Seven hot tips to blend in on a Swedish beach

Swedes flock to the seaside every summer. But before you follow them, read The Local's ultimate guide to how to pass for a true Swede when you're on the beach.

Seven hot tips to blend in on a Swedish beach
Blend in like Swede. Photo: Jessica Gow/TT

1. Sunbathing is a nine-to-five job

To Swedes, the short Nordic summer is not depressing: it's a challenge. 

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've only got 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: Jessica Gow/TT

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.

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. 

Make sure someone is always on towel duty. Photo: AP Photo/Sergei Grits

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: AP Photo/Lionel Cironneau

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/Brendan Farrington

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: Henrik Holmberg/TT

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.



Five great beaches in Skåne for when the sun shines

Summer (sometimes) means sunshine. Here are five of the best beaches in Skåne you can rush out to on those cloudless days.

Five great beaches in Skåne for when the sun shines
Stenhuvud, a well-known landmark on the Österlen coast, viewed from Knäbäckshusens strand. Photo: Conny Fridh/
North of Kivik, Haväng vies for the title of the best beach in Österlen, the popular holiday area in Skåne’s southeast corner. It combines a stunning stretch of sand with beautiful walks on the Österlenleden and Backaleden trails which cross the meadows and hills behind it. 

The beach is cut in two by the Verkeån river. Photo: Jorchr/CC BY-SA 3.0
The beach is cut in two where the Verkeån river hits the sea, and the meadows are filled with free-ranging herds of horses and cows, which sometimes come right down to the shore. When you get bored of the beach you can wander up to Havängsdosen, a stone-age grave with a sea view. Usually, you can also take a break for a posh fika or lunch at the nearby Vitemölla Badhotell, but unfortunately it’s closed for renovation in 2019. 
Behind Haväng there are rolling hills and meadows with traditional farmhouses on them. Photo: Henrik Malmqvist/
Knäbäckshusens strand
Haväng’s chief rival lies just to the southern side of Stenshuvud, the hill that marks the southern end of the Hanöbukten bay. Visitors walk down a winding path from the car park past picturesque thatched cottages to find a long stretch of white sand with a steep, verdant bank behind it.
There’s a risk of dangerous undercurrents in bad weather, but it’s so shallow (and the water is normally quite chilly) that it’s unlikely you’ll get out deep enough to be at risk. Tasty pancakes at the Franskans Crêperie in nearby Rörum are the perfect end to a day here.
The trees at Knäbäckshusens strand go in places right down to the sea. Photo: Mikael Tannus/VisitSkåne
Malmö’s very own beach gets packed on sunny days, but the swimming piers make it great for a midday dip, while the dunes provide enough protection from the wind to have a beachside barbecue.
And this year Malmö’s city government has splashed out 2.2 million kronor on Urban Beach, a whole program of summer entertainment that includes a floating obstacle course, a food truck, circus acrobats, dancing, trampolines, and places to hang out. Visitors can can also play mini golf at Ribban Gold Green, and buy hot dogs and ice creams at the regular kiosks spread out along the cycle path that runs behind the beach. 

The jetty. Photo: Jaque de Villiers/
The upmarket housing around the Skanör peninsular means you’re not exactly in the wilderness, but once you get out on the white sand of Skanör, it’s one of the best beaches in the county. The beach tends to be windy and the surrounding sea is often spotted with windsurfers and taking advantage of it.
There are also cute wooden bathing huts all long the beach. If you’re feeling flush, you can eat at the popular Badhytten restaurant by the beach, or for adventurous types, there’s the option to rent kite-surfing kit and get lessons from Ksurf
The beach huts at Skanör are painted in a variety of appealing colours. Photo: John Sander/Imagebank Sweden

Its claims to be the “Riviera of the South Coast” might be a slight exaggeration, but Mossbystrand is a very fine sandy beach on the very south of Skåne near the old fishing village of Abbekås, with a nature reserve behind it. Its closeness to Trelleborg and Skurup means it can get a lot of locals on afternoon visits, but on some days you’ll almost have it to itself. Mossbystrand Kiosk sells ice cream and sand toys, but also smoked fish and filling meals served with chips or mashed potato. 

Mossbystranden can sometimes be deserted. Photo: Alex Regnér/Region Skåne