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Seven hot tips to blend in on a Swedish beach

Emma Löfgren · 26 Aug 2015, 08:00

Published: 26 Aug 2015 08:00 GMT+02:00

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1. Sunbathing is a nine-to-five job

To Swedes, the short Nordic summer is not depressing: it's a challenge. And after this year's largely cold and wet summer, they are keener than ever to maximize their time outdoors during fine weather.

So when the sun comes out: do not under any circumstances get off the beach. While other nationalities hide in the shade at midday, Swedes sweat it out. You have got only a limited number of hours to bask in the sunshine. Make sure you use them all before the heatwave goes away. 

Go to the beach and stay there. Photo: Kyodo News/AP

2. Be sun-smart

Swedes don't just seek out the sun for warmth: there is also that much-desired, but oh-so-elusive, tan. However, in typical 'lagom' spirit they like to build it up over time, so don't forget to slap on the SPF 30 lotion if you're heading to the seaside.

This is partly because Swedes are a health-conscious bunch who are well clued up on the risk of skin cancer, and partly because their sensitive Nordic alabaster skin has a tendency to turn them into human crayfish look-a-likes if they forget to bring their sunscreen.

Use sunscreen. Photo: Berit Roald/NTB scanpix/TT

3. Guard your towel like a hawk

A Swede's beach towel is his castle. And if you owned a castle you would not leave it would you? Because you've been to the beach since early in the morning, you have probably picked out the best spot. So if you go for a dip or make a brief foray to the ice cream kiosk, one member of your group must be assigned to towel guarding duty.

A survey by online travel agency Expedia last summer showed that thieves are top of Swedish beach bunnies' list of concerns – so make sure you never leave your valuables behind either. Don't worry, you'll soon get used to swimming while trying to keep your smartphone above water level. 

Maybe best not to let your toddler watch the towel, though. Photo: Hasse Holmberg/SCANPIX

4. Bring a picnic hamper

Swedes will not give up on their regular meals whether they are at home, at work or on the beach, and it goes without saying that if you are going to stick it out for the whole day, without leaving your towel, you need energy.

Common staple beach foods are potato salad and cold meat for lunch and cinnamon buns for an afternoon 'fika' snack. Don't turn your nose up at sand in the food. It just adds an extra bit of crunchy texture.

Don't forget to bring something to eat and drink. Photo: Torstein Bøe/NTB scanpix/TT

5. Respect personal space

Repeat this a hundred times: leave at least a two-metre wide space between your towel and your neighbour's. It does not matter how crowded the beach is – Swedes are sure to frown on you if any of your belongings end up touching theirs. They are used to hanging out in open spaces and large offices and cannot stand their personal space being invaded.

Also, there is the danger that if you edge too close to them, they may think you are trying to steal their towel or valuables – see number three in this list.

Find a spot as far away from others as possible. Photo: AP Photo/Oded Balilty

Story continues below…

6. Take your clothes off (within reason)

Swedes are reserved and are unlikely to flaunt their goods in the queue to the ice cream stand – but on their towel they are not afraid to let go of their inhibitions in order to avoid getting a bikini line. With some of the world's most liberal attitudes to nudity, one in ten Swedes, and more than a quarter of Swedish women, have sunbathed topless on their holidays, according to a 2014 survey by Expedia. 

There are also plenty of special naturist beaches for those who like taking – and leaving – their clothes off at the seaside. Just remember that nudity does not automatically translate into sex. Seriously.

The Swedes are pretty comfortable with nudity. Photo: Annika af Klercker/SvD/SCANPIX

7. Spend time on the beach in winter too

We're not kidding. Winter swimming is a popular pastime in Sweden, with many beaches keeping their facilities open over the colder months. Lakes also routinely freeze over at winter and it is not uncommon to saw up a hole in the ice and plunge into it, just because you can. But don't worry, this activity usually comes with a long sauna session and a hot cup of chocolate afterwards.

The icy practice has also made it on to some schools' curriculum. Watch The Local's video of a class of young teenagers in Stockholm daringly jumping into 2C waters in January – we dare you not to shiver.


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

Emma Löfgren (emma.lofgren@thelocal.com)

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