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First dates in Sweden: sabotaged by social welfare

The Local · 30 Jul 2009, 16:58

Published: 30 Jul 2009 16:58 GMT+02:00

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There’s nothing quite like the rush of sharing that first few hours together: awkwardly asking questions, selecting words ever-so-carefully to impress one other, avoiding foods with high risk of becoming lodged between teeth (broccoli is a definite no).

And all the while secretly thinking about what’s beneath each others’ clothing.

First dates are always a challenge, however, even under ideal conditions.

But as I’ve learned during my brief time in Stockholm, dating in a foreign country requires one to bring their game to a whole different level - especially when that country is Sweden.

My first Swedish date took place about a month after I’d moved to the nation’s capital. And about two minutes into it, I realized whatever dating ‘expertise’ I thought I had gained during my single years, was useless.

The evening felt like a cavalcade of one hopeless moment after another. The dinner went like this: I asked a question. He answered. I asked another. He answered again. Not once did a question come my way. Was I that boring, or was he just that rude?

When the bill came, I offered to help pay as I always do; a well-rehearsed token gesture of kindness, which I expected to be duly rebuffed.

Instead, my Swedish companion “allowed” me to pay for half the meal. And then left me to cover our after-dinner coffee—another sure sign in my book that things were heading in the wrong direction.

Three hours later, my stomach full of non-free food and my mind reeling from the piss-poor conversation, my first Swedish date was finally over.

I returned home dejected; tucked myself into bed and curled up in the foetal position to watch reruns of classic movies.

How had things gone so horribly wrong?

Sharing this tragic tale with Swedish girlfriends over cocktails did little to life my spirits.

They all stared at me blankly, failing to understand my concerns.

“He let me pay!” I protested repeatedly.

No reaction.

“He hardly asked me any questions!”

More blank stares. Obviously, Swedish girl talk wasn’t going to help.

Frustrated, I decided to call an expert: Swedish author and dating guru Marie Hagberg.

I needed to know: was my foreign blood the cause of my first date failure, or do all Swedish women boldly face the torment of horrible first dates every time they embark on such missions?

“Swedish guys just don’t get it,” she says.

Whew! Ok, it’s not just me.

“You expect a guy to make the first move, but in Sweden he won’t unless he’s really drunk,” Hagberg said.

Her observation was certainly confirmed by my experience, as my would-be Swedish beau had undoubtedly downed a healthy dose of liquid courage before we struck up our conversation.

“Men here are very timid,” Hagberg continues.

“I am constantly trying to educate our male population about things like this, but I haven’t succeeded. Swedish guys don’t do anything and don’t make progress. At the same time they don’t want a girl to do anything either, so nothing happens. It’s very frustrating.”

Hagberg’s insights are anything but reassuring for my prospects for finding love in Sweden. Apparently I shouldn’t make the move, yet he won’t either.

But why? Are they shy?

According to Hagberg, there is truth to the old stereotype about Swedes not being the most outgoing types.

“Swedes are known for being kind of dull and boring,” she says.

No kidding.

“We are more closed than Americans or Brits,” she continues.

No argument there.

“Though we are still nice!” she adds.

Somehow, that promise of “niceness” feels empty at this particular juncture. After all, my first date companion simply talked about himself for three hours!

According to Hagberg, this self-centred pathology is common for Swedish men. In fact, their behavioural incompetence so deep and widespread that she has resorted to offering lessons about how to behave on a date.

“The most common thing I tell guys is to ask questions,” she explains.

That’s a good place to start.

“They get so excited if she is asking questions, they then forget to be polite and ask questions back.”

I don’t want to be critical of Hagberg’s teaching methods, but it seems to me her message isn’t getting through.

Then there’s that whole not-picking-up-the-check-thing.

“People in Sweden are so confused about this,” says Hagberg.

You don’t say.

Story continues below…

“Most girls want a guy to pay, and most guys also think they should pay. But a lot are still confused, wondering whether to pay or split. I think the guys should pay the first time; it doesn’t mean he should pay every time, but just the first time. It has to do with manners and style.”

But why don’t they pay?

“Men think women earn almost as much as they do, so why should they pay? I think that’s bullshit,” she said.

Amen to that sister.

With Hagberg’s help, I slowly start to realize that a Swedish man on a first date is like a lost puppy trying to find his way. He knows not how to approach a lady, carry a conversation, or to offer to pay.

Poor things. I almost feel sorry for them. And I couldn’t help but wonder what could be responsible for stunting the dating intelligence of Swedish men so severely.

Hagberg’s answer catches me off guard.

“It has to do with our social welfare system,” she exclaims.

Come again?

“Here nobody is supposed to take care of their own life or future and people consider the government responsible for everything. That has coloured the world of dating, and gone overboard.”

So my dating failure can ultimately be attributed to an unforeseen side-effect of some grand experiment in social engineering?

Not exactly the culprit I was expecting, but then again, growing up in a capitalist system across the Atlantic, I had always been told that socialism is the root of all evil.

And now…it’s also the reason I’m still single in Sweden.

The Local (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

17:53 July 30, 2009 by eZee.se
Heh funny article...

I'm a foreigner here myself, and a guy so although i would like to have a good laugh about the "competition"; in all fairness I think you got yourself a dud... theres often a rotten apple in a barrel (or two/three) and a dud in every few packets of fireworks.

Dating Swedish women too is a bit "different"... but nothing as bad as your 'shocker date', maybe it helps I do ask questions back, and totally refuse to split the bill but pay it myself... she can take care of the tip if she absolutely insists.

And finally, So cia lism is not the ro0t of all evl... Cosmo is! (Responsible for more fights than AI Q a e d a)

(this damn board keeps censoring my comments and does not tell me why or which words)
18:25 July 30, 2009 by skane refugee
collective payment (round of beers, couple of coffees etc) in Sweden is usually met with intense suspicion by the locals ... what are you up to and what do you want in return?

... generosity of spirit is often an alien concept, and ease of payments (one transaction instead of many for each meal, coffees, round of drinks etc) resulting from alternating payment within groups of friends who meet often, doesn't seem to have permeated as an idea

... bills are usually split by individual by item ... behaviour that instantly brands you as an anally retentive 'billy-no-mates' in the UK, or 'uber-cheap' in the US is standard in Sweden

therefore a guy picking up the tab on a first date would go totally against the cultural grain here ... plus many women would see the move as patronising, pre-feminist, and almost akin to buying them

... 'behavioural incompetence' and 'self-centred pathology' resoundingly ring true of most of the Swedish men I've met!
00:03 July 31, 2009 by bobnbri
I don't know anything about your date, but I know that some of us are more sensitive than most women would ever expect. A lot of us guys are not the matinee idol super self-confidant, self-adoring " Hey get a load of how cool a dude I am" type.

Maybe this guy really is a twit, or it could be something else. Maybe he's totally confused because he can't read body language. Maybe he is such an introvert it would take a few beers to pry him open.

Perhaps he got really badly hurt and is literally scared. Again...."Waiter, we'll have another."

I do agree on the first date he should pay but a lot of the guys are confused and worried about being mistaken for chauvenist pigs if they offer to pay out right.
01:39 July 31, 2009 by Rebel
Well, I know more than a few young Swedish women who make it a point to not date Swedish males. Has to do with binge drinking, not wanting to commit, and having no opinion on anything from politics to life in general.
02:00 July 31, 2009 by Nifty
Having been blasted as patronizing by a woman for offering her my seat on a crowded bus I am wary of swedish feminists.

The local blokes are so brow beaten I'm not surprised they act as they do.

Being told to pull your male head in from a young age would have to have some effect.
05:15 July 31, 2009 by jadahl
It is ridiculous that a stereotypical date "should" end up with the male representative paying the whole bill. In the days of gender equality this old thing that surprisingly still lives on in so many other countries around the world should end. The whole dating procedure should be rethought, and the writer of this article should seriously rethink what position she wants in a society. Should a woman be the one waiting for a man to take the initiative, or should there be some kind of equality? It's the same as the rest of the society when the trend should go towards male and female having the same responsibilities, dating or working.
06:56 July 31, 2009 by Aussie_Downunder
Sweden = Weird
08:14 July 31, 2009 by nollbit
Scarlet is free to date other men who is stuck in the 19th century when women made no money and had to be bought by men. Assuming that men will pay for your meal is disgusting. Dating for me is an emotional investment, not an economical one.
09:00 July 31, 2009 by mfh4
"Was I that boring, or was he just that rude?"

Rather than attempt to blame things on either a) Swedish men or b) the Social Welfare system, maybe the writer of this article should perhaps face the unpleasant fact that the guy simply realized very early on in the date that he just didn't like her. Oh and why did she think a guy should pay on the first date, after all she offered to pay half and he took her up on her offer

LOL maybe she should learn that if she wants a guy to pay she should to keep quiet!
09:24 July 31, 2009 by Puffin
What a strange article - personally don't think that it has a thing to do with social welfare but more to do with the sense of entitlement and dating games expected by the article writer

I don't think that Swedish men are so used to the type of dating games that article writer likes to play. I thought that "expecting the man to pay for the first date" went out decades ago - seriously I haven't heard of this "rule" for years it sounds so 1950s - sometimes guys offer but mostly women expect to pay their own way when dating

And why play these little games of offering to pay and then being insulted when the other person takes this as a genuine offer?

I think that she should stop reading "the Rules" - it doesn't translate to other countries at all - and probably not outside of certain places in the US
09:39 July 31, 2009 by martell
While I stayed in Sweden, I adjusted to the local customs and had no problems whatsoever. When in Rome, do as the Romans do.
11:50 July 31, 2009 by Tickled
All I can make out from this article is that swedish men and women are "sensible" people. I fail to understand why girls in most countries want the men to bear the cost of a date or outing, when its a form of social interaction desirous or beneficial to both.

Rather than being a detriment, the practice of splitting up bills enhances democratic values and takes away a load of burden from the guys shoulder. Why is it that girls in many countries want a share of all that's fun in a date but not of the attendant responsibilities?

Most of the so called "generosity of spirit" practices in other countries are sources of social discontent and friction. Although people go along with them (apparently willingly) on surface, it usually happens that the balance of such generosity gets tilted unfavorably towards one in favour of another leading to resentment and discontent in those on the receiving end.
12:37 July 31, 2009 by bocale1
the article is funny but it seems to come from the middle age. Even in a country like Italy, where I come from, in most of the case, women do not expect having their bills paid by men any longer... and why should they do?

This habit is a legacy of very old times when men were supposed to take initiatives and take care of all women public life issues, being them, in most of the cases, without jobs and, consequently, without money to spend. it was also a subtle way to remark that it was the men that decide and women were just kind and little creatures that depended on them... nothing that women should be nostalgic about.

the only thing that I see clearly in this article is the normal American way of thinking: all the world should behave exactly like US otherwise it is bad. Well, my dear friends, it does not work in this way!
13:03 July 31, 2009 by Irishmanabroad
"Then there's that whole not-picking-up-the-check-thing."

What the hell! So women want equality in their lives in everything yet you still expect the man to pick up the bill. The first night I met my later-to-be Swedish girlfriend in a Stockholm bar, she wouldn't let me pay for every round, instead making sure we alternated between each other. 4 years later, even though I earn 3 times as much as she does, it is still that way!

I had this notion of "the man always pays" bred into my through dating in the UK and Ireland and I certainly found this approach a breath of fresh air. Infact, if I was single and a girl expected me to pay on a first date now I wouldn't be calling her back!

You make some excellent points in the rest of the article however. It made me chuckle a lot :) Perhaps it was my straightforward approach that made my other half overlook my lack of Scandinavian beauty/dress sense/make-up obsession :)
13:15 July 31, 2009 by james1664
The author of this article just reinforces to me, why I prefer European to US women. Having dated a few US chicks with good jobs who, alas, would not put their hands in their pockets; I'll opt for the swedish woman everytime, a sense of fun, in good shape, and considers a date a way of getting to know someone. Maybe US chicks should have a rethink about dating, it is not a job interview for a placement with some wannabe goddess..
14:47 July 31, 2009 by lensart
02:00 July 31, 2009 Nifty said:

"Having been blasted as patronizing by a woman for offering her my seat on a crowded bus I am wary of swedish feminists.

The local blokes are so brow beaten I'm not surprised they act as they do.

Being told to pull your male head in from a young age would have to have some effect. "

I agree with Nifty. There are no women in the world who can shrink a man's confidence like a Swede. They flaunt their femininity, expect attention, then wrap themselves in the flag of gender equality (jämställdhet) when their mood has changed.
15:00 July 31, 2009 by insect
For anyone who missed this article, I think it is a must read and it basically kind of explains why this writers date took that kind of turn.

15:04 July 31, 2009 by jglammi
HE is supposed to pay? Because?
15:11 July 31, 2009 by Hey_hellouthere
I kind of agree in the sense that, I have expereinced the situations where I accept the bills and it interpreted as exactly treating with condescension.

In any case dating in Sweden is so different compare to other part of the world. but after 4 years living here I learned my lessons! ;) I really like the way this article is written!
15:49 July 31, 2009 by bomani2k
Being an American in Sweden I find the women who share the expense equally to be extremely attractive. Dating someone who has an entitlement issue due to her gender is one of the main reasons I'd never date an American woman (most). Swedish women are among the first on the planet to actually "GET" what equality means! For that I salute (most) of them.

I find both men and women to be extremely (initially) conversation shy. If you state to them up front how you like a date to go I find it helps. Honestly the second date after some sms works out better, that's just the way it goes.

I find Swedes VERY refreshing even in their shyness. Listing to an American or Brit blather on in their narcissism punctuated by listening to you for a moment so they can blather some more while you 'entertain' or make them laugh (romance by the male only) is something that should go out the door with the chador.
15:59 July 31, 2009 by vladd777
I met and married a Swede in South Africa. Most of the Swedish guys I met in SA were very friendly and outgoing.

After having lived in Sweden for the past 23 yrs and observing interaction between males and females, I have come to the conclusion that the principle of 'jämställdhet' is the killer of romance.

The male ego can't cope with it.
16:38 July 31, 2009 by eZee.se
Ok, reading the rest of the comments it looks like i am the odd one out, so i have a couple of questions for the others that i would appreciate if both guys and girls answered as you seem to have either adjusted to Sweden faster to me or have just been here longer than I have..or are Swedes yourself.

1. After the date when the check comes, usually i just reach for it or just slip my credit card in the folder..what do you do?

2. Does your date ask what was the bill or...?if she does not ask?offer..?

3.Is there like a hurry to pull out the calculator to split it right down to the ore or a kind of ballpark/rough split? (for example if its 250kr, is 120kr good?)

I find that story of offering a woman your seat on the bus and then getting shouted at the funniest..and sad at the same time,i honestly dont know what i would have done if that had happened to me!

Thanks in advance for your answers, and dont be shy to leave any other little quirks that are different from "western dating"
17:04 July 31, 2009 by scott.br
Trying to associate dating with social equality is just proof that people don't understand the relationship between men and women anymore.

The relationship between men and women has not ever been, is not and will never be equal. Men and women want different things. Men are looking for someone who will take care of them, women are looking for stability and protection, especially for potential offspring. And these aren't needs that are realized at a conscious level, these are primal needs that have been with humans for thousands and thousands of years and no rational thought is going to overcome them.

Is there one woman reading this that wouldn't put their own children over their career? And is there one man on here that wouldn't want to be able to make enough so that his wife wouldn't feel like she had to choose career over children? This is the reality of having a family.
17:31 July 31, 2009 by bobnbri
To eZee:

1. I always paid without fuss. I knew I was expected to even if I resented the hypocrisy.

2. No. My date never enquired about the total. Ever!

I sense there is a huge difference between North American women and the Swedish. From my personal experience in Canada women are often shallow, supeficial, narcissistic and unrealistic. Thier life syles, beliefs and values have been dictated to them by Hollywood and fashion mags for many decades.
17:42 July 31, 2009 by Harding00
Being an American married to a Swede (I'm living in Sweden now), I have to say, that when I first met my wife in the US, we went out for fika, then later that day to dinner, and then a movie. I paid for all of those things. My wife was shocked that I paid, but she didn't feel belittled, or insulted. In fact, it made her feel special (like it was more than just friends going to dinner) . I didn't do it to patronize her, I did it because it was a nice thing to do. She offered to pay for her half, and I said it was ok that I would pay. I think if Swedish men offered to pay, very rarely would Swedish women not like that. I am not saying that the man should always pay, but at least on the first date. Maybe I come from a backwards, conservative country, but I think there's nothing wrong with the guy offering to pay for the first date.
18:01 July 31, 2009 by coswede
swedish men are pussys
18:36 July 31, 2009 by Miss Kitten
That's pussies.
18:42 July 31, 2009 by scott.br
I'm not saying that women should stay at home all the time taking care of the kids, I'm saying that I personally want my kids to be raised by me and my potential wife and not a bunch of people that I don't know.

Apparently Sweden is about 30 years behind the US and the UK. The US went through what was called "women's lib" 30 years ago before rejecting it as unrealistic.

What I'm talking about here is a man's desire to take care of the woman he's with and I'm talking about a woman's desire to feel that the man that she's with with support and protect her. This is what being a man and a woman is about, we need each other.

What's wrong with a man making the first move? And what's wrong with a man paying for the first date? I don't care if the woman makes more than I do, I do it because I want the woman to know that I'm willing to take responsibility for asking her out. And if I open the door for her, I do it as a sign of respect, nothing else.
19:02 July 31, 2009 by atheodoropoulou
@coswede: Swedish men are physically extremely attractive and shyness is part of their appeal to *some* foreign women who are fed up with bragging and machismo.

The idea that the person with the appendage between their legs should be the one to pay on a first date is ludicrous.

@scott.br: Men and women are there to support each other in whatever way they decide to share responsibilities. Splitting financial costs equally is inherent in my idea of self-worth. At any given time one of the two parts of a relationship might struggle more than the other and on those occasions generosity and good will are what keep things going. But these are not gender-specific attributes.

@bocale1: Well said! And is it not the Americans who promote 'unilateral' dating rules through their movies? Just watch those romcoms!
19:54 July 31, 2009 by grantike
sharing all boils down to faimily.its not only about going to dinner and payments as a guy is normally safe to nake girls comfortable to stand while she seats.that simply dnt work here in sweden.shyness and timidity all contributes to it.
20:24 July 31, 2009 by mame
I think a lot of you are missing the point here. too much talk about paying the bill.

the thing is that, I don't think Swedes are in general familiar with the concept of flirting, the essential romantic communication between man and woman. people are too mechanical here. they don't get excited, nothing makes them happy or interested,

That being said, I'm not interested in dating Swedish girls anymore because I have had several unsuccessful attempts. I Come from a middleeastern country, were we have the characteristics which you guys might be familiar with in a stereotype italian, french or latin man. That is, we get the game: flirting, being humorous, adventurous, taking care of your girl, and so on. I'm seeing myself light years away from a boring and unexciting swedish guy who is watching carefully his dress to be tight and tidy, with a closed and repressive body language. But guys, nothing ever seems to turn on Swedish girls,
20:34 July 31, 2009 by Retina Lee
I myself not a swede but I've dated a Swedish guy here in HongKong for the past 5months. I know what u mean up there and i would like to say:

1) I'll do the same thing as u did. I'll slip my credit card or cash but Y should i complaint if i'm willing to do it?

2) There's no rule that men should pay every meals.

3) If u guys really get together in the future after the date. Y should him offering everything y not share if u loves each other. Men n Women should be equal.
21:29 July 31, 2009 by Khali
I don't think there should be rules to dating, and life in general. I believe it is a mistake to go on a date with preconceived expectations about how men and women should behave. Each date should be a unique experience, different from the previous one/s. A Swedish girl declined my offer to pay for her meal, and I wasn't offended. A Jewish Canadian girl always insisted on paying for our shared meals. The Canadian always insisted we eat from the same plate, which I never expected from the Swede. People are different, and we should go to every date with an open and sincere mind. Never offer to pay if you don't mean it, and never play mind games with anyone. That Hitch (a Will Smith character in a 2007 film) mantra of "no guile, no game; no game, no girl" doesn't work in real life.
21:34 July 31, 2009 by scott.br
@atheodoropoulou: Paying has nothing to do with an appendage between the legs, it has everything to do with the fact that most of the time, it's the man pursuing the woman.

As for men and women supporting each other, lovely, it's just that men and women support each other in different ways, this is exactly my point. We date because we're looking for a long term mate. Most people want to have a family and when kids are involved, priorities change considerably.

In your haste to vilify this age old relationship between men and women, you forgot one thing, women want to take care of their kids. Even if it means neglecting their career. And the reality is that a lot of times women have to make that choice. I'm sure there many many men out there who would love to spend more time with their kids.

In the US, we have a term for kids who grow up with both their parents at work all the time - "latchkey kids." I don't know about you, I don't want my kids to grow up like that
22:02 July 31, 2009 by mirability
According to my Swedish female friends, expecting men to pay for stuff is akin to prostitution. Being from the deep south, it took me some time to get used to this, but it's not just Sweden, it's urbane areas all over the world like NYC. Talking to men about this, it seems like dating for them is hit or miss and they don't want to lose money on someone they hardly know...it's not really about ferminism. I totally understand that, you shouldn't have to be rich to date.

I have a Swedish boyfriend and he is talkative and attentive, though I've been trying to teach him about real dates for ages to no avail. He doesn't get the concept of dressing out and going somewhere nice to have dinner and drinks, even if it is a "dutch" date.
23:28 July 31, 2009 by eZee.se
@bobnbri, thank you, so i'm not the only one!

Dont get me wrong, i have no problems about picking up the check as most of the girls i date... i am actively enjoying the "chase", and i by no means expect "something" later on just because i picked up the tab.

"According to my Swedish female friends, expecting men to pay for stuff is akin to prostitution. "

Just goes to show how different some people are, something like that had never even crossed my mind...personally, i still think thats pretty screwed up.

Although i like cracking jokes about feminists (because they are so easy to rile up) i do think they should realize they need to find a balance...dare i say an "equal" one? otherwise its just...plain... silly.
00:49 August 1, 2009 by Germandude
As to the question of who should pay for the meal, the author should know that "going Dutch" , as the expression suggests, is very common in western and northern parts of Europe. In fact, I'd say that it is even the norm, at least in my home country Germany.

It is really surprising to see how old fashioned the dating ritual in the US still is today. Furthermore, it really seems to be a ritual in which one can already guess the next step whereas in Europe, "dating" has far fewer rules, if any.

I have to agree with the author, however, in that Swedes seem to be quite quiet, lol. I sometimes get the feeling that it is a society of people without any interests and personal opinions.

Of course, it can't be like that, but at least people there seem to be very inexperienced in engaging in controversial debates and lively conversations.
01:28 August 1, 2009 by bobnbri
I guess Swedish girls are less shallow and more sophisticated. Can that really be?

I know many northern europeans are quite stoic and mindful of thier emotional self-control. It's really a Germanic thing of which I clearly have some of myself which makes getting to know someone more challenging.

We tend to clash a lot with the Meditaranian mentality. We're more reserved and people tend to think we are stuck-up or snobs. Not true!

I wonder if I should move to Sweden. ;)

-Oh waiter...........check please ;)
08:08 August 1, 2009 by Str8RichandBlack
effeminate men

Homosexuality validated / women who act like men.

What do you expect.
08:54 August 1, 2009 by Stüpid
I can see some people are putting comments and just blindly supporting their swedish partners. It's foolish to just talk all are equal.

If people keep on sharing always they have some ego feelings and later end up in troubles.

For ex. if a child is born would you also share bills one paying for an underwear and the other paying for shirt? I guess it does'nt matter whoever pays.

It's better if man takes the responsibility as far as possible.

It's foolish to talk that if man pays then the women are treated as prostitutes. It makes me think that all women in the world are prostitutes except in sweden. How foolish.

It simply shows that an unemployed man can never find an employed swedish woman. Just because he is unemployed and cannot pay the other half bills.

I think the author said everything perfect.
10:44 August 1, 2009 by tom?
"The customs and traditions that I have been brought up with do not apply in this foreign country - it must be so cial ism's fault!!". And is it just me, or does this dating guru have a really out-dated and skewed perspective on what dating is supposed to be?

Seriously, there's a great helping of se xism both in the article and in the discussion it's generated. Neither men nor women are supposed to do anything on a date, other than get to know each other and have a good time.

Paying for me, as a Swede, generally isn't about the money. Sometimes I pay, sometimes my date pays, sometimes we split the bill; it's really not that difficult, and things usually even out monetarily. If I'm expected to pay I'd like there to be a discussion as to why, but maybe that's just me.. I'll agree with the whole shyness-issue, but that applies to most Swedes and isn't gender-specific.
14:54 August 1, 2009 by Argentina84
I dated my Swedish husband in England and in Argentina (my country). It was a very fun experience as we both talked about our different dating customs and agreed on our own rules.

I think that , in the end, it all depends on the parties involved. I can't blame anyone for my hubby's shyness. :P
19:27 August 1, 2009 by bocale1
@Germandude, about "society of people without any interests and personal opinions... people there seem to be very inexperienced in engaging in controversial debates and lively conversations". one of the first thing you know when coming to Sweden is that Swedes dislike and are very afraid about personal conflicts.

They start to avoid arguments that can be controversial and express opinions that they think can be seen as offensive by people they talk to.

For me, coming from Italy where people argue badly about anything (from football to politics) and nearly in all context, it was and still is quite a shock.

This behaviour tends to disappear after a few beers or if you know each other very well but, still, do not expect big dialectical fights with Swedes!
20:46 August 1, 2009 by csence
Equality, eschmaulity. It has destroyed everything about romantic courtship. Its the good gentlemanly behavior that makes romance special, nice and yes old-fashioned and traditional. What's wrong with that? We are supposed to like tradition, and every country including Sweden still celebrate various holidays...because it's tradition.....although here in the US there seems to be a cold-hearted effort to abolish that as well.......Do a little digging into the history of male/female relations and you'll find its' the way we (men & women) have always naturally been wired. Males take care of females as she is still to this day the child bearer. Just because women can get a job outside of home and make their own money these days doesn't negate that. How many studies have to be published about how when women make more than men, men feel emasculated ? it's not natural for the way we are wired. Give Swedish men back their manhood. and Swedish women their femininity
22:05 August 1, 2009 by Coalbanks
EQUALITY ladies! You expect to be catered to, expect him to pay even though you are strangers? B*S! Maybe you should announce up-front that you expect to be wooed, that you consider dating from the viewpoint of a female bower- bird, with the male doing all of the display & offering shiny trinkets in the hopes of scoring if the display/trinkets are considered adequate? Be honest & up-front, please, that you may both avoid disappointment.. Well time to go practice my display technique & polish some pebbles for my next date. Wish me luck?
23:30 August 1, 2009 by The Indian
Hahaha I totally relate to that article. While I'm very impressed that you went to Ms. Hagberg for an explaination (maybe for the sake of this article); the easiest thing I realised was to conduct a litmus test. And it's easy in most parts of Sweden where theres enough of an international crowd. Go on a few dates with guys from different countries/continents. And if you realise the fault doesn't lie with you, be upfront with the next boring Swede you're on a date with. Within the first 15 minutes, tell him it's not working, and if he can't be conversational sans booze, then well you're not looking to date a potential alcoholic. Maybe if it's a collective effort by women, in a generation or 2 they'll come upto a decent int. standard. BTW I recommend Germans - they're tonnes of fun and definitely not confused.
03:25 August 2, 2009 by csence
Since i am now a highly opinionated Swede, see above comment, i have a recommendation. i recovered from my 31 years of shyness accidentally, by getting a really cute dog and taking it everywhere i went. its a great icebreaker for neutral conversation. it sure got me out of my shell. no booze needed.
16:00 August 2, 2009 by Suprise
As an American and fairly feminist I suppose I have always lived with this rule of thumb.. My Father taught me.. hehe

Man asks a woman out on a date.. He pays after all he is inviting you somewhere and its just common courtesy.

Woman asks a man out then the woman pays.. And there is no reason not to ask a man out in this day and age.

If either asks the other if "They want to do something on Friday" or some kind of half plans.. Well as the subsequent plans are made mutually then half and half is a very good idea ..

Basically it comes down to being a decent person in my opinion.. You wouldn't invite someone to your house for dinner and then expect them to bring the food.. If your inviting someone somewhere then its you.. :)
18:29 August 2, 2009 by stainsbod
Ah the rule of thumb.

That's the one that states you mustn't beat your woman with a stick thicker than your thumb.

Oh for the good ol' days.

As for dating in Sweden, just make sure they enjoy plenty of moonshine with their coffee.
18:47 August 2, 2009 by skane refugee
"you wouldn't invite someone to your house for dinner and then expect them to bring the food ..."

ironically/illuminatingly enough that's precisely what often happens in Sweden ... you get allocated starters, mains or dessert and are also expected to bring your own drink ... anything you've brought that was not eaten/drunk during the dinner is then returned to you (almost like it's been rejected/wasn't good enough) ...

this is yet another bizarre ritual from planet Sweden that is nigh on incomprehensible to foreigners!
23:53 August 2, 2009 by Sune Slips
Where did you pick up this idiot? She gets off a boat thinking she's in a US suburb? Content is what we need here guys - not this nonsense.
08:08 August 3, 2009 by LastMan
It's not as complicated as all that. As a man, you can offer to pay for the meal, if you like, and if the woman insists on paying just say "I've got this, but if you'd like to get the drinks, or the movie later or whatever..." Then if she is just being nice by offering to split the bill, she can conveniently forget to pay for the drinks/etc. For women though, if you don't want to pay for dinner, or don't feel you should have to, DON'T OFFER TO PAY! Simple as that. I can't stand the games, personally.
08:16 August 3, 2009 by nneville
This is just the tip of the Iceberg when it comes to Sweden and dating. I started a company for single events, you know, speed dating, single pre-parties, etc... After a year, I realised that Swedes are better behind the computer than in person.

Now that I am single guy, dating Swedish women is a nightmare. I, as an American, always try to pay the bill for dinner. But about 75% of the time, the lady is suspicous or feels dominated if the guy pays. I just tell my date beforehand, I was raised to be a gentleman, so I must insist on paying on the first date.

It's also the fault of Swedish women not allowing men in this country to have any masculine upbringing. I am all for equality among sexes, races - but come on ladies, Let a man be a man. Swedish men need to learn how to talk to women without being intimidated and the women here need to accept that not all men are trying to dominate them because they want to pay.
09:13 August 3, 2009 by nollbit
@skane refugee: what are you talking about?

@nneville: there's nothing romantic about paying the entire bill while you're dating. it's not being a gentlemen either. Most men and women in sweden would consider it as a sign of either being dominating, telling the girl she can't afford it (and thus bragging about your money) or compensating for something else.

Just loosen up, split the bill and you'll get laid :)
11:11 August 3, 2009 by lensart
The root of the problem is the way 'jämställdhet' has been applied in Swedish society. Rather than providing equal opportunity for both genders, it's apparently been an attempt to remove gender roles. The biological source of gender has been ignored and replaced with a political agenda.

Boys should play with dolls, girls should play with trucks. Boys should wear sanitary napkins and girls should have underwear with a hole in the front. Never mind that it's absurd. Swedish society wonders why evolution came up with separate sexes and decided that evolution must have been wrong.

When relationships are androgynous, then gender roles don't apply in dating. Showing appreciation or respect for someone by opening doors or paying for dinner, will be viewed with suspicion within a context deemed politically unacceptable in Sweden; namely having a gender.

Frankly it's easier for politicians to mandate androgyny than to provide equal opportunity in society for two different genders.
11:20 August 3, 2009 by nneville
@nolbit: compensating? dominating? Did you read the article? There are different ideals about dating etiquette depending on origin. When you date an American, Russian, or South American woman, as a man, it is assumed that you will pay on the first date as a gentleman. Romance begins with proof of economic stability. Ain't nothing going on but the rent - Gotta have a J.O.B. if u want 2 be with me.

It's a sad day when masculinity is sidelined when it poses no threat. It's not a problem for me to split the costs after the first date. But I refuse to stop holding the door open for my dates or pulling out their chair at the table. That is romantic.
11:29 August 3, 2009 by lensart
The rest of my post!

Never mind that it's absurd...

Swedish society wonders why evolution came up with separate sexes and decided that evolution must have been wrong.

When relationships are androgynous, then gender roles don't apply in dating. Showing appreciation or respect for someone by opening doors or paying for dinner, will be viewed with suspicion within a context deemed politically unacceptable in Sweden; namely having a gender.

Frankly it's easier for politicians to mandate androgyny than to provide equal opportunity in society for two different genders.
12:23 August 3, 2009 by skane refugee
@nollbit ... what didn't you understand from my first or second post?
12:25 August 3, 2009 by nollbit
@nneville: I understand that. But if you want to be a gentlemen then you should really do whatever makes the women feel relaxed and open. If swedish women feel uneasy over what they consider to be antiquated dating practices then stop doing it. It doesn't matter how relaxed it makes you feel about your strict policies.

@lensart: swedish society thinks that everyone is a person, regardless of their gender and should be treated as such. It's not much harder than that. I can understand your frustration, but all you have to do is stop assuming a lot of things depending on the gender. It's considered prejudice in sweden. For a lot of people (like you and nneville) it's a lot easier when you have a strict role to play. Men opens doors, pays, makes money. Women cook, takes care of babies.
17:36 August 3, 2009 by Seltue12
I am a male student here from the United States and my own observation is that most people in Sweden (regardless of gender) are boring. Women here just move with their own friends say nothing to guys unless they under the influence of alcohol and the same can be said about the men in Sweden. This is the only country I been to that I see group of women with their purses on the dance floor surrounded by them dancing with each other without guys.

Even if Swedes proud themselves on gender equality I strongly believe a real gentle suppose to pay not only for the first date but every date they go on unless the woman insist. I don't know if any studies have been done but I think Swedes weather might affect their behaviours.
09:42 August 4, 2009 by Tickled
I'm absolutely surprised that people consider Swedish women boring/unromantic/shy/lacking in social grace...etc. In my opinion they are more romantic, graceful, outgoing, interesting, funny, bold, sexy.... than girls in most of the other western nations.

I get hit upon so often that its rare for a week to pass without landing up with a new date. Moreover, 90% of the time its the girl who makes the first move so I wonder if its just me or am I living in a different dimension!
12:03 August 4, 2009 by nollbit
@Tickled: I agree, that's my picture as well.

@Seltue12: Swedes ARE very private. On the other hand, that mostly towards other swedes. As far as I know, swedes are tolerant when it comes to non-swedes not understanding their culture of extreme privacy.
15:15 August 4, 2009 by Lukas Stockholm
Mame: maybe it is YOU that don't manage to turn Swedish women on? They have sex, partners and children, so surely something must turn them on? That machoman approach doesn't go down too well, I find.

And as for the paying the bill, what nonsense. If society is meant to be equal, and women and men want to be equal, why should the man pay? Should women demand equality, but only adhere to their ideals when it suits their wallets? Or is it rather that men still feel so threatened by a woman who makes money and can/wants to pay her own bill? If so, get over it. Women work.

I feel sorry for all the commentators above who have met such boring, dull, shy and quiet people. Has it ever occurred to you that maybe your dates found YOU boring and dull, and that that was the reason for all your disastrous dates? If you have been on 10 dates with ten different men or women and all were horrible, maybe you need to think about what you did wrong yourself?
08:18 August 5, 2009 by someoneonthenet
I find it very amusing when people in Western countries stick to their traditions (especially when they don't make any sense) and claim to be open minded. Everyone who wants to pay the bill or open door for his date, claims that they are doing it to show his appreciation for his date and when his date does not like these gestures they blame their date for not letting them be a man. If you really care so much about your date then surely you can control your urge to "act as a man" and do as she desires.

When both men and women work it does not make sense that men should always pay, it would be lot more logical if someone who made first move or choose the place for date should pay.

I am a man if my date who is near the door opens it for me i would appreciate it but if she goes out of her way just to open the door i would not like it. To me these small gestures are nice but they should not be the main focus of date.
11:44 August 5, 2009 by Nilspet
Comment #28 is totally RIGHT. Sweden is probably more than 30 years behind US when it comes to realization of reality. We were created in such a way that men and women need each other and were created to be DIFFERENT.
13:09 August 5, 2009 by nollbit
@Nilspet: if you want to regress to times when evolution actually mattered, you are free to do so. The rest of us has understood that being civilized is defined by swaying natural urges in favor of other peoples rights and well being.

You can hardly claim that Sweden is behind the US, since the US has never had anything resembling gender equality. It still does not.
14:02 August 5, 2009 by Nilspet
To #66: I exercised my freedom of speech certainly BUT I was quite right in that many people in Sweden are still thinking idealistically about roles and duties of men and women. Sweden was very different say 50-60 years ago when men were able to express themselves as men and women were able to express themselves as women. These days MANY aren't sure how to behave simply because of the wrong preaching of some ideology.

I am for equality when it comes to incomes and job opportunities. I am not religious either but I think we should not try to let the feminism rule our lives and change our behavior, culture and ways of life. There are lots of countries in the world where women have been leaders and in fact still many countries have female leaders e.g. Germany, Liberia, Chile, Ukraine, Argentina, Iceland, the Philippines, you name it. Sweden is still far from having one. However their men and women do not behave so weirdly when on a date as described in this article.
14:56 August 5, 2009 by nollbit
@Nilspet: You are still free to behave as you want. It's just that you will be judged as a person and not as a gender. That is, you can't hide behind the fact that you have a specific gender.

I believe that the ultimate expression of gender equality is when a women can choose to stay at home with her kids and nobody will have an opinion because they know that her choice was an informed one.

Such as choice today is still (probably) heavily influences by the fact that we expect certain behavior based on gender.

There are too many problems with the gender based laziness that Sweden had 50 or 60 years ago. It made things a lot easier, but it still introduced a lot of problems -- such as people being, you know, individuals. And the progression we've had in sweden (as opposed to say, the US) is that we've acknowledged these problems and we're trying to solve them.

No, you don't have to play with dolls if you are man. But you're allowed to, if you want.
03:34 August 6, 2009 by Helena_R
Being Swedish myself, I should say, as several people have already mentioned above, that the problems between men and women are the feminists' fault. Also, it is absolutely not true that all Swedish women should somehow be behind the feminists' agenda.

On the contrary, many Swedish women would like to be treated as ladies again, and have a little romance in life... Meeting a real man; someone who knows how to make her feel special. Who picks up the bill as a matter of course. Very many women would also like to stay at home longer with their children, but they often do not dare to because they fear criticism from feminists. I often talk about this with my women friends, both IRL and on the internet.
08:40 August 7, 2009 by nollbit
@Helena_R: Then I'm sure you'll be happy with having lower wages, less respect and almost zero chance of promotion to senior positions. Gender equality is a package, take it or leave it.

That said, there's nothing with gender equality that really says that you can't be a housewife or have strong men. It's just frowned upon because it's typical and MAY be an uninformed decision. And you shouldn't really care what some feminists say either, since a few of them would like to have men pay fines for just being men. There are crazy people in all movements.
13:12 August 7, 2009 by lensart
>nollbit: swedish society thinks that everyone is a person, regardless of their gender and should be treated as such. It's not much harder than that.

Oh but it is. Since people have gender they have different basic biological needs, treating them the same is not being equal.

>I can understand your frustration, but all you have to do is stop assuming a lot of things depending on the gender. It's considered prejudice in sweden.

You underscore my point. The _problem_ in Sweden is that, recognizing gender exists, is considered prejudice. Penalizing (or rewarding) someone on the grounds of their gender should be considered prejudice. We are male and female, that will not change. Ignoring it will not make it go away. We have to recognize it...
01:35 August 8, 2009 by Nilspet
I agree with the comment #71 mostly. You made a good point.

It is about dealing the nature our ancestors millions of years began with. I am sure it can be better in Sweden but it will be very slow if feminists keep on with their agenda for their own pocket or their own politics.
09:24 August 8, 2009 by lensart
>nollbit: For a lot of people (like you and nneville) it's a lot easier when you have a strict role to play. Men opens doors, pays, makes money. Women cook, takes care of babies

Recent studies show that one of the main reasons Neandertals gave way to Homo Sapiens was they had no of division of work. You say that it is easier to have no gender roles, I think evolution has already proved you wrong and Neandertal would disagree too... well, if he (or she) had survived.
10:50 August 10, 2009 by Leprehcaun
@ lensart

Dividing work does NOT mean that work has to be divided so that men do what they want to do while women stay in the house. Believe me, if you think that, stay in the US, watch fox news and vote for the republicans, you would never be truly accepted here. Beyond that, homo sapiens are NOT Neanderthals which is a ridiculous comparison.

Dividing work can be done in more ways than one (which according to you is that women should stay at home or else we die as a species.. haha..).

Oh and to all. This is NOT about feminism, it's about equality and women still earn less for the same work even with higher competence than among their male counterparts and that is worse in ALL other countries, we're f*cking number 1 and it's still not fair! Though full wage equality can be discussed since women will be away from work more than men (on average) because of pregnancies and such.
15:39 August 10, 2009 by mekshop
Some clues for men regaurding this article.

Always let the woman talk about herself . Its very easy to listen and i have never met a woman that dosnt like to talk .

The paying thing is a no brainer if you go on a date and are not prepared to pay for the whole thing .plus cab fare home for the lady if the date goes south. you should not be going on a date and your just plain cheap and rude
21:54 August 10, 2009 by mkvgtired
@Suprise, "Man asks a woman out on a date.. He pays after all he is inviting you somewhere and its just common courtesy."

That is the rule of thumb I have always used. If I ask a women, "can *I* take you out to dinner" I am expecting to pay for the outing. If she asked me out I would expect that she would pick up the tab. Since it is usually the guy that asks out the girl (at least in my experience) I have paid for more dates than vice versa. After the first date I do not mind splitting the bill.
13:59 August 19, 2009 by nollbit
@lensart and @nilspet: playing the evolution card is a bit dated, since I think we all can agree that the only difference between humans and other animals is the ability to balance instincts and higher brain functions.

Evolution ceased to matter a long time ago. In fact, most of our society is built on eliminating evolution (e.g. taking care of the elderly, sick, poor).

If you don't agree then I'd guess you are somewhat of a social darwinist, and then there's really no point in having this debate at all :)

And what do you mean, "biological needs"? Do you think women have a "biological need" not to pay for the drinks on the date? Or a "biological need" for someone to "listen"?

I think all women are individuals with different needs, exactly as men are individuals with different needs.

If you ask women if they are "a women" or "a individual", I'd bet they'd say that they are a person.
00:30 August 31, 2009 by skvs
I have no idea, if anyone will read this, cause it's been a while.

I agree to the misunderstandings of the cultures on a fist date. I lived in many countries and finding your way through is always difficult.

I just dislike the slight undertone of judgment. I am not Swedish but I have a Swedish boyfriend, and he found me. I didn't do the first move.

Dating, in English speaking countries, is extremely formalized. The behavior of both sexes is clearly defined. This is just not the way in Sweden. But why misjudging them as not charming or even behaving like little puppies, who don't know what they do?

If a Swedish guy meets a woman, doesn't mean he is automatically interested in her. Very often it is a check up, if there could ever be an interest. So why paying for a woman, who might end up just being a buddy? It is common in Swedish society to meet a woman or a man, just in order to drink coffee. It is not a date, and checking out is normally a totally different story.

In the English speaking world there is a date. Guy meets girl, both are interested. There is no such thing in Sweden. This 'checking out thing' happens far more subtle and never, ever official.

Please start to accept: Meeting up after a funny night, is not a date in Sweden. It is what it is: A meeting for a coffee. If a Swedish guy doesn't pay, it means he is not seeing this thing as a date. I already had Swedish guys paying for me.

I have a bit of a harsh conclusion:


You blamed the guy not having asked you questions, not having paid the drinks. In the end you were asking the guy to behave like you. But this is not your country. I had the feeling while reading the article, that it was you who weren't interested in the guy. You were not open to him and his culture at all. You were the foreigner, so why didn't you ask the questions? Why didn't you pay his drinks?
23:17 September 2, 2009 by Swedishguy
Great article! I guess I´ll have to come here more often to discover what foreigners think about my country and its inhabitants.

I sorry your date did not work out. However, I guess all Swedish guys are not as boring as your date. I, and all my Swedish friends who live in the in the US, find it much easier to date American girls than to meet girls here in Sweden. Or maybe we just make up for being boring by looking slightly better than most American men.;)

Concerning who is to pay the check I can just talk for myself. I would NEVER pay on the first date. It is not about the money, I would not even pay for a 10 kronor coffee. It would just feel wrong, hard to say why. I guess it comes down to that I don´t want to show too much interest in the girl so early on. Girls in Sweden (and I believe in America too) don´t like desperate men. I would also be afraid it would seem like I was trying to "buy her". In night clubs around Stureplan you often see guys taking in bottles of champagne and offer free drinks to beautiful ladies. Many Swedes (both men and women) find that bad manners. I am sure some people would just think they are generous but to me you are not truly generous if you want something in return. (Like the company of beautiful girls who wouldn´t be at your table if there weren´t free drinks).

On the other hand, on the second or third date, when it is obvious that we like each other, I would be than happy to pay. It would not feel like I am trying to impress the girl, because I already know she is interested. (And she knows I know that) Too many know?;)

Flirting for me is not about telling compliments and paying for everything. Flirting is much more subtle.

Just my five öre.
23:27 September 2, 2009 by Swedishguy
yeah, one more thing. I do not doubt that most women (no matter what country they come from) like hearing compliments, like being taken out on dates etc. etc. but my experience is that most girls like men who are (or pretend that they are) a bit more "hard to get". BTW, the same thing is true for men. Girls who are all over you on your first date are seldom very interesting, even if you are flattered.
00:59 September 8, 2009 by MTH
In reference to swedish guy comment 80 I think that the guys who will loose interest in a girl because she is all over them are immature, this is a thing that should not affect your evaluation of either you like the girl or not. But some guys mature this with experience. Babes, you can be all over me and that wont change my mind on either if i really like you or not. I have been with girls all over me the very first date and have been girls some of the time that i really really like. In fact it is much more easy to stablish a relation with touching or even having sex since the beggining than playing hard to get. Playing hard to get is a squizofrenic game, the best thing is to have some kind of sex since the beggining and easily stablish the relation with no games or headaches :-) and if the guy dont respond to the girl showing interest, dump him inmediately! he doesnt likes you or lacks experience in not knowing to appreciate a woman. Many times we dont appreciate what other do for us.
23:37 September 12, 2009 by mjackh
I read these comments with great interest. I agree with the concept that the

lady should pay her share. Its proof the man isn't being used and confirms

the integrity of the relationship. Many times I have paid the whole date

cost in the USA and felt used.

I am interested in meeting ladies that are half Swede and half Dane.

Any suggestions on how this could be accomplished? I like tall, full

figured buxom women and this combination seems to provide a high

percentage of ladies with this combination. But in the USA they are

very rare. How about Stockholm. Do you see this mix frequently?

Are there any online dating sites that would provide women of this

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