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WINTER

The Local readers’ guide to making it through Sweden’s winter darkness

We have a long, dark winter ahead of us, but there's light in the darkness. The Local readers share their advice on coping with a Nordic winter, even in times of corona and travel restrictions.

The Local readers' guide to making it through Sweden's winter darkness
Lights and walks outside were two popular and free tips. Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT

Light

Many suggested light, whether sunlight or candlelight, as important to cope with Sweden's darkness.

“Trying to go outside during daylight hours everyday. It's shocking how instantly uplifting it is.” – Maitri Dore, from India, living in Gothenburg

“I'm a foreigner and this is my second winter in Sweden. The darkness really affects my energy in winter so I bought smart light bulbs to adjust the light I need over the day. When the weather is bad, I set my room to a very white and bright colour. This way, I don't feel like going to sleep at 5pm!” –Thomas, from France, living in Stockholm

“I put up more Christmas lights this year than last year and I've noticed that many of my neighbours have done the same! It makes me smile every time I drive into my neighbourhood and see our trees, front porches and windows filled with twinkling lights and advent stars.” – Emilie Blum, from the USA, living in Karlstad

“I try to keep myself warm all of the time. I keep brightening up my room with candles and electrical bulbs.” – Dyna, from Cambodia, living in Lund

Keep busy

Many of our readers said they turned to hobbies or little luxuries to fill the long evenings, including ceramics or photography courses online, indoor exercise visitors, cooking, planning their next trip for when travel is possible safely, crafts, reading, writing, gaming, and virtual activities with friends overseas.


Photo: Jonas Ekströmer/TT

Move your body

Maybe this is a good time to dust off that treadmill you have in the basement? Or try out online yoga and meditation sessions free of cost?

Readers suggested:

“Walks or gardening during weekday daytime, at least twice a day, even if for just 5-10 minutes. Weekend walks in the forest.” – Lejla Somun Krupalija, from Bosnia-Herzegovina, living in Stockholm

“Gym first thing in the morning to wake up fully, then a lunchtime walk to catch the daylight.” – Mike, from the USA, living in Stockholm

“Making sure to go outside at least once a day for a walk. This is really good to help you feel you have achieved something and the fresh air is energising.” –Rachel Stewart, from the UK, living in Stockholm

“It's a first for me, but because I don't go to the gym anymore, I tried a sports app. I have never been especially fit or a big sports fan, just trying to move a bit, as I spend my day sitting in front of a computer. It's only about 30 minutes per day, but I feel really more energised than last year! And I also try to keep going outside every sunny day, to enjoy the little light we have here in the North!” – Jade Bruxaux, from France, living in Umeå


File photo: Sören Andersson/TT

Finding ways to adapt

“Listening to music and listen to positive motivation videos, attitude of gratitude.” – Shwetha, from India, living in Gothenburg

“Try to stay positive and just enjoy the little things, winter is a great time to appreciate what you take for granted on a daily basis.” – Linus Schenell, Swedish, living in Stockholm

“This is the time when I usually go back home to India. To add to that, we don't really celebrate Christmas. But this year, I am embracing the situation and doing everything I can to feel the spirit, stay busy and beat the blues. I've started to decorate at home, put up lights, made glögg and even hung a mistletoe (which my partner is not really amused with!)” – Parul Ghosh, from India, living in Helsingborg

“Vitamin D tablets every morning; contact with friends and family by phone, Skype, Zoom, e-mail etc; reading; cooking; eating,” – John Nixon, British-Swedish, living in Gothenburg

“Walking to the beach to watch the sunrise and then again to see the sunset is my way of dealing with darkness. Along the Baltic shore, the sun rises and stays just above the horizon during the daylight hours. It moves from east to west horizontally as the daylight hours progress then dips back into the sea. Each day, even if it's cloudy, you can usually see the sun below the cloud layer. There are only a few visitors at the beach, so I'm isolated. It keeps me in good spirits. I follow the routine with some regularity. It brings me closer to nature and reminds me of all those folks in mainland Europe, just south of me who are undergoing difficulties this year.” – William Seitz, from the USA, living in Hanö Bay

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ECONOMY

EXPLAINED: Sweden’s rising prices and what’s being done to stop them

Sweden is experiencing the highest inflation in 30 years. What's behind the price rises and what can the government do about it?

EXPLAINED: Sweden's rising prices and what's being done to stop them

What are the factors behind the increase in prices in Sweden? 

The biggest single factor has been the rise in oil and gas prices, which has pushed up transport and manufacturing costs across the world, pushing up prices more or less across the board. 

The Covid-19 pandemic has also disrupted the production and transportation of goods, leading to shortages as the lifting of restrictions releases pent-up demand. 

Finally, most countries have been running expansive fiscal and monetary policies. The US, for instance, has so far sent out $1,400 cheques to 127 million households. 

SEB’s senior economist, Robert Bergqvist, told The Local that Sweden if anything faced slightly lower inflationary pressure than other countries. 

“One reason why Sweden has lower inflation is that we still have slower wage growth, because we have wage agreements that last for three to four years,” he said. 

READ ALSO: 

What has the government done to help people in Sweden? 

Quite a lot. 

In January it offered an electricity rebate of up to 2,000 kronor per month to all those hit by high electricity prices.

On March 14th, it launched a package of subsidies for car-owners. 

This included a pay-out of between 1,000 to 1,500 kronor to every car-owner in the country, which has cost the government 13.9bn kronor. 

It also included a temporary reduction in tax on petrol and diesel to the lowest level allowed by the European Union. The government said that this would reduce the price by 1.3 kronor per litre. This will reduce the government’s tax intake by 3.8 billion kronor. 

Finally, it has also a temporary increase in housing benefit for families with children, which could provide up to 1,325 kronor in extra benefits a month between July and December this year. 

Are the other political parties satisfied? 

Of course they’re not. This is an election year.

The Moderate Party are pushing for a tax cut that will reduce the price at the pump by five kronor a litre for diesel, and “several kronor” for petrol.

The Sweden Democrats party has proposed a package it claims will reduce the price of diesel by 9.45 kronor and petrol by 6.50 kronor, at a cost of 34bn kronor. 

The only party that is against reducing fuel tax is the Green Party, which instead wants to pass 20bn kronor to households living in the countryside to help them deal with the additional costs. Subsidising fuel, the party argued, meant “filling Putin’s warchest”. 

What about economists? 

Robert Bergqvist said that Sweden’s relatively strong government finances meant that it could easily afford to be this generous to lessen the pain for citizens. 

“It’s nothing that will jeopardise the very strong government finances that we have,” he said. “Sweden can afford a more expansionary fiscal policy.” 

The only risk, he argued was that having what he called a “slightly more expansionary fiscal policy” could end up pushing prices up even higher. “It could be a bit inflationary,” he said. 

What can Sweden’s central bank do? 

Controlling inflation is one of the key purposes of a central bank, and Sweden’s Riksbank is instructed to aim for inflation of two percent. 

The Riksbank’s current position is that there will be no increase in interest rates until the second half of 2024. But the prices rises of the last six months will almost certainly force it to act sooner. 

In an interview with Sweden’s state broadcaster SR last week, the bank’s governor, Stefan Ingves, said that the bank would need to change its position. Most economists in Sweden now expect a rate rise in the second half of this year, or at the start of next year. 

Ingves’s deputy, Anna Breman, said in a speech on Wednesday that it, now “now looks like it would be reasonable to bring forward a rise in interest rates”. 

Will Sweden manage to get prices under control? 

Bergqvist said he believed that the Riksbank had a relatively short window in which to act if it was to avoid the risk that high inflation expectations become firmly established among companies and wage earners. 

“We have new wage negotiations which will start at the end of this year, and you will have new wage deals in the first quarter of next year,” he said. 

If the unions expect higher inflation in the coming years, they are likely to push for more generous wage hikes, which could in turn lead to rising costs for companies, and so increase inflation still further. 

“When I talk to companies and households, everyone says that we have an inflation problem, that prices are going up, and I think we haven’t seen the worst yet,” he said. “I think inflation will continue to rise. Companies say costs are rising and that it’s also quite easy to raise prices right now.” 

If the Riksbank does not take action soon, he argued, then high inflation expectations will become more too established to reduce much higher interest rates, which could cause a recession.  

“And that will make it much more difficult for the Riksbank to bring inflation down to two percent,” he said. 

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