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Ten things expat women notice in Sweden

Maddy Savage · 24 Sep 2014, 16:20

Published: 24 Sep 2014 15:20 GMT+02:00
Updated: 24 Sep 2014 16:20 GMT+02:00

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1. Tall men

Men in Sweden are the second tallest in the world after the Netherlands, so even if you're not as petite as I am (and I am probably the shortest journalist in Sweden), you'll most likely notice the difference and you'll be craning your neck as you ask for directions or try to spot a gap at the bar. The women are pretty tall too. But the good news is that Swedes and in particular Stockholmers have also been ranked among the world's sexiest people.

Swedish boyband De Vet Du partying in Stockholm last weekend. Photo: Finest.se

2. Daddy day care

Sweden's parental leave system encourages men to take time off to look after their children and there are many more fathers out pushing buggies during the week than you'd find in most other countries. But it could be a bad place to visit for women who are feeling broody.

Sweden has a generous paternal leave system. Photo: Shutterstock

3. Chivalry shortage

The men may be tall, blonde, handsome and keen to share childcare duties, but since Sweden champions gender equality, they are also less likely to open doors for you, help you carry a heavy suitcase on the Tunnelbana or pick up the bill after a dinner date. New acquaintances can also be quite shy. On the plus side there is very little everyday sexism. Jokes about women in the kitchen? Even the men in your office will be tutting with outrage as they stack the dishwasher.

Having a heavy suitcase might not get you noticed in the Swedish capital. Photo: Shutterstock

4. Women in management 

Sweden's egalitarian ethos means there are more women in top business and political roles than in most other European countries. You also spot female spokespeople on television more frequently than elsewhere. The gender equality debate is mainstream in Sweden, with all parties claiming they want to reduce the pay gap further and see extra women at boardroom level, where Sweden lags behind the world average

Annie Lööf is the leader of Sweden's Centre Party. Photo: TT

5. Functional fashion

If you plan to dig out your high heels or short skirts in Sweden (especially with all those hot tall men around), beware that you'll stand out from the crowd. Swedish women embrace simple, functional fashion, especially during the cold winter weather. Black skinny jeans and a warm jacket are autumn essentials according to our female reporters at The Local, with layered fleece-lined tights all the rage come freezing December.

There is no going out without a jacket during Sweden's dark winter. Photo: Shutterstock

6. Beauty at a cost

Beauty products are proportionally much more expensive here than in most other countries and services like waxing or manicures are pricey. Is it Sweden's high taxes or do they cost a premium because so many good-looking Swedes don't need to use them? There are signs that more Swedes are choosing to wear make-up though.

Fancy a makeover? It will be costly in Sweden. Photo: Shutterstock

7. Women in sport

Sweden's approach to gender equality also means that women's sports take centre stage. I'm not a fan of golf or horseriding but I've been impressed to see women's results in both sports regularly featured on the main evening news bulletins on television, something that would rarely happen back home in Britain.

A horseriding event in Gärdet, Sweden. Photo: TT

8. Grown men hugging

Story continues below…

Coming from the UK where male friends can be known to greet each other with a raised eyebrow or a grunt, I find it refreshing to see so many Swedish men embracing on the street. But The Local's reporter Oliver Gee has had a different experience.

Swedish men love to hug. Photo: Shutterstock

9. Nakedness

Arriving just before the end of the outdoor swimming season, it was clear to me that Swedes think little about stripping off in public. Even older women here aren't afraid of showing their lumps and bumps in front of strangers in the country's many lakes and suburban seaside spots. Swedes will tell you that their love of nature, the country's short summers and a more liberal attitude to sex are all contributing factors.

A beach in Sweden. Photo: Shutterstock

10. Colourful (and tight) underwear

Head to your local shopping mall and you'll be sure to spot mannequins sporting brightly coloured or patterned underwear. For men. We're talking abstract prints, floral designs and comic book characters. According to reliable expat sources (not mentioning any names in The Local's office), these items aren't just used to brighten up store displays, they are genuinely popular among Swedes -- and not just hipsters in their twenties. The Local's Editor wouldn't know yet (see points 1 and 3 above).

The Local's reporters have seen men sporting briefs like these. Photo: Shutterstock.
Don't believe us?
Here's a bonus video featuring tall men, nakedness, colourful underwear and hugging

For more news from Sweden, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

Maddy Savage (maddy.savage@thelocal.com)

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