29 Tips Before Moving to Stockholm

You moved to Stockholm, Sweden, the most populated city at the highest lattitude in the world.

You unpacked the two tiny bags the airlines allow for you to carry and now sitting in a tiny apartment wondering will happen next.

There were a lot of things I wish I knew about Sweden before coming here. Just to make life a little easier in understanding day to day adventures. Take this with a pinch of salt, or a bucket, if I am caustic. I’ve been around too many years already.

  1. Beer is to Swedes as … – It’s quantity over quality.
  2. Systembolaget is the bane of your existence –  Come to terms with being stripped the rights to buy alcohol at any time for a reasonable price.  If you do not, you just may go insane.
  3. “$10 for a piss beer, why yes please” – Swedish beer is disgusting, it is also expensive.  Want the good beer, pony up even more kronor.  The secret to not going broke on two beers?  Pre-party at home with friends.
  4. Laundry dates – The laundry room has a sign up board or even a complicated electronic system to choose a date and time to wash the undies. The benefit is that you no longer need a roll of quarters or wait for the annoying neighbor to finish laundry before you snipe it.
  5. The inside of windows need washing – Because Sweden is smart and understands cold winters, the windows are double, triple, or quadruple pane. In certain styles, the windows separates into each pane. This ends up gathering a lot of dust and crap so be sure to do a spring and fall cleaning.
  6. Queue up – Grab your ticket and wait till you are called. At the doctor. At the alcohol monopoly. At the hospital. At the bakery. At the charcuterie. Except the grocery stores, you line up in the lanes. If there is no queuing, there is a high chance for total chaos.
  7. Help is offered only if asked – Duh, just ask. Don’t ask and no one will help.
  8. Don’t hold doors opens, no one cares – Perhaps this is a jaded biased statement, but holding doors open for someone is great because it’s the one time you will hear “tack” but no one will hold for you. Just ask my husband, he occasionally allows a 75kg door to slam into my face.
  9. Door open outward – I still do not understand why.
  10. Escalators maybe up-down in the British style – Not all stations but some. Because SL (tunnelbana – metro) wants to confuse you.
  11. Holidays exist solely for sweet treats – When life is in the Arctic, create days for yummy goodies. Waffles, semlor, and cinnamon buns all their own worshiped day. And you thought the Pasta religion was weird.
  12. Fires at Easter is meant to scare the witches – The witches had a meeting at Blåkulla and now they are flying home. Lighting a fire will scare them off and keep them from playing tricks on you. No Easter bunnies or Peeps either.
  13. Fires at Valborg is meant to scare more witches – Now that it is springtime, the witches may cause mischief and prevent spring from blossoming.
  14. Don’t talk to strangers – Remember what your parents told you as a child? Don’t talk to strangers and don’t eat candy, unless it is Saturday.
  15. Candy is to be consumed on Saturdays – Yes, lördagsgodis is for Saturdays and Saturdays only.
  16. Christmas is celebrated on December 24th – All holidays in Sweden are celebrated on the eves. That includes Christmas.
  17. Everyone watches Kalle Anka (Donald Duck) and Disney excerpts at 15hr on December 24th – A tradition for thirty years, the Disney special appears on Christmas Eve just as the sun sets and families gather to drink glögg (mulled wine) and enjoy some pre-dinner snacks. Every year is essentially the same show but it is the security blanket of the dark winter nights.
  18. Learning Swedish at SFI maybe a waste of your time – If you have to take a Swedish class at SFI, try to pass out to the highest level that you can. If not, supplement your time with Swedish language resources such as reading the papers online, watching the subtitles on American tv shows, and buying a couple good language books.
  19. Everything is built for giants – Okay not everything, but I’ve learned that shelving, coat hooks, and buttons can up far up if you’re a lowly 155cm or less in height.
  20. Compliments are for crazy people – Girls, the days when men give you compliments for your pretty hair or eyes is over. Other girls giving you compliments on your shirt or dress or hairstyle is also over. A few may do it because they are crazy, but by and large, Swedes are uncomfortable with compliments. Do not attempt to give one, it may up with a terrorized Swede.
  21. Swedish girls are not all blond or beautiful – They can in fact, come in ugly, brunette, and flat chested varietals. Complimenting the entire population of females in Sweden as beautiful, blond, busty is surefire way to get disenfranchised by the feminists. As mentioned before, Swedes do not take compliments well, this is one of those times. Perhaps, calling Swedish women “average and dull” is more suitable?
  22. Traffic lights and road signs are for sissies – Drivers of Stockholm have yet to understand the fine art of driving a vehicle in a city without disobeying all sense of logic. You know when you’re in trouble when the Vägverket (DMV equivalent) has commercials to teach drivers to “think about pedestrians.” They’re people too you know!
  23. ID cards at found at Skatteverket – And at Skatteverket only now. Fill the paperwork, drag a Swede (or hopefully, not, and just wait a few extra weeks), pay the dues and get a lovely card that proves you exist in Sweden.
  24. Passports may not be legal ID – Some post offices are so anal that unless you have a Swedish ID card (or EU), you cannot pick up a package. That’s the moment to go into bitch mode.
  25. Service and Swedes are an oxymoron – Stockholm is a rude city. It is unlike New York City in that unless you pay absolute top dollar you will have zero service. In Stockholm, it is perfectly acceptable to pay $30 for a drink and be treated like shit and served in a plastic cup.
  26. Fika is a daily ritual of drinking coffee with friends – You can call it the water cooler break, the coffee date, or black death, but coffee and Swedes are married with alcohol playing a sneaky mistress. Fika occurs around 10am and 3pm at the office and anytime in the afternoon at home or with friends.
  27. Pies in Sweden are delicious – Take advantage of summer pies like raspberry, strawberry, and rhubard. They are must haves for a fika.
  28. Apartments are an endangered species –  Finding a first-hand contract sucks.  Finding a second-hand contract sucks.  Buying an apartment is a proctology exam.  Have a shot of Svedka.
  29. Stockholm and Sweden are a love-hate relationship –  You can feel that way, it’s okay.  If people judge you on your worst days, they are not your friends anyway.

If you have more, “I wish I knew about Stockholm…” post in the comments. I’ll incorporate them.

11 thoughts on “29 Tips Before Moving to Stockholm”

  1. 31. Every winter is “the coldest winter in 30/50/100 years”.
    32. Swede’s bitch about the weather regardless of conditions. It’s too hot, it’s too cold, it’s too wet, it’s too humid, it’s too dry, it’s too windy, it’s too dark, it’s too light, it’s too snowy. I’ve never heard so much complaining before about weather.

  2. 9.Door open outward – I still do not understand why.

    A comment. I think this is by far the most logical way of putting in a door. Firstly its harder to break down a door opening outwards than the opposite. Secondly it’s easier to get out in case of an emergency (If many people are trying to get out, they might block the door from inside so you can’t open it inwards). And thirdly I would suggest its better because it doesn’t infringe on your indoor space. You only need to think about what is outside the door. Shoe shelves, coat hangers etc can be right beside the door if it opens outward.

    Furthermore I would also say that the service level in Sweden (and in Stockholm in particular) is far better than in most countries I´ve been in. Maybe Americans have it down, but Brits, Czechs, Estonians and so forth are far behind.

    Otherwise pretty accurate and a good to know list. :)

  3. My first comment in this blog!

    A few ideas on tips #9 and #10:

    “9.Door open outward – I still do not understand why”
    As mentioned before by apocalypse, it is probably due to emergency reasons. I think it is an EU thing, we have to do the same in Spain by law. But here in Sweden you can still find buildings where doors open inward, which complicates the task of opening doors even further.

    “10. Escalators maybe up-down in the British style”
    I am quite sure it has to do with passenger flow optimization (yes, I am very confident someone in this country has taken the time to analyze it and develop an optimal solution). For instance, in the blue line in T-centralen if passengers going to the platform are likely to take the train on their right, escalators will be working “British style.”

  4. 9. I still have problems with that
    33. The wall plugs to the electricity. Are completely different, both the plugs and the voltage, so be careful on that if you come form a place which uses 110-120 V

    And the service is pretty good in Sweden, or so I think.

  5. I have lived in the states for a few years now. And I am currently working in retail. I wish larger stores like target and walmart would have a queue system. Customers push others out of the way or interrupt you while you are already helping someone. Because they are more important? Plus they have no patience. If you tell them you will be with them in a moment they give dirty looks or say bad words. They come first and they are the only ones that are ever busy. Hilarious life, the retail life. Love the blog. I miss Sweden!

  6. this list is awesome. Haha I am learning so many of these to be true but not all completely true. Haha my girlfriend is not a beautiful blond type but she is a beautiful dark curly hair type :) cool blog

  7. I am moving to Stockholm from Australia permanently. This will be my 4th time in Sweden and I love it there. The people are awesome the food is amazing(Kalles is the frikn best) and the candy is to dieeeee for.
    Winter will be dark cold and gloomy but that’s just good timing to take a 4 week holiday to Spain or somewhere hot.
    I can’t wait to settle into my new life in sweden!

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