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Opinion and Analysis For Members

OPINION: Living in Sweden has changed me in the strangest ways

Becky Waterton
Becky Waterton - [email protected]
OPINION: Living in Sweden has changed me in the strangest ways
Soon after arriving in Sweden, Becky Waterton realised she appreciated being able to see little squares of light in her neighbours' windows. File photo: Janerik Henriksson/TT

On a trip back home I found myself rolling my eyes at my parents as they went around the house closing all the curtains the second it got dark. It was at that point I knew: Sweden has changed me.

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My attitude to light has changed

You may have noticed while walking around Swedish towns or cities that few Swedish properties have curtains. This can be quite a sharp contrast if you, like me, come from a culture where curtains are closed the second it gets dark outside, so that passers-by can't see you through your windows.

During my first few months in Sweden – which also happened to coincide with the Coronavirus pandemic – I realised while I was mindlessly looking out of my window one dark evening at the block of flats across our courtyard that I appreciated being able to see the small squares of light in my neighbour's windows.

Like twinkly fairy lights, they were reassuring, a small window into the daily lives of strangers which made me feel closer to other humans in a time where we were encouraged to be distant and socialise as little as possible.

I still think about that feeling when I look out of the window and see those yellow squares with tiny figures moving from room to room, even more so during winter, where they're decorated with Advent candles and Christmas stars.

I go into hibernation in winter

Another Swedish habit which I've adopted is going into hibernation in winter. Not literally, obviously, but more in a sense of taking part in fewer social activities and spending more time at home (usually under a blanket).

I'm not sure if this is due to arriving here just before the pandemic or the fact that I have a young child (so I don't spend that many evenings outside of the house anyway!), but this hibernation period usually consists of eating comfort food, putting on warm and cosy clothing and spending a lot of time indoors looking out at the cold, grey skies that dominate Sweden for so much of the year.

There's an old saying in Sweden, inget dåligt väder, bara dåliga kläder (no bad weather, only bad clothes), but this doesn't seem to apply in winter, where it appears perfectly acceptable to just stay indoors. 

On the other hand, as soon as the weather is nice (which usually happens some time around March), the pressure rises to go outside and make the most of the weather, even if you'd actually rather prefer to stay at home.

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Changing your eating habits

Obviously, there are some things you stop eating when you move to Sweden as you are no longer able to get hold of them. Pre-packed sandwiches for lunch, small bags of crisps and fish and chips on a Friday are a few examples of things I naturally stopped eating when I first moved abroad.

Other things grow on you slowly. Since moving to Sweden, I rarely eat a sandwich with two slices of bread, instead eating a macka, a slice of bread with topping. I would never before have eaten a sandwich for breakfast, but I regularly eat mackor, whereas previously I might have gone for porridge or just plain toast with butter.

There is one Swedish foodstuff I will never accept, though, and that's bread made using sugar or syrup, a throwback from when there was a flour shortage in Sweden so bakeries were given the green light to mix in extra sugar instead. It may make me look a bit odd checking the ingredients of every loaf in the supermarket, but I will die on this hill, and I have accepted that fact.

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You're probably expecting me to say something about how Swedes only eat sweets on Saturdays, and that I have also adopted this habit.

Although lördagsgodis has also become part of my weekly schedule, I have quite cunningly combined this with my previous sweet-eating habits, meaning that I not only can eat sweets on whichever day of the week I want, I can also gorge on them when Saturday comes around. 

I have, however, entirely embraced the habit of fika. Any excuse to eat one of Sweden's many excellent pastries with a cup of tea (yes, I've not gone full-Swede on the hot drink front, either) is welcome, in my book.

How has life in Sweden changed you? Let us know in the comments.

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lac 2022/11/11 21:43
" ingen dåligt kläder, bara dåligt väder" means "no bad clothes, just bad weather", so you might want to change that wording ....
klc 2022/11/11 21:05
You need to work on your Swedish Becky hehe, it’s “Det finns inget dåligt väder, bara dåliga kläder”.

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