We’ve all had to endure the heavy-breathing commentary about Swedish women, their striking blond hair, long limbs and “clothing optional” approach to life in general. Swedish women are characterized by global media and entertainment as sexually liberated, touchingly naive blond goddesses. Swedish men on the other hand, almost always look goofy in movies and seem only to have two names: Sven and Bjorn. As Bjorn happens to be my first name, I thought it appropriate to lay down a few helpful steps for anyone who might be looking to snare a viking for themselves.
For step one, let the following sink in: “Dating” is not big in Swedish culture. There isn’t even a real Swedish name for it. You can “dejta” or “gå på dejt” (Both basically mean “go on a date” and borrow directly from the English.) What this means is that Swedish dating rules are, at best, unwritten, and visitors often find them very confusing.
The second step to romancing a Swede is to understand that gender equality is huge in Sweden. Guys, women will absolutely expect to be treated as your equal. Ladies, don’t be shocked if Swedish men don’t fall over themselves to carry your shopping. Because gender equality is foundational to modern Swedish culture, some Swedish women may even be offended if males go too far with opening every door and trying to treat them like the “fairer sex”. Genuine warmth and charisma are appreciated by both sexes but save the dramatic serenades for Southern Europe, Swedes are more low key.
At the risk of completely contradicting myself, here’s step three. A lot of Swedish women complain about the fact that Swedish men are often very shy and don’t like to make the first move. Often it seems that the average Swedish male needs to be on his fourth round of beers before he can muster the courage to utter a tepid, “Hi my name is Sven” (Yes, if Sven is under 50 and he is like most Swedes, he probably will speak reasonable, if somewhat sing-songy English). Herein lies the opportunity for non-Swedish males: a little charm goes a long way. Simple things like you initiating conversation or offering to pay for a meal when it was your idea, will equal points. Women, if you like the shy, mysterious type, Bjorn may be your guy. Ask him about Swedish bastu (sauna) rituals. He may open up and suggest you go for “fika” (no, that is not nearly as exciting as it sounds – fika is the Swedish custom of sitting down for
coffee and pastries).
The digital age has enabled step four. Swedes are BIG on texting. A lot of conversation that you would expect to take place face-to-face, happens via SMS. Texts are preferable to talking to new acquaintances on the phone. Pick up a number from Greta at ICA (one of the main Swedish supermarket chains) last night? Texting is your ticket…
And now for step five in reeling in your Swede: Cultural sensitivity is fine but DO NOT try to be Swedish. Anyone in any culture can spot a wannabe and Swedes in particular are turned off by phony behavior. Many Swedes are fascinated with traveling and getting to know people from other places. So by all means appreciate Sweden but don’t be reluctant to chime in about your own country, its customs and way of life. Chances are your guy or girl will find what you are saying interesting and they will want to get to know you better.
There’s absolutely no reason to sit alone in your hotel room or apartment while in Sweden. Put steps one through five into practice and get to know the Swedes you come into contact with. You’ll be glad you did. Lycka till!