• Sweden's news in English
The Local List
Five handy hacks to help you survive living with Swedes
Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT

Five handy hacks to help you survive living with Swedes

Lee Roden · 4 Aug 2016, 16:30

Published: 04 Aug 2016 16:30 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

1. Laundry is now the most important thing in your life

Remember those lazy Sundays where you put your laundry on, left the house, had a walk in the park and a coffee before casually coming home to hang out the drying? Remember them fondly, because now that you are moving to Sweden, they are dead.

Space is at a premium in Swedish apartments, and one of the first things you’re likely to notice when you enter one is the lack of a washing machine. Residents instead tend to do their laundry in a communal washroom somewhere else in the building, with timeslots booked ahead of time.

With so many people sharing the same laundry space, getting a last minute booking is a rare thing, so unless you want to know what it feels like to reach Wednesday, realise you have no underwear left then rush hurriedly to H&M to buy more (and trust me, it doesn’t feel good) you’d better get used to planning your washing weeks ahead.

On the positive side, “I can’t, I have to do my laundry” becomes a nice alternative to “I’m washing my hair” as an excuse for not turning up somewhere, with the difference being that you genuinely can't come. You have to do your laundry. Or else.

The laundry room: where your social life went to die. Photo: Mats Andersson/TT

2. The first rule of subletting is you don’t talk about subletting

Unless you’ve been in the queue for one of Sweden’s state-regulated apartments since you were born – and let’s face it, you haven’t – finding a first home in the country is likely to mean finding a sublet. Overcrowding and accommodation shortages mean renting “second hand” is a common way of living, particularly if you’re young. Yet despite that, subletting is often treated like a deep, dark secret that should never be revealed.

Why? In theory, it shouldn’t really be done, or at least not for long. Tight regulations mean that if someone wants to hire their rental apartment out in Sweden by the book, they will need to provide a valid reason for doing so (for example, going to study abroad). For the same reason, contracts tend to be frustratingly short.

The result? Well, we’re not suggesting that some people choose to rent their apartments out through unofficial means, but... Put it this way: when your neighbour’s tone of voice drops to a whisper and he or she starts looking around shiftily once you’ve told them you’re subletting, you now know why.

Get used to signing secondhand rental contracts (but don't mention it). Photo: Christine Olsson/TT

3. Think you have storage? Think again

So you finally managed to find an apartment? Good news. The bad news is you’re only renting half of it. Those handy looking cupboards in the kitchen are so handy that the contract owner decided to fill them with their horrible glassware while they left on a gap year. Ditto the large cupboard in the living room, which probably contains the world’s biggest collection of blue Ikea bags – or worse.

Fortunately, many Swedish apartments come with loft or basement storage elsewhere in the building. Unfortunately, that’s full too. After all, where else would the owner put his or her ski equipment, collection of childhood toys, or random junk? Renting in Sweden means traveling light. Get used to it.

The contents of your new cellar. And don't even think about touching them. Photo: Björn Larsson Ask/SvD/TT

4.The spring (and autumn) clean dilemma

Swedes have a reputation for being solitary types, but when it comes to looking after apartment buildings they’re actually pretty collectively-minded. Twice a year the normally lonesome creatures can be seen out in their courtyards, raking leaves, brushing gravel together and even conversing as they take part in the traditional spring and autumn cleaning session.

You have two options here: either you’re a good citizen and you take part, make a token effort to clean up some rubbish and make awkward small talk with Henke over a hotdog, or, you wait patiently and watch carefully for the right moment to leave the house, then sneak away while everyone has their back turned. The choice is yours, but remember: you’ll be leaving for another apartment in six months anyway.

Story continues below…

If you see this, run for the hills. Photo: Anders Wiklund/TT

5. Don’t be fooled: that nifty-looking library is useless

Swedes hate to throw stuff away, and the proof is in their well-organized recycling schemes, meaning cans and bottles can often be taken to recycling stations in supermarkets and exchanged for money.

That reticence to waste things has its downside though, and nowhere is it more apparent than on the communal bookshelf. The location varies, but whether it’s in the laundry room, recycling area, or in a room of its own, you’re bound to find a shelf full of old books somewhere in your new apartment block, where texts are left "kindly" by other residents who are eager to share their latest great read.

It’s a trap. Unless you find the Swedish equivalent of Mills and Boon enticing, or are desperate to read the 98th edition of Sven-Göran Eriksson's autobiography, then move along, there’s nothing of interest for you here. Dress it up any way you like: but those books have been left there for a reason, and the reason is that they aren’t wanted.

He left it on that shelf for a reason. Photo: Claudio Bresciani/TT

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

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Today's headlines
Facebook 'sorry' for removing Swedish cancer video
A computer displaying Facebook's landing page. Photo: Christine Olsson/TT

The social media giant had censored a video explaining how women should check for suspicious lumps in their breasts.

Watch this amazing footage of Sweden’s landscapes
A still from the aerial footage of Sweden. Photo: Nate Summer-Cook

The spectacular drone footage captures both Sweden's south and the opposite extreme, thousands of kilometres north.

Sweden could be allowed to keep border controls: EU
Police ID checks at Hyllie station in southern Sweden. Photo: Stig-Åke Jönsson/TT

Sweden could be allowed to keep ID controls on its border with Denmark beyond the current end date of November, following discussions among EU leaders in Brussels last night.

Why women in Sweden will work for free by November
File photo of a woman working in a Swedish office. Photo: Anders Willund/TT

A new study into the gender pay gap suggests Sweden still has some work to do.

Look familiar? Meet your jawbone's ancestor
Thank God for evolution, eh?

There's something fishy about the human jawbone – it has its origins in the placodermi, a jowly species of fish that lived 400 million years ago, Swedish and Chinese researchers say.

Isis claims unremarked arson attack in Malmö
The arson attack took place on Norra Grängesbergsgatan in Malmö. File photo: Emil Langvad/TT

An arson attack in Malmö that caused only minor damage and was barely reported in the media has been claimed by terror group Isis.

How to make autumnal Swedish apple cake
Photo: SwedishFood.com

This tasty cake is an autumn staple in Swedish cafés. Why not make it yourself!

Facebook slammed for cutting Swedish breast cancer video
File photo of the landing page of the Swedish version of Facebook. Photo: Christine Olsson/TT

The social media giant removed a breast cancer awareness video because it deemed the images "offensive," according to the Swedish Cancer Society.

Pastor rapped for depicting rival as Nazi in church play
A different pastor. Photo: Christine Olsson/TT

The pastor allegedly found it funny.

In Pictures: Look inside this perfect Swedish island home
This modern Gotland home was designed and built by two Swedes. Photo: United Frog Studios/AB

Anna-Lena and Johan designed and built their home with tall beautiful windows, a smart heating system, and a separate section for their greyhounds.

Sponsored Article
This is Malmö: Football capital of Sweden
Analysis & Opinion
Are we just going to let half the country die?
Sponsored Article
Where is the Swedish music industry heading?
Angry elk chases Swede up a lamp post
The Local Voices
'Alienation in Sweden feels better: I find myself a stranger among scores of aliens'
Blog updates

6 October

10 useful hjälpverb (The Swedish Teacher) »

"Hej! I think the so-called “hjalpverb” (auxiliary verbs in English) are a good way to get…" READ »


8 July

Editor’s blog, July 8th (The Local Sweden) »

"Hej readers, It has, as always, been a bizarre, serious and hilarious week in Sweden. You…" READ »

Sponsored Article
7 reasons you should join Sweden's 'a-kassa'
People-watching: October 20th
Sponsored Article
Why you should 'grab a chair' on Stockholm's tech scene
The Local Voices
A layover at Qatar airport brought this Swedish-Kenyan couple together - now they're heading for marriage
Swede punches clown that scared his grandmother
Fans throw flares and enter pitch in Swedish football riot
Sponsored Article
Stockholm: creating solutions to global challenges
Could Swedish blood test solve 'Making a Murderer'?
Sponsored Article
Swedish for programmers: 'It changed my life'
Property of the week: Linnéstaden, Gothenburg
Swedish school to build gender neutral changing room
Sponsored Article
Top 7 tips to help you learn Swedish
People-watching: October 14th-16th
Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
Man in Sweden assaulted by clowns with broken bottle
Nobel Prize 2016: Literature
Sponsored Article
'There was no future for me in Turkey'
Watch the man who discovered Bob Dylan react to his Nobel Prize win
Sponsored Article
‘Extremism can't be defeated on the battlefield alone’
Record numbers emigrating from Sweden
Sponsored Article
Stockholm: creating solutions to global challenges
People-watching: October 12th
Sponsored Article
Why you should 'grab a chair' on Stockholm's tech scene
The Local Voices
'Swedish startups should embrace newcomers' talents - there's nothing to fear'
Sponsored Article
'There was no future for me in Turkey'
How far right are the Sweden Democrats?
Sponsored Article
Where is the Swedish music industry heading?
Property of the week: Triangeln, Malmö
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Sweden unveils Europe's first elk hut
People-watching: October 7th-9th
The Local Voices
Syria's White Helmets: The Nobel Peace Prize would have meant a lot, but pulling a child from rubble is the greatest reward
Missing rune stone turns up in Sweden
Nobel Prize 2016: Chemistry
People-watching: October 5th
Must-watch: Incredible time-lapse video of Northern Lights in Sweden
The Local Voices
Why this Russian developer is committed to helping refugees - with tech
jobs available