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How to stay cool as Sweden experiences near record summer heat

Summer is here and the temperatures on Thursday have reached peaks of 35 C in parts of Sweden. Though you might find such temperatures pleasant when lying in an all-inclusive resort on the Red Sea, it's a bit less luxurious if you are working, or at home doing chores. But don’t sweat, we've put together a guide to help you keep cool, even without the pool.

How to stay cool as Sweden experiences near record summer heat
Cyclists in Linköping, which was expected to see the hottest weather on Thursday. Photo: Foto: Jeppe Gustafsson/TT

Drink a lot of water!

No news here, water is good for you especially when it’s hot.

Make sure to bring a refillable bottle with you if you’re going out and about. The good thing is that tap water is good for drinking in Sweden and that all restaurants, cafes and pubs serve it for free, on tap. This might be a given for many, but other parts of Europe, especially the south, only sell mineral water ‘in case the tap water gives you the runs’. 

Drinking beer or an ice-cold cider sounds like a good plan but if it’s really hot, it might be best to avoid it. Or at least go for the Swedish varannan vatten (“every other one a water”) technique, which means matching a glass of water to every alcoholic drink you consume.

If you have decided to drink a glass of wine or a beer with your dinner, remember to plan in advance and put your drinks in the fridge a few hours before. Branches of Systembolaget, the state-owned alcohol shop, don’t have fridges so you will need to add ice or keep it in the fridge if you want to enjoy a cool summer drink.

The Window dilemma

Keeping the windows open generally is a good idea, especially in Sweden where air conditioning is not too common. However, if there’s no wind and the temperatures are 30C+, it might be smarter to keep the windows shut during the hottest hours of the day. 

In an office environment another advantage of choosing windows over air conditioning, beyond the environmental impact, of course, is that by changing the air you decrease the chances of catching covid-19 and other viruses. Considering the increasing infection rates across the country, especially in Stockholm, this might actually be quite advisable.

Being forced to stay indoors with a fever when the weather is beautiful, is a punishment nobody deserves.

If you live on the sixth floor of a Swedish apartment block without air conditioning you might want to consider just embracing it.

Open the window, strip off, wrap a towel around you and keep a bottle of water handy – you have your very own eco-friendly sauna. This is not an ideal situation to be in if you have to work or do house chores. On really hot days it might be good to postpone the house chores and if you need to work, a café or a coworking space could be your redemption.

Fight heat with heat 

I hear you, “why would you go to a sauna when it’s so hot in summer?”. But saunas are popular in Sweden all year round. The combination of sauna plus swimming in a fresh lake or in the ocean is what you need. Sweating in a sauna is a great way to get rid of toxins, de-stress and get away from screens and buzzing phones.

It is also great to build up your tolerance of high temperatures. In a world of global warming, the likelihood of more heatwaves in future is high. 

Swim away the sizzle

Many Swedish cities are near lakes or the sea, the big exception being Uppsala. So it’s easy to find a spot to take a dip after work or spend the whole day out. 

Siesta por favor

Take a lesson from people in Southern Europe, and take a nap in the hottest hours of the day. In countries like Italy and Spain shops in the countryside, and some traditional ones in city centres too, still shut for lunch during the hottest hours of the day.

Think about it, isn’t it better to just save energy during the peak of the heat? If you have flexibility in your work hours, or even better if you are leading a team, could starting a bit earlier in the morning and then taking a two-hour lunch break be a good fix?

In Italy, shops are open between 9:00 and 13:00 and then from 15:30 to 20:30. Maybe working late is not the best in summer but starting earlier is easy, especially now that the sun rises at 4 AM.

Fruitful advice

Eat fruit, especially summer fruits that, as well as tasting great, also have a lot of juice and sugars to keep your energy levels up and give you the boost you need to keep on going. If you have a blender, frozen fruit smoothies are perfect!

Dress light

Sweden tends to be quite informal when it comes to the dress code at the workplace. Wearing a t-shirt or a polo shirt is considered totally normal in most offices. When it comes to showing off some leg, the general opinion is that skirts are more acceptable than shorts, but it is not too uncommon to see men wearing shorts to work too.

A safe bet would be to check with your colleagues to see what the consensus is, and if it is not common yet, ask your colleagues if there are any dress code guidelines! 

Ultimately, in very high temperatures, such as when crossing the Sahara desert, people put more clothes on to keep the sun and heat away. So if you pick the right materials and wear baggy clothes even long trousers and sleeves can feel quite pleasant. 

Take it easy

The English expression “don’t sweat about it” is often used in the context of telling someone “not to stress”.

This is sound advice, especially in summer. On a hot day allow more time for moving from A to B, walk or cycle a bit more slowly than you would and if you’re running late to meet a friend, just call them and apologise.

Disclaimer: the person writing this is not Swedish and the stereotype of Swedes loving punctuality is often true. However, if you agree in advance to meet at around a certain time and then give a more detailed update when you are on your way, this could be a way to have a less sweat-full experience. 

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EXPLAINED: What can foreigners in Sweden do about the weak krona?

The Swedish Krona last week hit a record low against the dollar, hammering the international buying power of anyone earning their salaries or holding assets in the currency. We asked Johan Löf at Handelsbanken what they can do.

EXPLAINED: What can foreigners in Sweden do about the weak krona?

How low is the krona right now? 

On Tuesday, September 27th, the krona to dollar exchange rate hit an all-time-low of 11.37, easily beating the previous record low for the currency of 11.04, which it reached at the nadir of the dot com bust back in 2001. At the time of the financial crisis in 2008, a dollar would have got you less than 6 kronor, meaning the currency has almost halved in value in less than 15 years. 

A euro now gets you 10.9 kronor, which is not quite a record, with it briefly topping 11.4 in 2009, but more than it has been for most of the past decade. 

The only major currency which is more or less stable against the krona is the pound, which will now buy about 12.39 kronor, down from 13 in February, but above the levels of around 10.5 the pound hit shortly after the UK voted to leave the European Union. 

Why is the krona worth so little? 

Johan Löf, the head of forecasting at the Handelsbanken bank, told The Local, that the krona always tended to take a hit at times of financial uncertainty. 

“The krona is a relatively small currency much like the Swedish economy is a relatively small economy,” he said. “You could compare it to a small boat sailing the big ocean, so when you don’t go on the course that you thought you were going, it can be a bit of a shaky ride,” he said.

“Right now with financial market conditions being volatile, with a lot of uncertainty and risks, the Swedish krona takes a hit. Investors and various agents of the economy don’t want to hold so much of this smaller currency. Instead, they they go to safe havens like the US dollar.

“So even though there are fundamentals that would suggest that the Swedish kroner will strengthen again over time, for the time being and for some foreseeable future, we think that the krona will remain quite weak.”

How are foreigners living in Sweden affected? 

It very much depends on their individual financial situation: which currency they earn their salary in, which currency they hold assets in, and which currencies they have the highest outgoings in. 

People who live and earn in Sweden, but travel regularly to countries with stronger currencies, or perhaps send remittances back to family at home, are likely be negatively affected, Löf said. 

“It makes you lose purchasing power in these other countries: you get fewer goods and less services for the money that you have in the Swedish currency.”

It’s a similar situation for people or small businesses based in Sweden, who need to, or perhaps only want to, buy goods outside of Sweden. 

On the other hand, for people who have substantial savings abroad in dollars or euros, this might be an opportunity to convert them into kronor for use in Sweden.  

“If you have savings abroad, and you feel the need to use some of those savings, when you then sell your foreign currency to buy Swedish kronor, then you will get more Swedish kronor,” Löf explained. 

What can foreigners living in Sweden do to lessen the impact of a weak krona? 

Change the currency in which you get paid 

The best way to protect against currency exchange shocks is to make sure that you’re paid in the same currency that you spend in, so if you live in Sweden but have a lot of your outgoings abroad, it’s an advantage to be paid in dollars or euros. 

If you’re considering getting a new job, perhaps favour international employers that can pay you in one of the major currencies, or if you work for a big international company, perhaps you can ask to be paid in a different currency. 

Get freelance or part-time work outside of Sweden

If you work as a freelancer, or have some spare time for additional work, consider getting part-time freelance gigs with companies abroad that pay in euros or dollars. The lower the krona sinks, the higher your real wage when you spend in Sweden. 

Time major spending for the best point in the market 

If you have savings in kronor and are considering, for instance, buying a holiday house abroad, it is probably worth waiting until the kronor has strengthened and the Swedish economy is back growing strongly. 

Similarly, if you have savings outside of Sweden in euros or in dollars, and have been planning on buying a property in Sweden, now might be a good time to consider doing so (although it may be worth waiting a few months until interest rate rises have been fully reflected in reduced Swedish property prices).

Get a multiple currency account 

It can be helpful to have an account in multiple currencies, such as those provided by banks such as Wise and Revolut. Keeping any cash in a combination of dollars, euros and kronor can reduce your exposure to any single currency. 

The advantage for foreigners living in Sweden is that you can set up US dollar, Euro and Pound accounts, each with their own local bank number, which you can use to receive and make payments domestically in each country. 

With the krona so low right now, it may not be a good idea to convert all your assets from krona to euros or dollars right now, as the currency is probably more likely to strengthen than weaken over the coming year.