• Sweden's news in English
 
app_header_v3
The Local List
Nine 'normal' chats that sound totally odd to Swedish people
The phrase "it's cold" means something very different if you've ever lived in Sweden. Photo: Steven Senne/TT

Nine 'normal' chats that sound totally odd to Swedish people

Maddy Savage · 13 Jan 2016, 09:30

Published: 13 Jan 2016 07:30 GMT+01:00
Updated: 13 Jan 2016 09:30 GMT+01:00

1. "It's getting chilly, it could be 5C tomorrow"
 
While Sweden was one of a number of European countries that enjoyed a milder than usual start to the winter, it sure made up for lost time in early January when temperatures dropped to almost -20C in the capital and below -40C in the north. So, unless you're from the Arctic or somewhere else that does snow really well, it can feel a little baffling when people living elsewhere in the world comment on the need to wrap up warm when it's just 5C. Right now, that sounds positively balmy as we type this from snowy Stockholm.
 

5C counts as warm in Sweden. Photo: Helena Wahlman/imagebank.sweden.se
 
2. "Don't worry, it's my round"
 
High alcohol prices and an individualistic culture mean that a night out on the town can end up very pricey if you decide to shout all your friends to a drink in Sweden. You'll likely pay up to 75 kronor for a beer, and definitely shouldn't expect one back. Almost everywhere else on earth it's waaaay cheaper to go to the pub.
 
If you're back in your country for a home visit, or a Swede working in another nation, embrace the experience of sharing rounds, even if it feels bizarre after so many nights queuing up besides six friends to order a single drink each. Cheers!
 

Whose round is it? Not Sven's. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT
 
3. "We don't have a big enough garden"
 
Foreigners and Swedes alike living in the country's biggest cities spend a good splice of their spare time bemoaning the acute housing crisis. In Stockholm, if you manage to score a second-hand studio apartment for more than one year for less than 8000 kronor a month, you're basically hailed a hero. Balconies are common (but hike up your costs), however having a garden in the city centre is the holy grail.
 
So, you might be forced to bite your tongue when people living elsewhere start making noises about needing a "spare bedroom" or "a bigger garden, in case we have kids". But that said, there are few places with such beautiful nature as Sweden, so who needs outside space when you can spend your weekends roaming around in the outdoors eh?
 
 

Swedes often have to share gardens, if there is one. Photo: Simon Paulin/imagebank.sweden.se
 
4. "I might have to give up work to look after the kids"
 
The idea that someone -- usually a woman -- might be forced to quit her career to look after her children can be a bemusing one if you've been living in Sweden. Swedish residents - including immigrants - get 480 days of shared parental leave followed by heavily subsidised day care, all nestled into a culture of flexible working. Although the Scandinavian country isn't completely equal, it is streets ahead of the rest of the world. You'll hear far more conversations about expensive childcare, rigid working hours and gender salary gaps in other European nations than in Sweden.
 

Plenty of Swedish fathers share childcare responsibilities. Photo: Kristin Lidell/imagebank.sweden.se
 
5. "You're working out again?"
 
Most Swedes make exercise a regular part of their weekly routine and while obesity levels are rising, they remain among the lowest in Europe. Keeping fit is viewed as good for the body and the soul and is something, well, completely normal. This is not always the case in other countries such as the UK, where anyone spotted simply carrying a sports bag around can be quickly labelled a 'fitness freak' or a 'gym addict'. Leaving the pub early to go to a spinning class might be greeted with a smile and a 'lycka till' (good luck) in Sweden, but prepare to be greeted with shock or bemusement elsewhere. Especially if it's your round.
 
 

Photo: Anders Wiklund/TT
 
6. "I'm running late, the bus didn't turn up"
 
In efficient Sweden, buses somehow manage to run on time, even in -20C temperatures. This isn't the case in most places on the planet. If someone outside Sweden tells you they're late because of a public transport malfunction, they are either actually telling the truth or using a very plausible lie that you'll be unable to check up on. But if you're used to Swedish services running to the second and friends being just as punctual whether they've walked, biked or cycled to meet you (we did tell you Swedes love to keep fit), be prepared to get frustrated by this kind of tardiness.
 

Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT
 
7. "I just spoke to a fascinating woman on the bus"
 
Imagine you're on a bus that does break down (outside of Sweden, obviously). How would it feel to chat to the other passengers about the delay, swap stories about where you're going or boast about your last (even worse) transport drama? If you're used to living in the Nordics, where people are notoriously quiet on buses and trains, this could make you a bit uncomfortable. Alternatively, if you've spent months or years either suffering in silence or feeling like a weirdo whenever you make small talk in Sweden, you'll likely be relishing this experience (as long as the bus gets fixed quickly, because you're not used to being late!).
 
 

Photo: Jack Mikrut/TT
 
Story continues below…
8. "I'll just put a quick wash on!"
 
You know when you're rushing around doing your chores and you chuck a load in the washing machine while simultaneously cooking dinner, running a bath and preparing for a work meeting? No, that doesn't happen if you live in a Swedish city.
 
In most apartment blocks you have to book your laundry slot a week before and turn up on time to make sure nobody else steals it. Realised your favourite outfit is dirty 24 hours before an important date? You're screwed. Even if you've got a balcony, it probably won't dry in time and might actually freeze. If you're staying with friends or family in other countries and they mention they're putting a wash on, you could find yourself getting rather excited and handing over your dirty laundry.
 

Swedes rarely get to choose their own washing machine. Photo: Jacques Brinon/TT
 
9. "Sure, I'll meet you tonight!"
 
So you've managed to avoid arguments about whether it's actually cold (it isn't) or your friend turning up 30 minutes late and you'd quite like to fit in another trip to the pub. But that's never going to happen is it, because you have to plan social engagements at least a week in advance? Well, that may be what you're used to in Sweden, but not everyone is quite so organised. That means if you're spending time away from the Nordics, you can marvel at the chance to be a bit more spontaneous.
 
Don't get too carried away though. If you want to see your Swedish friends when you get back, you'd better find time to text them too, to check their availability for the next month.
 

Swedes want to plan their weeks in advance. Photo: Jessica Gow/TT
 

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

Maddy Savage (maddy.savage@thelocal.com)

Today's headlines
Sweden advised to bring conscription back in 2018
Bringing back the draft could help a stretched military, a government inquiry says. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

Young men and women could be made to fill in questionnaires for recruitment to the Armed Forces as early as next year, according to a new proposal.

Nationalists suspend aide after Russia propaganda claim
The suspended aide is a political secretary to SD member of parliament Kent Ekeroth. Photo: Claudio Bresciani/TT

His suspension comes only days after another of the party's political secretaries resigned amid controversy over a property deal in Russia.

Presented by Lernia
Top 7 tips to help you learn Swedish
Photo: Lernia

Struggling to learn Swedish? There are a few ways to make it easier. Here are seven tips from the experts.

Here's how much Sweden's highest-earning authors make
It was a good year for the likes of Jonas Jonasson (left) and Camilla Läckberg (right). Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT & Henrik Montgomery/TT

From Nordic Noir to a hundred-year-old man (and one called Ove), Sweden's authors had a good year in 2015.

Sweden named world's sixth most competitive country
The good news also came with some caveats. Photo: Izabelle Nordfjell/TT

The country moved up three places in the top ten of the latest edition of the World Economic Forum's Global Competitiveness Index.

The Swedish celebs you really should not google
'Oh no, don't tell me I just clicked on THAT link.' Photo: Björn Larsson Rosvall/TT

These are the world's most dangerous viral Swedish celebrities, according to a new report.

Furious elk mum attacks Swede, breaks his arm
You talkin' to me? Photo: Mikael Fritzon/TT

It came back and attacked him not once, but twice.

Report: Stockholm is at risk of a housing bubble
Apartments in Stockholm. Photo: Tomas Oneborg/SvD/TT

Stockholmers are the third most likely to experience a housing bubble in their city, according to an international ranking.

The Local List
Reverse culture shock: the troubles of leaving Sweden
Does it get more Swedish than this? Photo: Emelie Asplund/imagebank.sweden.se

Why is that stranger talking to me in the elevator?!

Police close Facebook thread after call for help derails
A file photo of police cars on Gotland not related to the article. Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT

The Gotland Police Facebook post asking the public for information about an unprovoked attack on two boys had to be closed because the comments section spiraled out of control.

Sponsored Article
Expat finances in Sweden: the Common Reporting Standard
National
Aliens' sex lives? Why Swedes want Nasa to send a condom into space
Sponsored Article
Let's Talk: a personal Swedish language tutor in your pocket
Analysis & Opinion
'If Sweden really wants startups, drop the red tape on migration'
Gallery
Property of the week: Gotland
Blog updates

27 September

Cutting your nose …. (The Diplomatic Dispatch) »

"Last week, Jeremy Browne, the Special Representative for the City of London, visited Sweden. Jeremy was…" READ »

 

7 September

Svensk or svenska? (The Swedish Teacher) »

"Hejsan! My inbox is full of questions :-). Here’s one about when to use “svensk” and…" READ »

 
 
 
Sponsored Article
‘I view the world in a different way now’
National
Trump an 'embarrassment' Springsteen tells Sweden
Sponsored Article
Retiring abroad: ensuring your health is covered
Gallery
People-watching: September 23rd-25th
Politics
Russian Sweden Democrat aide resigns over suspect deal
National
Muslim teacher leaves job after not shaking male colleague's hand
Sponsored Article
'Creating a sense of home': Collective living in Stockholm
Travel
Why we adore autumn in Sweden
Sponsored Article
Life in Jordan: 'Undiscovered treasure'
Gallery
People-watching: September 21st
National
Stockholmers hunt killer badger after attack on neighbourhood hipster cat
Sponsored Article
Gran Canaria: 'So much more than beaches'
The Local Voices
Why this Russian developer is committed to helping refugees - with tech
Sponsored Article
Why Jordan is the ‘Different’ East
National
Six key points in Sweden's budget plan
The Local Voices
How a Swedish name finally made recruiters notice this Iranian's CV
Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
Gallery
Property of the week: Luleå
Sponsored Article
Why Jordan is the ‘Different’ East
Gallery
People-watching: September 16th-18th
Sponsored Article
Retiring abroad: ensuring your health is covered
Culture
Why Swedish TV has given these kids' trucks a sex swap
Sponsored Article
'There was no future for me in Turkey'
National
TIMELINE: Everything you need to know about the Julian Assange case
Sponsored Article
7 reasons you should join Sweden’s ’a-kassa’
Gallery
People-watching: September 14th
Sponsored Article
‘Extremism can't be defeated on the battlefield alone’
Politics
Why Sweden is putting troops on holiday dream island Gotland
The Local Voices
'What I mean when I say: I came here to blow myself up'
Society
VIDEO: Are Swedes that unfriendly?
Features
INTERVIEW: How Arthur the jungle dog opened hearts and minds
Gallery
Property of the week: Smögen, Västra Götaland
Society
Sweden's ancient forest tongue Elfdalian fights for survival
National
Where Sweden's foreigners are from
The Local Voices
'Whenever I apply for jobs I’m treated like an unwanted stranger'
The Local Voices
Is Swedish bosses' ignorance keeping refugees out of jobs?
2,976
jobs available