Dating in Sweden: what to expect as a foreigner

There’s a lot to love about Sweden, but navigating the country’s dating scene as a foreigner can be… tricky, to say the least. 

Dates in Sweden can be casual affairs, such as a walk in woods

Whether you’re staying in Sweden for a short time or sticking around for good, you’ll soon notice that things work a little differently in Sweden.

Some of the things you take for granted at home, for example, can be considered a big no-no in Sweden – so it’s important to understand how things work before you start dishing out your phone number.

In this guide, we’ll give you a quick overview of what to expect, and help you understand the basics so you can avoid any awkwardness and focus on having fun dates.

Meeting people in Sweden

Swedes have a reputation for being very reserved – frosty, even – until you get to know them.

And let’s be honest: there is a lot to support this stereotype.

If you’re visiting from somewhere like southern Europe or the US, you’ll quickly notice how hard it can be to strike up a conversation with a stranger in Sweden.

Brits may also find it trickier to make new friends in Sweden, compared with back home.

There are a few reasons why it can be tough to create that initial spark in Sweden, but it’s rarely because people don’t want to talk.

Meeting people can be tough

In Sweden, the idea of being independent – being able to stand on your own two feet – is considered very important.

People leave home here at a younger age here than in any other EU country (the average age for flying the nest is just 17.5 years).

And, thanks to Sweden’s highly efficient welfare state, there is a tendency for people to expect things to just work, rather than needing to rely on the kindness of others.

This means that, for better or worse, there’s simply not much need to strike up conversations with strangers.

And there is one other thing that makes Sweden a tricky place for those serendipitous meetings to occur: the Swedish climate.

With long, dark winters and fleetingly short summers, there are fewer opportunities for new arrivals to meet people outside of their uni, workplace or apartment building.

There’s no real pub culture, like you might find in the UK, and eating out regularly can be extortionately expensive.

The good things about dating in Sweden

While it can be tricky to get that first real-life interaction with someone special, there are lots of great things about dating in Sweden.

Sweden is a hyper-connected society with lots of opportunities for meeting someone online before the all-important first date.

And when you get the right chance to break the ice, you’ll find that Swedes are mostly very sociable – especially if you’re invited to an informal gathering or a party where people are enjoying a few drinks.

Once that initial connection is made, they are known for their genuine warmth and loyalty. After the first social meeting with just about anyone outside the workplace, you can expect a nice hug when they greet you.

Every. Time. You. Meet.

What to expect when you start dating

For foreigners, entering Sweden’s dating scene is a bit of a double-edged sword.

On one hand, being ‘different’ can be a big advantage – Swedes often find international accents and cultures intriguing.

And even if they’re not interested in you romantically, you’ll probably get lots of questions about how things in Sweden compare with life back home.

Swedes often find international cultures and accents intriguing.

On the other hand, some of the unwritten rules of Swedish culture can prove to be stumbling blocks for new arrivals.

Go into a new relationship too hard, for example, or start bragging about your wealth and status, and you might have trouble making things work out long term with a Swede.

If you’re serious about finding love in Sweden, you’ve got to try and strike a balance between being yourself and adapting to the local ‘rules’ of the dating game (which is easier said than done).

Learning Swedish – even a tiny little bit of Swedish – can help you too, but you may find that your opportunities for practicing are few and far between, thanks to great English spoken by many Swedes.

What a normal date looks like in Sweden

Sweden’s dating scene is actually very relaxed, which might come as a nice surprise if you’re used to more formal date nights and old-fashioned gender roles.

Instead of meticulously planned evenings with their very best clothes on, Swedes might just opt for a casual hangout or an afternoon coffee.

Going on a date is a natural, anxiety-free part of life for Swedes, and there are no hard and fast rules to say where and when you can go on a date.

Somewhere nice and neutral is always best – whether that’s a café, a bar, the cinema, or a daytime walk in the park.

Gender equality is key

One thing that helps keep Sweden’s dating scene pretty chilled is the country’s unwavering commitment to gender equality.

In some parts of the world, it’s still considered normal and ‘polite’ for the guy to pay for dinner.

Not so in Sweden: bills are almost always split 50-50, giving a nod to the fact that yes, everyone is equal, and yes, we’re in this together.

Chivalry also takes a backseat for the same reason. So if you’re a guy going on a date with a girl, there’s no need to start pulling out her chair before dinner.

Swedes may opt for a casual hangout as a date.

Who makes the first move?

On a similar note: it’s not necessarily the man initiating or the woman playing coy.

Swedish women are just as likely to take the lead on when and how a date pans out.

In fact, it’s not uncommon for either party, regardless of gender, to make the first move.

This mindset extends to same-sex couples, where there’s no set expectation about who should reach out first. 

Whether you're young or old, anyone can make the first move on a date in Sweden

Just remember that while anyone can make the first move, that doesn’t mean they will – shyness is a real thing in Sweden, too!

Because of this, it’s not unusual for Swedes to rely on subtle cues and moments of shared understanding (or even some help from a trusted mutual friend) before taking the plunge of asking someone out.

Where do people first meet?

Meeting people is hard, as we’ve seen – but every day across Sweden, people do fall in love!

Workplaces frequently serve as the backdrop for new romances and office relationships are usually acceptable if they are kept on the down-low.

Just bear in mind that making the first move while you’re actually at work is best avoided, for obvious reasons.

Going for fika is a popular date activity in Sweden.

Otherwise, first meetings can take place pretty much anywhere – at parties, in nightclubs, or at the classic Swedish ‘afterwork’, when people head to a bar for drinks and snacks at the end of the working day.

Not everyone likes alcohol, but you’ll find that many Swedes shed their shyness once they’ve had a few drinks.

If you’d rather avoid bars and clubs, a good first date idea is the classic Swedish fika.

Asking someone to join you for fika isn’t unusual at all, and meeting casually over coffee and cake can be a nice relaxed way to see how things work out, with no pressure to hang around once the coffee goes cold.

Tips for dating in Sweden

Swedes have mastered the art of chill in dating. Not everything has to be taken too seriously.

There are a few important cultural differences to keep in mind once you start dating a Swede.

Play it cool

One-night stands aren’t frowned upon in Sweden, and it’s normal to go on lots of dates (if that’s what you want to do).

In fact, although people can initially be shy, Swedes are incredibly open minded.

As a foreign visitor, it’s important to keep an open mind too and not get stressed if it takes a while to find the perfect partner.

Things can move fast in some ways (like jumping into bed with someone you just met), but real commitment can take years.

Communicate clearly

Generally speaking, Swedes value openness and honesty, often preferring directness over ambiguity.

If you’re visiting from somewhere like the UK, where politeness traditionally trumps all, you might find the directness of Swedes quite disarming.

They’ll sometimes tell you exactly what they think about you, without trying to cushion the blow of their words.

And while Swedes might come across as reserved initially, once in a relationship, they’re often forthright about their feelings and expectations. 

One of the key thing skills for dating success in Sweden is to say what you mean and mean what you say.

And in the long run, this transparency really is a good thing – it builds trust and understanding, setting the foundation for lasting connections.

Give them space

Swedes value their personal space.

This isn’t about being distant or lacking commitment, but rather about respecting individual boundaries. Don’t be surprised if your Swedish date suggests some alone time; it’s their way of recharging.

And, perhaps because they were raised in a society that emphasises equality, many Swedes appreciate a relationship where both parties maintain a degree of independence.

This could mean splitting bills, keeping separate bank accounts or enjoying separate hobbies. Don’t take it personally: in Sweden, it’s okay to do different things and still be together.

Be affectionate, but know when

Swedes can be pretty reserved but it’s not unusual to see people kiss or cuddle in public.

But while a lot of public displays of affection are accepted in public spaces, going over-the-top might raise eyebrows.

Places like parks, cafes, or cinemas provide a more relaxed setting for couples to be close, but in formal settings or crowded public transport, discretion is generally appreciated. 

As with many aspects of Swedish culture, it’s about balance – showing that you care, but with a sense of spatial and social awareness.

The Swedish approach to commitment

Move in with someone you’re romantically involved with in Sweden and you will become each other’s “sambo” (literally, ‘live together’).

You don’t need to be married, but becoming someone’s sambo is often a first step along that path.

Living together like this does carry legal weight though, and unless you agree otherwise, the property you share (and any household furnishings) could be split evenly if you decide to separate. Other things like personal bank accounts are generally not included though.

Communication is key when dating in Sweden

While many Swedes do still get married, the experience of living and growing as a pair is often prioritised – and it’s not unusual for people to live together for decades without getting married.

Open relationships are much rarer, but they are becoming more common (and accepted) in Sweden as people prioritise personal satisfaction over traditional roles.

When things get really serious

In Sweden, like many places, introducing someone to your parents is a significant step, signalling a certain depth and commitment in the relationship.

Marriage in Sweden, while still a cherished institution for some, doesn’t always follow the traditional trajectory. Many couples prioritise partnership and mutual growth over formal labels. 

It’s not uncommon for couples to have children before tying the knot (or to move in with their partner’s kids from a previous relationship). The emphasis is more on creating a stable, loving environment for families, irrespective of marital status.

Family planning is a shared responsibility, with both partners typically involved in decisions and caregiving roles, reflecting the nation’s deep-rooted values of equality and shared responsibilities.

But now we’re getting carried away. To begin with, you just need that perfect first date. Right?

See also
Sauna etiquette in Sweden
Tipping in Sweden
Ideas for a honeymoon in Sweden

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