SHARE
COPY LINK
For members

HOUSING

Seven reasons why Swedes make the best housemates in the world

There's no one better to live with than a Swede, according to Oliver Gee, who's lived among Swedes for eight years.

Seven reasons why Swedes make the best housemates in the world
Everyone deserves a Swede in the house. Photo: Jessica Gow/TT

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

If you're thinking about moving in with a Swede – whether it's your partner, friend, or mother-in-law – I can tell you that you're in for a treat.

You see, there's no better housemate than a Swede. Here's why.

1. They respect your personal space

Swedes have a deep-seated fear of getting too close to people physically. The late, great Swedish etiquette expert Magdalena Ribbing once told me it had something to do with the fact that Sweden is so big and empty and that “people hadn't been talking to each other for a long time”.

If you've ever seen Swedes lining up for a bus you'd know that the importance of personal space lives on. In terms of housemates, you can bet your bottom krona that your Swede will give you plenty of space – because they want their own! 

2. They understand cosiness – heck, they invented it!

No-one does cosiness like the Swedes, not even the Danes. Yes, you'll no doubt have heard about the Danish lifestyle of hygge, which is basically just a Danish version of mysighet, but which has apparently gone viral over the past few years. If you want comfort and cosiness, the Swedes will nail it every time, and they won't brag about it like the Danes do. Step inside a Swedish home, especially in the winter, and you'll be floored by how comfortable it seems. Candles and mood lighting, fresh flowers and cosy blankets, the Swedes know what they're doing.


Don't even try to out-mysa a Swede. You'll never succeed. Photo: Malin Hoelstad/SvD/TT

3. They (probably) know how to bake lussebullar

There's no better Swedish treat than the lussebulle, a saffron bun that's hugely popular at Christmas time. And as luck would have it, all Swedes apparently inherit the recipe at birth, and magically pop them out every time the New Year approaches. I came home the other day to warm lussebullar on the kitchen table and I just about passed out with happiness. If saffron isn't your thing, don't fret, Swedes have loads of baked goods up their sleeves, so you can probably expect sweet treats throughout the year. Don't ask questions, just keep encouraging them to make more.

READ ALSO: How to survive living with Swedes (five handy hacks)


Lussekatter, passed down from generation to generation of Swede. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

4. There's no one better to take on an Ikea trip

This one might sound like a joke but I'm deadly serious. Once I took my Swedish fiancée to Ikea and she looked at a chest of drawers and said “Oh wow, they make this in blue now”. I couldn't believe it. She actually knew the catalogue so well that she noticed a colour change. And the Swedes, as a rule, actually enjoy going to Ikea (something to do with the meatballs, as I understand). This means that when it's time to furnish your home, you'll have an expert on hand to help. And as a bonus, the Swedes can actually pronounce the names of the furniture.

They even enjoy it. Photo: Tomas Oneborg/SvD/TT

5. They worship coffee

If you like coffee, then you'll like the Swedes, because coffee is their lifeblood. Surveys often point out that the Swedes are among the thirstiest coffee drinkers on the planet, and you can bet that your household will never run dry. Having a Swede in your house is like sharing your office with a British tea-drinker – you can guarantee there'll be hot drinks flowing faster than you can say påtår (refill). Warning: Swedish coffee is particularly strong, so don't try and keep up with your housemate.


A common sight in a Swedish home. Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT

6. You'll be saving the planet

The easiest way to horrify a Swede is to throw recyclables in with the regular garbage. Swedes are so good at recycling, in fact, that they've been running out of rubbish in recent years and have had to import it from abroad. If you move in with a Swede you'll have no choice but to follow their revolutionary lead and separate your rubbish. You'll be doing your bit for the planet on the way.


Don't put plastic with paper, whatever you do. Photo: Erik Simander/TT

7. It will be an equal household

And lastly, here's one specifically for those living with a partner of the opposite sex. You guys can rest assured that there's gonna be a strong dose of equality in your household, so you can leave your pre-conceived gender ideas at the front door (along with your shoes, thank you very much). Expect cooperation at every step, when it comes to work, housework, and parental leave – this country does gender equality on steroids and it's no difference in the house! The rest of the world is still catching up on this one, so next time you're washing the dishes, you can consider yourself a trailblazer.


Expect to be an equal partner in a Swedish household. Photo: Jessica Gow/TT

Oliver Gee has worked for The Local Sweden and The Local France. He is currently a freelance journalist in Paris and the host of The Earful Tower podcast. Follow him on Twitter here.

For members

OPINION & ANALYSIS

OPINION: Sweden’s ‘historic investment’ has failed to solve the housing crisis

Five years after Sweden's government promised to solve the country's housing crisis with a "historic investment", things are as bad as ever, David Crouch argues. Radical action is needed.

OPINION: Sweden's 'historic investment' has failed to solve the housing crisis

Forced to move house 20 times in the past eight years, Maria’s situation was desperate. She and her daughter had arrived in Stockholm from Latin America in search of a better life. She found work, no problem – but housing was impossible.

“Sometimes I was paying 12,000kr in rent and it was very hard because I only had 15,000kr in monthly salary,” says Maria (not her real name). So she took a high-interest loan of 240,000kr and tried to bribe someone in the Housing Agency to get to the front of the queue for affordable housing.

But she was caught. Her fate is unknown. And she didn’t even get an apartment.

This recent story, in the excellent newspaper of the Tenants’ Association, sums up the problems facing people who move here to work. The market for rental accommodation is tight as a drum. Finding a home means competing with Swedes, but with all the disadvantages of being an outsider. So people find themselves pushed into short-term, insecure rental contracts at inflated prices.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way. Five years ago this month, the government announced a “historic investment in housing”, including subsidies for construction companies, easing restrictions on building permits, and making more land available.

The housing situation at the time was grim. Spotify had threatened to leave Sweden if things didn’t improve – how could the company attract skilled young people to a city where there was nowhere for them to live? More than half Stockholm’s population – 600,000 people – were in the queue for a coveted rental apartment, because strict regulation meant these rents were low. But it took as long as 20 years to get to the front of that queue.

The result was a thriving rental property black market, with large bribes changing hands. Many tenants exploited the situation by sub-letting their homes, or parts of them. “It is almost impossible for immigrants and new arrivals to penetrate this market – it is all about who you know and how much money you have,” said Billy McCormac, head of the Fastighetsägarna property association, in 2015.

READ ALSO: 

So what has been the outcome of the grand promises the government made five years ago? House-building at the time was already rising steadily, and it has continued to do so. Look around you in the big cities and you will see that new apartment blocks have sprung up here and there.

But we shouldn’t go only on appearances. To understand the reality, we need to look at some numbers.

The gap between demand for housing and the existing housing stock has indeed started to shrink. “As housing construction has gradually increased and population growth has begun to slow down, the gap has decreased since 2017,” Stockholm’s Housing Agency noted in December.

The Agency has broken records four years in a row for the number of rental homes it has provided. The proportion of young adults living independently has also increased somewhat, the Tenants’ Association found, probably due to the pace of construction.

But this smidgen of good news is outweighed by an avalanche of bad.

The average queuing time in 2021 for a Stockholm apartment was more than 9 years; for somewhere in the city centre you have to wait 18 years. Only 936 homes came with a waiting time of less than one year. More than three-quarters of a million people are now registered in the queue for housing – a big increase on five years ago.

The rate at which the housing shortage is shrinking is nowhere near fast enough to alleviate the huge accumulated demand.

Assuming that the current pace of construction can be maintained, it will be the end of this decade before any significant dent is made in the deficit of homes, according to Boverket – the Swedish National Board of Housing, Building and Planning. The current rate of construction is “only marginally more than the long-term need”, it says.

The challenge is even greater when it comes to producing affordable housing, Boverket says, especially for the young and those entering the housing market for the first time. Almost one in four young Swedes up to the age of 27 are forced to live at home – the second-highest figure since the measurements began.

There are already signs that housing construction is actually slowing down, owing to higher building material prices, rising interest rates and an incipient labour shortage. Construction prices rose by more than 8 percent last year, and there is concern in the industry that war in Ukraine will further affect costs, in turn slowing the pace of building.

There is another fly in the ointment, a consequence of the collapse of Sweden’s governing coalition in November. The new, minority administration was forced to adopt the opposition’s budget, which halted investment subsidies for house building, throwing the construction industry into confusion.

In short, the “Swedish model” for providing people with a roof over their heads is failing. The folkhemmet, or “people’s home”, has not enough homes for its people.

Swedes themselves understand this: in a survey last month, nine out of ten voters said they thought that politicians did not take the housing shortage seriously.

We have waited too long. It is time for fresh thinking and radical action to solve the housing crisis.

David Crouch is the author of Almost Perfekt: How Sweden Works and What Can We Learn From It. He is a freelance journalist and a lecturer in journalism at Gothenburg University

SHOW COMMENTS