T’was the month before Christmas,
And all through the blog,
Not more than 1 post was added,
Not even a photo of the ultimate Swedish hotdog
(AKA my last 2017 meal in Sweden…)
I know it’s been super quiet here on the blog this past December and January, and I honestly thought that I would have had the chance to post quite a bit more (R.I.P. Advent Adventures which became a sole Advent Adventure). But during these last 60+ days, I packed up my apartment in Sweden and moved across the Atlantic back to Toronto, Canada. And let me tell you that this second transatlantic move was not as easy as I expected it to be… (I had to try to cram as much as I could from 3.5 years abroad into 2.5 suitcases, the airline I was supposed to fly with happened to go on strike, and oh, so much more).
Despite these last two crazy months, I did have a few moments here and there to look back on my three and a half years in Sweden and come up with quite a lengthy list of things I love and will truly miss about living in the Nordic land. (If you’re wondering why I’m moving back, you can scroll down to the bottom of this post).
While I intended to write this more personal post simply to share what I appreciated about living in a Sweden, as I wrote, I realized that my post could also serve as a basic guide to daily life and culture in Sweden for travellers and expats alike.
So here are:
11 Things I’ll Miss About Living in Sweden; also known as
11 Awesome Things About Living in Sweden; also known as
Visiting Sweden: An Introductory Crash Course to Daily Life in Sweden
(Did I overdo some of that keyword SEO?)
Planning to visit or live in #Sweden? Check out why you're making one awesome decision: Click To Tweet
While going for “fika” in Sweden is roughly equivalent to grabbing a coffee, it’s also so much more. It’s taking a well-deserved break to catch up and chat with colleagues and friends. It’s indulging on delicious baked goods. It’s exercising your right to have a work/life balance and giving yourself time to relax even in stressful times. It’s a sacred (and often daily) ritual.
While fika is a fun, social experience, people in Sweden are very serious about making time for it and respecting one another’s fika breaks. I once called a dentist’s office and my call went straight to voicemail. The recorded message literally said that we are having a fika break at the moment. Call back later.
Traditional Swedish Fika: Bryggkaffe (Brewed Coffee) and a kanelbulle (cinnamon roll). Photo courtesy of Electric Blue Food.
2. The Baked Goods (You Eat During Fika)
A proper fika experience isn’t complete without baked goods. And Sweden has quite the assortment of tasty treats to cater to all sorts of cravings. (Did you know that Sweden has a national cinnamon bun day – kanelbullens dag?) From braided bread, Lucia buns, princess cake, berry pies, chocolate mud cake, and cinnamon buns (of course), the list of Swedish pastries goes on.
Ginormous cinnamon rolls at Gothenburg’s Café Husaren.
I am still trying to find an even somewhat authentic Swedish bakery here in Toronto.
“Lagom” is a Swedish word that doesn’t have a direct English translation. It roughly means “just enough – not too much and not too little.” “Lagom”, in Sweden, is a way of life, which means living a balanced life and doing things in moderation. While one’s inner “lagom” may protest against any excessive Netflix binges, I really loved how the concept of “lagom” filtered into work culture. In Sweden, having the opportunity to simultaneously balance a career and a personal life is extremely important – even when you’re new to the workforce. Experiencing high levels of work-related stress for extended periods of time is completely unacceptable, and several institutions, including your employer, are ready to step in to make your work life more manageable. Employees also get to take 25 paid vacation days every year, and that doesn’t include nationwide holidays such as Christmas and Easter.
By the time June rolls around, the daylight hours in Sweden seem endless. While Northern Sweden may have the Midnight Sun, cities as far south as Stockholm still don’t get completely dark during this time of year. (In the city that I lived in, the sun wouldn’t set until 10:30 PM and would rise again at 3:30 AM. This meant that the “night” sky never got darker than a greyish hue of blue.)
To enjoy the summer solstice that takes place near the end of June, Sweden celebrates Midsummer (Midsommar). During Midsummer, people make flower crowns, indulge on tons of delicious foods, watch a maypole being raised, and dance around it like little frogs (yes, truly. Google: små grodorna). With all the fun, games, never-ending daylight, and copious amounts of potent Swedish snaps, midsummer is the party of the year.
Raising the Maypole. Photo courtesy of Electric Blue Food.
Dancing around the Maypole on Midsummer. Photo courtesy of Electric Blue Food.
5. The Seemingly Endless Summer Days
All I can say is that it’s a pretty unique and memorable experience to spend time in a place where it never truly gets dark and the sun still shines pretty bright at 10 PM at night. The looooonnnnnnnggg summer days definitely gave me the opportunity to spend more time and do more outdoors, such as jogging through forest trails, taking part in BBQs, visiting nearby beaches, and enjoying summer patios.
This snap was taken just after 10:00 pm.After living in #Sweden for 3.5 years, here are some of things that I'll miss the most: Click To Tweet
In the Northern Hemisphere, December is the darkest month of the year. By being so far north, daylight hours are pretty limited during this time in Sweden. In fact, Stockholm, the country’s capital, gets less than 6 hours of daylight a day during advent.
To combat the darkness and prepare for the upcoming holidays, many people fill up their windows with decorative and festive lights. These bright decorations create quite the cozy and warm atmosphere inside homes and on city streets. I’m also a huge fan of Christmas, so I loved having the opportunity to all the spaces for the holidays.
Stockholm’s Old Town Christmas Market – with windows all decorated and aglow.
7. Cycling Everywhere
Typically, if the distance from Point A to Point B is less than 10 km, then a Swede would cycle it. Since the distance between my apartment, my work, and the city’s downtown core was only 2.5 km, I biked to work all spring, summer, and fall (I didn’t invest in winter bike tires, but many do). The fact that many well-planned, well-maintained, and safe bike paths connected hundreds of different locations in the area made biking a really efficient form of transportation. (FYI: even cities like Stockholm are cyclist friendly). It also gave me a dose of daily exercise, and I can honestly say that I had never been more fit than during my 3.5 years in Sweden.
Smelling the roses on the island of Brännö, Sweden. Except for a single taxi, cars are banned from the island. Cycling is the way to get around.
8. The Nature and the Need to be Outdoors All Year Round
In Sweden, there’s a saying: Det finns inget dåligt väder, bara dåliga kläder.
This translates to: There isn’t any bad weather, only bad clothes.
This short proverb captures Sweden’s love for nature and spending time outside. From mushroom picking, cycling, swimming, cross country skiing, and long distance skating across frozen lakes, there’s an abundance of outdoor activities to do during every season of the year. Some amazing activities, such as Nordic skating, are specific to Scandinavia and can’t be easily done in other parts of the world.
Ploughed skating trails on a frozen lake. Nordic skates are used to skate around the lake and island hop during the winter months.
Hiking through a field of lupin flowers in late June.
A secret gem in my province – Östra Silvbergs Gruva. Yes, the water is really that blue. (Photo courtesy of Electric Blue Food).
Sweden has also made a huge effort to conserve green spaces, so even people living in Stockholm can easily partake in these activities.
While in Sweden, I lived in a city of 40,000+ inhabitants. A 5-minute walk away from my apartment, I had access to forest trails (such as the one in the photo), biking paths, a lake, and more.
9. The Northern Lights
Living quite a bit further north than Toronto for a few years definitely had its advantages and disadvantages weather wise. However, one undeniable advantage was that fact that I had the chance to watch some spectacular Northern Lights from by Swedish apartment window. Now, they weren’t (and aren’t) a weekly occurrence 3 hours north of Stockholm, but you could expect to catch a stunning celestial show once or twice per winter season. (I’ve never seen them in Southern Ontario).
The Northern Lights in my old hometown (Falun, Sweden). Photo courtesy of Electric Blue Food.Northern lights, #Fika, #Lagom - #Sweden is the place to visit goes on. Learn more: Click To Tweet
10. Driving in Sweden
Fun fact: after living in Canada for 23 years and not getting behind the wheel once, I decided to get my driver’s license in Sweden. And getting that prized license was no walk in the park.
Sweden takes road safety very seriously. One’s driver’s education strictly adheres to the nation’s Vision Zero “concept.” Vision Zero states that the number of lives lost due to traffic related accidents should be 0. While getting a license may seem like a lengthy and frustrating process, you become quite the driver, and you get quite the adrenaline-inducing experience driving a slippery circuit during a mandatory training session. (Google or YouTube: halkbana).
11. The Online Shopping
I’m a bit of a shopaholic, especially when it comes to clothes. Did you know that I had to give two-thirds of my wardrobe away when I moved back to Canada? (I am slightly embarrassed to admit this).
Fortunately for my addiction and unfortunately for my bank account, there was no shortage of online shops I could order from that sold a whole variety of awesome brands with free or cheap shipping (and fast delivery too). ASOS, Zalando, Nelly, and Missguided were a few of my favourites. Sadly, wild customs charges prevent me from ordering from these sites while in Canada.
Just one of the quaint residential neighbourhoods in Falun, Sweden.
It’s now been about a month and a half since I’ve returned to Toronto, Canada. While I’m loving every moment of being back in North America and oh so close to my family*, I also have nothing but fond memories of my 3.5 years in Sweden. From the fika, midsummer festivities, and the lifelong friends I made in the small city of Falun, if the opportunity ever presents itself, I wouldn’t hesitate to head back to this Scandinavian land.
Planning a trip to Sweden? Check out:
- 10 Reasons Why a Trip to Gothenburg, Sweden is a MUST
- 21 Photos that will put the Island of Brännö, Sweden on your “Must Visit” List
- Advent Adventures in Stockholm, Sweden
Looking out at Gamla Stan (the Old Town) in Stockholm, Sweden. I’m 99% sure that I’ll be paying the Swedish capital another quick visit this upcoming August. YAY!
*This post has probably made my “small” obsession with Sweden pretty clear. So you may be wondering…why on earth did I move back to Toronto, Canada? Well, despite being a tad crazy about Sweden, I’m more than a tad crazy about spending time with my fam. The 2 weeks a year I was spending back in Canada weren’t cutting it, (I have the SWEEEEEEETEST 8 year old brother – not exaggerating), so I decided it was time to head back… (when the lil’ bro becomes a teenager all too soon, he may no longer think that his parents and older siblings are the coolest people on the planet).