Stockholm, the stomping grounds of Karlsson on the Roof!
Growing up, escapades of a handsome, thoroughly clever, perfectly plump man in his prime introduced me to the Swedish capital. I imagined I knew it well… on rooftop level. Years passed, love to this adorable rascal faded away along with the desire to fly over the city à la Karlsson looking through the windows.
I haven’t thought much about visiting Stockholm. Frankly, I prefer warmer pastures of SE Asia. The tropical climate is more practical too when one has to fit all possessions into a single bag. An unpredictable twist of fate, landed us in Swedish capital earlier this year on a business trip.
It was, perhaps, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity of spending two months in the Venice of the North. Why? Stockholm is awesome but notoriously expensive. For a foreign visitor, it is a heck of a lot of money spent on housing, eating out and medical expenses in case of unwisely getting sick there. Surprisingly, grocery prices are relatively reasonable: a bit more expensive than in Portugal, but cheaper than in Australia. A decent lunch costs under $12 USD. In short, a slow traveler on a budget can’t afford to live comfortably in Stockholm.
Stockholm tips, anyone?
I thought I had a pretty good understanding of what life would be like in the Swedish capital. After all, it’s not some godforsaken place nobody heard about. There is a plethora of news, reviews, articles and blog posts about the city seemingly covering all facets of everyday life. Yet, there were surprises. You do not know what you do not know.
Here are 10 things I didn’t know about the city. I hope you might find these Stockholm tips informative and helpful.
Swedes are friendly
Before the trip, I was warned that Swedes are unfriendly. Perhaps, it was a misleading statement that confused different traits of character. In my experience, Stockholmers were kind and pleasant albeit reserved and private. If you ask me to describe them in one sentence, it would be: do not hesitate to ask for directions but do not expect to be invited into the house after the first meeting.
Everybody speaks English
In my 6+ years of traveling around the world, Stockholm was the first place in a non-English speaking country where everybody spoke English. In two months, I met just one person who didn’t.
Sun is out – everybody is out
That’s easy to understand after countless months of winter.
Stockholm is not flat
In my dreams, Stockholm was flat. There is no reasonable explanation why, but I was surprised.
Even though Stockholmers are polite and reserved, during rush hour, they transform into a bunch of maniacs. Watch out – otherwise, you will get run over by bicycle.
Swedes smoke a lot everywhere and do not hesitate to throw cigarette butts on a floor.
Stockholm is dusty and dirty
Of course, it didn’t help that there is a major construction project underway in Slussen. However, as stated above, it wouldn’t excuse locals throwing cigarette butts on the ground or a layer of dust covering any outdoor chair or table.
Ferries won’t take you everywhere, but they are a convenient and entertaining way to get from point A to point B where available.
Gin and tonic with pepper
It is a Swedish thing, and it really works. Above all, it makes you happy.
No cash country
Sweden is rapidly moving to become a cashless country. It’s not uncommon to see “No cash” sign at bars and restaurants. Do not let this catch you off guard. Ideally, a chip-and-pin credit card works the best. However, we didn’t have any issues using our American chip-and-signature cards. Only once, inexperienced sales clerk had to ask a manager how to deal with it.
Last but not least, I enjoyed the Swedish capital, Stockholm tips were optional.
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16 thoughts on “10 Things I Didn’t Know About Stockholm”
I think I am like you – never particularly thought about/ yearning to visit Stockholm. But I have friends who did and they all said great things about it so I’m sure it’s every bit worth visiting. I’m surprised though that it can get dusty and dirty – imagine that’d usually be the case only in Asia, etc.
Seems like you enjoyed a great stay in one of my favorite cities! As you note, Swedes can be friendly, especially once you get to know them. 🙂 Now I’m off to try that G&T with pepper!
You go , girl! 🙂
I was so disappointed when I visited Stockholm and the amount of trash/littering/cigarette butts. I was always under the impression that Stockholm was pristine. Overall, I did enjoy it. Especially Gamla Stan and all the museums!!
The amount of trash baffled me at first. Just like you, I somehow expected that Stockholm should be spotlessly clean. In fact, I had the same misconception about Berlin. Once I accepted the actual reality, I really liked Stockholm.
I was in Stockholm last year and the loved the city. I think it is great all over Northern Europe are taking a credit card and is the norm even for a very low value amount. I haven tried a ton and tonic with pepper! Sounds strange! Was it nice?
Thank you for your comment, Lucy. Gin and tonic with pepper was very nice – lots of flavor and no sweetness. I tried to avoid sugar as much as I can, so it was a great find for me. Cheers!
Very interesting and candid post! 🙂 I haven’t been to Sweden but know quite a few Swedes… and they all speak perfect English. Didn’t see the cigarette disposal habit though thankfully 🙂
Thank you 🙂 I knew quite a few Swedes before our trip too. They spoke perfect English. My guess was – if you learn a new language better to do it properly. Coming to a foreign city where an entire population was accustomed to using it was different. I was truly impressed.
I adored Stockholm and had expected it to be much more expensive than it actually was. I visited last minute and didn’t have time to plan much, or convert money. Did the entire stay using my travel card, so easy!
We’ve never been to Stockholm because we always prefer going to warmer areas of the world. But it’s on our bucket list for a long weekend getaway. We’ve also heard that Swedes are not very friendly, but like you said they’re probably just reserved. It’s good to know that they prefer credit cards over cash. So we won’t have to change too much money when we travel to Stockholm. Thank you for this very informative post!
You are welcome 🙂 There is a great way to do sightseeing in Stockholm – rent a cool Vespa scooter and explore the city with their customized tours designed by locals. Cheers!
I’ve never been to Stockholm but also imagined it to be flat. Now I’m curious to see how it’s not flat. What is it about Europeans and their cigarette butts? We have the same problem in Austria. They don’t litter except for those darned butts. Your tips on Stockholm are great for those everyday experiences in a foreign city.
Hi, Linda. Great to hear from you. Stockholm’s terrain was, curiously, one of the biggest surprises. All photographs of the city show its impressive architecture but fail to notice a worthy competitor – beautiful cliffs. Cheers!
I love the ferry system and it is so cheap. I think it is strange that people are big smokers and yet there are so many bicycle riders comparable to drivers in the city.
I wonder if the smoking situation looks different from the American point of view. In the US, we got used to a variety of “no smoking” policies and, over the years, they did affect the society. There are way fewer smokers in the US in comparison to some European countries. In Spain or Bulgaria, I was almost choking in some restaurants surrounded by fellow diners who all were impersonating chimneys. Sweden was better in this regard, but still far from the US.