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Dating in Sweden: sex, booze and mobile phones

This guide may not help you find someone to kiss on Valentine's Day, but it might just shed some light on the tantalizing mystery known as the strong, silent Nordic type.

Dating in Sweden: sex, booze and mobile phones
Dating in Sweden, the ultimate A-Å (okay, we skipped the last two) list: Per Pixel Petersson/imagebank.sweden.se

This article was written by blogger Kommissarie F. Kuriosa in 2009 and remains one of our most popular dating-in-Sweden articles to date.

With one of the highest birth rates in Europe, the Swedes seem to be pretty prolific when it comes to making babies, but even after six plus years of living in Stockholm, I'm still not sure how Swedish relationships actually happen.

The only obvious explanation seems to be massive quantities of alcohol. In other words, Swedish babies wouldn't exist without Finnish booze cruises and Systembolaget.

In recent months, The Local has reported that Swedes are much less inclined than their European counterparts to spend vast sums of cash in their efforts to find a mate. This didn't surprise me at all. That's because they spend it all on alcohol trying to get themselves drunk enough to talk to a member of the opposite sex.

I know that it will seem ungrateful to be accusing my host country of being a nation of stingy alcoholics, and I'll be the first to admit that a few drinks can be a fantastic social lubricant. It's probably also a case of “it's not the Swedes, it's me,” but Swedish mating and dating rituals (and usually in that order) appear to be a very slow process that go nowhere (except the bedroom) fast.

In a nutshell, it goes something like this:

A) Meet at a mutual friend's party.

B) Get really, really drunk.

C) Make out. Sex is optional.

D) If you're lucky, you are sober enough to save the other person's telephone number in your mobile, AND to put it under the correct name.

E) Send a text message along the lines of “last night was nice. Shall we have a coffee sometime?”

F) Spend hours analyzing the various ways in which aforementioned text message could be misinterpreted. Get your friends involved.

G) Have a “fika.” *(see below for an explanation of this uniquely Swedish institution)

*A “fika” is a Swedish word for an ambiguous meeting that may or may not be a date, or better explained as a non-date, or a date that is pretending-not-to-be-a-date.

It is also worth mentioning that one can also have a fika with a friend, colleague, family member, or neighbor. Hence the ambiguity of the whole affair.

During this “fika” Swedish non-date, things are a little stilted and awkward as both parties pretend that nothing happened last Saturday night, and politely and awkwardly ask questions about the other person, usually beginning with “Where do you live?,” descending into a discussion about the difficulty and frustration of the Stockholm housing market, and complaining that you have had to move seven times in the course of six months.

Now, where were we…oh yes:

H) At the end of this date pretending not to be a date, give each other an awkward hug, or possibly a handshake, ended with the statement, “Vi hörs!” or “Hoppas vi ses snart!” (“I'll talk to you soon.” or “Hope we see each other soon!”)

I) Spend the entire next week pondering over who should make the next move. A WORD OF WARNING: It is not assumed here that the guy will take the lead. More likely, the opposite is expected. If the Swedish guy is brave enough open his mouth and say something at all during this date, he may feel that it is now the girl's turn to put herself out on a limb.

J) Spend many more hours analyzing your feeble attempts at text message”flirting,” agonizing over whether you should or should not use the word “mysig” (cozy) or “trevlig” (nice), fearing the former may be too much, and the latter may not be enough. Once again, enlist the help of your friends.

K) Repeat Step A.

L) Repeat Step B.

M) Repeat Step C, all the while pretending it never happened the first time.

N) Sometime after several more renditions of Steps B and C, go out to dinner.

O) Since it's a little harder to pretend you are not on a real date in the formal atmosphere of a restaurant, drink massive amounts of the house wine.

P) At the end of dinner, closely examine the bill to make sure each person pays for his or her appropriate share, including the extra five kronor for dressing on the side.

Q) Get kicked out of your way-too-expensive second-hand rental contract because the person you were subletting from didn't take 10 study points and lost his/her contract for student housing.

R) Get drunk again, and commiserate on the horrors of the Stockholm housing market.

S) Move in together.

T) Go shopping at Ikea.

U) Take a romantic trip to the Canary Islands.

V) Move to the suburbs, buy a Volvo and start collecting “Vuxenpoäng” (see Stockholm Syndrome for more on the ‘adult points’ systems).

W) Have a child.

X) Name it Johan, Erik, Fredrik, or Henrik if it’s a boy or Sara, Anna, Lisa, or Emma if it’s a girl.

Y) Two months after you go back to work after having Johan/Erik/Fredrik/Henrik/Sara/Anna/Lisa/Emma, repeat Step W.

Z) Enjoy an additional 18 months of parental leave.

Å) Get married for your 20th wedding anniversary.

Written by Kommissarie F. Curiosa, a Sweden-based American blogger.

Member comments

  1. Weak article — really weak. Very negative too.

    My take:
    Dating in Sweden is easy and fun.
    The people are friendly, if you aren’t a stiff. And the women seem to make “good decisions” about who they select. And they are open minded about different types of people. You needed be rich, and there is no need to purchase an expensive car. Try developing a bit of a personality, and you will do well.

    Yes, alcohol can help things along in some cases.
    But that’s also true in the US (and Canada, the UK, Germany and almost all of Asia). So, what’s the difference? In my experience – nothing.

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DATING

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

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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.

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