Just moved to Sweden? Välkommen! Unless you were lucky enough to bring your BFF with you to this beautiful Scandinavian country, you’re going to need some friends – or at least have someone to skål with.
No matter where you come from, friendship is a universal concept – you have your close circle of friends and then there are the acquaintances we enjoy spending time with once and awhile. Meeting people in a new country doesn’t have to be tough, here are five tips for making connections in Sweden.
1. GET INVOLVED
If you’re attending Uppsala or Lund Universities, you’ll benefit from the nation system. The student nations are like student clubs which offer social activities and run their own bar/cafe as well. As a student, you have the option to work at the bar or cafe in exchange for a small salary or free meals – but the real opportunity here is the chance to work alongside Swedes and get to know them. A lot of my friends in Uppsala did this and I kind of wish I had too. Even if you are not in Uppsala or Lund, most Swedish student cities have at least one student bar or cafe and they will usually hire international students as well as Swedes. I highly recommend this!
Attending university and becoming involved in school activities is one of the easiest ways to make friends in Sweden. But for those of us who have finished our education, most cities and towns in Sweden have continuing education schools such as Folkuniversitet and Medborgarskolan. Here you can take classes in everything from Finnish, crafts, or public speaking. No one will expect you to be fluent as soon as you get off the plane, but learning Swedish will offer many benefits no matter what your level. You won’t find many local Swedes in these classes (I would hope) but you will meet plenty of others who are new to Sweden and in a similar position to you.
Sweden has a long musical history and is the third highest exporter of pop music in the world. Singing is in the Swedish blood, and this is evident through many of their cultural traditions. Sweden has one of the highest rates of barbershop and choir participation in the world! There are competitive groups, but for most choirs or barbershop groups, it’s not about gruelling auditions and intense practicing. Most people join regardless of singing ability because it’s a great way to meet people and have fun. Besides, you never know when ABBA will reunite and look to recruit a 5th member.
Pub and restaurant culture is not quite as evolved as you would find in London or New York City, so many people in Sweden enjoy entertaining at home. If you are invited to someone’s place for dinner, it is expected that you will extend an invitation in return within a reasonable time. Likewise, thanks to high taxes on alcohol, a night out can get pretty expensive in Sweden so pre-parties (förfest) are almost mandatory. I’ve heard that alcohol brings people together but I’ve never tested this theory.
5. GO AUSSIE
Even though Sweden is a long way away from Australia, Aussie Rules Football(AFL) has a keen following in Sweden is played in many cities – Stockholm and Gothenburg of course, but also in smaller cities such as Helsingborg and Karlstad. Teams are registered under the national governing body, Svenska Australiska Fotbollsförbundet, or AFL Sweden. Involvement is a great way to meet Swedes and internationals, fit in a good workout, and see other parts of Sweden when travelling for games.
Moving to a new city or country can be lonely at first, but it doesn’t have to be! There will be a niche for everyone, and fortunately Sweden offers many opportunities for you to find it.