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.
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.
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.
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.