Monday, 24 March 2014

Life in Sweden - Cold and Swedish

I have been in Lund for almost 2 months now and a question that understandably pops up a lot from both locals and people at home is "How are you finding Sweden?" It is a question I find difficult to answer properly, mostly because the main content of my answer seems so obvious. Sweden is cold and everything is in Swedish.

The Cold
When I arrived in Lund there was snow on the ground and the temperature was around the 0-2 degree range. Now it is officially spring in Skåne and it has really warmed up. We are seeing high temperatures of 8-10 degrees and lows in the 3-4 range, to give some perspective this means it is almost as warm as the coldest month in Sydney. This isn't a complaint, obviously the climates are different and I am not exactly a stranger to colder climates, but this is the first time I have been living in one rather than been on holiday.

The climate a huge range of things, buildings are constructed differently, homes contain places to hang your coat and put your shoes, bathrooms are heated, curtains and blinds seem more important and outside doors all open inwards. Fashions are obviously different, scarves, gloves and beanies are clearly a much bigger thing this time of year, but it would seem there is a wider range of clothing and styles which fortunately as a man I can remain mostly ignorant of.

Now it is spring the flowers are blooming and you can see the buds of leaves growing in the trees, which is heartening, but I will be happier when they have actual leaves and not buds. Most of the trees simply read as dead to me.


Pretty much everything is written in Swedish, certainly all the official correspondence. This is not technically a surprise, I mean Swedish is the official language but was hard to anticipate how it would impact me.

It clearly isn't as problematic as it could be since pretty much everyone here speaks English well enough that I am never worried that I can't be understood. But it also means that in a supermarket or department store, not only is the layout not quite what I would expect, but I can't use the navigation signs as easily.

It means when I opened my bank account or signed up for my phone plan I received some fairly weighty documents that I cannot read. Ultimately it makes pretty much every little breakdown in a system much more frustrating as I simply don't know where the issue lies or even where to start. I don't know if it was my mistake, or a mistake in someone else's hands. I don't know where to start to mitigate problems nor necessarily what the expected behaviour is.

I expect the frustrating to go away with familiarity, both with Swedish and the systems in play.


  1. It was the same for me on both counts, after months of Winter seeing the little leaf buds on the trees was so exciting, and within a few weeks all the leaves were coming back and it was awesome. The dead-looking trees are just depressing, and combined with less sunlight and less social stuff happening because it's cold, winters really suck.

    Also, with the language thing, it's not only the language it's also that things just work differently, they're named differently, government functions are grouped differently, social protocols are different. It takes a time to learn all the new rules and systems and in the meantime everything little thing is just a bit harder and more stressful than it used to be and you're ability to do stuff without asking for help is greatly diminished. My only recommendation is to get as much local advice as you can, if you have some local Swedish friend (or better yet, a fellow expat who's been through the same things) who can explain how to do stuff then that's a huge win.

    Anyway, it does get better! Especially once Winter is over. :)

    Also, how awesome is it that inside is always the perfect temperature all the time? None of this coming home to a cold house and waiting for it to heat up crap. :) In Sydney I used to keep blankets on my couch for cold evenings.

    1. Yeah those are true, not really been very sensitive tot he cold, so I am less worried about the coming home to a cold house. It is taking time to get used to the idea that it is cold enough to be dangerous though. I didn't take gloves with me to my Swedish course last night, it started snowing while I was there and the ride home was quite painful.