More on dating in Sweden

I got a lot of response from my post about dating in Sweden, both positive and negative. Some people seemed to misunderstand what I was saying. Splitting the bill became a hot topic and I got a lot of opinions on that. This is one reader’s reaction (although, many of you have written something like this):

Dear Antonia,

I read your post about dating in Sweden, and I must say I found it very interesting. I was both amused and a bit shocked at learning about the fake-date fika situation. For me, it’s unacceptable for the guy not even treating the girl to coffee after they hooked up at the club! I was, as I said, shocked to learn that not only will he completely ignore your night together and pretend that there’s nothing like that going on between you, but he will also refuse to pay for a stinking coffee?! Even if she slept with him?? I’m sorry, but I would never have believed that Swedish guys were such pigs!

Anyway, I hope you’ll consider writing more articles like this!
Thank you! 


I’ve answered a similar response in the comment section of that post, but I decided to put it in a separate post as well, so that all of you will see it:

I think it’s important to look at the whole picture. In Sweden you can’t take for granted that it was the guy who managed to hook up with a girl, it may just as well have been the other way around. Most likely it was a completely mutual move to start dancing, making out or spending the night together.
It’s not the guys who chase after the girls; there’s not much of a hunt in that sense going on at clubs at all. A guy who makes an obvious attempt to hook up with a girl will seldom succeed, no matter how attractive or good at dancing he is. The same is true for girls. Such “aggression” in the dating scene is seen as a turn-off for both sexes.
If they do end up spending the night together, it’s not the guy who got to sleep with the girl, the act is completely mutual.
As for the fika, to Swedes there is nothing that suggests that the guy is the one who should pay for the girl’s coffee, since the intentions of both guy and girl are completely mutual. In fact, most Swedish girls will refuse to let the guy pay for her coffee even if he insists on paying for both of them, and many will even get offended. In exactly the same way that nobody would think you’re worse at something just because you’re a girl, nobody would ever assume that the guy should pay just because he’s a guy.
In Sweden people try to avoid those kinds of distinctions between different expectations from men and women.

I hope this answers some questions!:)


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43 Responses to More on dating in Sweden

  1. Nina says:

    I can understand why people make a big deal out of splitting the bill issue, but my personal opinion is that it’s something completely normal. Well, not for where I live, but for me at least. I think that “everything’s mutual” way of doing things is what it should be like anyway. I generally have this kinda point of view and because of that, I’ve always been the one who seemed pushy in my country. Isn’t that ironic? =)

    • Antonia says:

      I agree with you Nina, that “everything mutual” sounds like a good philosophy!
      I’m curious, could you give an example of a situation where others seem to find you “pushy” about this?

  2. Layla_White says:

    ))) Got a question, related to mutuality and rights equality. Few years ago I had flatmate from Sweden and she had some troubles with cleaning – as she explained – she had no experience in this, cause in her family all tasks splitted between parents. I was really surprised, cause in my country most of household activities done by women, even if she has full time job. After your post i can’t stop wondering if it’s common for all Swedish families to split tasks around the house or family of my Swedish flatmate is special? And one more question – what is normally next step in Swedish dating – starting to live together or marriage? In my country it is marriage but in some countries living together first is next step in long term relationships.

    • gunghesten says:

      It is pretty common to split housekeeping tasks between sexes. Especially amongs young people but also my parents did split tasks. I think that there are still people where the women do everything, but most people split. The most common is to date for a while (that could be for a long time, even if the term “to date” might be a bit misleading. It is more like being girlfriend and boyfriend and be exclusive.) Then it is common to move in together, and also it is getting common for people to never marry at all.
      But, there are some christian societies where marriage is preferred before moving in together even in sweden.

    • Antonia says:

      Good questions, Layla! I think Gunghesten has done a good job of explaining these situations. It is almost unheard of for the woman to do all the house chores in Swedish families, normally the family member divide the chores between them. Who gets to do what is often a question of practicality.

    • Jenna says:

      I dont know if you really, really wanted Antonia´s answer, but heres mine.

      I live in Sweden too, even though right now Im living in Stockholm, and I would say that yes, it is common that chores are split between man and woman. If the laundry needs cleaning someone does it, probably just the first one to see it. And its not only the man who does chores like plumbing, building or like wise. Often we hire a constructor or plumber but its also comon for either man or woman to do it. Women in sweden are considerd as strong and independent.

      And as for moving in together or getting married first, its probably almost always the first. Of course there are exeptions but I would say a swedish relationship have five stages.
      1. You are dating, but youre pretending not to. Youre not kissing or sleeping with each other but youre meeting each other often, probably for a quick coffee. This only goes on for a week or two in most cases.
      2. You start dating. You introduce the other as your boyfriend/girlfriend when people asks and you kiss and might even sleep with each other.
      3. You move in together, wich means your boyfriend/girlfriend is now your “sambo” and you can introduce him/her to your parents without it feeling like its too soon or something like that.
      4. Next stage is being engaged. Alot of couples in Sweden are engaged for many, many years and might even get kids and a house or equal before getting married. Also, its expectedly the man who proposes but resently Ive been noticing here in Stockholm that girls are starting to step up a bit and propose to the guy.
      5. The last step is of course marriage(if you dont count the fact that sweden have pretty high number of divorces).

      I hope I didnt bore you out and that it answered your questions. bye =)

      • Antonia says:

        Thank you for your comment, Jenna! I’d say your analysis is spot on and very well put.
        This post is read by a great many people and I’m happy that you chose to make this excellent contribution to the discussion! What you’ve written here is of interest to many readers.

      • Layla_White says:

        Wow, very structured and fulfilling answer, thank you )))

  3. Chiara says:

    Sounds like equality, which is only good :)

  4. Ilona Opengeim-Cherkas says:

    …not holding up a door for a girl/woman is considered bad manners or rude in the Anglo-Saxon world. Plus, what does sheer gentelmanhood has to do with equality??? My Goddness!

    I think some things here are misconcieved…In North America, men and women are percieved as equal whether it’s their job, or any other social levels that are concerned, yet this social equality doesn’t take away from basic norms that the majority of all men and women in the world live by. If a man doesn’t pay for a coffee ordered by a woman he has not even a date, but a meeting with–he would be automatically taken as impolite and rude. I was even offered a coffee by my boss (man) one day when we were standing in the lineup, and though I felt awkward at first–not to accept his gesture would have been even worseon my end…

    So if the same behavioural patterns are expected from both men and women in Sweden, how else do the sexes define themselves or differentiate themselvees in cultural context, especially if all roles are considered the same???

    • Antonia says:

      Hi Ilona,
      It’s not like nobody holds up the door for anyone in Sweden, it’s just that it’s not assumed that the man is the one who should do it. Who actually holds the door open depends on who gets there first or other practical parameters.
      It works the same way with the bill. I didn’t mean to give the impression that Swede’s never buy one another coffee or treat each other to restaurants, because they do. But there’s nothing that says that the man should do it rather than the woman – who gets to pay is decided by other factors.
      I would say that men and women in Sweden differentiate much like they do anywhere else. I can’t really list how they do it in practice, it would just get too generalizing and silly.

      • Ilona Opengeim-Cherkas says:

        like everywhere else? i don’t think so…but I agree with you that generalizing wouldn’t be fare. I’m sure if strong feelings are involved, average men in Sweden would exhibit the same pattern of behaviou as, say, average men in US or Canada or anywhere in Europe and othr parts of the world…or at least i’m hoping so. :)

        • Antonia says:

          Strong feelings can make people do the least expected things. In my answer to you above I was talking about general daily social interactions or about people in the beginning of a relationship when they are getting to know each other.

          • Ilona Opengeim-Cherkas says:

            hahaha…I’ve read your post with attention, Antonia! I do understand that you were talking about the daily social male vs. female interactions in Sweden, but doesn’t this fact point to a more generalizing act on your end? Anyways, I’m not trying to argue with you, you know a lot more about Swedish lifestyle than I can ever know. I just find the whole thing super-weird, and I don’t think (again my opinion only) that these interactions or rules add or contribute in any possible way to social equality or any type of related ideology.

      • Ilona Opengeim-Cherkas says:

        …how do Swedes define gentelmanhood? I’m really curious now…

        • Antonia says:

          Well, there are no strict guidelines as to what makes a gentleman. The idea of the classic gentleman is pretty outdated in Sweden, and the word itself sounds old-fashioned. If anyone calls you a gentleman, there is often a hint of irony there. You see, in some ways the “gentleman concept” goes against our idea of equality.
          It’s more about being a good person, treating others with respect and standing up for what you believe in. I feel that I’m beginning to repeat myself, but the same courtesy rules apply to both men and women.

          • Ilona Opengeim-Cherkas says:

            The word “sounds” old-fashioned? Decides who? Well you know what..I love truly classic gentelmen, I married a gentelman, live with a gentleman and am madly in love with one–and if this defines me as old-fashioned, then let it be. I guess my hubby is a rare find nowadays… i wish all true ladies in Sweden to find their true princes if that is still possible according to their modern psyche, hahaha…:)

            • Antonia says:

              I meant that the Swedish word for gentleman sounds old-fashioned to Swedish people. I wasn’t implying that the concept of a gentleman is old-fashioned and outdated globally.
              I would have thought that this was obvious, since we were talking about this from a Swedish perspective. But I guess I should have been more clear.

              I’m happy to hear that you’ve found a man so perfect for you! I wish you both all the best!

  5. Chiara says:

    Actually, women are still not equal to men when it comes to pay and on social levels.

    I don’t think men should always be gentlemen, they just have to respect women, as women have to respect men. Of course it is nice if a man pays for your drinks, but to expect them to do that is also a bit old-fashioned and traditional, i think. Which is strange when you want man and women to be equal.

    But i’m Dutch, so maybe we have diffent views on men and women than in North America too.

    • Antonia says:

      Well, you’re right, Chiara, about everything not being equal yet, but that’s definitely where things are heading right now.
      Your thoughts about tradition versus equality are interesting. I think I might have to do a post on that subject eventually!

  6. NeenaJ says:

    I live in America and even though we like to talk a good game, there is not what I would consider equality between men and women. I would give up a lifetime’s doors held open and drinks bought for salary equality, respect and the government staying out of my uterus.

    • Antonia says:

      Nice choice of words, Neena! I hope that these important subjects will go in the direction you wish for!

    • Ilona Opengeim-Cherkas says:

      You desperately need to visit us in Toronto…;)

      • Nicki says:

        Yes, NeenaJ. You are 100% right. The last seven words of your post are, in my opinion, one of the most important issues facing the American woman today. My husband (even more so than me) constantly suggests we move to Canada!

  7. christian says:

    Hey Antonia, I have not dated a Swede since about 1962 [that's not a typo] and I think your description sounds ‘right on’ – I think a lot of Americans still have a lot to learn from and about other cultures.

    • Antonia says:

      Hi Christian!
      Glad to get your input on the subject! I guess not too much has changed over the last five decades then :) That’s very interesting!

  8. Becca says:

    Hi Antonia,
    I found this post very interesting, because I am an American married to a Swedish man and while we met eachother in America, I found that “dating ” him was very different from dating Americans. We would go out on the weekends with a group of mutial friends and he and I always had a great time together and I’d usually take him home. This went on forever and I was certain that he had to like me, just as I liked him. However, he never made a move to kiss me or ask me out the way an American guy usually would have. One night after dropping him off at home, I was at the end of my rope and thought I’d test the situation. I ran after him and knocked on his door and when he answered, I pulled him in and kissed him, then apologized after he seemed surprised and the situation felt awkward. He excused himself and went back inside. I was sure I’d never hear from him again, but he called me the next day. We began a relationship, but he never tried hard to woo me. Never bought me anything. We’d have a incredible time together, but mutual friends started to tell me that he downplayed our couple status and never brought me up. If an American guy did that, it would be a sure sign that he wasn’t that into you. I was so confused. Somehow we managed to stay together for two years ( I guess I liked the hard work ;) ) and he completely surprised me by asking me to marry him. After we were married he completely turned on the charm and was more romantic than ever and has been that way ever since. I hear that while some American guys turn on the charm in the begining, they start to let it slip after a while. I’m glad I was patient and held out for my Swedish guy!

    • Antonia says:

      I’m glad you could relate to what I wrote, Becca! I hope you feel it helped you get a little more understanding of your husband’s background! Your story is very interesting, how long have you been together now?

    • Ilona Opengeim-Cherkas says:

      …not all American men “turn on the charm in the beginning” and then start “to let it slip after a while”… can’t agree with that–depends on a lot of different factors…

      • Becca says:

        That’s very true…I shouldn’t have pigeonholed my American brothers like that! I didn’t mean to. I have just noticed, as an American married to a Swede, that there are cultural differences in the way that we communicate, express ourselves, and in the way we acknowledge certain situations. I have a couple of friends who are married to Swedes and we have all noticed these cultural differences even though the men we are married to are very different in personality. I’m sure our husbands would generalize and call the three of us “emotional, dramatic, loud and talkative” American women. A huge generalization indeed, but in comparison to our Swedish husbands and the Swedish women we know…we probably are!!

    • Rita Mae Vigo says:

      I am so glad to read your story, my patience is very short with the Swedish guy I meet on line ( not the same love story as you got but similar hehehe!).. But after reading your story make sense now and make me breath….
      Thank you for sharing : )

      • Antonia says:

        I’m glad this whole dating thing makes more sense to you now! Maybe you can give him another chance after reading this?:)

        • Rita Mae says:

          Hehehe! I am, and I need more patience and not to be aggressive I guess… hmmmm…

          • Antonia says:

            Dating a Swede can be tricky if you’re not used to it;)

            • Rita Mae says:

              Indeed, and knowing about what you called “Lagom” Quite tough coz I like him so much and the feeling is mutual.. I was like at first are you interested or not? The process is to slow to my experience of dating other nationalities.. But now I just have to set back and relax.. Enjoy the ride : )

  9. Maggie says:

    It’s quite a relief to read this, Antonia. Where I live in America it’s perfectly customary for men to pay. But I’ve always felt uncomfortable when a guy has just assumed he should pay, even if it’s for something like tickets to the movies. I always get somewhat nervous and insist that we go get coffee or something after so that I can pay for that. That’s the only way I’ll feel “even.” I think this has offended a few guys, but honestly I got a little offended when they just slapped down money for both of us. I’m not sure how to describe it, but I don’t like it. It’s nice to hear that I’m not alone! :)

  10. Ana_ILTdP says:

    Very interesting discussion! I really loved both entries, Antonia! I love cultural issues :)

  11. gunghesten says:

    Just remembered something else. I work for a company that has an office in the states, and when I went over there we talked about beds and comforters. My american collegues found it very strange that we use two comforters in a kingsize bed when you are together instead of one.
    One of them was really offended, even though as she put it ” it would solve some problems” she still thought it was very weird. “How does it even look” they said. I think it is very amusing how you are so used to something that everything else is just SO weird.
    Perhaps you can talk about this somtime to bring more discussion :)

    • Becca says:

      So funny that you mention the double comforter. My in-laws use two comforters on their bed and guest bed in Sweden. My mother-in-law finds the way we make a bed up in the U.S. strange. I love all of these differences. What a boring world it would be otherwise. I have spent a good deal of time in Sweden over the last decade, I find the Swedish way of doing things sort of second nature now and have brought many into our home in the States!

  12. рыжая Маша says:

    Wow, such an interesting discussion! I’ll try to write in english while it’s not my first and even second language.
    I’m from Russia. The scheme of relationship is normally very traditional: men should woo women, buy them flowers, pay for coffee and so on. Even young people thinks so, and my mother and her generation are awfully far from the ideas of equality.
    What about me, I am quite modern. I think that there are no reasons why someone should pay for my coffee because of their genitalia.
    But, well, I’m a lesbian, so…let’s say that my point of view isn’t very common even in Moscow. That’s sad :(

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