is fast becoming a lifestyle choice and a growing target group for marketers.

Internet-dating is somewhat passé when you consider sites like www.singelisverige.se - a group campaigning for single people’s rights.

But for others the word ‘single’ simply doesn’t suit. If the Swedish word sambo means to live together without being married and särbo means being in relationship without living together, you can add the term självbo to the list, meaning ‘to live with oneself’.

The phrase was coined by Kicki Biärsjö, author of ‘Från Singel till Självbo: Konsten att trivas i sitt eget sällskap’ (‘From Single to Självbo: The art of being happy in your own company’).

Biärsjö is one of the 80 percent of residents on the Stockholm island of Södermalm who live independently.

“I’m not comfortable with the word single,” she says.

“To me it has negative connotations; if you’re single people ask you when you are going to meet someone.”

The journalist and life coach wrote the book to inspire others to live, like her, alone and in harmony with it.

“You need to work with yourself because it’s still not okay to be on your own according to society,” she says.

“It remains the norm to get married and have a family but I can see that changing in the future.”

Sweden’s Biggest Singles Party on October 3rd is a first-date fling with an idea Maria Kjell wants to develop long-term.

Having already been contacted by a venue in Stockholm she hopes other towns and cities will flirt with the idea of hosting the event.

Related links:

Christine Demsteader (christine.demsteader@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

12:40 September 30, 2009 by Eric Cantona
Looks like the chap in the picture will be having a good evening
13:03 September 30, 2009 by peropaco
Great initiative Maria Kjell. Sodom and Gomorra revisited with all those hoooorny single, end of the road middle aged women on estrogen lurking around going postal. I can only immagine them running back to the assembly line for a complete overhault to prepare for this grandiloquent event. Sign me up!
13:25 September 30, 2009 by dogg1cm
Funny to hear someone happy about single life.Only people with egostic instincts behave this way.Personally, being married and living happily with your partner and children as a family is a great way of life.
14:00 September 30, 2009 by peropaco
@dogg, u sound like one of those family value people. Havent you heard, marriage is a big lie....
14:15 September 30, 2009 by Re-Horakhty
Let me get this straight, a party promoter who has 3 children and is 44 years old, believes she is a catch. LOL!!! We also have a 34 year old male who's a marketer and has a business geared towards singles promoting "that being single is great", OKAY. I for one believe that their's nothing like having a content relationship with a woman for a long period of time.

Furthermore, unless you age well (most Scandinavian people don't) as a man, you only have to look forward to bearded women who wish to get pregnant as soon as possible.

This article is hilarious. Most of the women, the day after this event after will regret they even attend. Only loser's needs to go to a "singles party". Typical Western women / man thinking trying to convince themselves how good it is to be alone. Get back to me when you are 50.
15:34 September 30, 2009 by Greg in Canada
Being single sucks, at least it was for me. It's OK when you're still in your 20's but I was single again in my late 30's after a divorce. I had about five miserable years of being single before I hooked up again. It was much harder the second time around because you're mostly dating women carrying emotional baggage as well as dealing with their kids, ex's and new circle of friends. The only upside was that you're more mature about relationships than you were in your 20's.
18:06 September 30, 2009 by here for the summer
it's true all my wife's girl friends in Sweden are divorced and liking it . As the article says every other week is pretty good for the women. That being said Sweden is changing and many of the ex-husbands have younger wives or girl friends and are liking it too .. The only ones that could suffer are the kids and it can't but much worse that the typical case where both parents work ..
18:50 September 30, 2009 by hjoian
a well balanced individual does not NEED anyone,but CHOOSES to. Nothing wrong with being single,the people i know who are unhappy being single are those that got involved in relationships because they "needed" something,and hence unhappy when they lost it.Being all loved up and in a committed relationship is also great...if your ready for it.
00:00 October 1, 2009 by Staffs
Eric, I wouldn't touch 'em with your barge pole, let alone my own.
08:26 October 1, 2009 by sleeplesssweden
We can not get deceived by the singles party..99% singles in Sweden today still wish fo rthat happy couple,relationship.I have asked many and while they laughed outwardly..drinking in pubs to down thier secret miseries ,they anguish at night asking themselves why me

I bet the singles party will be filled with losers..the natural law states perfection in couples. So i bet its another way for them to hook up like a couple..they suffer too dman much being singles

:)
13:31 October 1, 2009 by peropaco
Most women in Sweden are single. It all depends on the time of day and the amount of alcohol they have consumed.
13:53 October 1, 2009 by manamann
The funny thing is I know the guy in the picture and he is not single, he has a Sambo.
18:42 October 1, 2009 by insect
Tthe picture was probably just of models or locals hired to look like they are socializing (from Hans Bjurlings image bank.se). After seeing how 38 year old (Anna Anka) looked like then chances are the women in that picture are in their 20's though they look older.
13:46 October 2, 2009 by Skallywag
I don't think they would be interested in your barge pole anyway Staffs (how old are you btw as these women look out of your league).
13:51 October 2, 2009 by jhk
are you sure the people in the picture are Swedish. They are not dressed in black, so makes me wonder.

Is Anna Anka 38, lol, wow does she need to get her money back from the surgeon.
17:18 October 2, 2009 by this_aint_sparta
I didnt get it, If they are so glad they are single why they are going "Looking for a future partner" and why to mention sitting lonely on the sofa is thats what they choose or if thats what they like :-)

A "44-years-old. Married. Mother of three" who knows she got no prospects what so ever now convincing others to be like her ??? so she will feel less %%%%. (cant find a proper word instead of %%%%)
06:16 October 3, 2009 by ikoiko20
Single and Happy vs. Married and Depressed

I Choose Happiness
11:53 October 3, 2009 by SadMarvin
I think that a lot of people are missing the point of singles stating that they are happy. Just because you are single and you are happy with your life does not mean that you will not be happy in a different way if or when you meet someone.

In order to be loved and to give love you must be able to love yourself for who and what you are, if you can achieve that then there is no reason that you would not be happy.

Just because someone is happy with the way that they find their life now does not mean that they won't be happy when their life changes, were all the people who are married or part of a couple depressed and sad before they found their current partner? I would guess not, just as curently single people will not suddenly become sad and depressed if they happen to meet someone they like.

Remember, everyone starts out single.
22:55 October 4, 2009 by jon f
Love is more than a feeling through the good time and the bad times is the test of the Person love for one any other thats what is true love is all about. they say the real man don't leave there wifes. only little boys are out to play. staying with you Love one is the Healthy way to live in to days life style.
02:57 October 5, 2009 by Arniet
Yes. . . . You can. . . . Be happy and single.

But you must of necessity strive to become one half of a couple.

Otherwise you are a "Nowhere Man" or worse a "Nowhere Woman."

You need the human connection of intimacy.

Avoid it at the risk of your sanity.
14:12 October 19, 2009 by the nuke
I made the mistake in the late 80s of translating directly from English when I asked someone if he 'bodde ensam' - but that meant 'living lonely'. I remember then in the 90s, when 'being single' first came into the Swedish language, in my belief to give status to not being in a relationship. Before that, if you were not in a relationship, you 'bodde själv' - and that was ok before but probably started to sound negative the people wrote about it. Now we see that even being single "has negative connotations" as one woman puts it! And the 'solution' to this is to convince all singles that it is a 'lifestyle' to be lauded over above relationships. The fact is though, many Swedes are terrified of relationships, of intimacy and dependency - the stuff that IS relationships!! For this reason they both want and don't want a relationship. They want the companionship but at the same time they want to remain free (from the preceived demands of companionship). They don't think about the joy that companionship may give them, or the fact that living alone is great - until you need someone.
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