A summer in Stockholm: What I learned

September 8, 2016 • 5 min read

Hi, I’ll just shortly introduce myself: I’m Alain a 20-year-old Luxembourger, who spent his summer in Stockholm working as an intern for OURWAY Tours. Of course before I came here I had certain expectations of Sweden and what living here would be like.

My expectations before coming to Sweden:

– Sweden lies in the north so it HAS to be cold, I’d better pack all my thick jumpers and don’t even think about packing any shorts.

– I bet just like the country, people in Sweden will be very cold.

– Sweden and especially Stockholm is SO expensive I’ll be broke at the end of the summer.

– Alcohol is ridiculously high taxed, I’ll have to work an entire day just to afford a drink.

– Coming from a rural area, moving to the capital of Sweden will be such a rough change.

– Everyone in Sweden speaks really good English, it will be easy to communicate.

What it actually was:

– Summer DOES exist in Sweden, or at least in Stockholm. From when I got here in mid-May to mid-August I didn’t need a jumper and wore shorts. Granted there are a few colder days here and there, but which country doesn’t have that? The weather was absolutely perfect for the most part during summer and not a freezing tundra like some people might make you believe.

– Swedes are some of the nicest, most helpful, most polite, and most kind hearted people on earth. It really blew my socks off how forthcoming people were in Sweden, complete strangers help you out without you even having to ask them to. I spent the whole summer in Stockholm and I’ve never seen Swedes behaving violently or even out of line. A lot of the Swedes I’ve talked to are also really outgoing and don’t have that ‘mind your own business’ mentality.

– While it is true that Sweden and in particular Stockholm are a bit more expensive than most other places, it’s not as bad as people always make it seem. Certainly very touristy places like Gamla Stan do have really high prices for that exact reason – they’re magnets for tourists. If you inform yourself enough before coming to Stockholm you can easily get full AND go shopping even if you don’t have that much to spend. You just have to know where to go.

– Yes the taxes for alcohol are really high (at 100% actually), but again there’s a way to have a beer under SEK 60. If you go to Systembolaget, which are the state owned liquor stores (everything with 5% alcohol content or more can only be bought here) you’ll get it at a fraction of the price you’d pay in a bar. It’s still by far not as cheap and easily accessible as in other countries but that might not be so bad in the end.

– Stockholm is not like most other big capital cities. A third of the city actually consists of green area with a lot of parks. This gives it, along with some old wooden cottages in some places in the city, a nice rural vibe. Additionally there’s by far not as much traffic as in other big cities, not even during summer, as a third of the population uses the bike during these months. Of course the amazing public transport offered in Stockholm and the surrounding area also keeps a lot of people away from the steering wheel.

– Swedes don’t speak good English, they speak GREAT English. You really don’t have to be worried about asking someone something in English in Sweden. The reason they’re so good at it is because movies and series that are in English aren’t dubbed into Swedish, they watch everything international with subtitles.

stockholm green

A few other things that stuck out to me when I came to Sweden:

– People are really laid back here, everyone seems so patient and not under constant stress (or at least they’re great at hiding it).

– A large majority of the Swedes I encountered are very fit and live healthy. You don’t see many overweight people in Stockholm (who knows, maybe the food’s too expensive) and in general people have a very healthy diet.

– It’s all about coffee here. The Swedes have something called Fika which more or less means “coffee break”. It’s basically the Swedish equivalent of Britain’s afternoon tea only that Swedes tend to have way more than just one coffee a day. The thing that kinda bugs me about it is, that you’d think that Swedish coffee might be really good then. Well you’d be wrong they don’t put that much effort into the coffee they chug like water on a hot summer day. There are a few good cafés in town though, especially in Gamla Stan there are 2 places I’d like to recommend; Under Kastanjen and Café Sattva which is vegan, you get good coffee and good pastries in these places, I especially recommend getting a cinnamon bun while you’re here in Sweden as it is a Swedish invention.

– Swedes don’t give tips, something you might find very strange depending on where you’re from. That doesn’t mean though that it’s not allowed to give tips, especially when it comes to hard working guides, then you’re more than welcome to tip!

At last I’d like to say that I had an absolute blast living here in Sweden and especially working for OURWAY Tours. The people I’ve met here particularly the ones I’ve met through the job are some of the most kind hearted, funniest, smartest and genuinely interesting people I’ve met in my whole life and it makes me sad to leave.