Dating, the Swedish way.
It is already February and Valentine’s Day is fast approaching. I figured it thematically appropriate to discuss all things love this month. We will be covering the topics of dating, marriage, parental leave, and divorce this February, so buckle up to learn all about the twists and turns of a thing called love – with a special Swedish touch, of course.
Let me preface this by saying that I moved to Sweden with my American boyfriend, so I do not have any personal experience with dating, marriage, parental leave, or divorce in Sweden or with a Swede. But I have a keen eye, expat and Swedish friends who’ve been through it themselves, and have armed myself with some books and articles. So let’s dig in.
Let’s start at the beginning of the pathway to love – with dating and friendship. Dating is hard, but especially in Sweden, and especially for expats. If you read my blog Sweden and Friendship, then this shouldn’t come as a surprise.
Swedes don’t tend to talk to strangers much in public areas, like the subway, buses, or the supermarket, so avoid approaching someone that way (or at least know now that it might be seen as strange). Swedes can be reserved and it can be hard to insert yourself into a Swedish group. As with making Swedish friends, dating is best approached slowly here. Start by joining classes or clubs and strive to meet someone with similar interests.
Another great way to move into the dating realm is with the help of some liquid courage. Often, some alcohol is all that is needed for a Swede to suddenly become less reserved. Swedes prefer to do their flirting during “tipsy-time” so seek out places where alcohol is also invited: Clubs, parties, and pubs.
Often before heading to a night club Swedes will meet for a pre-party at someone’s apartment near to downtown. This is a great time to meet new people, scope out the options, and preselect your potential future pursuits for later at the club. *wink, wink*
Additionally, be wary of using the term “dating”, especially early on. Apparently Swedes prefer the more casual term “hanging out” to keep the pressures of “dating” to a minimum. This probably has roots in the need for independence. Swedes very much value independence as a culture and can be hesitant to tie themselves to others. This can be a hard cultural difference to bridge for many expats, especially for those that come from societies that value togetherness much more.
But once you land a “date” (or decide to “hang out” or have a fika), it can be hard to know who should pay. In more traditional societies it may be clearer who will grab the tab, but in a more gender-equality focused country like Sweden, it can lead to some confusion for expats. A safe bet is to order and pay only for your own coffee or drink. If you are going for dinner, you might have to ~talk~ (shock, horror!) to the other person about who will grab the bill and, of course, offer to Swish your half.
Should you wish to forgo the awkwardness of deciding who should pay, ask instead for a söndagspromenad, or a Sunday walk. But beware, in the eyes of a Swede, this means business. Only people looking for more serious potential partners ask to meet for a walk in the daylight. So if you are just looking for casual fun (and nothing wrong with that in the eyes of sex-positive Swedes), stick to the pubs or make plans for a movie night. Yes, Netflix and Chill has made its way to Sweden too.
If you are lucky enough to have success in dating, marriage (or co-habitation) may follow. That’s the topic next week, so stay tuned!
- According to Statistics Sweden in 2015, “only one in four people who relocated to Sweden as singles had found a partner after five years. The study concluded that economic migrants from other Nordic and EU countries were even less likely to get together with a Swede than those who’d fled conflict or moved for family reasons.
- What do you call your loved ones?
- If you are dating: Flickvän (girlfriend) and pojkvän (boyfriend).
- If you are not living together but are in a long-term relationship: Särbo.
- If you are living together: Sambo.
- Want to ask someone for a casual first date in Swedish? Here’s how, ” Vi kanske kan ses över en fika någon gång?” (Maybe we can meet for a coffee sometime?)
Hope you learned some new Swedishness today and I’ll see you in the next post!