• Sweden's news in English

Why I loathe food shopping in Sweden

The Local · 31 Jan 2014, 08:46

Published: 31 Jan 2014 08:46 GMT+01:00

Like most men, I’m not a fan of shopping. But while I disliked it in London, here, in northern Sweden I absolutely loathe and detest it. It’s my own fault admittedly. It’s 20km to our nearest small Coop and 60km to the nearest decent-sized supermarket. Let’s not even talk about Systembolaget. We may have a spectacular view but a lake on our doorstep is the only convenience to hand. 
Our isolation also means we cannot avail ourselves of one of the great modern decadences - supermarket deliveries. Never mind lugging great loads of bottled water, cat food and washing power home, just have it delivered. How I miss that.
Shopping habits up here are different to the UK, too. Not many people seem to do big fortnightly shops. Most shoppers seem to buy around 20-30 items max each time. Even the conveyor belts are shorter and narrower than their UK equivalents. Check-out staff regard our gargantuan 3,000 kronor ($460) hauls with amazement - are we settling in for the apocalypse? I’ve not yet come up with a theory for this more piecemeal approach to food shopping. This failure bugs me. 
Another real bug is the awful state of the vegetables on offer at supermarkets - we regularly find rotting peppers or carrots in bags of vegetables. I thought it might be a peculiarly northern Swedish problem but, according to friends down south, vegetables are pretty manky there too. I don’t have a theory for this either. I had one for the north - the short growing season - but that shouldn’t really affect the south.
But the real issue with Swedish shopping is the prices. Yes, I know - the Swedes earn more and so retail prices are higher. That’s not much of a consolation when little of your work pays Swedish rates and you’ve two 8-month-old babies to feed. So we’ve turned to internet shopping in order to trim our household costs. We saved 50 percent on buying a cooker from Germany, 75 percent on buying new specs from the UK and 20 percent on buying winter-wear from the US (and, yes, that includes the dreaded customs charges). 
We’ve also found a way to save money on some supermarket staples. For the last six months we’ve been buying all our tea, washing powder, fabric conditioner, nappies, cat food, dishwasher tablets, shower gel, shampoo, bin bags and wet wipes from a single online retailer. The fact we’re saving on average 10-15 percent on Swedish prices is not such a surprise. Nor is the fact that the regular shopping is less stressful when you don’t have to lump the heavy stuff around. The fact that the online retailer is Amazon does come as something of a surprise to many people when I tell them of our online thrift adventures. 
Sadly most of these people are, like us, ex-pats, eager to save money wherever possible. I have quickly learnt that our Swedish friends have absolutely no interest in our tales of money-saving. Their eyes glaze over, their attention wanders and they begin to look a little uncomfortable, as if we were speaking openly of our love for dogging. Why is this? Are their lives really so comfortable that they have no need to save cash now and again? Or is it because they find talking about money to be distasteful? It certainly explains why Amazon won’t be getting any additional customers from northern Sweden any time soon.

The Local (news@thelocal.se)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Furious elk mum attacks Swede, breaks his arm
You talkin' to me? Photo: Mikael Fritzon/TT

It came back and attacked him not once, but twice.

Report: Stockholm is at risk of a housing bubble
Apartments in Stockholm. Photo: Tomas Oneborg/SvD/TT

Stockholmers are the third most likely to experience a housing bubble in their city, according to an international ranking.

The Local List
Reverse culture shock: the troubles of leaving Sweden
Does it get more Swedish than this? Photo: Emelie Asplund/imagebank.sweden.se

Why is that stranger talking to me in the elevator?!

Police close Facebook thread after call for help derails
A file photo of police cars on Gotland not related to the article. Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT

The Gotland Police Facebook post asking the public for information about an unprovoked attack on two boys had to be closed because the comments section spiraled out of control.

US election
What Americans in Sweden think of Trump and Clinton
The Local spoke to Americans in Sweden after the first US presidential debate. Photo: David Goldman/AP/TT

The Local spoke to four US voters based in Sweden about who they are planning on voting for in the November election, and it looks like it's complicated.

Presented by Emirates Center for Strategic Studies
‘Extremism can't be defeated on the battlefield alone’
File photo: sanjitbakshi/Flickr

As Sweden prepares to take a seat on UN Security Council next year, Abu Dhabi-based scholar and author Dr. Jamal Sanad al-Suwaidi argues for a greater UN role to fight extremist ideologies like those that fuel Isis and other terror groups.

Why Swedes want Nasa to send a condom into space
Should a condom be sent into space? It's the burning question some Swedes have posed. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT & Craig Rubadoux/AP

'We can't be sure what alien sex organs look like.'

Mum gives birth on toilet after being told to take paracetamol
File photo of a baby not related to the story. Photo: Christine Olsson/TT

A woman has described how she was told to take a painkiller when she phoned a hospital in Ystad, southern Sweden, in pain. Just moments later she gave birth to a baby in the toilet.

Indians in Sweden told to be wary of travel document scam
File photo of a man using a phone not related to the story. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

The Embassy of India in Stockholm has urged Indian citizens in Sweden to be wary of scammers who ask for money to fix fabricated errors in travel documents.

Swedes shell out for season's first lobster
Meet Pontus Johansson and his lobster. Photo: Thomas Johansson/TT

Best not to look at the price tag.

Sponsored Article
Let's Talk: a personal Swedish language tutor in your pocket
Analysis & Opinion
'If Sweden really wants startups, drop the red tape on migration'
Sponsored Article
‘I view the world in a different way now’
Property of the week: Gotland
Trump an 'embarrassment' Springsteen tells Sweden
Blog updates

27 September

Cutting your nose …. (The Diplomatic Dispatch) »

"Last week, Jeremy Browne, the Special Representative for the City of London, visited Sweden. Jeremy was…" READ »


7 September

Svensk or svenska? (The Swedish Teacher) »

"Hejsan! My inbox is full of questions :-). Here’s one about when to use “svensk” and…" READ »

Sponsored Article
'Creating a sense of home': Collective living in Stockholm
People-watching: September 23rd-25th
Sponsored Article
Life in Jordan: 'Undiscovered treasure'
Russian Sweden Democrat aide resigns over suspect deal
Muslim teacher leaves job after not shaking male colleague's hand
Why we adore autumn in Sweden
Sponsored Article
Gran Canaria: 'So much more than beaches'
People-watching: September 21st
Sponsored Article
Why Jordan is the ‘Different’ East
Stockholmers hunt killer badger after attack on neighbourhood hipster cat
The Local Voices
Why this Russian developer is committed to helping refugees - with tech
Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
Six key points in Sweden's budget plan
Sponsored Article
Why Jordan is the ‘Different’ East
The Local Voices
How a Swedish name finally made recruiters notice this Iranian's CV
Property of the week: Luleå
Sponsored Article
Retiring abroad: ensuring your health is covered
People-watching: September 16th-18th
Sponsored Article
'There was no future for me in Turkey'
Why Swedish TV has given these kids' trucks a sex swap
Sponsored Article
7 reasons you should join Sweden’s ’a-kassa’
TIMELINE: Everything you need to know about the Julian Assange case
Sponsored Article
‘Extremism can't be defeated on the battlefield alone’
People-watching: September 14th
Why Sweden is putting troops on holiday dream island Gotland
The Local Voices
'What I mean when I say: I came here to blow myself up'
VIDEO: Are Swedes that unfriendly?
INTERVIEW: How Arthur the jungle dog opened hearts and minds
Property of the week: Smögen, Västra Götaland
Sweden's ancient forest tongue Elfdalian fights for survival
Where Sweden's foreigners are from
People-watching: September 9th-11th
The Local Voices
'Whenever I apply for jobs I’m treated like an unwanted stranger'
The Local Voices
Is Swedish bosses' ignorance keeping refugees out of jobs?
jobs available