Culture clash #1 – dating and relationships

I have been living in Sweden for almost 3 years now and although the German and Swedish cultures are similar in many ways, I still experience a lot of culture clashes in everyday life. A very good example is dating in Sweden. I came here after a long relationship, with the picture of a tall and blonde Viking in my head. Arriving in Borlänge I had to revise my dream a bit though. Not all Swedes are tall & blonde, actually they do not really look that different from us Germans.

After some time occupied with organizing my life in Sweden, I went on a dating site since I wanted to get to know more Swedish people. Online dating is very popular in Sweden, since many Swedes are quite reserved or shy and generally Swedes are very technophile. This is a chapter for itself but in conclusion, you can find people looking for serious relationships there, but you have to be careful and it can take some time.

Generally, Swedes are often quite open and not shy when it comes to physical activity. You will meet a lot of people when going out too and you probably observe that Swedes are really outgoing when they are not sober. So you might meet somebody in a bar or club at the weekend. But don´t expect to be invited for a drink. Alcohol in Sweden is very expensive and even more important, equality in Sweden is so important that women are not only used to but also willing to pay their drinks on their own. I was used to be invited for drinks in Germany, even just for small talk but this will not happen in Sweden.

If you are finding somebody you would like to meet, don´t wait for the guy to ask you out. In Sweden with the gender equality, it is absolutely usual that a girl asks a guy out. The usual procedure is to meet for a “fika”, which can be best translated with coffee, either just coffee or coffee and cake, the “fikabröd”. Fika is the most important activity in Sweden and often undertaken a few times a day. Swedes have the 2nd highest coffee consumption worldwide after the Finns and it is a way to socialize with friends, family and working colleagues. So you meet for a fika and if all goes well you will probably go for some more fika. After some fika you might be surprised how fast a Swedish guy can jump into a relationship, since usual Swedes are not fast with anything.

If that happens you will start to realize that even though your cultures are quite similar, there are still huge differences. Swedes are raised learning not to talk about feelings, since being “lagom” is really important. Lagom could best be translated with not sticking out, which implies to keep the feelings inside, no arguing or being rude. Swedes like to spend time in the nature all alone and they like to be very independent in relationships. Trying to get a Swede to talk about his feelings is like squeezing a dry lime. The only exception is when a Swede has been drinking. This is the time for a Swede to come out of his shell and show what is behind this reserved person. Nevertheless, a direct, emotional German is really stressing these Swedish guys out. Therefore I cannot say that my relationships went too well so far and I definitely have not found a recipe yet, but I guess the best is to understand that if two cultures are coming together, there are some differences but this actually can enrich a relationship.

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