It’s the little things that mean the most

“So, how is Stockholm? Tell us everything. Like, seriously, EVERYTHING. Spare no details”

You probably know what it feels like to travel to a country none of your friends have visited before. You come back, and you’re suddenly the center of attention. They surround you, their eyes shining with excitement and an insatiable thirst for vicarious adventure. Car fanatics want to hear stories about the Ferraris and the Porsches roaming the streets of the cities you visited. Nature lovers gasp as you describe the beautiful landscape and the icy mountain-tops. Some will be particularly interested in the architecture of the cities you visited, while many will grow impatient with all of this, and they will ask you – with a mischievous smirk- to tell the kind of stories one cannot post in this blog 

And, believe me, when you live in Stockholm, there’s a thousand stories to tell.

“Where to start?” I thought, feeling a bit puzzled. I had more jaw-dropping encounters in Stockholm than I remember. I tried to think of a good story to tell, but all my stories seemed to vanish in a haze.
A minute passed, and I said nothing.

“What was the first thing that positively impressed you in Stockholm?” said one of my friends, trying to ease me into the conversation.

Oh, I remember. It wasn’t the kind of thing you’ll find in a travel guide. Many people won’t even pay attention to it, but I did. Taking the escalator on my first day in Stockholm, I noticed that people who want to walk up or down on escalators take their left, while standers take the right, which means that if you’re in a hurry you can walk up or down the moving steps as fast you want without being blocked by a stander. That’s not a written rule, and there’s no police to enforce it. And yet, everybody adheres to it, it’s just good manners.

Telling that mundane story caused me to have a minor epiphany. You don’t need a grand story to convey how nice a city is or how wonderful it is to live there. Sometimes even the most trivial, overlooked or underrated of things can so eloquently capture the true spirit of a city and its people. The little things can indeed mean the most.

“You guys won’t believe how clean the air is in Stockholm” My friends and I come from a heavily polluted city; I knew there’s nothing they’ll value more than being able to breathe deeply without the inevitable cough.

I was on a roll, and I wasn’t going to stop. “You want to hear something amazing? Everybody in Stockholm speaks English fluently; whether it’s your professor in college, the cashier in your local grocery store, your landlord, the maintenance guy who fixes the busted heating system in your apartment or just a random person in the subway. In fact, I have never come across a Swede who can’t speak English!”

I went on and on about those little things I love about Stockholm. My initial ambivalence turned into an unstoppable torrent of stories about all the things I’ve seen or experienced since I moved here. Some drew praise, and some drew ire, but all in all I never felt more like a captivating storyteller; whether it’s a story about how the Swedes embrace sports and athleticism, or a story about the scary-looking 6 foot 5, sleeveless man with skull tattoos all over his arm and neck and a Mohawk, pushing a stroller with an adorable triplet in it, while his partner carries an umbrella to protect the five of them from the rain.

Stockholm, a city of a thousand tales.

Ayman avatar


  • Arie • 19 Jan 2015 at 1.28 am Reply

    Stockholm is very expensive and if you don’t get student housing (I wasn’t given any help from the uni) you need to find something on or other advertisement sites. You will easily pay 4000 sek per month for a room in the private market, depending on the size and location.

    I think it might be hard to find a job on the side (if you plan to work while you are studying) if you do not speak Swedish, as I think for most service-type jobs they prefer someone who speaks Swedish. Since many Swedes speak English very well, it’s not really an advantage if you speak English well, compared to someone who also speaks Swedish.

    Sweden is cold during winter and can also be wet, so bring warm clothes. There are many Myrorna shops where I bought many nice clothes, including a big sheep-skin coat that I wore in the winter (down to about my knees in length).

    I studied in Sweden a few years ago and was back last year for a visit and was surprised at how expensive food was, I didn’t remember food being that expensive when I lived there (which is just a few years ago).

    Housing is expensive, food is expensive, SL card also costs a lot of money (but I found it really worth it as I would not recommend cycling and I did not own a car). So basically, everything is expensive. I met students from Asia who came with a stipend which was way too little to live off of, and they were living with two people in a single room (which is not allowed in student-housing (at least not the housing by the official housing organisation) and also not preferred). I am not sure about prices now, but with less than 9000 SEK a month (to spend on rent, food, clothes, books, transport etc) you are really going to struggle so make sure that before you leave, you know that you have sufficient funds. Otherwise you may find yourself ‘forced’ to share a single room with someone else, or perhaps having to quit your studies/project.

  • Samantha • 18 Jan 2015 at 1.08 am Reply

    I was in Sweden two weeks ago. I plan to study there next year. I would be happy to talk with students who are living and studying in Sweden. 🙂 How easy is to get a job if you are student from other country? I want know everything, I have more questions, haha.

  • Yilmaz Salmaz • 17 Jan 2015 at 8.54 pm Reply

    Study and live in sweden is big dream in my life .

  • Tural Mammadaliyev • 17 Jan 2015 at 2.42 pm Reply


    I’m Tural Mammadaliyev and I’m a studen at the medical faculty in Turkey.I would like to be a medical doctor(Pediatric Cardiology) in Sweden.Can You give me more information about it?such as which language can I study in Sweden


    • Ayman Idris • 18 Jan 2015 at 3.26 pm Reply

      Hi Tural 🙂 I asked around, and there seems to be a consensus that getting into medical school is pretty tough in Sweden. here’s an excerpt from an international medical student’s answer to a similar question (posted on The Local’s forum,

      I’m American and studying T1 in a Swedish läkarprogram. It is certainly competitive, but definitely not impossible for a foreigner to get in. It might be harder now with the new admission rules that start in fall this year with the special selection group for students with foreign grades and probably a very limited number of seats dedicated to foreign students. But in a nutshell, you have to do the following:

      1. Pass the TISUS test or SAS B.

      2. Have your grades evaluated by Högskoleverket for equivalency and then register for any science prerequisite classes that you’re missing (you need kemi B, biologi B, fysik B, and matematik D)

      3. Take Högskoleprovet. The odds are quite low of getting in without a HP score as the universities use the HP score to sort among applicants with perfect grades (there are more people with perfect grades than seats available). The HP score also lets you compete for seats in the HP selection group — meaning that even if your grades aren’t perfect, you still have a chance of getting in if you get a really good HP score (1,8 or higher from my understanding). You do need to be fluent at least in reading Swedish before attempting the Högskoleprovet.

      There’s much more information on http://www.lä if you can read Swedish already.

      I would also add that it helps to be REALLY comfortable with speaking Swedish before proceeding. Although I have no issues with listening and reading, and I do okay with writing Swedish, I still am not totally confident with my spoken Swedish despite passing TISUS and it’s a huge source of stress in my studies as there is a lot of group work and we also have to do oral examinations in some of the courses. But the course literature is almost all English, so having fluent English can be a strength in the programme also.

      Hope this helps. Good luck.

  • Mariana • 16 Jan 2015 at 11.37 pm Reply

    “…or a story about the scary-looking 6 foot 5, sleeveless man with skull tattoos all over his arm and neck and a Mohawk, pushing a stroller with an adorable triplet in it, while his partner carries an umbrella to protect the five of them from the rain”

    That made me laugh, coming from a “macho” culture this was also a shock for me, I loved seeing the guys sharing the parenting responsabilities with their partners

    • Ayman Idris • 16 Jan 2015 at 11.49 pm Reply

      it is sweet isn’t it 😀

  • محمد خليل العبد عرب • 16 Jan 2015 at 9.36 pm Reply

    I hope to live and complete my high study in cinema at your ciuntry

    • Ayman Idris • 16 Jan 2015 at 11.43 pm Reply

      مرحباً بك يا أخي.. هل هناك جامعة معينة ترغب بالالتحاق بها في السويد؟

  • celal • 16 Jan 2015 at 9.22 pm Reply

    I am going to go to Sweden next month,and I dont know what I sholud bring with me as clothes,because of the weather.
    And which hostels is suitable for student. As I hear Stockholm is very expensive,is it true?
    thanks in advance..

    • Ayman Idris • 16 Jan 2015 at 11.48 pm Reply

      It is really, really, REALLY cold, so come prepared 🙂 I personally think that Stockholm is expensive, but I haven’t really been around much. A friend of mine from Germany told me that everything in Stockholm tends to be rather pricey even by Europe’s standards, so that’s a benchmark 🙂

  • Elliott • 16 Jan 2015 at 5.43 pm Reply

    A good read. Thanks for sharing Ayman!

    • Ayman Idris • 16 Jan 2015 at 11.51 pm Reply

      thanks my friend 🙂

  • Mohammed Musa • 16 Jan 2015 at 4.16 pm Reply

    I want study

  • Amir Zubaidi • 16 Jan 2015 at 3.31 pm Reply

    Sweden is an amazing country. I learnt a lot on its education system.

    • Ayman Idris • 16 Jan 2015 at 11.53 pm Reply

      Oh so you studied here? which university? Always nice to meet a Sweden alumnus

Reply or comment