Before I ever moved to Sweden, I used to work for a Swedish company. One day on a business trip, the Swedes told us a startling piece of information: Swedes don’t date. They somehow just hang around in the same social groups for their whole lives until a relationship spontaneously forms — and then they have a bunch of children. But if you’re not Swedish, you can still figure out how to find your very own Swede to take home… if you follow these simple guidelines.
1. You have to make the first move.
Swedes are almost pathologically resistant to interrupting other people. They’d rather bleed to death from a severed limb than ask someone for help (because what if that person was doing something important?), and even if they think you’re the cutest, they would never be so rude as to mention it to you. So it’s up to you to ask them out. Sweden is also a nation where gender equality is very important — there are no unspoken rules about men having to make the first move, so if you’re a woman who is interested in men, the same rules apply: you ask first.
2. Don’t expect anyone to flirt with you without liquid confidence.
We like to joke that Sweden is a nation of people with social anxiety — most Swedes find it very difficult to loosen up and express attraction until they have a few drinks in them. It’s pretty common for people to “pregame” at home before going out, also, since alcohol in bars is exorbitantly expensive. If you like a Swede, offer them a drink for some liquid confidence. Set up a night to go dancing or have a picnic with a bottle of wine, since drinking in public places is legal. Buying drinks for someone is a nice offer, and they will probably buy you a drink back.
3. Start with fika.
Fika, the Swedish all-purpose snack break that is usually coffee and pastry, is usually the first outing you’ll end up pursuing with your potential partner. The problem here is that Swedes go for fika at the drop of a hat, so it might be hard for your Swede to figure out whether or not your fika is romantic or just a friendly meetup. Try to drop a few hints and let them know your intentions, so you don’t end up with a mismatch of expectations.
4. Hang around outside.
Swedes love being outdoorsy. They like to say “Där finns ingen dålig väder, bara dålig kläder”, which means “there is no bad weather, only bad clothing”. It’s usually a fun weekend trip to go to the local bokskogen (birch forest) or wander by the beach collecting seashells. Invite your Swede to an outdoor barbecue at one of the numerous parks with free fire pits or barbecues — bring your own charcoal — or ask them to meet you for a fika and a walk. Going out to dinner or a movie is usually activities reserved for after you’ve been dating for awhile.
5. You always split the bill.
There is never any expectation of one person paying for the entire cost of a meal or date. If you’re going out on a date, you should expect to pay for yourself. All restaurants will split bills very easily, without an extra surcharge, and you will get some funny looks if you try to slam down your credit card before your new friend.
6. It’s exclusive.
Swedes don’t date more than one person at the same time; there’s no such thing as “dating around”. Once you start meeting someone for fika and outdoor walks, you’re assumed to be in a monogamous relationship with each other, even if you never stated it outright.
7. Sex can happen before dinner.
In Swedish culture, you usually have dinner with people you know very well. Your best friends will come over for dinner parties, but not your mere acquaintances; those people, you meet for fika. So you might find yourself progressing to having sex with someone long before you go to their house for a dinner date — the most serious of all steps.
8. Don’t expect to get married.
Most Swedes live together happily and even have multiple children without feeling the need to get married. If you’re desperate for a ring on the finger, you might be better served by searching elsewhere; many Swedes think marriage is old-fashioned and pointless. If you do decide to get married and you’re living in Sweden, be aware you are legally not allowed to change your name to your partner’s. This doesn’t mean that long-term relationships don’t happen. I know lots of people who have been with their Swedish partner for their whole lives without feeling the need to get married.