1. Spot the new haircut
Spending time outdoors during the winter in Sweden usually involves wearing a large woolly hat and a thick scarf that covers most of your face. As milder temperatures arrive, you'll find yourself leaving these accessories at home and seeing more of your friends and colleagues' hair and faces at the same time. If the sun is shining, maybe some of them will even start smiling too. As one hairdresser in Stockholm's hipster neighbourhood Hornstull told The Local: “We're getting busier as people don't need so much hair to keep warm right now, or they want to show off something new for spring.”
Hair is hidden for much of the winter in Sweden. Photo: TT
2. Midweek beer invites are flowing
Having to pull on your heavy walking boots or wellies (along with your hat), to trudge through the snow in subzero temperatures in order to buy a beer in one of the most expensive countries in Europe when it comes to alcohol is rarely a tempting prospect during the winter in Sweden. But while Swedes love to hibernate when it is cold, they also get very excited when the sun pops out and the ice starts melting. Once spring is in full swing, you'll find your social schedule looks a lot more exciting. Let's hope you saved up some beer money over those cold winter months. And remember, few people buy rounds in Sweden.
Fancy a locally-brewed beer? Photo: Bjorn Tesch/Image Bank Sweden
3. More space in hallways
If you did make it out to any parties over the winter, you'll know what it feels like to turn up at a friend's apartment (most likely a tiny one if you live in Stockholm or Gothenburg) only to have to climb across a mountain of winter boots and navigate your way through a jungle of giant coats. This is usually followed by an awkward few minutes peeling off your own layers while you attempt to make small talk with your host. Warmer temperatures mean a lot more space in Swedish hallways, although there are still some long months ahead before you can leave home without at least a light jacket.
You should always take your shoes off in a Swedish apartment. Photo: Melker Dahlstrand/Image Bank Sweden
4. Text messages make more sense
We haven't mentioned gloves yet, another essential item in any Swedish winter wardrobe, but one that makes sending text messages a nightmare. If you type while wearing them, you end up missing the right characters on your mobile. If you take them off, your hands get cold rapidly and you end up trying to communicate using one word answers. Luckily gloves are another item you can usually leave at home in March (or at least keep in your bag most of the time – beware evenings are set to stay chilly for a while yet).
Taking off your gloves during winter can be painful. Photo: Melker Dahlstrand/Image Bank Sweden
5. Sunset happens as you leave work, not over lunch
Were you living in Sweden during the darkest November in history for large parts of the country? Us too. In our international office we usually eat our lunch at around 1pm, which meant the sun was often going down as we polished off our meatballs (or erm, sandwiches). But these days the outdoor restaurants around Stockholm are often filled with people enjoying a drink with colleagues after work in the sunset.
Sunset in the Stockholm archipelago. Photo: Ola Ericson/Image Bank Sweden
6. Lakes are off limits (for now)
Plenty of action happens around Swedish lakes during the winter, when they're so frozen solid you can walk or skate across most of them. As The Local once reported, some pupils are also asked to jump into holes in the ice to practice what they'd do if they fall in by mistake. Swedes love swimming outdoors during the summer too, when lakes become a magnet for families and groups of friends. But during the still-slightly-chilly-if-we're-honest-spring when the ice is starting to melt, the best thing you can do when it comes to a lake is walk round it.
Swedes love outdoor swimming, but not during the spring. Photo: Johan Willner/Image Bank Sweden
7. Fika breaks are filled with summer house chat
Summer might still be several months away, but while no one is swimming in Swedish lakes right now, they are certainly starting to talk about it. Swedish newspapers and websites are packed with special offers for mid-year holidays right now and any Swede without their own summer house is busy having 'fika' (the Swedish word for a coffee and cake break) with someone who does. If you're a foreigner living in Sweden, this is also the time of year when those mates and relatives you've barely spoken to all winter start getting in touch about their plans to come and visit you “now the weather is getting better”. At least you can text them back a sarcastic reply without your hands going numb.
Tens of thousands of Swedes own summer houses. Photo: Ulf Lundin/Image Bank Sweden
Article written by Maddy Savage in 2015.