How I’m surviving northern Sweden’s sub-Arctic winter

How I'm surviving northern Sweden's sub-Arctic winter
Photo: Private
This week, Elizabeth Muriu from Kenya, who is studying a Masters in International Business at Luleå University of Technology, talks about how she is adapting to life in northernmost Sweden.

Luleå is a beautiful coastal city in Swedish Lapland. Apart from its spectacular nature, it’s perhaps best known for the Gammelstad Church Town, a cluster of well-preserved traditional red wooden houses, and the beautiful Nederluleå Church from the 1400s. In the city center, the Norrbottens Museum showcases local history, art, and culture.

The spectacular nature of the north

I arrived in Luleå in autumn and being an outdoor person, this was a golden opportunity to explore the surrounding area by hiking through the stunning nature trails. During my excursions, I have visited Storforsen, one of Europe’s biggest rapids, as well as picked lingonberries, blueberries, and mushrooms around the forest. I think it’s great that, in Sweden, everyone is entitled to Allemansrätten, the general public's right to access certain public or privately owned land, lakes, and rivers for recreation and exercise. So far, I have experiences two seasons in Sweden, autumn and now the snow, cold temperatures and frozen sea of winter. I enjoy how contrasting the seasons are. In September, I was lucky enough to spot the fabled northern lights, Aurora Borealis, which was quite spectacular.

Surviving the subarctic winter

The winter lasts longer here, October through May, and I am still adapting and getting used to the darkness and the cold. At first, it was scary and quite a phenomenal experience. For me, in this harsh subarctic climate, the key has been to dress using layering. I use a base layer which includes a long sleeve top and long-johns along with a pair of thermal socks to control warmth and moisture. Then I have a mid-layer for insulation, and a fleece jacket to keep the heat in. The outer layer is then water and windproof, to protect me from the elements. I also have a pair of thick mittens for and a warm winter hat is very important, and have invested in a good pair of waterproof and well-insulated winter boots.

I have decided to adopt a more arctic way of life until the sun returns. I will keep exploring and immerse myself in the lifestyle here through winter sports such as ice-skating, skiing, and dog sledding. Actively engaging in physical exercise, as well as socializing, has really helped me cope with the winter. I would really recommend Luleå and northern Sweden to any SI scholar who wishes to experience the Swedish winter fully. There are cozy overnight trains from Stockholm that take you straight to Luleå, but it’s also possible to take the plane from Stockholm Arlanda Airport.