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Readers reveal: What you need to know about life in Gothenburg

Readers reveal: What you need to know about life in Gothenburg
The Local's readers reveal what life in Gothenburg is really like. Photo: Anna Hållams/imagebank.sweden.se
We asked our readers what they like and dislike most about life on the west coast. Here's what you told us.

Despite being home to major international companies such as Volvo, world-class higher education seats and Scandinavia’s busiest industrial harbour, Sweden’s second-biggest city perhaps tends to slide past unnoticed in the shadow of the capital Stockholm, but it is a popular hub for international talent and families.

More than 210,000 foreign-born people were living in Greater Gothenburg last year, according to number-crunching agency Statistics Sweden, including 91,000 foreign nationals who did not have Swedish citizenship.

Gothenburg is often known as laid-back and friendly, known in Sweden for its dry pun humour.

Indeed, Rajan Singh, a software engineer from Los Angeles who moved to the city a year and a half ago, told The Local that one of the best things about life in Gothenburg was in fact the Gothenburgers themselves.

“People here are very open and friendly. It’s not too small but not too big either. Very easy to get around and relatively affordable,” he said.

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“I enjoy the pace here versus Stockholm – it is a little less uptight and stressful,” said Steven Spieczny, a dad-of-four who manages a US tech company’s Nordic operations from Gothenburg. “Stockholm tries so hard to be ‘cool’ – it’s actually kind of funny to watch from afar, as well as having spent over 10 years in San Francisco working in the internet craze. It’s just silly, while Gothenburg is more grounded.”

Many of our readers found it hard to pick just one thing they loved.

“Work-life balance, access to the amazing coast, a lot of friends with sailing boats, so many great restaurants and bars, freely-available Swedish language courses, lots of life and things going on in the city with both Swedish traditions and the international community. Also its reputation as being a progressive and sustainable city,” said Liz Robertson, 32, a British researcher at Gothenburg University.

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Gothenburg is home to the biggest port in Scandinavia. Photo: Jerker Andersson/imagebank.sweden.se

In many Swedish cities, you only have to travel five minutes outside the city and feel like you are in the remote countryside, and Gothenburg (with its proximity to the famous west coast beaches) is no different.

“The best thing so far, is being so close to both city life and the incredible nature and wilderness around Gothenburg. After living in London for 10 years where it took an hour just to get out of the city it feels a real privilege to have such beautiful lakes and woods walking distance from our front door, while at the same time bars and restaurants 10 minutes’ walk in the other direction. It’s like nothing we’ve ever experienced,” said Pip, 31, who works at the Chalmers University of Technology.

But if you’re living somewhere like Gothenburg, why even leave the city? The architecture was highlighted by many as one of the best things, although some also mentioned ongoing construction work as an eyesore.

“The city is really beautiful and it’s designed very well. It’s easy to walk and especially to bike. Getting around is fast and efficient and because the city is pretty it’s also a pleasure,” said Nils, 28, a Danish marine biologist.

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Gothenburg has had trams since 1879. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

Public transport is a frequent cause of complaint in many cities, but most of the readers who responded to The Local’s request for comment were positive about Gothenburg transport, not to mention its famous trams.

“I love it here, I feel safe to walk on my own in the forest, the trams and buses are amazing, I love that you can even get to the coast beaches on a bus or tram, they are always clean and mostly on time,” said Carol Bird, 52, who moved from the UK to Gothenburg earlier this year.

“There’s always something to see and do, and although it has its flaws, public transport is decent, especially the tram system. Rarely more than a 10-minute wait for the next form of transport, at least in town. Stores for everything you could possibly want. Liseberg is decent also, despite not being able to fit on some of the rides due to my height,” said British website developer James Wills, 34, referring to the city’s leisure park Liseberg.

So what about the negatives?

Well, almost all respondents mentioned the housing situation as a drawback of life in the city. 

“Everyone knows that finding accommodation in Gothenburg is near impossible. Also the city is overpopulated and public transport is also incredibly unreliable and very over-packed,” said Nils, who, perhaps being used to Denmark’s efficient system, was one of few people to criticize public transport.

“It is really hard to get a house. We are lucky we got a first-hand contract apartment, but the owners charge us very high rent compared to other tenants who have lived here for a long time and we really want a house with a garden,” said Bird, who had managed to get off Sweden’s second-hand short-term rental carousel.

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Volvo Cars’ factory in Torslanda, Gothenburg. Photo: Thomas Johansson/TT

Some readers also pointed out that although the small size of the city helps make it more friendly, cosy and accessible, that comes with a few negative side effects that you do not necessarily get in a larger city.

“The worst thing in Gothenburg is that all shops close so early, and yes the transport is good, but it’s expensive. It is hard to find a job without help from others,” said Mohammed, a 26-year-old from Palestine.

“Coming from a city that never sleeps the more traditional opening times of restaurants and shops can be an adjustment. We’re used to being able to get what we need (perhaps that should be ‘what we want’) on demand but life is slower here and requires a bit more forward planning,” said Pip from London.


A cyclist struggling in the wind at the Älvsborg Bridge in Gothenburg. Photo: Adam Ihse/TT

The city’s location on the west coast makes it exposed to the North Sea winds, and the weather was another one of the negative aspects of life readers mentioned – who doesn’t love a good moan about the weather?

Even James, 45, a steel worker from Ireland – perhaps not a country where rain is considered an uncommon feature of daily life – picked out “the rain” as the worst part of life in Gothenburg, as did Gothenburg-born Bengt Sörmon, 84, who has lived in Canada for years but still comes back home to visit every year.

But Carol Bird also noted Swedes’ eagerness to enjoy the outdoors come rain or shine (many readers of The Local will be familiar with the well-known Swedish saying “there is no bad weather, only bad clothes”):

“In the UK you plan your life around the weather, but Swedes go out no matter what the weather, good on you.”

Many thanks to everyone who responded to our survey. All your comments contributed to this article, even though we weren’t able to include each one.

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