7 November, 2017

Sweden – 15 Things I Have Learnt Living Here

We have lived in Sweden for 1 year now, and throughout that year I have been on a very steep (but happy) learning curve.  I have shared a lot of posts over on my personal blog at Mamma’s School about living here, but today I thought I would share with you the 15 main things I have learnt along the way so far 🙂

Photograph: Sonia Cave

Everything takes time

The Swedes are very laid back and they very rarely hurry.  This might be over a break at work (fika at work is very important), or installing a phone line and wi-fi (I think this took around 3-4 months after we moved in to get sorted out).  So, to avoid frustration, you need to adapt quickly, chill out, and go with the flow….it’ll happen one day.

You can’t buy Marmite or spray furniture polish here

2 of my cupboard staples back in the UK!  Plan in advance and get visitors flying out to see you to bring it (or anything else that you miss, as I realise not everyone is going to miss Marmite and spray polish!), in bulk preferably, whether you need it or not.  Then you can guarantee an ongoing supply.

All food is delicious

Perhaps though, like me, you will be ambushed by the simple concept of the cinnamon bun (kanelbulle).  You will eat your own body weight in cinnamon buns within weeks of arriving here, and you will still want more.


This is very important here in Sweden, especially on a Saturday (lördagsgodis).  To integrate fully here you need to take a bag at the pick and mix, and fill it every Saturday, without fail.

The seasons are all amazing

However, they can change rapidly – overnight!  One day you will be wearing your shorts, the next day autumn will have arrived, with no gradual run up to it.

Photograph: Sonia Cave

The people are really friendly

They want to help you, and you will need their help too in order to navigate some of the systems in Sweden.  For example, booking a doctor’s appointment or how to repaint your wooden home.  Their advice is priceless.

EVERYONE speaks English

This is good when you are struggling with Swedish, but makes it hard to learn if you are a little lazy.  They speak it very well too, but will apologise for not finding one word in a sentence, when I can’t even remember what I was going to say at all in English!!  They are very good at it.

Google translate will be your best friend

You will have the app on your phone to read parking signs, help with the grocery shopping, and so that you stand a chance at doing your child’s reading homework.  You will use it on your computer to translate all the school emails, and any letters that come your way from various places.

Predictive text will become your enemy

Your phone doesn’t know what on earth you are trying to write, and what language you are trying to type in. Until, that is, it starts memorising Swedish words along the way (no one wants to type out “Försäkringskassan” or “Länsförsäkringar” more than necessary!).

Hard cash is surplus to requirements

(unless you need a trolley – 10 SEK coin, or a swim locker – 10 SEK coin).  EVERYTHING is done either by card or phone.  There is none of this 50p charge for purchases under £5.  If you buy a 1 SEK sweet (about 10p) you don’t need cash.

Photograph: Sonia Cave

Hot dogs (korv med bröd)

These are a staple in your diet in Sweden.  Sunny day on the beach?  You make hot dogs.  End of school term?  You meet and cook hot dogs.  The Prime Minister visits the island?  Free hot dogs. You go out on a hike? You cook hot dogs.  You get the idea?!!  You always need an emergency stash in the freezer, it’s saved me from being caught out a few times now!

You need to bulk buy your alcohol

The state run off licences, Systembolaget (the only place you can purchase it), are only in certain places (our nearest is about 20km away) so there is no “just popping out for a bottle of wine”.  They’re also closed a lot, especially at weekends and holidays….so stock up, or as I do, make your own!

Send all your children’s clothes to school (and more!)

They will need standard clothes for the day, they will need outdoor gear (I mean proper stuff, like full sets of waterproofs, or complete snow gear etc).  They WILL be going outdoors – both for play and lessons.  There are dryer cupboards, but it is helpful for them to have complete spare sets too…..and I mean complete…gloves (they get very wet through in the winter, even ski gloves with little people), socks….you get the picture! You will be taking a lot of clothes backwards and forwards, oh and boots!!


This is very important in Sweden.  It’s a chance to just enjoy each other’s company, but does usually involve coffee and a sweet treat.

Glögg & Pepparkakor

Throughout December it is perfectly fine and normal to drink mulled wine (glögg) and eat thin ginger biscuits (pepparkakor) every day…..perfect, and my idea of a cosy December!!

I hope you have enjoyed these facts, and learning a little more about Sweden 🙂

Sweden - 15 Things I have learnt living here, living in Sweden, moving to sweden,

Photograph: Sonia Cave



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