13 skills you need to survive in Sweden

In each country you will find how different sets of skills are valued differently, based on culture and political history for example. These are 13 skills that you really need to master if you are to make it in Sweden.

Joel Linde  |  Publicerad 2017-02-24 14:04  |  Lästid: 4 minuter

The Swedish population recently grew to 10 million following a faster increase than ever before, partly due to larger immigration. With that in mind we wanted to extend a helping hand to all new Swedes since we know it can be hard to adapt to a new society.

If you learn how to master these 13 skills you really won’t have anything to worry about.

(Click here for Swedish.)

1. Learn to quickly regain balance when you slip

Instead of just a couple of winter months we actually have half a year of winter. (That's actually a word in Swedish, vinterhalvår, on Wikipedia defined as October 1st to March 31st.) Due to that, most Swedes develop an impressive skill set to regain their balance when they step on an ice patch, which can occur basically any time between October and April.

2. Plan your alcohol purchases with good margins

Systembolaget is the only place where you can buy beverages with more than 3,5% alcohol. It closes up for the weekend at 3 pm on Saturdays.

Oh, did you get a craving for a glass of wine past 3 pm on a Saturday? Well too bad, you should've thought about that earlier.

3. Have a strong opinon about these people

Footballer Zlatan Ibrahimovic, the Royal Family and rockstar Håkan Hellström divide us into two camps: those who love them and those who can't stand them.

4 ... not to mention the word "hen".

Swedes love debating the word hen, the gender neutral pronoun used instead of he or she. What you need to do is decide whether you think it's good or bad – and make your voice heard!

5. Make a budget plan

As opposed to many other countries a majority of Swedes get paid on the same day, the 25th each month. This has a huge impact on us:

On the 25th: "Now I'm gonna treat myself..."

On the 2nd: "Three WEEKS till payday?!"

6. Plan ahead – for 24 months

Did you want to sign a phone contract, broadband, tv, gym membership or any other subscription or plan? Sure! As long as you sign up for at least a year – with a notice of termination of about the same.

7. Respect the lines

Learn these words: bostadskö, vårdkö, telefonkö – you'll need to be in them for a significant part of your life in Sweden if you want housing, medical aid or help from any authorities or companies. Swedes just love going to the back of crowds without actually knowing what happens in the front. Remember that the most important thing here is to avoid getting suspected of cutting in line!

8. Learn to master passive-aggressiveness

The feeling when someone cuts in line and you think all the way back home about what you should have said, only to later on complain to your friends who you know will be on your side.

9. Dedicate your life to finding a home

Our housing shortage is almost as globally known as Zlatan and Ikea. In Sweden you can't just "find a place to live". Haha, please. No, you wait in line – remember? – for about ten years before you can get an apartment, so around the same time your preschool teacher asks you what you want to be when you grow up you should also start figuring out where you want to live – and get in line. And when you finally find a place – spend all your waking hours on Hemnet trying to find a nicer one.

10. Don't get too close to people you don't know

Try to keep a safe distance to other people in the public transport system, at cafés and in other public places. You don't want to risk getting closer than necessary to someone you don't know.

11. Learn to pretend like nothing happened

If – God forbid – you should be inevitably thrown into a situation where you are more or less forced to exchange words with a stranger, don't forget there's always one more option: the good ol' play oblivious-trick.

Someone else: *I just bumped into that poor guy. It's best if I just pretend like nothing happened so I wont have to talk to a stranger.*

You: *Someone just bumped into me. It's best if I just pretend like nothing happened so I won't have to talk to a stranger.*

12. Have an opinion about the weather

Let's face it: sooner or later you're going to have to make smalltalk with a stranger. Then you'd better have the ace up your sleeve ready – the weather. Luckily, at least a handful of placards are dominated each week by headlines about the "karate-kick-in-your-face cold wave" and the "Russian-hobo-stab-you-in-the-stomach-with-a-screwdriver heat" – free inspiration!

Artist: Pontus Lundkvist

13. Demand your Christian holidays

Swedes are usually very proud of how secularized the country is and that religion doesn't really mean anything to us. On the other hand, we'd never miss a chance to demand extra days off work as soon as something Jesus-related shows up in the calendar. We'd sure appreciate to get off work early the day before as well. That's only fair.

Good luck on your Swedishness!

This article was originally posted in Swedish.

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Uppdaterad 2023-09-13 09:38