The Local List

Swedes: six top tips on how to date a foreigner

Swedes: six top tips on how to date a foreigner
Explain when a 'fika' is really a date. Photo: Miriam Preis/
From fika to forward planning, the Swedish dating scene can be tricky to navigate for people from other countries. The Local has put together a list of ways Swedes can make the experience a bit easier for their foreign dates.

If you're a Swede, you've got a few in-built advantages in the global dating game: you have a reputation for being among the dreamiest people in the world, you promote equality and you inhabit one of the world's happiest countries.

But even though you're probably a catch, your unique approach to life confuses many foreigners. So, here's how to avoid getting caught out when dating the 99.8 percent of the world's population that isn't Swedish.

1. Communicate face-to-face

Whether you are out jogging or commuting on the Tunnelbana, you tech-savvy Swedes are rarely seen without your beloved mobile phones.

While the head-in-phone phenomenon is hardly confined to Sweden these days, your super-fast mobile internet means you locals have got the bug worst than most.

This extends to the world of dating where the many of you seem to prefer to arrange to meet (or even drop) your date via a text or a Facebook message rather than picking up the phone. 

This is not so for people from many other parts of the world, who are often left confused by your more indirect approach to dating. Our advice to you would be to bite the bullet and ring that special someone on the phone.

And, hey, next time you’re in a bar with friends, secretly messaging “Johanna, 29” on Tinder under the table, why not take a look around you? You can meet people in real life, too.

Stop looking at your phones and look around you! Photo: Gorm Kallestad / NTB scanpix / TT 

2. Pay for your date or expect to be paid for

While in Sweden it is customary to split the bill in the name of gender equality – not to mention the fact that it’s expensive to dine out in Sweden – in many cultures acts of chivalry such as paying for a woman’s meal or drinks on a date are almost expected.

We’re not saying break the bank but women from many other countries will most likely appreciate the gesture, even if it’s just one drink.

Equally, you Swedish women should not be surprised if an expat man offers to pay to take you out to dinner. By refusing to let them pay, you might risk offending them.

Man paying a bill in a restaurant. Photo: Shutterstock

3. Explain when a ‘fika’ is really a date

When you invite someone for a fika (a Swedish word for 'coffee and cake'), it could mean a whole variety of things. It could be a quick coffee break with a colleague, a meeting with friends or even a date with someone you met last Friday night.

The problem is, sometimes it’s impossible to know which.

We understand that it might be a bit embarrassing, but a casual hint about the nature of the meeting would be greatly appreciated.

Another suggestion might be to think outside the box and suggest doing something less ambiguous like going out to dinner or to see a movie.

Is it a date? Photo: Miriam Preis/

4. Sex might not happen on the first night

As explained by an expat blogger at The Local in a guide to dating in Sweden, sex often comes before dating in Sweden – if there’s a date at all, that is.

However people from other countries often don’t always adopt this approach, with many used to waiting until a few dates down the line.

By suggesting you go back to your place on the first night you could risk appearing desperate or – even worse – disrespectful. 

So don’t give up or be offended if he or she doesn’t want to jump into bed with you right away. 

Don't be offended if your date doesn't want to jump into bed with you right away. Photo: Shutterstock

5. Live in the moment

You Swedes are an organized and efficient bunch. Where else in the world do people not only number every week in the year but always know which one it is at any given moment?

This obsession with numbers is mindboggling to less-numerate foreigners in Sweden, including The Local’s Oliver Gee. It’s also a tad unromantic.

Our advice? Instead of planning a date in week 40 when it’s still week 37, why not keep the romance alive and plan something for tonight?

Do you know what week it is? Photo: Anders Wiklund / SCANPIX

6. It’s OK to have a different opinion

You Swedes love to agree on things and even if you and your acquaintances have wildly opposing beliefs you will go that extra mile to find that tiny patch of common ground for the sake of the peace.

But peace and passion do not exactly go hand in hand and you’ll risk boring people from more fiery cultures.

So why not try pushing the boundaries every now and then and engage in a healthy political debate? Apart from anything, you might find out that you have nothing in common with your date, so you could save yourself a wasted second date.

There's nothing like a healthy political debate. Photo: Didriks/Flickr