For members


Members’ Forum: Seven unusual things I didn’t think I’d miss until I left Sweden

Sweden is a funny old country. When you move there as an expat - as I did in 2010 - there are countless things you'll find to be incredible, unique, or baffling.

Members' Forum: Seven unusual things I didn't think I'd miss until I left Sweden
Some countries cope better with the winter than others. Photo: Anders Wiklund/TT

This article is available to Members of The Local. Read more Membership Exclusives here.

But, for me at least, the things you miss once you’ve left (as I did in 2015) aren't necessarily the things you'd have imagined.

Here are the seven unusual things I miss the most since I left Sweden for my new home in France.

The accessible nature

They say Stockholm has 40 percent green space, and that there's a park within four hundred metres of you at all times. But you don't really notice it until you live somewhere with no parks. Yes, Sweden gets top marks for its green space, and the raw nature outside the city is world class too.

Djurgården in central Stockholm. Photo: Christine Olsson/TT

The order

I’ve heard people talk about the horrendous Catch-22s of Swedish admin – especially for foreigners. The rigmarole of getting a personnummer, the struggles of opening a bank without a job, and the troubles of getting anyone to read your CV. But Sweden is a walk in the park, at least compared to a country like France, where the red tape is legendary. Expats throw parties in France when they are finally granted social security, or citizenship. Consider yourselves lucky.

An orderly Swedish queue for a bank. Photo: Gustav Sjöholm/TT

The preparedness for winter

Sweden, as we all know, gets cold. I once saw -27C in Uppsala and I lived to tell the tale. But Sweden is so well prepared for the cold that you hardly notice it. The buses and trains are warm, as are the shops and restaurants, and the homes are crispy. But elsewhere in Europe, I’ve noticed that the winter seems to take everyone by surprise. I was eating in a Paris patisserie recently that had huge open doors and no heating. It was bone-chilling. If the same patisserie was in Sweden, all the customers would be dead.

Sweden copes relatively well with the winter. Photo: Hasse Holmberg/TT

Being the underdog

If Sweden was a dog, it would be a small one, capable of a big bark when it was necessary. And it would also be the underdog in almost every competitive event ever. And there’s something that I, as an expat there, really got into supporting. I used to feel a thrill to see a Swedish singer making it big, or a Swedish actor finding success in Hollywood. “They’re Swedish,” I’d say to friends or family. But in other countries, like in France or the UK or the US, success is kind of expected – and there's not the same kind of underdog pride.

What eliminating Italy from World Cup qualifying looks like. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

The generous paternal leave (even though I’ve never had kids)

This might sound like a weird one for a father-of-none, but I’ve seen the advantages of Sweden’s paternity leave and I like them. For one thing, as a fellow employee of someone who heads off for months to look after their kid, there’s suddenly new professional opportunities to fill while they’re away. The mother or father tends to come back refreshed, and you’re left with more experience, or even a better job. In France, the men get a handful of days off and return grumpy and tired, while you’ve been left to cover their back. And mothers only get 16 weeks.

Sweden is a good country to be a parent in. Photo: Hasse Holmberg/TT

The fact that everyone speaks English

Very, very few places on earth can claim that their nationals speak better English (as a second language) than the Swedes. So luckily for you as a foreigner in Sweden, if you’re learning Swedish, you’ll almost always be able to toss in English words when you’re lost and the conversation won’t lose momentum. And if you want to, you’ll certainly be able to open a bank account in English. But in other countries, like France, they are too petrified or too arrogant to lower themselves to speaking English. They don’t even try. I saw Blade Runner at the cinema recently and the ticket seller pronounced it “Blard roonaire”. He didn’t even try. Can you imagine a Swede saying it in a Swedish accent, “Blard-eh rune-ah-re”? Never.

It's easy to take the high standard of English in Sweden for granted. Photo: Leif R Jansson/TT

The passive aggression

Yep, I miss the arga lappar (passive aggressive angry notes) that Swedes leave in the laundry room. I prefer it tenfold over hot-tempered Europeans who beep their horn too much, who itch at the chance to argue, and who wave their hands in the air the second they’re uncomfortable. Confrontation gets everyone worked up – but at least in Sweden they hide behind their pen and paper. And what’s more, a great angry note is so silly that it can go viral, can be shared across the nation, and bring us all a smile. No amount of aggressive confrontation anywhere else in the world is going to make anyone else happy. Keep doing your thing, Sweden.

An exhibition of laundy room notes. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

What did you miss when you left Sweden? Or what do you think you would miss? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Member comments

  1. I,ll miss:
    The extreme jelously of those whose head sticks up over others.
    The lack of ability to accept a new person in sincere friendship, that they did not go to school with, a member of their family or a childhood friend.
    The refusal to accept a non Swede speaking English, when most Swedes do and playing dumb in conversation. This is a tool used to exclude debate, conversation. due to limited worldly knowledge, beyond their town, village and individualistic natures.

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For members


Moving to Gothenburg? The best areas and neighbourhoods to live in

Whether you're moving to Sweden’s second biggest city for the first time or are looking for another neighbourhood, The Local talks you through some of your best options.

Moving to Gothenburg? The best areas and neighbourhoods to live in
Which neighbourhood of Sweden's second city is right for you? Photo: Per Pixel Petersson/

First of all: where to look? The city of Gothenburg suggests on its website that sublets, houses and townhouses to rent all across West Sweden can be found on Blocket, a popular digital marketplace (in Swedish).

Other alternatives for rentals include the sites Bostaddirekt, Residensportalen and Findroommate, as well as Swedish websites like Hyresbostad and Andrahand. Note that some of the housing sites charge a subscription or membership fee. There are also Facebook groups where accommodation is advertised. An example in English is Find accommodation in Goteborg!.

If you’re buying, most apartments and houses for sale in Gothenburg and West Sweden can be seen on the websites Hemnet and Booli. Local newspapers often have property listings. Real estate agents (mäklare) can also help you find a place.

Majorna on a hot summer’s day. Photo: Björn Larsson Rosvall/TT


Majorna is a residential area in Gothenburg that has transformed from being a classic working-class district to becoming a hip and restaurant-dense cultural hub in Gothenburg. The buildings typical for Majorna are three storey buildings with the first storey built in stone and the topmost two built with wood — the houses traditionally called Landshövdingehus. This neighbourhood just west of the city center, beautifully positioned between the river Göta älv and the park Slottsskogen, is hugely popular with young families.

Majorna was traditionally populated with industrial workers and dockers. The area is still supposed to have a strong working-class identity, with many people living in Majorna seeing themselves as radical, politically aware, and having an ‘alternative lifestyle’.

This doesn’t mean, however, that one can live in Majorna on a shoestring. The average price per square meter here is approximately 55,000 kronor as of May 2021, according to Hemnet.

Eriksberg on Hisingen. Photo: Erik Abel/TT


From the centre of Gothenburg it’s only a short bus or tram ride across the river to Hisingen. It’s Sweden’s fifth largest island – after Gotland, Öland, Södertörn and Orust – and the second most populous. Hisingen is surrounded by the Göta älv river in the south and east, the Nordra älv in the north and the Kattegat in the west.

The first city carrying the name Gothenburg was founded on Hisingen in 1603. The town here, however, was burned down by the Danes in 1611 during the so-called Kalmar War and the only remnant is the foundation of the church that stood in the city centre.

Hisingen housed some of the world’s largest shipyards until the shipyard crisis of the 1970s. Over the last 20 years, the northern bank of the Göta älv has undergone major expansion. Residential areas, university buildings and several industries (including Volvo) have largely replaced the former shipyards.

Hisingen comprises many different neighbourhoods — Kvillebäcken, Backa and Biskopsgården are only some examples. At Jubileumsparken in Frihamnen, an area bordering the Göta älv, there is a public open-air pool and a spectacular sauna. Further inland you’ll find the beautiful Hisingsparken, the largest park in Gothenburg.

Apartment prices are still relatively low in certain parts of Hisingen, while the housing market in other neighbourhoods is booming. The average metre-squared price on Hisingen lies around 41,000 kronor.


Gamlestaden or the Old Town was founded as early as 1473, 200 years before Gothenburg’s current city centre was built. You can take a seven-minute tram ride towards the northeast to this upcoming district (popularly known as ‘Gamlestan’) which, like Majorna, is characterised by the original Landshövdingehus in combination with an international atmosphere.

What was once an industrial centre, mostly the factory of bearing manufacturer SKF, is now rapidly turning into something new, as restaurants and vintage shops move into the old red-brick factory buildings.

The multicultural neighbourhood is also close to the famous Kviberg’s marknad (market) and Bellevue marknad, where you can buy everything from exotic fruits and vegetables to second-hand clothes, electronics and curiosa.

The Gamlestaden district is developing and should become a densely populated and attractive district with new housing, city shopping and services. In the future, twice as many inhabitants will live here compared to today, according to Stadsutveckling Göteborg (City development Gothenburg). Around 3,000 new apartments should be built here in the coming years. The current price per metre squared in Gamlestaden is 46,000 kronor.

Södra Skärgården. Photo: Roger Lundsten/TT


It might not be the most practical, but it probably will be the most idyllic place you’ll ever live in: Gothenburg’s northern or southern archipelago (skärgården). With a public bus or tram you can get from the city centre to the sea and from there, you hop on a ferry taking you to one of many picturesque islands just off the coast of Gothenburg.

There are car ferries from Hisingen to the northern archipelago. Some of the islands here are also connected by bridges. The southern archipelago can be reached by ferries leaving from the harbour of Saltholmen.

Gothenburg’s southern archipelago has around 5,000 permanent and another 6,000 summer residents. The archipelago is completely car free and transportation is carried out mostly by means of cycles, delivery mopeds and electrical golf carts.

Most residences here are outstanding — wooden houses and cottages, big gardens — and always close to both nature and sea. Finding somewhere to live, however, is not necessarily easy. Some people rent out their summer houses during the other three seasons. When buying a house here (the average price being 5.5 million kronor) you have to be aware that living in a wooden house on an exposed island often comes with a lot of renovating and painting.