One year in Sweden


It was this weekend last year that I packed my bags and moved to Sweden. During this past year I have spent most of my time in Stockholm, where I have met many great people and built some lifelong friendships.

In addition to that, I have noticed that Sweden and the great people that inhabit this beautiful country are just a little bit different in every way.

Thus, what follows are some lighthearted insights that I have picked up regarding what makes this fantastic country so unique:

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  1. Sweden’s food culture is the country’s best kept secret.
  2. There are a lot of women’s toilets. Men’s toilets, however, have been converted into Unisex toilets.
  3. Swedes drive on the wrong side of the road, despite doing it right up until 3 September 1967.
  4. Cats and dogs are ‘members of the family’, but are treated better than royalty.
  5. Everyone has met a member of Sweden’s Royal Family at least once. Even me.
  6. Fika solidifies friendships.
  7. Pubs are utilised with reckless abandon only on the 25 day of each month.
  8. Under floor heating is everywhere. Even under the roads and footpaths.
  9. They seem to like the government and trust their politicians.
  10. Being polite isn’t a thing. Even if you bang into someone.
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  12. People have no idea who their neighbors are.
  13. But they do know the names of the people in the supermarket commercials.
  14. … and the name of two guys who stack the shelves at Gekås Ullared. FYI, that’s also a supermarket.
  15. There are no dress codes.
  16. There is a weird fascination with America. Still.
  17. Crossing the road on a red light is extremely difficult for the locals. Even at 4am.
  18. Everything in the media is taken as truth and fact.
  19. Stockholm has the most beautiful women on the planet. In all places. At all times.
  20. Stockholm men are generally the best dressed people on the planet.
  21. Some say that Swedish women are generally not as fashionable as other European women. Not me.
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  23. American cars are highly desirable – the older and the bigger, the better.
  24. The Eurovision is eagerly anticipated. Winning is a source of great national pride.
  25. Everyone can speak better English than you. This is great for tourists but not so good when trying to learn the local language.
  26. A “puss” is a “kiss” and a “kiss” is a “pee”. You have been warned.
  27. Your gums are known as “teeth meat (Tandkött).
  28. Your nipples are “breast warts” (Bröstvårta).
  29. “Bra” means “good”. “Slutspurt means “final sale.” Obviously.
  30. There are hardly any police, but there are lots police cars just sitting around everywhere.
  31. Almedalsveckan on Gotland is the secret sauce to the countries success. It has to been experienced.
  32. Malmö is mentioned only in hushed tones.
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  34. Swedes are oblivious to the fact that Europeans think Sweden is the porn capital of the world.
  35. People take bikes everywhere and don’t always lock them.
  36. No one has ever spoken to anyone on public transportation. Ever.
  37. No one has ever looked at anyone on public transportation. iPhones help with this.
  38. Speaking of iPhones, why does everyone have one? Great software, cheap hardware?
  39. A lot of Botox.
  40. Fathers always seem to go out to clear the snow just as Santa Clause arrives with the gifts.
  41. Sweden has some fantastic architecture, both traditional and contemporary.
  42. Just don’t ask about the disastrous town planning that created Sergels torg.
  43. A mile is ten kilometers.
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  45. Consumer protection laws seem to be weaker in Sweden than in the rest of Western Europe.
  46. Halloween isn’t a thing, but children dress up as witches and go trick-or-treating at Easter.
  47. Swedish people don’t start conversations, but will be very open and friendly if you do.
  48. After a few drinks most Swedish men turn into Whiskey connoisseurs.
  49. Swedish beer is fantastic.
  50. There is a strange underlying pressure to be absolutely perfect at all times. Especially on Swedish women.
  51. Norwegians are superior skiers and, beneath that sporting smile, it hurts. It cuts so deep.
  52. The local crime section in the newspaper is hilarious.
  53. Every task completed by the private sector in Sweden is quick and smooth. The efficiency levels of public sector reminds me of that time I visited Nepal. Apologies to the Nepalese.
  54. Swedish people really enjoy eating ‘vacuum cleaners’. Personally, I prefer Kex.
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  56. Showing any signs of wealth is seriously frowned upon.
  57. Meetings get cancelled way too often, due to “sick children”.
  58. Sailing through the Stockholm archipelago is one of the world’s greatest travel experiences.
  59. The kitchens are brilliant. Even the kitchens that they consider ‘low standard’.
  60. Swedes pretend to perfectly understand both Danish and Norwegian language when abroad.
  61. Everyone enjoys a good joke. The jokes do not translate into English at all.
  62. Dogs are welcome everywhere.
  63. They are not afraid to take a unique stance on global matters, despite international pressure.
  64. Swedes only support their national sports stars / teams when they are winning.
  65. VAT is 25%. On everything. All the time. Or at least it feels like it is.
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  67. No art for the people. All art galleries have an entrance charge. For a country that spawned so much great art this is disappointing.
  68. Swedes love the winter… and rightly so as it such a picturesque time. The colder the better.
  69. The marketing industry has destroyed watching TV as a past time. Too. Many. Adverts.
  70. Also, what is with all the neon signs coming in from Arlanda? Not the best first impression.
  71. Waxing your skies is serious business.
  72. If you ask an immigrant where they are from, they will say “Sweden”, unless they are from an English speaking country. Or Serbia.
  73. If you ask a Swede where they are from, they will say “Stockholm”. When they get to know you better they will then explain how they are from some tiny village 682 kilometers away.
  74. Swedes love to be ahead of the latest trends.
  75. The only thing the Swedish like more than trends are their deep rooted traditions.
  76. Sweden is not an expensive country. You receive good value for the price you pay.
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  78. Everyone in the room casually switches from Swedish to English when a foreigner enters.
  79. ‘Stockholm Brats’ (rich kids) are actually great fun.
  80. You can jump in your car and drive to Athens. Or Singapore if you want.
  81. Most people know a little about a lot.
  82. Pretend you have never heard of ABBA, grab a drink, sit back and watch the show.
  83. Spotify is a big deal. Everyone has a paid up premium subscription.
  84. The newspapers are not appealing. Think celebrity magazine sans glossy paper.
  85. Beer comes in nice glasses, but never ever in an actual pint glass.
  86. Dansa Pausa
  87. Everyone says ‘hello’ twice: Tjena, Tjena; Hey, Hey; God dag, God dag.
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  89. Cash is nearly non-existent and frowned up, as the country moves towards a cashless society.
  90. Even the banks don’t want to take your cash from you.
  91. All the cars seem to be less than five years old. Apart from the America cars.
  92. Everything closes by 1900 (7 pm).
  93. Everything closes for July (7th month).
  94. Everyone, everywhere asks for your personal number, which consists of your date of birth with four digits added to the end.
  95. Santa Lucia is a beautiful holiday.
  96. The people who collect the rubbish, serve burgers and stack shelves would be considered supermodels in any other country.
  97. They manage to find a slot for every bad reality TV show from around the world.
  98. Vehicles can legally pull out of a side road in front on you and have right of way.
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  100. Third level education is relatively uncommon (26% of women, 19% of men)
  101. Very few people smoke, but snus (sucking on tobacco) is omnipresent.
  102. You’re defined by your accent. Especially if you’re from Skåne or Piteå.
  103. Everything above Stockholm is considered to be ‘Up North’
  104. Shooting animals is something to be proud of.
  105. Swedes take gender equality seriously.
  106. Everything that is good about the world can be traced back to Sweden in some way.
  107. Bjorn Borg now sells underwear and baby carriers.
  108. There is a distinct lack of gay people. Seriously.
  109. Sports and shopping are religion, religion is a thing from the past.
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  111. Ikea is a national success story.  However, having an Ikea kitchen would get you unfriended.
  112. The trains work: a one minute delay is disappointing and reckless.
  113. A lot of older people are healthy and energised and fully participate in Swedish life.
  114. Stockholm men get better looking with age. Country men, not so much.
  115. The Swedish countryside is stunning in every season.
  116. No one wears shoes in the home.
  117. A Swedish person, wearing a Swedish t-shirt in Sweden is considered a racist by some.
  118. Their tea is mediocre but their coffee is wonderful (apparently).
  119. The social welfare system isn’t as good as the Swedes think it is.
  120. Every time you go to the doctor you have to pay 125SEK (€15) for the ‘free health care’.
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  122. The Ice Hotel experience, in Jukkasjärvi, is even better than you think it is.
  123. The dining experience in Stockholm is second to none.
  124. Swedes watch the exact same Donald Duck cartoon every year before they eat Christmas dinner.
  125. Fire regulations in offices are amongst the strictest on the planet.
  126. Fire regulations in residential apartment blocks are third world standard.
  127. ‘Chipsters’ (people who have microchips embedded under their skin) are not uncommon.
  128. Vegetarian food in every restaurant. Good Vegetarian food.
  129. Those food holidays though… there seems to be a special ‘food day’ almost every month.
  130. Stockholm is the most beautiful summer city on the planet… and I say that after travelling to more than 100 countries.
  131. They think that ‘Lagom’ is hard to explain.
  132. They think that ‘Jantelagen’ is totally understandable
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In Sweden everything almost seems to be magnified.  Things and people, places and experiences seem to be more of what they are elsewhere in the world: more beautiful, more pressured, more scenic, more exaggerated.

If you have never visited Sweden, then I highly recommend that you do it.  It is a great country of worldly people and great history.

So, all and all that is some of the current insights into life in Stockholm, one of the world’s greatest cities, as I see from my first year living here.

Are there any other insights into this great country that I have missed, or that you would like to share? If so, leave them in the comments section below.

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All photos captured on a Nokia Lumia 930.

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