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CULTURE

Self-isolated? Keep up with Swedish culture from your couch

We're all spending more time indoors than usual, with Swedish and international authorities recommending that limiting social contact is the best way to limit the spread of the coronavirus and save lives. Here are a few ways you can still experience and enjoy the best of Swedish culture without leaving your home.

Self-isolated? Keep up with Swedish culture from your couch
If you're feeling cut off from the outside world, here are some tips on bringing it to you. Photo: Staffan Löwstedt/SvD/TT

Ballet and opera

The Royal Swedish Opera has an online streaming service, Operan Play, where you can watch ballet and opera performances from the comfort of your living room. Choose from a full-length opera, the bitesize 20-minute Short Stories, the Life at the Opera documentary and more.

No log-in or payment is required. This service became available on March 4th, as part of the opera's goal of making culture more accessible.


Photo: Fredrik Sandberg / TT

Music

Several Swedish and international artists are helping brighten up their fans' time at home by performing online concerts from their own homes.

Catch up on home concerts from Swedish First Aid Kit or Lina Hedlun's Karantänsessions (Quarantine Sessions) featuring a whole range of artists such as Dotter and Robin Bengtsson, or check out your favourite musicians' social media to see if they've got something planned.

SVT Play

Sweden's public broadcaster allows you to keep up with programmes including crime series, comedy, drama, and reality TV.

The Local's editorial team highly recommends reality TV dating show Första Dejten (First Dates) and comedy drama Bonusfamiljen (The Step-family) for comfort viewing. Combined with language-learning app SVT Språkplay, you can kill two birds with one stone by levelling up your Swedish skills at the same time.

Or for some real meditative viewing, put on slow TV special, Den stora älgvandringen (The Great Elk Migration) and watch the live-streamed migration of Swedish elk. The highlights are collected here, and a new series for this year is starting soon.

SVT's Öppet Arkiv opens the door to the broadcaster's archive, if you would like to get an idea of what Swedish television was like back in your Swedish friends' or partner's childhood days.

Theatre

Stockholm's Stadsteater has closed due to the virus outbreak, but you can watch some of its previous events on Stadsteater Play online, and some plays will have their premieres digitally. 


An empty stage at Kulturhuset Stadsteatern. Photo: Staffan Löwstedt / SvD / TT

Museums

Many museums have closed in Sweden, but it's possible to go on a virtual tour of some of the country's top sights.

Sweden's National Museum, Skokloster Castle, Malmö Art Museum, Hallywl Museum, The Royal Armoury, Gothenburg's Museum of World Culture, the Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities, Röhsska Museum, the Museum of Mediterranean and Near Eastern Antiquities, the Swedish History Museum, and the Nordic Museum, can all be viewed virtually via Google Arts and Culture.

Other 360-degree tours of various Stockholm museums, and other parts of the capital, are available at the website Stockholm 360.

And several museums, such as the Royal Palace, have their own virtual tours available on their websites so you can transport yourself from your apartment to more fanciful surroundings.


Explore beautiful Skokloster Slott from your living room. Photo: Jan Collsiöö/Scanpix/TT

Nature

The Public Health Agency has said that even people who belong to risk groups are able (and even encouraged) to go out for a walk as long as you keep a good distance (at least two metres or the width of an average car) from any other people. If you show any symptoms that could be related to the coronavirus (such as a cough, fever, runny nose or sore throat, however mild) you should stay home until at least two days after being symptom free.

But if you're missing your favourite forest walk, or perhaps had to cancel an excursion due to the requirement to avoid non-essential domestic travel, try an online experience. It's not the same, but it's something.

Tourist board Visit Sweden offers several 360-degree tours to choose from on YouTube, so you can pitch a virtual tent, go elk-spotting, and more.

Language

If the recommendation of social distancing means you're spending less time around Swedish-speaking friends and colleagues, you might be looking for other ways to keep up your language skills.

The non-profit organisation Kompis Sverige has launched the initiative Språkkompis, which will match up foreigners in Sweden who want to improve their Swedish with native or native-level speakers.

Books and films

There are plenty of Swedish-language options on the major streaming services — now might be the perfect time to finally see what all the fuss over Bron (The Bridge) is about.

But if you have a library card, you also have access to a large number of e-books, films, and more resources including digital versions of magazines and newspapers.

Check the library website for your municipality to see what online options they offer (for example, find the options in Stockholm here).

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CULTURE

‘Don’t wear bright colours’: Eight tips on how to dress like a Swede

Swedes have an international reputation for dressing well, with Scandi style a popular trend outside Sweden. The Local asked Swedes and foreigners living in Sweden to try and figure out the best tips and tricks for how to dress like a Swede.

'Don't wear bright colours': Eight tips on how to dress like a Swede

Black is best

When asking several Swedes their top-tips on how to dress like a Swede, many agreed – wear black.

Young professional Tove advises to keep it “all black, minimalist”. Uppsala newspaper columnist Moa agrees: “Wear a lot of black clothes and DON’T wear sneakers or ‘comfortable’ shoes, like running shoes, with dresses.”

Black is a neutral colour and, in general, if you get the neutral colours right you have got a long way in following the Swedish style. 

Neutral colours and a lot of knitwear is a good starting point. Photo: FilippaK/imagebank.sweden.se

Stay neutral 

Sweden might be saying goodbye to hundreds of years of neutrality by joining Nato, but Swedish fashion maintains its strong neutral stance when it comes to colour combinations.

Generally speaking, in autumn and winter Swedes tend to wear darker colours, as Sharon put it: “lots of beige, grey, black and ivory knits or wool. Jeans black or any shade of blue. Black tights with white sneakers for skirts and dresses”.

“Swedes in general will wear black and navy together which I’ve not seen before,” she added.

However, as the weather gets warmer, things change, as half-British half-Swedish Erik explained: “in summer/late spring Swedes change shape and personality,” adding a bit more colour to their wardrobe.

“Lots of colours yet still somewhat monochrome,” he said.

Most Swedes don’t wear a tie at work. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

Follow the news trend, drop the tie

Nils, a reporter and presenter for public broadcaster SVT in western Sweden, does not always wear a tie in front of the camera – and he said his colleagues on national news don’t wear ties either.

“It’s not a must,” he said.

A blue shirt, no tie, top button open, beige chinos and a grey dinner jacket is the look he chose when presenting the evening news a few weeks ago.

Nils Arnell presenting the news on SVT Nyheter Väst. Photo: Nils Arnell/SVT

On a day to day basis Nils, who stressed that he’s “not a fashion expert”, gave the following advice: “As long as you manage to dress in a neat style, you can get away with quite a lot.”

“A white t-shirt and an overshirt work well in most situations and look stylish.”

Stay classy, even in class

Engineering student Erik (not the same Erik quoted previously) recently returned to Sweden from a one-year exchange at Birmingham University, where he noticed a big difference in student style between the two countries.

“The first thing that comes to mind is that on university campus there are so many people wearing work-out clothes, at least where I was”, he said.

“In Sweden, it’s more common to wear jeans than tracksuit bottoms, compared to the UK”. 

It’s also common to see a difference in styles even between departments at Swedish universities. The law and economics departments, for example, tend to wear more formal attire with a higher number of students wearing shirts and polos than, say, social sciences or engineering students.

Many students seem to wear a toned-down version of what they might be expected to wear in their future workplace.

When in doubt, think Jantelagen!

Equality and conformity are important concepts when it comes to many aspects of day-to-day life in Sweden, including the clothes you wear.

This doesn’t mean you have to do exactly the same as everyone else, but more that being too flashy or over-the-top can be frowned upon.

This can be traced back to Jantelagen, “the law of Jante”, a set of 10 rules taken from a satirical novel written by Danish author Aksel Sandemose in the 1930s, which spells out the unwritten cultural codes that have long defined Scandinavia.

Jantelagen discourages individual success and sets average as the goal. It manifests itself in Swedish culture not only with a ‘we are all equal’ ethos but even more so a ‘don’t think you are better than anyone, ever’ mindset.

And this is seen in Swedes’ attitude to clothing, too. Flashy, expensive clothing with obvious logos or brands designed to show off your wealth breaks the first rule of Jantelagen: “You’re not to think you are anything special”.

‘Stealth wealth’

This doesn’t mean that Swedes don’t wear expensive clothes, though. They’re just not in-your-face expensive.

Felix, a podcaster from Stockholm describes it as “stealth wealth”, saying that Swedes would have no problem buying and wearing “a black jacket without any tags for 10,000kr”. 

Despite living in Sweden his whole life, he said that it’s not always easy to get the style right.

“I’m struggling myself,” he admitted.

He suggested taking a look at fashion blogger and journalist Martin Hansson for inspiration on how to dress. 

“Do NOT use bright colours,” Felix added.

Birkenstocks with socks. Photo: Carl-Olof Zimmerman/TT

Footwear

Most of those we asked said that Swedes are a fan of white trainers, most commonly Stan Smiths or Vagabonds.

With the shoes being popular all year round for men and women, this can cause issues at house parties – as Swedes take off their shoes when they come inside.

This inevitably results in confused guests at the end of the night trying to figure out just which pair of white trainers belongs to them – and trying to find one missing shoe the next day because someone accidentally walked away with one of yours is more common than you might think. 

Vans trainers are also popular amongst more alternative crowds (black of course). At work, dress shoes are popular in the winter and loafers or ballerinas in the summer.

In the summer months, you’re likely to see Birkenstock sandals on men and women. Most Swedes wear Birkenstocks without socks – unless they’re off to do their laundry in their building’s tvättstuga.

Birkenstocks are also popular as indoor shoes all-year-round, both at home and at work. It is common to have a “no outdoor shoes” policy in gyms, schools and some offices. This is to avoid bringing a lot of dirt indoors, especially in the winter months when there is snow, rain, grit and salt on the streets.

H&M’s then-CEO Rolf Eriksen wears colourful socks at a press conference in 2006. Photo: Björn Larsson Ask/SvD/SCANPIX/TT

Don’t forget the socks!

As you often take your shoes off indoors in Sweden, your socks are visible.

This has led to an unexpected trend for colourful socks with interesting patterns, which are a great way to break the monotone of neutral colours and conformity by expressing your personality – in a lagom way, of course.

A pair of colourful socks or a playful pattern will get you noticed and likely be a conversation starter at a dinner party.

What’s your best advice for dressing like a Swede? Let us know!

This article is based on the responses we received from Swedes and foreigners in Sweden on what they think you should wear if you want to follow Swedish fashion trends.

If you have any tips of your own which you think we’ve left out, let us know! You can comment on this article, send us an email at [email protected], or get in touch with us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram: @thelocalsweden

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