Friends walking through the Old Town in Stockholm Friends in Gamla Stan / Photo Credits: Ulf Lundin/imagebank.sweden.se

What to expect when you become a student in Stockholm

Stockholm is a pretty big city with some big-time universities: there are a whopping fifteen universities and higher education institutions in the capital. It means that the student experience is incredibly varied here; class schedules and exam styles and partying habits are all massively different. But are there some experiences and observations which, as students in Stockholm, unite us?

Studying

  • You and 20 other students forget it’s a Red Day and that the library is closed. You all, in a rare act of strangers coming together, research which café is still open to study in. All of you subsequently race there, scavenging around for a seat next to a plug socket.
  • The person who has booked the group room you’re in after you will knock on the door at 12:00pm SHARP to tell you to, please, leave now.
  • You will feel solidarity with the fallen soldiers who, at 3pm in dark, dark December, are already asleep at their desk in the library.
  • You stretch your legs under the table in class in anticipation for the FRANTIC dash to Pressbyrån for coffee in the 10-15 minute break.
  • In the springtime, you feel an intense joy as everyone leaves the library at lunchtime to stand outside against the wall, eyes closed, taking in the magical sunshine together.
  • You think you’ll study in a café for a change of pace and then nurse your 49kr latte for hours to get your money’s worth.
Author's face and the National Library of Sweden in the sunshine

The National Library, Kungliga Biblioteket, which is honestly a treat to study in. Here was me on a sunny day / Photo Credit: Emma

Making friends

  • You will get invited on a booze cruise to Tallinn and, in a panic to make friends, you will accept.
  • You will hear Swedes yell “NAMEN HEJ?!“in surprise at running into a friend on the street and you will jump out of your skin every single time.
  • You’ve told a Stockholmer that you’ve been to Abisko or Kiruna and they’ll have responded “Oh wow!!! I’ve never been further north than Uppsala!”
  • Your Amazon wishlist probably now contains at least one of these staples of Swedish uniform: wireless Marshall headphones, a Fjällraven backpack or the cycle helmet that’s an actual airbag around your neck.
  • You’ve met someone from Skåne who really, really doesn’t like Stockholmers and you’ll awkwardly hold your beer whilst they tell you all the ways Stockholmers can be rude.
  • You’ll later realise how right they were when (particularly if you’re living in the Inner City) your neighbours do NOT want to be mates with you 🙁
  • Buuuuut if you’re living in a student dorm: Welcome to the house of fun.
  • A friend took you to sauna once and you tell everyone you meet how much you love being naked now (guilty as charged, ma’am).
  • You will meet someone cool at a bar and in effort to impress them say that of course you will attend their Konstfack exhibition showcase/friend’s brewery opening/woodland rave DJ set and then slowly…back..away..from the…commitment..
A group of friends in Stockholm on a sunny day

Friends in Stockholm / Photo Credits: Doug

Dating

  • You’ll swipe past men who are genuinely named “Love” on Tinder and wonder if this could be the beginning of your soon-to-be-fictionalised quirky Gen Z rom-com.
  • You get into very passionate debates with fellow LGBTQ+ friends about how it feels like there are hardly! any! queer! bars! left! in! the! city! 🙁
  • But then you’ll go to a bunch of fantastic queer art popups and film festivals in the city and find new gorgeous pals there too/ you’ll gaze longingly at a new crush in the film screening darkness.
  • Flirting in-person is impossible. Everyone is on the apps. Unless it’s 2:50am in the club where there is a 3:00am closing time, and many drunk straight Swedish men flock to the dancefloor like the zombies in Dawn of the Dead in search of someone to snog.
  • Getting some sexy eye-contact on the subway is also apparently impossible here. Like get it together, Björn, this commute could be way more exciting for the both of us.
  • If you do meet someone and one weekend you find yourself mushroom-picking together, you’re probably going to become sambos and start making plans to save up for a downpayment on a 2-room apartment in Nacka together very soon.
A woman taking a photo of her partner, in rural Sweden near some cows

A wonderful couple! / Photo Credits: Emma

Housing / Buildings / Design 

  • People leaving passive aggressive notes on the washing machine when you run 15 minutes over your allotted time is normal now. Maybe you have…even become….a passive aggressive note-maker.
  • You’ll get into very earnest conversations over the ongoing noise complaint debate in the city.
  • Every so often you’ll wonder whether, in the coming apocalypse, Globen will sprout legs and be weaponised against the city like in War of the Worlds.
  • You will bemoan the construction at Slussen when will it end. 
  • Gender neutral toilets will be normal, as they should be.
  • The novelty of there sometimes being TWO TOILETS IN ONE CUBICLE still won’t have worn off (see: Dirty Vegan’s toilets, Trädgården’s indoor toilets & Häktet’s toilets, to name a few delights).
Apartments blocks by the water in northern Stockholm

Housing by the water in Solna, Stockholm / Photo Credit: Emma

Commuting

  • You will curse the electric scooters in the city on a daily basis. You’ll become a hypocrite about them when you’re drunk because actually they’re just so fuuuuuun…
  • Feeling enough flygskam (flight shame) that you vow to take the night train from Stockholm to Copenhagen next time you go.
  • Not sitting next to someone on the bus unless you can really, really help it.
  • Sista minuten train fares have allowed you to be more spontaneous like your Instagram bio says you are (without breaking the bank !!)
  • The novelty of commuting by boat still hasn’t worn off.
  • Everyone who visits you is like “I probably don’t need this anymore, you have it!” about their SL card. So now you have like 4 SL cards.
  • You’ll wonder if you’ll ever ride the Duckboat.
  • When you hear Swedes complain about SJ you think oh boy you don’t know how good you have it, and then deliver a passionate monologue about how SJ trains might be your Truest Loves In This Life.
Photo of subway car stationary in the sunlight

Part of the Stockholm subway system, Roslagsbanan / Photo Credit: Emma

Food & Drink  

  • You’ll see a beer priced at 60kr and think: “this isn’t great but I know this city and truly it could be worse.”
  • It is entirely normal to get a hot dog from the national corner shop, Pressbyrån. It is not unusual to see people eating these at 10 o’clock in the morning after a Big Night Out.
  • Kanelbullar may as well be their own food group here.
  • You start to wonder why people are so mad for kanelbullar, and it actually starts to enrage you a bit. Like, are they even that good? But then at Pressbyrån the cashier asks if you want one with your coffee and you’re like “yeah, of course.”
  • It is normal and not at all weird that there is a day which celebrates every single food in the Swedish calendar.
  • Pressbyrån’s Ost Fralla roll will save you when you forget your lunchbox on the kitchen counter.*
  • *(I am not being sponsored by Pressbyrån for this content).
  • You start to befriend your local cashiers at Hemköp and COOP so you can find out when the next Oatly shortage will be.
  • After a while of seeing the same deals on Påskmust/Julmust, herring and Kalles Kaviar rotating at Hemköp you start to wonder…do Swedes just eat the same thing every holiday?
Midsommar food on a plate in the sun

Midsommar food / Photo Credit Emma

Crayfish, bread and cheese

Crayfish in Sweden / Photo Credit: Emma

Does any of the above ring true for you? Or am I just howling useless observations into the void? Let me know in the comments!

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