Sweden ranked worst place to make friends… again

Louise Nordström
Louise Nordström - [email protected]
Sweden ranked worst place to make friends… again
Photo: Emelie Asplund/

For the umpteenth time in a row, expats have ranked Sweden as one of the worst countries in the world to make friends in. But is it really that bad? We let our readers have their say.


On Thursday, global community Internations released its annual Expat Insider survey for 2017, and although some of it turned out to be good news for Sweden – the Nordic country had improved its ranking from a 42nd place to a 22nd place – other things were not so great.

Some 13,000 people took part in the poll, ranking 65 countries on a variety of different topics, ranging from the quality of life and family-friendliness to workplace culture. 

While Sweden topped the score when it came to childcare health (nine out of ten said they were satisfied.) - an area it usually does well on - and ranked among the top-ten for its work-life balance, it, again, scored very, very low when it came to the ability to make friends there. Just like it did last year.

In fact it came last this time around, with 72 percent of respondents saying it was tough to get to know the Swedes, citing the language barrier and cultural issues as the main reasons for why it's so hard. Internations cited a British national as describing the Swedes as "quite private, closed, and not that open to newcomers".

The Local decided to test the results by asking our readers what they thought. Some of them confirmed the results, others didn't and some of them even shared some great tips on how to make Swedish friends.

Here is what you said:

"Generally, the Swedes are 'birds of same feathers stick together' kind of people. Reserved and quiet! To make friends with a Swede is like going through a ritual. One important rule is: never be too pushy and asking personal questions on first meetings. Just feel the vibes and be tactful and friendly and you will be ok," Nanette Holmström commented.

Cassien Guier, however, shared her not-so-nice experience: "Only in Sweden have I ever been told ‘I don't need to talk to you, I have enough friends' ... <-- yup lol."

Murtaza Zoeb had similar experiences, but noted the silver lining of making friends with Swedes: "Mostly Swedes say they don't have a time for new friends as already they have many friends in their life. But once they are your friends they are for life."

Jim Dowden had a hard and fast tip on how to get the Swedes to open up more: "Want to make friends? Go to the clubs and buy drinks."

Colby Pele explained that the distance people keep to one another shouldn't be regarded as snobbery but might sometimes actually have to do with them being concerned about their health. "Swedes tend to have a certain circle of friends that's all, they have certain standards and also it's to do with their culture," noting that it's the only country he knows where people keep "a lot of distance between each other (unless you're family or a lover) while waiting for a bus/train/tram etc. It's not snobbish, it makes sense from a health perspective given if the person is ill you don't want it etc."

Charlotte Cbf Rider, on the other hand, said she had experienced no difficulty at all: "I have found Swedes to be very welcoming on the whole, but then I was learning Swedish before I moved and could at least try to speak the language a little even if badly! Wonder how much me demonstrating making an effort made a difference?"

Konstantinos Litsiossaid: "It is different for every person for there are so many conditions that affect your efforts. In general though with Stockholm being an international environment I think it is relative fine to make new friends here. I understand though that I have no knowledge of smaller cities here."

Danielle Dany said that although she doesn't yet live in Sweden, she has made some great mates while visiting, with both Swedes and foreigners living there.

She said: "I do find Sweden as a great environment for meeting some really great and decent people, with great careers and interests. As for the nationals, we really found a great match because themselves as well as myself did respect a certain ‘personal space' and time dedicated to first know each other's backgrounds before getting closer to each other and I consider that this is the right way to build any relationships anywhere in the world. To just ‘enter someone's life with your boots' doesn't work in the right way! I fully recommend the entire Scandinavian space for beautiful travelling, meeting great people and plenty of great other things!"


Join the conversation in our comments section below. Share your own views and experience and if you have a question or suggestion for our journalists then email us at [email protected].
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