Expectation: Sweden is expensive
Reality: Yes, Sweden is more expensive than many countries, but it’s definitely not too expensive to have a normal life! There are many small ecological shops that are quite pricy, obviously, but normal brands at coop or ICA are really good as well for a good price. Housing is expensive if you want to live in the central, that’s why many people move to the cheaper suburbs! Plus, the salaries in Sweden are higher, so it all balances out.
Expectation: There are blonde people everywhere!
Reality: Well, that depends on where you go, but the Swedes are very diverse. Of course, there are many more blonde people than in Southern European countries, but it’s not as normal as you’d think!
Expectation: Swedish boys and men are like vikings
Reality: Plot twist, most Swedish guys are not at all like that. They care a lot about their appearance, you’ll see many with their hair full of gel and wearing fashionable clothes! You’re more likely to see that in central Stockholm than somewhere up in Norrland of course, but it’s not just men like the guy in the picture, unfortunately!
Expectation: Swedish is easy to learn!
–Excuse me, I didn’t quite catch what you were saying. -Va?
-Sorry for bumping into you like that. So terrible clumsy -Oj!
-It’s you! How lovely to see you! -Nej, men!
-How is everything going for you at the moment? -Annars?
-Excuse me, may I just disturb you for a short while? -Du?
Farfar, får får får får? Nej, får får inte får, får får lamm.
As you can see, Swedish can be both super easy, or super weird. It really depends where you come from to say if it’s an easy language or not. For people from germanic languages, it is really easy to understand many words and to understand what they’re saying, from other languages it might be more difficult. There are many many ways to learn Swedish though, so don’t worry!
Expectation: Swedish winter is cold and dark
Reality: Yes, and yes. It’s cold and dark, but weirdly it doesn’t feel cold and dark at all. Some days are absolutely horrible, but there have been a lot of times that I walked outside not feeling cold at all, even though it was -7 Celsius outside. You get used to the darkness really fast, and there are so many cosy Christmas lights everywhere that it doesn’t matter at all 🙂
Expectation: It’s difficult to find housing in Stockholm
Reality: Oooh yes! This doesn’t count if you’re a student of course, there are many possibilities if you’ve been accepted. However, if you want to hire a real apartment, the queue is about 10 years right now. Go to Hemnet or Blocket to look for apartments, they often have nice ones outside of Stockholm.
Expectation: It’s difficult to get Swedish friends
Reality: Well so far most expectations have been correct. Swedes are a bit anti-social, but once you get to know them, they’re really friendly and open! If you’re studying with Swedes it’s totally different of course, but if you’re living here on your own or just working with the same colleagues every day, then you might face some problems. Go to a gym often and find a nice group of people on meetup.com to help you with this!
Expectation: There are red wooden houses everywhere
Reality: There are many red and yellow painted houses all around Scandinavia. Even apartment blocks are very colourful in Sweden! However, around Stockholm you won’t see the wooden houses a lot as it’s mainly apartments, but you’ll definitely see many. And yes, they look adorable!
Expectation: I don’t have to know Swedish, they all speak English
Reality: You really need to know Swedish! Especially in the supermarket it can be really annoying if you don’t know the basics, and most Swedes will start the conversation by asking a question in Swedish. It’s much better to respond in English (mostly they will then also change to English), instead of saying ‘Sorry, I don’t speak Swedish!’. Learn to at least understand it, rather than speaking it.
Written by Lydia Hallie
I’m Lydia, a 19-year-old Dutch girl living in Stockholm. I try to write many helpful posts to help younger people who recently moved to Sweden to get to know the country and how everything works here!