1. Beautiful women.
Every single expat male in Sweden who I talked to said the same thing first. The beautiful women. Shallow, sure. But noticable, definitely. Swedish women are just extremely attractive, there's no denying it. But it comes with a downside. I remember sitting in an Uppsala student bar when a fellow expat said to me: "Oh my god. Look at the women in this bar - they're stunning. And you know the worst thing? I didn't even notice. I'm totally used to it."
Swedish women out on the town in July. Photo: Finest.se
2. Handsome men.
Perhaps interestingly, the second-most common response to the question was that Swedish men are good looking. It's true too. Surprisingly, the expat men I talked to tended to mention things about Swedish guys more than Swedish women, for better or for worse. More on this soon.
Swedish men out in Stockholm this summer. Photo: Finest.se
3. Whose round is it? Not Sven's, obviously.
Swedish people don't buy rounds of beer. And it seems to be a sore point for the people from countries with pub cultures. If you're a Swede reading this, let me explain how it works in places like the UK or Australia.
- You go to a pub or bar with your mates
- You take it in turns to buy drinks for every single person in the group.
It's that easy. Yes, sometimes you lose out, sometimes you win. But whatever you do, you don't go and buy one beer at the bar. You just don't.
Sweden enjoys a strong drinking culture during the weekends. Photo: Quinn Dombrowski/Flickr
4. The hugging.
Regular readers will know this is something I've brought up before. I, and many others, just can't get used to the idea of hugging everyone all the time. Men and women. Young and old. Hello and goodbye. There's nothing wrong with the hug and my Swedish friends are ensuring (through force) that I embrace it, I'm just saying it's something expat males notice.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic coordinates a rare Swedish group hug. Photo: TT
5. The men are well-dressed.
"I noticed the moment I arrived in Sweden that I wasn't a fashionable man," a Zimbabwean bartender told me. Swedish guys simply know how to dress well - at least in Stockholm anyway. Even the ones who at first appear to be really scruffy have actually chosen their outfit with precision. Apparently that's called being a hipster. Over time, the expat male in Sweden adapts to the dress code of the Swedish men.
Swedish actor Alexander Skarsgård, looking sauve as usual. Photo: TT
6. The lack of strip clubs.
A UK musician who moved to Sweden several years ago told me he's noticed one glaring difference. "In London, there's a strip club on every high street," he said. "Here, I don't think I've ever seen one. I mean, I've heard there's one somewhere in Stockholm, but I've never even seen it. Not that I go to them, of course, it's just something I've noticed. Honest. You're not putting my name on this are you?"
Strip clubs are a lot more common elsewhere, said one expat. Photo: Shutterstock
7. Expat men are an exotic breed
I've lost track of the number of times that someone has been interested in the story of where I am from and what I'm doing in Sweden. And it's not even interesting to us other expats! But being an expat has proved to be not only the perfect conversation starter among Swedes, but a great way to meet people. And many of my single friends have said it's a great way to start a relationship too.
This turned into quite an interesting discussion when I posed the question on Twitter. Some people, including myself, have noticed that Swedes love a bit of nudity. I saw my girlfriend's family's members (!) within a week of meeting them after a particularly unforgettable sauna experience. A guy from Colombia chimed in (on Twitter, not in the sauna) and said the liberal changeroom nudity in Sweden was a culture shock for him and many other Latin Americans. Meanwhile, a man from Slovenia was surprised about Sweden's "gender separate saunas", suggesting everything is much faster and looser back home. Whichever way you swing, us guys notice the nudity.
Swedes can't say no to a good sauna. Photo: Shutterstock
9. Gender equality on steroids.
Sweden's gender equality is a beautiful thing. I remember being bamboozled when I first got here when a massive garbage truck zoomed past me with what looked like a blonde teenage woman behind the wheel. Where I come from, truck drivers are older men, as a rule. Sweden has made such a conscious effort on gender equality that examples of anything otherwise abroad are like a thorn in us expat males' side.
Gender equality. Not sure about running in heels, though. Photo: Shutterstock
10. The men spend too much time in front of the mirror.
An Irish guy who's been here for years reflected that he can't get over how long Swedish men spend in front of mirrors. A South African friend agreed. "Never pre-drink with a Swedish guy. He'll spend 30 minutes fixing his hair before you even head out to the discotheque," he explained. And heaven forbid you get stuck in a queue for a bathroom if there's a mirror inside. You'd be better off trying to find a strip club.
The man in the mirror. Photo: Shutterstock