Will you be my sambo?

My two posts about dating in Sweden got a lot of attention (if you’re new, here they are: the first one and the follow-up). Many could relate to what I described while others couldn’t at all. I got a tonne of questions and while I’m trying to answer every one personally, I’m going to address some of the frequently asked ones in separate posts like this one.

One question that came up often was whether the next step after dating is marriage or moving in together for Swedish people.
Not one of my Swedish friends in my age is married. And yet several of them have been together with the same partner for several years. Practically every couple that has been together for more than six months live together.
So marriage isn’t very common among young people. In fact, statistically most people get married for the first time to their long term partner in their mid to late thirties. But on the other hand it is very common for young couples to live together. We have a word for couples who live together but aren’t married: sambo. It means “together-living” and is not a bad word in any way. When a person is talking about his or her sambo, they will proudly refer to them as their “sambo,” in the same way people talk about their wives or husbands.
Practically all of the couples I’m talking about live by themselves, and not with their parents.

Adult children in Sweden don’t get much financial help from their parents. From around the age when you finish high school (18-19), most young people move out and get by on their own, either by taking a job or joining university and thus getting student loans. Quite a lot of people combine their college studies with a part-time job. Hannes and I are in this latter group.

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8 Responses to Will you be my sambo?

  1. I want to start using the word sambo in the US. I live with my boyfriend of 3 years and I want a word that shows we are more committed than “boyfriend” or “girlfriend”, yet we aren’t married so we aren’t husband/wife. I like to call him my life partner! Love these little descriptions of everyday life in Sweden!

  2. nikskie says:

    i’ve read them all and it’s very intresting how dating ‘system’ works differently in every country. thank you for sharing this.

    p.s : i make a post about these series in my blog. and credit & link-up it all to Swedish Love Affair of course :)

  3. Katrina says:

    The economy must be better in Sweden than the US. Almost everyone I know around my age (mid to late twenties) still lives with their parents through college and often for a little while afterward, and not just to benefit the child. Often times the parents also need the added financial support of having another working adult in the household.

    It is interesting how the economy can change a culture.

    • gunghesten says:

      Well, since we do not pay for college/university we do have a different position definitely. Our parents do not pay for college/university and most people in sweden borrow money from the state to provide for themselves. And then as the antonia said, a lot/some people have part-time jobs to get a bit of extra money while studying.

  4. Martina says:

    It was mighty interesting to read about dating/marriage customs in Sweden. Although I have learned a bit about the topic in my sociology class, it’s always good to get to know things from first hand :)

    It’s certainly much different from Southern Europe :D Here, parents rarely expect from their kids to move out when they graduate from high school. If some of them do, that’s an exception, rather than a rule. The economic situation is partially responsible: a young person can’t expect to find a job, the prices of rents are astronomical compared to average wages, and buying your own place is usually just a dream for people starting out. Besides, if a child is continuing his/her education and going to a university in a city where he/she lives, the notion of moving out is absurd. Student loans are quite rare in these parts, as banks tend to give loans only with people with constant wages. Providing for yourself is a term from the fantasy realm around here ;)

    But also, we are quite bound by tradition. Even though couples cohabit more frequently cohabit than before, the period of cohabitation is fairly short and the couple quickly marries. Paradoxically, the generation of my sister (the late twenties/early thirties crowd) had generally gotten married in their late twenties, whereas my generation (early twenties) tends to get married earlier. (A good deal of my acquaintances are either married or engaged, and as the engagement period here is quite short…)
    Having written this mini-novel, I’ve just realized how different Northern and Southern Europe are!

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