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8 Things I Have Learnt in Sweden

What’s the point of travel if not to learn from your experiences? Here’s what I have learnt during my year in Sweden.

Bikes with a basket and bell are not just for little girls

Pretty much everybody in Sweden has a bike and many of them are the stylish ‘Granny-Bike’ kind: that is high handle bars, a basket at the front and a bell. And all types of people ride them—the young, the old, girls and boys. Granny Bikes are cool!

Eyeballs and nose-hair freeze

Having never endured temperatures colder than -3 prior to my year in Sweden, there were a few surprises that I never could have imagined. In temperatures hovering far too close to -30 for my liking, the moisture on your eyeballs and your nostril hair actually freezes! Who knew?!!!

Getting ready to go out! Would normally have a scarf too.

Ryanair doesn’t really deserve the bad rap it gets

Ryanair really puts the budget into budget flights but it has been my main carrier whilst I have been in Sweden. Despite being named ‘Stockholm Västerås’ on the Ryanair website, Västerås Airport is actually a good hour’s drive away from Stockholm. Ideally for me it is only 10 minutes from my home. Although it is a pain to get from Stansted airport to my parent’s home in Wales, and even with all the infuriating hidden costs of booking with Ryanair, it is still significantly cheaper than any of the competition—especially as I avoid the incurred costs of getting to Stockholm Arlanda and back if I fly with any other airline.

I do not like Ryanair but I have to admit that I have never been delayed on a Ryanair flight and on the day when most of the airlines were grounded due to snow, my Ryanair flight made it through with no problems.

Geek Chic – guys with slicked back hair and thick-rimmed glasses are not nerds

Daniel Westling, husband of Crown Princess Victoria

Maybe the UK is just über -judgemental but if a guy walked around with slicked-back hair and thick-rimmed large glasses then he would probably be labelled a geek or a nerd. A kid dressed this way at school would almost certainly be headed for a run-in with the playground bully but here in Sweden it’s trendy! Just look at the picture of Crown Princess Victoria’s husband Daniel Westling.

Tickets for queuing is not such a bad idea after all.

As a Brit I am already well-practised in queuing etiquette but the Swedes are a step ahead with their ticket machines. Whether you’re at the bank, police station and even some clothes shops you’ll find a ticket machine with your queue number on it. It was a bit annoying at first but it certainly solves the red-mist that descends when that little old lady slyly elbows past you to cut in line.

It is possible to get through the summer without once hearing the word ‘Football’

My pet peeve back home in the UK is the national obsession with football. I absolutely hate it when football season comes around; there’s nothing worse than having an evening pub meal ruined by a large TV screen and a load of screaming fans. If I wanted to watch a football match I’d go to one, why does it have to be on in every pub in town?! It’s even worse when you get shouted at for daring to talk or, God forbid, walk in front of the screen at a crucial moment. And I get so mad when social events are dictated by the football schedule.

Thankfully, I have yet to meet a Swede who is even remotely interested in football or if they are they don’t talk about it. And that’s fine with me!

Swedish trains are not as competent as we think they are!

Delays!

I came to Sweden with the idea that despite the harsh winters, public transport battled on unaffected. Well, a year of commuting between Västerås and Stockholm taught me that Sweden’s rail company SJ is just as incompetent as the UK. They just manage to make us think that they’re better! They did compensate me a month free travel pass though and at almost £400 that is not something to sniff at!

I would find it very hard to  live in the UK again

This is a tough one because the UK will always be my home and there are many great things about that tiny little island that I love. What I don’t miss however, is the continuous gray drizzle and feeling cold all the time—even indoors in the summer. The great thing about Sweden is that they have insulation nailed. I have never felt cold indoors here, and I spent most of the winter wearing a t-shirt inside even when it was -25 outdoors. Sometimes I even had the windows and patio door open when there was snow on the doorstep! I also do not miss the relentless stream of depressing soaps on TV. I will always miss British sausages and bacon though but that’s for another post.

Sweden is expensive but it’s not impossible to live well and even save a bit of money too.

Have you left your home country? How do you feel about it when you are away? Do you think you could settle somewhere else? Tell me all about it in the comments below!

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13 Comments

  1. says:

    Owch! Eyeball and nose hair freeze doesn’t sound like fun!!!

    I’ve lived in the US and the UK but despite my love of living in New York I couldn’t see myself living there. And London was WAY to cold for my Aussie body to handle (and I didn’t even make it though winter!)
    I just missed the sun, and the ‘fresh’ produce (though the UK was pretty good) and the ease of being able to get from A to B (and not have to worry about being killed by taxi drivers, cyclists or buses!)

    I haven’t lived in Ireland, but after travelling there I do think I could settle down there. It’s a bit more like home… well, except the weather!)

    1. It is most unpleasant! I hope you get to Ireland one day. Thanks for the comment 🙂

  2. I hate the football culture that we have in the UK as well. Granny bikes rule!
    James

    1. It’s awful isn’t it?! I came back to the UK yesterday and was passing through Cardiff after a Rugby match and everybody was going crazy. I hate the national obsession with football and rugby! Thanks for the comment 🙂

  3. says:

    I’ve not been in the states in almost 3 years, and prior to that I have not lived in my hometown of San Diego in over 12 years. I don’t want to see myself moving back to the US anytime soon. And, I hate to say it, but I had to spend the first half of ’11 in San Diego on family business and I couldn’t wait to leave. But, I totally see myself retiring in Southern California.

  4. Jordan says:

    Come back soon, but not too soon! I am sure that you will have a great time, and you will be missed 🙂

    1. I’ll be back in Sweden but you may well be on an equally exciting adventure then!!

  5. says:

    I’ve left the US twice, once to live in Belgium and most recently to spend four months in Amsterdam. Granted those aren’t as huge a culture shock as say Japan or Africa, but they were wonderful eye openers. I’m back in the States, until October and I feel like my real life is on hold. I refer to Amsterdam as home now and really miss my purple granny bike.

    Oh, and while heading from Stockholm to Copenhagen a few years ago, I had three train delays – the worst of which required us to backtrack 20 minutes to the Malmo station. Never got a clear explanation on that one.

    Loving your site!

    1. Thank you so much for the comment. I know what you mean about the real life being on hold, I feel like I have two different lives; my UK life and my travelling life.

  6. says:

    Great post, now I want to add Sweden on my list of places to go! I’ve had the unfortunate experience of having eyelashes freeze…it’s a startling experience the first time it happens, but any subsequent times it’s just unpleasant.
    Danalynn C recently posted..7 Things I Learned at a German HelpxMy Profile

    1. You should definitely give Sweden a go. It is so beautiful in both summer and winter! Thanks for the comment.

  7. says:

    It is so cool that you’ve gotten the chance to visit so many places! it’s inspiring! I just came back from an exchange in Ecuador and after I graduate from high school next summer, I’m planning on visiting some European countries & then hopefully having enough money to live in Sweden for a month or until I have to return for Uni. I have to keep saving! Sweden seems amazing.

    1. Sweden is incredible and you should definitely try to spend some time here. It is expensive though, so make sure you bring lots of cash if you want to enjoy yourself here. Will you live in Stockholm, or another part of the country?

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