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DIVORCE

Less trouble and strife: Swedes and the single life

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

Less trouble and strife: Swedes and the single life

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

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

“I enjoy being free,” she says.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Daun continues:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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