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Dating in Sweden: sex, booze and mobile phones

This guide may not help you find someone to kiss on Valentine's Day, but it might just shed some light on the tantalizing mystery known as the strong, silent Nordic type.

Dating in Sweden: sex, booze and mobile phones
Dating in Sweden, the ultimate A-Å (okay, we skipped the last two) list: Per Pixel Petersson/imagebank.sweden.se

This article was written by blogger Kommissarie F. Kuriosa 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.

Written by Kommissarie F. Curiosa, a Sweden-based American blogger.

Member comments

  1. Weak article — really weak. Very negative too.

    My take:
    Dating in Sweden is easy and fun.
    The people are friendly, if you aren’t a stiff. And the women seem to make “good decisions” about who they select. And they are open minded about different types of people. You needed be rich, and there is no need to purchase an expensive car. Try developing a bit of a personality, and you will do well.

    Yes, alcohol can help things along in some cases.
    But that’s also true in the US (and Canada, the UK, Germany and almost all of Asia). So, what’s the difference? In my experience – nothing.

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HEALTH

IN PICTURES: 7 of the French government’s sexiest public health adverts

An advertising campaign aimed at convincing young people to get the Covid vaccine has attracted international attention, but it’s not the first time that French authorities have sexed up their public health messaging.

IN PICTURES: 7 of the French government's sexiest public health adverts
Image: AIDES.

It’s an international cliché that France is the land of l’amour – or at least the land of le sexe – and that reputation does seem to be justified, given how often French public health bodies have turned to sex in an attempt to get their message across.

From the suggestive to the downright scandalous, here are seven examples of health campaigns which relied on that oh so French fondness for romance.

Get vaccinated, get laid

The Covid campaign in question was created by regional health authorities in the southern Provence-Alpes-Côtes d’Azur region.

The poster which has got people hot under the collar features two very attractive and very French-looking people kissing, seemingly in the back of a cab after a night on the town. “Yes, the vaccine can have desirable effects,” it says.

The campaign has proved so popular that it will soon be expanded.

Promoting road safety

Earlier this year, the French Road Safety Delegation released a video ahead of Valentine’s Day, which showed a couple sharing an intimate moment in the bedroom.

The full 30-second video featured the slogan, “Life is better than one last drink for the road”.

Another image of two people kissing, seemingly without clothes, included the line, “Life, love. On the road, don’t forget what truly matters.”

Fight against HIV/AIDS

While the link between road safety and sex isn’t immediately obvious, less surprising are the references to intimacy in the health ministry’s HIV awareness campaign from 2016.

Each of the different posters shows two men embracing. Straplines include, “With a lover, with a friend, with a stranger. Situations vary, and so do the protective measures.”

The posters shocked conservative sensibilities, and several right-wing mayors asked for them to be taken down in their towns. 

HIV awareness campaign

Just a few days after the controversy over the ministry’s posters ignited, the non-profit AIDES launched its own campaign, and it didn’t hold back.

The posters showed scuba instructors, piano teachers and parachutists, all of them naked alongside their students. The slogan: “People undergoing treatment for HIV have a lot of things to pass onto us. But the AIDS virus isn’t one.”

“Even if we’ve been spreading this information since 2008, we realise that a lot of people don’t know that antiviral treatments prevent spreading,” head of AIDES Aurélien Beaucamp told France Info.

“People are still afraid of those who are HIV-positive.” 

Government-mandated pornography

It’s common for sexualised advertising campaigns to be labelled pornographic by critics, but in 1998, the French government went a step further and created actual pornography.

READ ALSO Language of love – 15 of the best romantic French phrases

The health ministry commissioned TV station Canal Plus to create five short erotic films to encourage the use of condoms and prevent the spread of HIV. The campaign featured up-and-coming directors such as Cedric Klapisch and Gaspar Noé.

“The only possible way to look at, to get people to protect themselves, is to show, show everything, show simply and without creating an obsession of the sexual act and the act of wearing a condom,” Klapisch said, according to an Associated Press story published at the time. 

You didn’t really think we’d include images of this one, did you? (OK, here’s a link for those who are curious).

A controversial anti-smoking campaign

https://twitter.com/MarketainmentSE/status/212863393143586817

It’s time to forget what we said about romance, because there is nothing romantic about this 2010 campaign from the Droits des Non-Fumeurs (Non-smokers’ rights) association and the BDDP & Fils communications agency.

The campaign featured several images of young people with a cigarette in their mouths, looking up at an adult man who rested his hand on their heads. The cigarette appeared to be coming out of the man’s trousers.

The slogan said, “Smoking means being a slave to tobacco”. The association said the sexual imagery was meant to get the attention of young people who were desensitised to traditional anti-smoking messages, but the posters caused outrage, with members of the government publicly criticising the choice of imagery.

Celebrating LGBTQ+ love

On the other end of the spectrum is this very romantic video from the national health agency Santé Publique France. It was released on May 17th 2021, the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, and was part of a campaign against anti-LGBT discrimination and violence. It is set to Jean-Claude Pascal’s Nous les amoureux

Showing a diverse range of couples kissing, holding hands, and healing each other’s wounds, the video ends on the word play: “In the face of intolerance, it’s up to us to make the difference.”

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