Ten secrets to making your life in Sweden a little bit better

Ten secrets to making your life in Sweden a little bit better
There's more to Swedish coffee and pastries than you think. Photo: Jessica Gow/TT
How do you make friends with Swedes and what's the best kind of cheese in the supermarket? A growing Twitter thread with advice about navigating life in Sweden is making the rounds on social media.

Swedish teacher, public speaker and publisher Sofi Tegsveden Deveaux challenged Twitter followers to like her tweet in return for “one piece of advice for how to enjoy life in Sweden”. The tweet has now received more than 2,000 likes, and the thread is quickly going viral. 

It may be a collection of some of the most useful advice yet on life in Sweden. We’ve selected ten of the best ones:

“Tired of the winter darkness? Visit a garden centre or a swimming pool to enjoy some artificial light that’s more daylight-like than your usual lamps.”

Many swimming pools are relatively cheap – look for information about the badhus on your local municipality’s website.

“If someone gives your their number (in non-professional contexts), don’t call them but text them.”

Perhaps this is a universal Millennial thing, but it’s certainly true in Sweden, where people are generally reserved and like advance warning about social interaction.

“Swedish doesn’t have a word for ‘please’. Please accept this and don’t try to invent your own version.”

The closest you get is tack (“thank you”) which isn’t used half as much as “please”, but which you can say both when, for instance, ordering a coffee and receiving it. But never substitute “please” with snälla – to a native Swede’s ears, this will sound like you’re begging. Only acceptable if you’ve gone a week without coffee and really, really need it.

“Don’t take a Swede’s yes for a yes unless it’s emphasised with an absolut or precis or exakt. Ja may mean yes as well as no, as many Swedes avoid direct confrontation.”

And if you’re not sure whether to say yes or no, there’s a Swedish word for precisely that situation.

“If you want to make Swedish friends, bear in mind that Swedes in general enjoy DOING something together. Suggest a concrete activity!”

Swedes are not as unfriendly as it may seem, but they tend to prefer a structure around their social life. Sofi adds: “Your keyword here is förening – that means association and that’s structured social life for you, centred around an interest, hobby, cause or similar.”

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See also on The Local:

“Sweden is neither paradise nor hell but a relatively large country with a small population getting on with their lives. Drop your expectations before you go!”

Just as in most countries, there will be things you like and things you don’t like. People who embody the national stereotype and people who are the opposite of what you expected – even this list won’t be true for all Swedes all the time.

“Swedish time is not linear but cyclic, with events, cakes (!), activities and priorities changing over yearly, weekly and biweekly cycles.”

That’s why cities empty out in summer, why no one eats saffron buns in April and why crayfish parties are near-compulsory in August.

“Get to know your local library and find out what services they offer, it’ll probably be great.”

A lot of services in Sweden are surprisingly high quality, considering that they are free of charge, whether it’s the library, a local ice rink or outdoor gyms.

“If you’re looking for some nice cheese, get some Västerbotten or Prästost from the supermarket.”

Because you can never have too much cheese.

“The whole concept of fika gets so much more interesting when you realise it was once illegal to drink coffee in Sweden. A gentrified codeword! We’re cos-playing bad-ass bandits enjoying our little kanelbulle as day turns into night.”

If Sweden ever seems boring and uneventful to you, don’t forget there’s an easy way to add a bit of excitement and mystery to your office fika break.

Sofi Tegsveden Deveaux is the director of LYS Förlag, a publishing house which focuses on books about Sweden, Swedishness and the migrant experience (and which recently published The Local’s book Villa Volvo Vovve). Follow her on Twitter HERE.

Do you have any Swedish tips to add? Post them in the comments below!


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