SHARE
COPY LINK

OPINION & ANALYSIS

My first impression of Stockholmers: Who are all these well-dressed dads?

Learn Swedish. Get a personnummer. Go cashless. Moving to a new country means going through a series of 'firsts'. The Local's reader Alexander de Nerée writes about some of the challenges, quirks and adventures he has faced since moving to Sweden.

My first impression of Stockholmers: Who are all these well-dressed dads?
Stylish dads pushing their strollers in Rålambshovsparken, Stockholm. Photo: Jessica Gow/TT

With working from home and travel restrictions firmly in place, the highlight of my day is the stroll through Stockholm. One of the benefits of moving to a new city is that you get to have that “long weekend city trip” feeling for a while. So, while walking the streets of Stockholm I try to savour the newness of it by observing it as a first-time visitor. 

Everyone will notice how pretty the city is. This mix between Amsterdam and Vienna while being surrounded by large bodies of water is incredibly appealing. What adds to its charm is the fact that different parts of the city all have a slightly different feel. This is nice especially when your radius is limited to where you can go by foot. Feel like hipster fika? Bröd & Salt in Söder! Feel like fancy fika? Bröd & Salt in Östermalm! The options are endless. 

And then of course there are the people of Stockholm. No better way to get an idea of the city than by observing its inhabitants as they roam their natural habitat. A few things stand out. 

In other cities I’ve lived in, you would find the occasional, slightly out-of-place looking father behind a stroller with a confused looking baby in it (on a Sunday, when there is no football on, during the summer holiday.) Not here: any day of the week, rain or shine, the streets are filled with men pushing black Bugaboos with abandon. Ok, they are also all on their phones, probably looking at football, but still, their babies get to see their father’s faces more than most. 

Speaking of faces: with the black parkas and the woollen hats coming off, the summer allowed me a first glance at what the people of Stockholm actually look like. In this regard, too, the city does not disappoint. Wherever you go, its broad pavements and parks are typically filled with well-dressed men and women in expensive sunglasses. 

The women are always elegant, often with longer flowing blond hair and a little dog. A look I’ve come to think of as “affluent Abba”: what the women of Abba would look like, had they dressed in accordance with their wealth today.

If women are known to dress up when going out in other places, the men in Stockholm stand out in that regard. You typically find them in tasteful business attire for any occasion, shiny Swiss watches on display, or with a look that suggests they are just about to board a wooden boat for a few days sailing around the archipelago. This is enhanced by the slightly hard-edged handsomeness mainly the young men display (think how Alexander Skarsgård gets cast and you get the idea).

Apart from the beauty of the city and its people, what makes walking around Stockholm such a pleasure, is that Stockholmers go out not just to go somewhere but often just for the sake of it. To enjoy the city they live in, just like a first-time visitor.

Alexander de Nerée moved to Stockholm with his husband in October 2020. He is Dutch, but moved from Zürich, Switzerland, after having lived in Hong Kong for 10 years. Signing up to move to a country they had never been to, in the middle of a global pandemic, was definitely a first for the couple. One of many more to come. Alexander writes for The Local about his “firsts” in Sweden.

Member comments

  1. Well dressed . What is your definition of well dressed , as Swedes are not well dressed compared to Parisians , Londoners and Berliners , so which rock have you been hiding under ?

    1. Agreed. Clean sweatpants and white tennis shoes does not make a man well-dressed. This author needs to see men in business suits at board meetings to understand what well-dressed really means.

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members

OPINION & ANALYSIS

OPINION: How I learned that Sweden is a nation of secret queue-jumpers

Swedes have a reputation as a nation of orderly queuers. But it doesn't take long living here before you realise that for things that matter - housing, schools, health treatment - there are ways of jumping the line.

OPINION: How I learned that Sweden is a nation of secret queue-jumpers

Soon after my daughter was born, I emailed Malmö’s sought after daycare cooperatives to get on their waiting lists. 

I didn’t get an answer from any of them, so a year later, I began dropping her off at the daycare allotted to us by the municipality. 

It was housed in a concrete structure so grim-looking that it was used as the gritty backdrop to the police station in The Bridge, the Scandinavian Noir crime drama based in Malmö. Getting there involved taking a lift that frequently smelled of urine. The rooftop playground was (after we had left) used by local dealers to stash drugs.

But to be fair, it was close to our house and in other ways, perfectly adequate. 

A year later, though, I got a call from one of the cooperatives I had emailed. My daughter Eira was next in line. Did I want to come to meet the staff and existing parents?

When I arrived, I discovered I wasn’t alone. My friend, a Swede looking to establish herself in Malmö after a decade in London, was there, as were several others.

Listen to a discussion about queue-jumping on Sweden in Focus, The Local’s podcast. 

Click HERE to listen to Sweden in Focus on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or Google Podcasts.

I soon had a distinct feeling of being outmanoeuvered, as I watched her identify the parents in charge of new intakes and get to work on them, asking intelligent questions, demonstrating her engagement, and generally turning on the charm. 

A few days later I discovered that, even though I’d been told Eira was top of the list, my friend’s son had got the place. 

This was my first lesson in Swedish queuing, and it is a pattern I’ve seen time and time again.

Swedes, I’ve learned, generally respect a queue if it’s visible, physical, and not about anything particularly important. But when it comes to waiting lists for things such as housing, schools, and healthcare, many people, perhaps even most, will work their contacts, pull strings, find loopholes, if it helps them jump the line. 

When it was time for the children of the parents I knew to go to school, several of them — all otherwise upstanding law-abiding people — temporarily registered themselves at the addresses of friends who lived near the desirable municipal options, and then, after their children got places, moved back.

When I protested weakly that by doing this were depriving someone else’s child of their rightful place, they simply shrugged. 

When Eira joined Malmöflickorna, a dance gymnastics troupe that is a kind of Malmö institution, the other parents whispered to me that joining the troupe helped you get your child into Bladins, Malmö’s most exclusive free school, as the troupe had longstanding links. 

When it comes to accessing health treatment, I’ve learned, it doesn’t pay to stoically wait in line. When I was recently sent for a scan, I immediately rang up the clinic my primary health care centre had chosen for me. The receptionist spotted a time that had just become free the next day, and slotted me in, saving what could have been months of waiting. 

If you’re looking to buy a house, I’m told it pays to develop good relationships with estate agents, as sometimes they will sell a house without even listing it. And there are all sorts of ways to jump the long rental queues in Swedish cities, some involving paying money, some simply exploiting contacts. 

I’m not, myself, much of an operator, but I’ve also learned to take advantage of any opportunities that crop up. 

A year after we had lost our battle for the daycare place, the same Swedish friend got in touch. She had managed to upgrade to an even more sought-after cooperative. (This one has had world-famous novelists and Oscar-contending film directors as present and former parents.)

There was a place free, and she was in charge of the queue. Did we want it for Eira? The queue at this daycare, I soon discovered, was pure fiction. The municipality has since cracked down, but at the time, places went to the friends and contacts of whichever parents happened to be on the board, or failing that, to people in the queue who seemed the right kind of person. 

It didn’t seem right, but of course, we took the place. 

SHOW COMMENTS