• Sweden's news in English
 

'Why bother with a bastu when you can pop into your local shop'

Published: 13 Nov 2012 16:34 GMT+01:00

Winter started in northern Sweden on August 13th. No, really, it did. That is if you take as a barometer the first sighting of a woolly hat and gloves on a dog-walker.

There I was, in t-shirt and shorts, driving into town for some more barbeque coal, when I saw the man, all snuggled up in a thick jacket and the aforementioned winter accessories, walking his dog.

I actually did a cartoonish double take as I drove past him and nearly sideswiped a cyclist. I checked the in-car thermometer. 15 degrees Celsius. What’s going on?

Three weeks later, as September heralded a wet and mild autumn, a delivery driver backed his lorry into our drive to drop off a freezer. He hopped out, replete with ear muffs and gloves and just stared at me, still in my shorts and t-shirt, his eyes goggling as if I’d come to greet him in a rubber gimp suit.

After he recovered from his shock, we chatted briefly.

“You are from England? Why did you come here?”

I told him that I loved the natural beauty and that, in winter, the complete lack of rain was a real treat for someone who grew up with dank, permanently damp winters.

“But it’s already so cold. I much prefer the rain to all the snow we get,” he shivered.

He helped me lug the freezer into our cellar and as we walked back up the external steps he noticed that our house backed onto a 3km-wide lake.

“Wow,” he cooed, “what a great view.”

Then his countenance darkened, he endured a kind of weird internal spasm, rubbed his puffa jacket-clad arms.

“But in winter, the wind across that lake – soooo coooold," he said.

And then he practically sprinted back to the womb-like safety of his van. As I walked to the front door I checked our wall-mounted thermometer – it was ten degrees Celsius.

These were not isolated incidents. Our lovely neighbours, Randy and Irene, have been wearing huge jackets since the beginning of September and I’ve already developed a reputation in the village for being slightly eccentric because I wear shorts when it’s not at least 25 degrees.

Try walking into a northern supermarket after September has arrived and you’re soon shedding clothes quicker than a Z-list starlet in a reality show. Why bother having a bastu in your house when you could pop into your local ICA? These places are boiling.

We had some neighbours around for dinner at the end of September.

The women refused to go to the toilet because the radiator in the bathroom wasn’t working. The rest of the house was toasty but they still couldn’t bear the idea of a porcelain interaction that was undertaken at less than Caribbean temperatures.

They were even offered the use of tea towels to place on the toilet seat. They wouldn’t have it and sat there looking increasingly uncomfortable as the night wore on. On reflection, it was probably unkind of me to switch on our interior waterfall halfway through the evening.

I am genuinely perplexed – why are the northern Swedes such wimps when it comes to the cold? If they’re swaddled up in winter clothes when it’s 15 degrees out, what do they wear when it’s -30? Do they all hollow out moose and stagger around the local ICA like some animal version of Night of the Living Dead? They live in a very cold climate – surely they must be used to dealing with frigid temperatures.

However, I do have a theory. Every northern Swedish house is like an oven in the winter. I know that’s partially to do with the heat-retaining properties of wooden houses. But it’s also because they don’t like having windows open – they abhor drafts.

The English, on the other hand, like a little airflow even if it means sacrificing a little warmth. Swedish friends think English houses are freezing in winter – we (well, my girlfriend Donna and I) think they live in airless, hot boxes.

So, if you leave your stuffy, overheated house and encounter a temperature significantly lower, you’re going to think it’s really cold and start togging up as if you were trekking to the North Pole rather than taking Fido out for a wee.

But why are the houses so hot in the first place? I think it’s related to the shoe-removing fetish, that I only recently found out was mainly due to snobbery. Apparently, and apologies if everyone already knows this, three or four generations ago wearing outdoor/working shoes in the house was a sign of poverty – you were so poor you couldn’t afford nice fluffy slippers.

Similarly, back in the middle of the twentieth century, only wealthy people could afford to heat their whole house in the winter. I know, from anecdotal evidence, that some northern Swedish families used to all sleep in the same room to keep warm in the winter.

Consequently, as the wealth has been spread, having a really, really, really warm house has become a sign of prosperity. And the warmer your house is, the colder the outside world seems, so the earlier in the year you start wearing winter clothing. It makes sense to me, anyway.

Me, I’m going to deal with visits to my neighbours’ suffocatingly hot houses over the coming holiday season the only way I know how. In a manoeuvre I’m going to call the “reverse Superman”, once I’m in their houses I’ll peel off my thick winter layer to reveal – you guessed it – a t-shirt and shorts.

Paul Connolly

The Local (news@thelocal.se)

Your comments about this article

18:03 November 13, 2012 by skogsbo
I thought the shoe removing was just a desire not to walk $hit from outside right around the inside of the house?

You must be the only Londoner who doesn't moan when a single snow flake lands in London, you would think the city had been teleported to Alaska the way Southern England moans and goes into a media frenzy about even slightly cooler weather.
20:35 November 13, 2012 by dizzymoe33
I enjoy the cooler weather, I don't do well when it is extremely hot out. I guess my ancestors came from the North. I don't mind removing my shoes we have that policy at our home as well.
21:13 November 13, 2012 by Robert vernon
The swedes are hopelessly soft.
22:53 November 13, 2012 by Rishonim
I heard the tradition for removing shoes was only practiced by the proletariat as they could not afford the service of a cleaning person.
07:15 November 14, 2012 by PaulConnolly
Skogsbo, I think that whole trailing stuff round the house has been adopted as an extra reason for shoe removal. I've read in at least two separate books and been told by my village's oldest resident that it had always been a sign of poverty to have to wear your outdoor clothes indoors, hence the shoe removal. But it's not really a hardship to have to remove your shoes. I quite like the tradition and it means I now own my first ever pair of slippers.

Also, most Londoners love the snow. But, as it, until recently, has only snowed infrequently dahn sarf, the authorities have generally been unwilling to risk spending cash on equipment/supplies they might not need. Then, of course, when it does snow all hell breaks loose.

Robert - have you ever watched an ice hockey match? Perhaps not.

Very wry, Rishonim.....
07:51 November 14, 2012 by skogsbo
curious about the shoes, will ask the sambas folk's, they consider themselves old and wise, I'll put it too the test.

In London I don't think it is the equipment, it's just general media hype combined with the fact that it's easy news too, the "colder than... " insert somewhere normal cold headline, "temps plummet across the country to -7c" even though this will probably be in a remote Scottish glen, just as northern as Southern Sweden!

I think in some respects Swedes just make the most of creature comforts, why be cold if you don't have to be. Go to the UK in winter and you see hundreds of kids and parents freezing, babies with no hats or gloves etc.. Perhaps they just like the concept of pulling out their cosy winter woolies from deep store (well 2-3months in summer) and putting them back on. I would suggest any fool can be cold.
08:08 November 14, 2012 by PaulConnolly
skogsbo, you're right about the media hype. A right load of old nonsense. But that's newspapers for you.

But the travel chaos is definitely down to authorities not having the right equipment/supplies. Up here, there are three villagers with snow ploughs to help people out if it gets too bad. Because they know it probably will get bad. There's not the same certainty in the UK. Mind you, given the UK's rainfall, you'd think, by now, they would have erected a giant umbrella over the whole country.

With you on the futility of being cold when you don't have to be. But is 15c cold? Perhaps I just don't feel the cold that much.
09:01 November 14, 2012 by skogsbo
Perhaps its relative to their houses, with thermostats at 25c or the temp on the Thai holidays. Or they just like being very cosy.

For me 18/19 indoors is fine, over 20 is warm and beyond too warm.
10:00 November 14, 2012 by GraceBee
I love the mooses stumbling around ICA!! SOO funny.

I think you are right. I looked at my thermostat this morning. It is set at 23 celsius. Is that very warm then?
10:28 November 14, 2012 by skogsbo
23 is warm, but depending where your thermostat is doesn't mean the place is that warm, or even close.
12:00 November 14, 2012 by GraceBee
He is right tho. I get all snuggled up if the temp goes below 10 degrees. If I could I wouldn't go out all winter, lol, so mebbe we are getting too soft?
18:34 November 14, 2012 by Spuds MacKenzie
It's not just northern Swedes that are weather wimps: it's the same in Uppsala & Stockholm! Every year I see people here bundled up in their ski hats, gloves and scarfs in early September. And the busses turn the heat on FULL BLAST in late Summer as well!

I'm originally from Pennsylvania in the northeast USA and we have identical weather back home a here, yet in the U.S. no one breaks out their winter clothes until, you know, Winter!
20:46 November 14, 2012 by jarvtrask
When friends of ours came from the North of Sweden to stay with us in the Pennines, they were freezing. Our houses tend to be about 18 degrees...this was cold enough for them to keep their jackets on. Even walking on the moors in temperatures above freezing, they were cold....it was, they said, the damp that they found hard to get used to. That's Yorkshire for you.

If the shoe removal thing is about class rather than trailing grit over pine floors, I shall not feel guilt in future for keeping my boots on.
09:30 November 15, 2012 by PaulConnolly
Jarvtrask, I think the dampness in England is a very good point. It does make it feel colder. But that makes the northern Swedes' attitude towards their climate even more puzzling - the air is much, much drier up here than even in southern Sweden, never mind the UK. So, it should feel much less cold.

I even mentioned the cold issue to some neighbours the other day over dinner. They just didn't get it. When I mildly ribbed them about being wimps, they just stared at me rather blankly. Then one of them piped up - "But it IS cold here."

I guess it's what you're used to...
22:34 November 15, 2012 by Ian C. Purdie - Sydney
Paul Connolly wouldn't survive in my neck of the woods. Hot starts at >30C and cold is
18:06 November 16, 2012 by Talkingdog
Although dampness may conduct the chill dry air does not retain heat in a comfortable way either. I do not understand how people can sleep in their hot air tight bedrooms either. Married to a Swede ?(whispers) You can sneak up in the night and crack that bed room window ;) Ever noticed how Swedes do not really take to sleeping outside or late night chats over coffee or drinks under stars? Any ideas why that would be?

About shoes in the house. I remember my grandmother telling me she did not like "that boy" when a Swedish exchange student had the audacity to remove his shoes and walk around our home in his stockings. Now I am the the brunt of many a lifted brow, family gossip and irritation as I do not remove my shoes. It ruins my outfit, I protest, and makes me shorter than all the rest. I do bring extra shoes that are all clean and nice, but- I think conformity is part of the issue.

Cheers for an interesting post Paul!
00:51 November 17, 2012 by jonathanlindell
And if your home is already too hot for your visitors, it's a good idea to also light candles in every room - including the bathroom!
12:05 November 17, 2012 by PaulConnolly
Talkingdog, all good points but I wouldn't sit out late at night under the stars in the summer either. But that's because of the mossies…..

Jonathan, I know - let's turn a hot house into a greenhouse. Next dinner party - bring a tomato plant!
12:46 November 17, 2012 by GraceBee
I have now turned down my thermostat to 21c. Trying not to feel cold lol.
14:25 November 19, 2012 by spongepaddy
Not to mention the hilarious sitting-outside-cafes thing, with blankets wrapped around them. Blankets! Wimps.
18:03 November 19, 2012 by jeffi_in_denmark
There is nothing funnier, to a Canadian, than seeing all the people running around in Denmark and southern Sweden in Canada Goose parkas. We use those when we work outside, spend long hours at one time outside. We do not use them when it is still warm enough to rain :-)
14:34 November 22, 2012 by grymagnusson
At some point we all run out of those 'look at those silly old Swedes' stories and become the subjects of our own, or leave.
12:09 November 24, 2012 by SalamanderClub
Love it! As a South African married to a Swede, we struggle to find an indoor temperature that suits us both. Why not wear some extra clothes indoors in winter, I ask? No, that's uncivilised, it seems!

And guess what? Now when I visit my family in Cape Town in the southern winter, I am sooo cold. Why can't you guys get indoor heating, I ask. This is just uncivilised!

Great that we don't have anything more serious to disagree about ...
Today's headlines
Swedish boy, 11, nets lost engagement ring
The ring found by Casper Kjellström. Photo: Private

Swedish boy, 11, nets lost engagement ring

A Swedish mum has told The Local of her 11-year-old son's joy after he was able to reunite a Swedish man with his lost engagement ring. READ  

Almedalen 2015
Sweden’s top feminist wants voting from age 16
Gudrun Schyman in Visby. Photo: Lars Pehrson/TT

Sweden’s top feminist wants voting from age 16

UPDATED: The co-leader of Sweden’s Feminist Initiative Party has proposed lowering the nation’s voting age in a key speech at midday. READ  

Greece crisis
Stockholm stock market falls after Greek vote
Stockholm's stock exchange. File photo: TT

Stockholm stock market falls after Greek vote

UPDATED: Sweden’s Finance Minister Magdalena Andersson has raised concerns about Greece’s future, while Stockholm's stock market has fallen as economic jitters are felt across Europe. READ  

Rain puts dampener on Swedish holiday period
Lightening struck early on Monday. File photo: TT

Rain puts dampener on Swedish holiday period

After one of the hottest weekends of the year in many parts of Sweden, cooler temperatures and storms are arriving in Scandinavia. READ  

My Swedish Career
‘Sweden has the best infrastructure I’ve known’
Hamed Koramyar at Sweden's political festival, Almedalen. Photo: The Local

‘Sweden has the best infrastructure I’ve known’

Hamed Khoramyar worked for household names in Iran for more than a decade, but forged a new career as an IT entrepreneur after fleeing his home country and seeking asylum in Sweden in 2010. READ  

Swedes on cusp of snail control breakthrough
Snails are enjoying a bumper year at Swedish gardeners' expense. Photo: By macrophile on Flickr via Wikimedia Commons

Swedes on cusp of snail control breakthrough

Since the spring, frequent rain has ensured prime conditions for one of the gardener’s biggest enemies - the snail. Swedish scientists, however, may have found the ultimate deterrent. READ  

Almedalen 2015
BLOG: Sweden's political power forum - Day Eight
Liberal Party leader Jan Björklund. Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT

BLOG: Sweden's political power forum - Day Eight

The Swedish Liberal Party tried to score some new support after a year of plummeting in the polls, with leader Jan Björklund taking centre stage on the final day of Almedalen. READ  

New Slovakia law may limit Swedish gun use
A selection of handguns unconnected to the article. Photo: Joshuashearn via Wikimedia Commons

New Slovakia law may limit Swedish gun use

Hundreds of so-called plugged guns are bought legally abroad and smuggled from Slovakia to Sweden, where they are used by criminals. But new law the eastern European nation may close this deadly loophole. READ  

Arrest warrants issued for Sunday murder
A police sign near the crime scene. Photo: Stig-Åke Jönsson/TT

Arrest warrants issued for Sunday murder

According to police, arrest warrants have been issued for two people, suspected of the murder of a man in his 20s, who was shot to death on Lundavägen in Arlöv just north of Malmö on Sunday. READ  

Almedalen 2015
BLOG: Sweden's political power forum - Day Seven
Left Party leader Jonas Sjöstedt speaking at Almedalen 2015 on Saturday. Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT

BLOG: Sweden's political power forum - Day Seven

It's the seventh day of Almedalen, the most important week in Swedish politics, and the Left Party is running the show. The Local is live blogging the key moments. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Gallery
People-watching: July 3rd-5th
National
Scary taxis lure Nordic Noir freaks to Sweden's capital
National
Oasis star calls Zlatan 'idiot'
National
Learning Swedish: different rules for expats and refugees?
Sport
IN PICTURES: Thousands welcome home Sweden’s heroes
Blog updates

3 July

Editor’s blog, July 3rd (The Local Sweden) »

"Hello from the Swedish island of Gotland! The Local’s editorial team has decamped from our Stockholm headquarters..." READ »

 

2 July

Som eller att (The Swedish Teacher) »

"Hejsan! It happens quite often, that my students are confused over when to use “som” and when..." READ »

 
 
 
Politics
Almedalen: The Local's guide to Sweden's power players week
Gallery
IN PICTURES: Your July summer snaps
Sport
Sweden celebrates greatest sporting victory in decades
Gallery
People-watching: July 1st
Sponsored Article
VIP Mingle at Almedalen's hottest event
National
Swede battles slug invasion
Sponsored Article
What can we learn from Swedish women's sex habits?
National
VIDEO: Is this herring tasting clip an 'insult to Sweden'?
Gallery
Property of the week: Visby, Gotland
National
Sweden set for sunniest week of year
Gallery
People-watching: June 26th-28th
Features
The Local's essential guide to who's who in Swedish politics
National
More Swedish military exercises as Russia aggression fears grow
National
What's on in Sweden this week
Travel
Why Swedish camp sites are set for a bumper summer
National
Swedish summer's really on its way (at least according to forecasters)
Gallery
People-watching: June 24th
National
Why are southern Swedes angry about becoming 'Danish' again?
Society
Lifestyle: When to catch your favourite features on The Local
National
Is Sweden one of the world's most peaceful nations?
Sponsored Article
Harstena: Travelling to Sweden's secret islands
National
One in ten Swedish cats homeless
Sponsored Article
'I constantly evolve my Swedishness'
Gallery
Property of the week: Värmdö, Stockholm
Society
Would you eat this Swedish pizza?
National
Swedish royals' dream honeymoon
National
Swedish hospital opens first centre for male rape victims
Gallery
People-watching: June 20th-21st
Photo: TT
Lifestyle
Midsummer: The Local's guide to Sweden's craziest festival
Sponsored Article
Murder, myth and magic: Travelling to the birthplace of Sweden
Gallery
People-watching: June 17th
Sponsored Article
Gallery: Life in Sweden's secret archipelago
Society
Seven alternative names for Sweden's Prince Nicolas Paul Gustaf
National
FBI returns stolen Swedish books
National
Want to smell like Zlatan?
National
Royal joy over birth of new prince
Gallery
Property of the week: Brantevik, Simrishamn
National
How racy graffiti inspired a teacher's high school sex class
Gallery
People-watching: June 12th-14th
National
As it happened: Prince Carl Philip marries Sofia Hellqvist
Technology
Is Stockholm the world's creative capital?
National
Timeline: Julian Assange case
Sponsored Article
KTH President: ‘Sweden’s success is because of its size’
Gallery
IN PICTURES: New royal couple Prince Carl Philip and Sofia Hellqvist
Features
Ten Swedish festivals to discover
Sponsored Article
Why expat women are choosing Swedish natural birth control
Bupa
Sponsored Article
Healthcare: Nine questions every expat should ask
Sponsored Article
The millionaire teacher who leads by tough love
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

3,211
jobs available
PSD Media
PSD Media is marketing company that offers innovative solutions for online retailers. We provide modern solutions that help increase traffic and raise conversion. Visit our site at:
psdmedia.se