Twelve things I’ve learnt in my first two months living in Stockholm

05.12.2016
Life in Sweden, My Home & Life in Stockholm
21 Comments

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Can you believe it’s been a little over two months since I moved to Sweden? I love every minute being here and each weekend we explore a little more around our neighbourhood. We are constantly blown away by the beauty of this city that’s made up of islands, parkland and stunning ancient architecture. While these new experiences are fresh, I thought that it would be fun to share with you 12 things I’ve learnt in my first two months living in Stockholm:

1. Don’t mess with their lifestyle

I think that most of the world has a lot to learn from this ideal. Work / life balance is crucial here. People do not hesitate to leave work at 5pm if not earlier (and much earlier on Fridays) and they take lunch breaks away from the desk. They leave work, at work.

2. Fika is very real (and owning a café would be a profitable business)

People will mostly stop twice a day for Fika (a coffee break). This is whether you work in the corporate environment or not, you take a break. See above “don’t mess with their lifestyle”. The Cafés here are always so busy and inviting with sheepskin and candles dotted around. Quite often they place lanterns on the path outside the entry.

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3. Cinnamon and cardamom buns are really, REALLY good!

One of the things that I read before arriving in Sweden was that you must try these. Somehow I wish I didn’t know. They are too good and they are everywhere so you have to be really strong not to get one when you Fika (which I’m usually not). We have a lovely little bakery opposite our apartment building and it’s our family’s routine for Guillaume to take the children to get some fresh bread and buns for a Saturday breakfast. I always wondered why they were always so keen to go with him each week until I found out that the lady there always gives them each a little biscuit.

4. Hygee is everything

In a couple of weeks at winter solstice, the sun will rise at 8:44am and set at 2:49pm. Cosy interiors, throws, fairy lights and lots of candles soften this darkness during the long winters. You can see the candles lit in homes, and you’d never find a café without them burning, and a lot of them. There’s no waiting for a special occasion, every day is made special by lighting a candle as soon as you arrive home. This very simple Hygee act is something that I will take with me wherever I may live as it truly gives you that instant feel good factor. If you’d like to learn more about Hygge, my friend Anya released an online mag all about the concept along with a very special Christmas edition.

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5. No one closes their curtains or blinds

I live on the fourth floor and have a good view of the lives of others. I’d never recognise these people on the street but I can’t help but get to know them a little. There’s the guy that lives in the attic studio on the top floor that is an Urban Jungle Blogger’s dream who pulls his bed out from the wall. Then there’s couple who hang out their window each night even when it’s -5 degrees Celsius outside to smoke a cigarette, and the girl who prepares her meals at the kitchen window. Sometimes I look up as someone else looks up and we catch each other’s glances before we move on with the paradox of our exposed anonymous lives. It took me a couple of weeks to feel comfortable with the idea, now I appreciate this urban bonding.

6. Equality rules

Parents are entitled to 480 days paid parental leave. Three months of this is reserved for the father, however quite often, the father takes more and at the last count, the fathers took 25% of the leave in 2014. Men are even looked down on if they don’t take it. I’ve never seen so many men out with prams in my life.

Finally, I’ve found a country where men pay the same amount for a haircut as women! After having short hair for years and seeing how much work goes into a short cut as apposed to a long one, I never quite understood why women pay more.

Half of the parliament is made up of women!

Sweden is Europe’s most LGBT-friendly country, with extensive legislation protecting rights, including anti-discrimination law and same-sex marriage legislation.

7. Public Transport is excellent

I don’t have a car. Guillaume does for work. But still, we take public transport everywhere. It’s extremely efficient, warm and it would be highly unusual for me to wait longer than five minutes, it’s usually less that two. Coming from Sydney where the public transport system is pretty average but doable, to living in Auckland where it’s almost non-existent, it’s a welcome change and a great example for the children.

8. They take recycling and waste management seriously

In my apartment building there are bins for general waste, plastics (of any sort including wrap), clear glass, coloured glass, tin, batteries, light globes and other things like broken furniture. Almost everything is recycled and the general waste converted into energy. The government has also introduced tax incentives for people to have their goods repaired. Say no more.

9. Organic is abundant and accessible

Almost every grocery product is available in organic along with most fruit and vegetables and quite often, the difference in price isn’t much.

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10. Good gear is really important

There is a Swedish saying that there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing. I agree. We did our research prior to moving here and one thing that we did not compromise on is investing in some really good winter gear. After experiencing our first snow storm and the biggest dump of snow for November on record, I am grateful that I did. Public transport came to a standstill and halfway to school we got the message that school was closing due to the fear of students being stranded. With barely any buses working, our only prospect was the long walk over the bridge with the wind and snow howling around us. It was tough and my kids were amazing little troopers, but throughout the experience we were dry and warm. I have to say that the hot chocolate was sooo good at the end of it. It’s not usually so extreme (so they tell me) but people are out enjoying themselves whatever the temperature or conditions and they’re comfortable.

11. They are very friendly

I read that the Swedes are very reserved until you get to know them. I’d like to say the contrary. Almost everyone I’ve encountered has been so open and enthusiastic to have a chat and on so many occasions have gone out of their way to help me.

12. The average is above

The Swedish “average” is very high in terms of fashion and interior style. But… we knew that already didn’t we.

I’m having such a great time getting to know my new home. I hope you enjoyed my little insight thus far. You can follow my everyday life and observations in Stockholm on Instagram.

Mel x

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21 Comments

  1. Stephanie

    I enjoyed reading your post so much, Mel. I guess it’s partly because you gave a really different twist to living in Stockholm coming from the other side of the globe.
    Being in love with this city myself, I can’t but envy you for the chance to live there.
    Looking forward to seeing more of your appartment, Excited to see how you decorated it.
    Puss och kram från Tyskland,
    Steph

    Reply »

    Mel replied:

    Thanks Steph! Haha yes it’s true, I never really thought about it but I guess it is a totally different perspective:) Hugs from Stockholm and come visit! Mel x

    Reply »

  2. Anya

    Thank you soo much Mel for including Simply Hygge magazine in your post. :)

    And Denmark is excactly the same as Sweden – almost on every single point (apart from Fika – we have hygge) but I believe that all of the above might be the reason so many people from the Scandinavian countries are dubbed ‘Happiest people on planet’ even though the weather is blistering cold, it’s dark for more hours than light during the winter. People make their homes cozy, and enjoy the outdoors, come rain or shine. Also – just wear any shade of the Scandinavian rainbow (black, dark blue, grey, greige) and then you’ll be fine :)

    So glad you’ve embraced Stockholm – such an amazing city.
    Hugs Axx

    Reply »

    Mel replied:

    I think so too. It’s quite magical and will be with me forever. x

    Reply »

  3. Lolly

    Hi Mel

    So lovely to see on my instagram feed, that you had posted on your blog! You’ve been missed! I have to say, I’ve only been to Stockholm once, but instantly fell in love with everything, the pace, togetherness, and of course the interiors, who wouldn’t! I look forward to reading more and seeing how you are all settling in and your apartment. How exciting, to be setting up home in Stockholm! Lollyxx :)

    Reply »

    Mel replied:

    Thank you Lolly! I’ve been a little slow with the posting but so much to do and take in at the moment. Mel xx

    Reply »

    Lolly replied:

    This time of year is bonkers busy as it is, let alone moving to another country and settling the family in. Very good effort. Hope your first Christmas in Stockholm is super chilled and fun. xx

    Reply »

  4. Lesley

    Oh don’t mention the cardamom buns! There’s a Swedish cafe in Edinburgh and every time I am home (I live in NZ) it’s the first stop for those delicious buns. Then the rest of the time I dream of them and drool over their Instagram account. Can’t wait until next time…. I visited Stockholm years ago to see my sister who was working there. It was very cold but not that bone chilling cold we got in Scotland – and best of all, unlike NZ, it’s warm inside the houses! Enjoy x

    Reply »

    Mel replied:

    I’m with you. I don’t mind the cold at all when you’ve got the right clothes and it’s so warm inside. It makes all the difference. Thanks Lesley! Mel x

    Reply »

  5. Anu

    This was such a lovely reading and although I haven’t had that much time recently as I would wish for catching up with others, I got a really good picture of how you are doing there :) And it seems you are doing good which is so good to hear. Stockholm is an amazing city and winter + Christmas feel like a fairytale there! Enjoy and all the best to you and your family xx

    Reply »

    Mel replied:

    Thank you lovely Anu. Hope you’re keeping well yourself! x

    Reply »

  6. Kelly

    Loved reading this insight into your new home Mel. Sounds like a really lovely place to love (and very forwarding thinking). Hope you, Guillaume and the kids had a really lovely Christmas.

    Reply »

    Mel replied:

    Thanks Kelly! Hope you had a fab Christmas and you’re enjoying the Kiwi summer. Loving the winter here but we will certainly be ready for the summer once it arrives. Two winters in a row for us! x

    Reply »

  7. Annette - My Rose Valley

    Hi Mel
    I’m browsing through the introductions in the Blogging Your Way course and stumbled upon you. Saw the Life In Sweden button and had to check it out. What a wonderful post to read for me. My home town. My country. My culture. My roots. Just beautiful. Makes me smile from ear to ear hearing your thoughts on what I still call home, although I haven’t lived there for 15 years. And the photos. You captured it all and we should really make an effort of having a Fika at some point in life when I’m home and about. Usually at Fridhemsplan. I’m sure we can meet up half way somewhere. See you in class.

    Warm greetings
    Annette
    MY ROSE VALLEY

    Reply »

    Mel replied:

    Thank you so much Annette! I’m so happy to read that:) Sweden is such a fantastic country, I’m still pinching myself that I get to experience life here. Yes, I would love to fika when you’re home. Fridhemsplan isn’t too far. xx Mel

    Reply »

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