This article was written in 2009 and remains one of our most popular dating-in-Sweden articles to date.
With one of the highest birth rates in Europe, the Swedes seem to be pretty prolific when it comes to making babies, but even after six plus years of living in Stockholm, I'm still not sure how Swedish relationships actually happen.
The only obvious explanation seems to be massive quantities of alcohol. In other words, Swedish babies wouldn't exist without Finnish booze cruises and Systembolaget.
In recent months, The Local has reported that Swedes are much less inclined than their European counterparts to spend vast sums of cash in their efforts to find a mate. This didn't surprise me at all. That's because they spend it all on alcohol trying to get themselves drunk enough to talk to a member of the opposite sex.
I know that it will seem ungrateful to be accusing my host country of being a nation of stingy alcoholics, and I'll be the first to admit that a few drinks can be a fantastic social lubricant. It's probably also a case of “it's not the Swedes, it's me,” but Swedish mating and dating rituals (and usually in that order) appear to be a very slow process that go nowhere (except the bedroom) fast.
In a nutshell, it goes something like this:
A) Meet at a mutual friend's party.
B) Get really, really drunk.
C) Make out. Sex is optional.
D) If you're lucky, you are sober enough to save the other person's telephone number in your mobile, AND to put it under the correct name.
E) Send a text message along the lines of "last night was nice. Shall we have a coffee sometime?"
F) Spend hours analyzing the various ways in which aforementioned text message could be misinterpreted. Get your friends involved.
G) Have a "fika." *(see below for an explanation of this uniquely Swedish institution)
*A "fika" is a Swedish word for an ambiguous meeting that may or may not be a date, or better explained as a non-date, or a date that is pretending-not-to-be-a-date.
It is also worth mentioning that one can also have a fika with a friend, colleague, family member, or neighbor. Hence the ambiguity of the whole affair.
During this "fika" Swedish non-date, things are a little stilted and awkward as both parties pretend that nothing happened last Saturday night, and politely and awkwardly ask questions about the other person, usually beginning with "Where do you live?," descending into a discussion about the difficulty and frustration of the Stockholm housing market, and complaining that you have had to move seven times in the course of six months.
Now, where were we...oh yes:
H) At the end of this date pretending not to be a date, give each other an awkward hug, or possibly a handshake, ended with the statement, "Vi hörs!" or "Hoppas vi ses snart!" ("I'll talk to you soon." or "Hope we see each other soon!")
I) Spend the entire next week pondering over who should make the next move. A WORD OF WARNING: It is not assumed here that the guy will take the lead. More likely, the opposite is expected. If the Swedish guy is brave enough open his mouth and say something at all during this date, he may feel that it is now the girl's turn to put herself out on a limb.
J) Spend many more hours analyzing your feeble attempts at text message"flirting," agonizing over whether you should or should not use the word "mysig" (cozy) or "trevlig" (nice), fearing the former may be too much, and the latter may not be enough. Once again, enlist the help of your friends.
K) Repeat Step A.
L) Repeat Step B.
M) Repeat Step C, all the while pretending it never happened the first time.
N) Sometime after several more renditions of Steps B and C, go out to dinner.
O) Since it's a little harder to pretend you are not on a real date in the formal atmosphere of a restaurant, drink massive amounts of the house wine.
P) At the end of dinner, closely examine the bill to make sure each person pays for his or her appropriate share, including the extra five kronor for dressing on the side.
Q) Get kicked out of your way-too-expensive second-hand rental contract because the person you were subletting from didn't take 10 study points and lost his/her contract for student housing.
R) Get drunk again, and commiserate on the horrors of the Stockholm housing market.
S) Move in together.
T) Go shopping at Ikea.
U) Take a romantic trip to the Canary Islands.
V) Move to the suburbs, buy a Volvo and start collecting “Vuxenpoäng” (see Stockholm Syndrome for more on the ‘adult points’ systems).
W) Have a child.
X) Name it Johan, Erik, Fredrik, or Henrik if it’s a boy or Sara, Anna, Lisa, or Emma if it’s a girl.
Y) Two months after you go back to work after having Johan/Erik/Fredrik/Henrik/Sara/Anna/Lisa/Emma, repeat Step W.
Z) Enjoy an additional 18 months of parental leave.
Å) Get married for your 20th wedding anniversary.
Kommissarie F. Curiosa is a Sweden-based American blogger.