Swedish women look for long-distance love

Richie Rankin reveals why Swedish women are developing a penchant for dating men from abroad.

Swedish women look for long-distance love

The world is getting smaller. That we already know. Major environmental-impact issues aside, low-cost air travel means a weekend away (give or take a few days) to cities such as London or New York – or anywhere in Europe, for that matter – is relatively affordable. Factor in the Internet’s increasing presence in our daily lives, and you start to realize just how small it’s becoming.

Where am I going with all this? Our attitudes towards finding love are changing. Long-distance relationships aren’t ideal. Granted. But with the advent of talk-for-free web programs such as Skype and aforementioned air travel, dating someone who lives a few thousand kilometres away has never been more feasible. What’s more, the emergence of online dating around the globe suggests we’re more open to the idea than ever.

Take, say, Britain. A recent article in leading London newspaper The Independent identifies a growing trend of unlucky-in-love Brits looking beyond their own borders for the perfect partner. Why? With the spiralling cost of rail travel in the United Kingdom, it’s just as cheap to fly to a city such as Stockholm as it is to head overland from London to, say, Leeds. The paper also suggests that as much as one-fifth of the country’s 15 million singles would consider a serious long-distance relationship with someone abroad.

Then there’s the ‘exoticness’, if you will, of dating a foreigner. It’s almost a given, and is something that extends far beyond Europe. Put simply: people often yearn for something different to the norm they’ve grown up with.

But is the feeling reciprocated here in Sweden? If my early observations were anything to go by – yes. Swedish women, it seems, are warming to the idea of dating foreign men, particularly from the UK.

Keen to put the theory to test, I put the word out through friends. That two friends of friends dating Brits emerged in the space of a week is rather telling. Add to that a chance meeting with another (who happens to be dating an American) in savvy Stockholm bar Riche in the same week, and you start to get the picture.

First there was Sofia, 28, whose boyfriend is based in London. “Before I met James, I was spending time with friends there every six to eight weeks anyway,” says the Stockholm-based marketing manager. “So it’s not a big deal. We met, by chance, when I was over about seven months ago, and have since been taking turns to fly over to see each other. We normally spend around two weekends a month together.”

The attraction of British men? “They’re a lot more adventurous and interesting than Swedish guys. Seeing someone so far away certainly isn’t for everyone, though. I’d much prefer to be able to call and just meet up whenever. But to be honest, it’s so cheap to fly back and forth, and I can live with a two-and-a-half-hour flight after work on a Friday once a month. You learn to deal with it.”

So how much longer can she keep it up? “We’re giving it until September. After that, one of us will need to make a decision – although, I think he’ll end up moving to Stockholm. We’ll see.”

For Anna, 33, the distance is much greater. “I was working in New York in 2006, Tom and I met, and things just clicked,” says the Stockholm-based financial consultant. “Unfortunately, I had to move back for work last year, whereas Tom’s business had just started to take off.”

Is it worth the heartache? “The things you do for love. A long-distance relationship really suits me. Sometimes it’s just easier, particularly if you work long hours. Obviously, long term, I’m either going to move back there or he’s going to have to relocate here. In the meantime, though, I just don’t have the time to see someone week in, week out. So it’s ideal. We talk or email at least three to four times a week, so you can still maintain that connection and chemistry.”

And the fact they’re separated by the expanse of the Atlantic Ocean? “Okay, the eight-hour flight is a bit of an issue. It just means I have to dip into my holiday leave every month or two. Not ideal, but definitely doable.”

Hanna, 23, on the other hand, met a Londoner online in March. “He’s flying over in three weeks,” says the second-year design student. “We met on a dating site and started flirting on MSN. We’ve pretty much been chatting a couple of times a week ever since.”

Any apprehensions about meeting up with a foreign guy she’s never met before? “I actually met my last boyfriend online, so, no, not really. I’m far more nervous this time, though, given the whole distance thing. When someone is flying all the way from another country, there’s a lot more pressure.”

So why not date someone a little more local? “I’ve always liked the idea of dating a foreign guy – just for something different. I find Swedish guys a little boring. Plus, I’m thinking of moving to London after I graduate next year anyway, so, for me, it’s exciting to see where things might lead.”

Is the cost of travelling to London on a regular basis a concern? “If it does work out, flights with Ryanair out of Vasterås are so cheap – they’re, like 700 kronor return – I really can’t see it being an issue.”

Richie Rankin


Top ten expat complaints to their Swedish partners

From ketchup to driving skills, when The Local once asked what expats complain about most to their Swedish partners, the responses were mixed.

Top ten expat complaints to their Swedish partners
Why do you love your tech gadgets more than me? Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT

1. Ketchup on… well, everything!

Swedes have an obsession with ketchup. They dollop it all over their pasta, their lasagne, their mashed potatoes – you name it. And it's not just a little splodge either, this is a true dousing. Strange, right? I mean, Swedes wouldn't put jam on their meatballs, would they? Oh that's right, they do.

Ketchup line up. Photo: Don Ryan/TT

2. Texting while driving down Vasagatan? No problem.

It's nothing strange to see a Swede talking, or even texting on their phone, while driving. And do you know why? Because for years it was pretty much perfectly legal, although this is beginning to change

Just watch out for red lights! Photo: LM Otero/TT

3. Passive aggressive notes

Swedes tend to avoid conflict, but only of the verbal kind. If you've left a little bit of lint in the laundry room's dryer, or if you've left a mug in the office sink, then you'd better be prepared to face a passive aggressive note the next day. In the picture below a Swede is complaining in very colourful language about garbage disposal etiquette.

'Keep your sh*t in your own apartment!' Photo: Petter Palander/Flickr

4. Too much coffee and no decaf!

The biggest problem is the lack of decaf, some Twitter users suggested when we once asked what rubbed people the wrong way about their Swedish partners the most. In a country where coffee is (probably) consumed more than water, you're in the minority if you prefer yours without caffeine. And if you don't like coffee, then you'd better rectify that immediately. It's easier than saying “No thank you, I don’t drink coffee” and then explaining yourself 14 times a day.

Mmmm… fika time… Photo: Claudio Bresciani/TT

While we have your attention… a small request.
The Local has been giving the world the story of Sweden for the past 14 years, and we know that the news and information we provide makes a real difference to the lives of our readers. But here's the thing: advertising revenues across the media industry – the revenues that keep us going – are more unreliable than ever.
That's why we're asking readers to become Members. For just 50 SEK a month you can get access to all The Local's articles, including articles written just for Members. We'll also invite you to special events and give you exclusive offers. At the same time you'll ensure The Local stays thriving into the future.
Become a Member here. Or find out more here.


5. Tradition over spontaneity, no exceptions!

“You'll be here next Christmas, too, right?” your Swedish mother-in-law will ask as the last present is unwrapped on Christmas Eve (yes, presents are unwrapped on the 24th). Tradition triumphs and spontaneity is dead, that's the fact in Sweden. Expect raised eyebrows if you don't commit early to birthday celebrations, Easter, crayfish parties, and of course, Christmas. You will be there, and you will enjoy it. And we dare you to try to plan a weekend away with friends instead!

A silly Christmas Chihuahua. This is not a Swedish tradition, we just liked the picture. Photo: Mary Altaffer/TT

6. Laundry comes first…

Swedes will sometimes use their laundry time as an excuse. “I'd love to come out with you tonight, but I have a laundry time reserved – I really can't miss it.” In Stockholm, at least, most people live in apartment blocks with a communal laundry in the cellar. Reserving a good laundry time (like a Sunday morning or Tuesday after work) can be treated as the holy grail of weekly achievements.

No time like laundry time! Photo: Jessica Gow/TT

7. ‘Did you really pass your driving test?’

Nescience of road rules is one of the complaints we heard the most. More specifically, people we asked were peeved at the lack of indication when turning corners or using roundabouts. Others moaned that Swedes don't know how manage traffic flows on motorways. One even said Swedes drive just like a Volvo, which, upon checking the online urban dictionary, apparently means the driver is, in short, conservative and ‘boring’. 

No Volvos in this picture! Photo: Stig-Åke Jönsson/TT

8. “Let me drink!”

A complaint we heard a few times was that Swedes often turn a disapproving eye when it comes to having a casual drink on a school night. “You're having a glass of wine? On a Tuesday?!” This could have something to do with the fact that alcohol is hard to come by in Sweden, as it is only sold in the monopoly chain Systembolaget at certain times of the day, and drinking is an exclusive weekend activity.

How is he holding that wine glass? Photo: Gorm Kallestad/TT

9. Too much snus

A quick explanation of snus in case you're unaware: snus is a moist snuff packet (imagine a tobacco teabag the size of a piece of chewing gum) that you wedge between your lip and teeth. Well, maybe you don't, but the Swedes do. A lot. If you think a snus packet sounds familiar, it's probably because you've seen one dangling from a Swede's upper lip mid-conversation, or perhaps you've seen a used one in the gutter or in the toilet, spat out and forgotten.

The snus-ing shadow… Photo: Jessica Gow/TT

10. “I can't find a Swede to date… and then complain about…”

Yes, complaints about Swedes aren't just for those dating them, but for those still looking. And meeting new people might be hard, especially if you refuse to use popular dating apps such as Tinder. Then you just have to rely on a classic ‘Hollywood-romance’ meeting, which isn't necessarily easy in a country not exactly known for its open and sociable citizens. Good luck!

READ ALSO: How to never be single again in Sweden

Romance in the moonlight. Photo: Charlie Riedel/TT

This article was first published in 2013 in our old gallery format and was revamped in 2017.