Having just returned from our summer trip to the UK, the first question that most of our friends asked was “so what’s it like to live in Stockholm?” Well after nearly a year of living and working here, I thought I would summarise my top 10 rules one must follow in order to survive in this wonderful city. Of course Swedes are very PC so I will caveat that this particular blog is a massive generalisation and just a bit of fun ;-)
1. Accept the fact the Swedish language is difficult to grasp...
Ok so to us Brits it does sound a bit ‘hurdy gurdy’ ;-) but apart from that some words are just plain confusing. Fart in Swedish means speed, bra means good, sex means six, slut means end, and prick means dot?!!!! And if you try to speak Swedish with even the slightest hint of an accent, you're going to get an answer in English. This makes it even harder to learn the lingo, but they do appreciate you trying. I once went into a bakery and asked for a sandwich without nuts (in Swedish)…much to the waitress’ horror – what I actually asked for was a sandwich without 'mutter' (not nötter), which is Swedish slang for vagina!!!! Well that was embarrassing…
2. Embrace the ‘Fika’ culture.
Fika is not just a ‘thing’ here in Sweden – it’s a religion! Simply explained it’s a word used to describe a coffee break usually with something sweet. Even the word ‘Fika’ makes a Swede all warm and fuzzy inside. NEVER turn down the offer of a coffee break. Frankly this is just an insult to the highest degree. Swedes are one of the world’s largest coffee consumers. It’s their answer to all the world’s problems, just as the Brits love tea, biscuits and a jolly good gossip. But you must NEVER just turn up to someone’s house uninvited for a coffee - spontaneity causes complete panic for a Swede.
3. Do not engage in small talk.
It’s a fact that Swedes just don’t do small talk. My (Swedish) wife explains “if you’ve got nothing important to say, then why say anything at all?” They are definitely reserved and can appear cold at first, but it’s their way of respecting your personal space. If you’re unfortunate enough to be met by your neighbour in the lift do not engage in conversation – a simple “hej hej!” is enough. Having said this, if you’ve really got to know a Swede, they are as warm as a Swedish sauna and will be your BFF for life.
4. Please use the wooden knife for butter.
Wooden butter knives…why? We have moved on now haven’t we? What’s wrong with good old stainless steel? It can even go in the dishwasher. The wooden ones are kind of cute I guess BUT aren’t splinters an issue? I’m not convinced on this one. While I’m at it DO NOT put lingonberry jam on your toast – this is for meatballs and pancakes ONLY...exclaims the wife!
5. Down tools during the summer.
It was like the fire alarm had gone off at work and I was the only one that didn’t hear it! Sweden literally shuts down for summer, and even some shops and restaurants close for business. It feels like after hibernating in the darkness during the long…long…winter months everyone appears from their homes like moths to a flame – all craving their Vitamin D to top up that tan. Swedes literally leave the country for guaranteed sun and don’t come back for a whole month!!
6. Act like a drunken sailor on your graduation.
At the beginning of summer I would see all these youngsters in (what looked like) sailors hats – touring the streets while hanging out of the back of a truck, and downing copious amounts of champagne. Just like being a Welsh teenager you might say ;-) The sound of laughter, screams and loud music echo through the city – a time of celebration it seems for completing their final year of secondary school. How very un-Swedish I thought…god I’m old!
7. Respect the dress code.
The colour of your clothing depends on the time of year and must be obeyed at all times. In winter please wear all black. In summer please wear white. Do not wear too much colour as it will draw too much unwanted attention to yourself – unless you are a man then you can wear bright coloured trousers. Having said this they are very stylish bunch. White ‘All Stars’ are a staple for any wardrobe. Oh and did I mention no towels to be worn in public saunas – I have been scolded by the older generation on a few occasions and told it’s unhygienic for one to cover up. Please…I’m British – we don’t do public nudity unless we’re drunk.
8. Embrace the ‘Latte Daddy’ culture.
When I first moved here it felt like I saw more men with prams than women. There must be a lot of gay dads I thought – it is a very liberal city after all. But no – it’s a familiar sight in Sweden since shared parent leave was introduced in 1974. They are up there when it comes to gender equality, and the men definitely pull their weight in staying home to raise their kids. Apparently we’re entitled to 480 days of paid parental leave, and this can be shared between parents. Who’s the daddy now?!!!
9. No shoes please!
The Swedish are not just very environmentally friendly, they are also super clean and very house proud. Expect to be offered the grand tour of your host’s home if you’re invited for the first time. Shoe removal is key to making a good impression in Sweden – it is considered a crime if you go against this. Even at the gym NEVER wear your ‘outdoor’ trainers inside and if you do, please wear blue bags over your feet before entering?!!
10. Learn to squeeze your food out of a toothpaste tube.
No lie. They even have fish eggs in a tube – yuk! Eaten by almost every Swede I know…for breakfast…yes for breakfast…on hard bread that will break your teeth. Don’t get me started on the hard bread. Have you ever tried to put butter one of those bloody things? It’s an impossible task!
One year on and we can safely say we’ve survived our relocation from the UK to Sweden – albeit with some embarrassing mistakes along the way. Love Mondays is going from strength to strength and we’re looking forward to some exciting projects on the horizon! Do get in touch if you’re keen to work with our great network of talent - firstname.lastname@example.org.