The Winter Swede and the Summer Swede

The sun shone relentlessly, every weekend, and almost every day, during the summer of 2013 in Sweden. It seemed for over 3 months that we were all tipsy on the more extreme version of the ideal Swedish summer life. Phones plinged all the time, whether a Saturday morning or a Tuesday evening, with group chats or various friends messaging to round people up for swimming sessions on Långholmen, picnics on Skinnarviksberget, BYOB happy hours in the middle of Humlegården. It was intoxicating and exhausting. I sometimes needed a break, some alone time spent quietly inside, but my fear of missing out and the ever present hole in my heart from missing California drove me to say yes nine times for every no. It was the same for everyone I knew. Few things define carpe diem like what Swedes do with a vibrantly sunny day.

Swedes know this, in fact. They love the way they are in summer. They seem to believe that in the summer they are their best selves... more positive, more outgoing, more proactive, more tan, and better looking... sporting about in their cream colored cardigans and denim shorts and Ray Bans, sipping rose as the sun hovers on the horizon for hours on end without going down.

The long and dark winters that Sweden experiences are known to have an effect on the Swedish psyche. The colder days do not make one very prone to doing more things, conversing with more people, and they certainly aren't so easy on the stress level when forgetting your gloves makes the difference between a manageable walk home and a quite painful one. Self-reported depressive moods are more prevalent during the winter season. When speaking more bitterly, you'll may hear a Swede say that Winter is spent simply waiting for it to end, and in even more bitter tones, "why would anyone move to cold dark Sweden anyway, where the people are also cold and not so friendly?" Ouch.

After a few seasons of each, I think that the Winter Swede and the Summer Swede are not opposing characters, one as the quieter sadder shadow who is outshone by their happy sociable ideal self. They are more counterparts, where they each exist to balance each other out, and the flamboyant beauty of one side is matched in importance by the introspective comfort of the other.

When it comes to romance, the Summer Swede may...

  • Start seeing someone new without much thought, and let them go as easily, because although that late night city swim with them after leaving the bar was fun, and there was potential in the way the conversation flowed with them while flipping through youtube videos the next morning, vacation is coming soon and after that the weekend trip with friends, and the instinct is that any investment in the new fling costs too much right now.  
  • Have their eyes wide open, to see that there's potential in every corner for love or lust, because the light is there finally to illuminate it. the bar patio is light and fresh in the early morning hours, and they'll see someone floating around who may have rotated in different locations months before. they may meet that friend of a friend at a midsummer party who is not really their type but was so damn fun to sing along with so they'll go for it. where were all these fun shiny people hiding during winter? how will we have enough time to kiss all of them? no one knows. 
  • Revel in being single. 
The Winter Swede may...
  • Try or wish to not be single. Maybe it's the cold and darkness that make them only temporarily long for a partner. And maybe for some of them, it's a time to reconcile themselves with matters of the heart that reveal themselves when there's no distracting sunshine. Many download dating apps, a path they may not have opened up to when there seemed to be potential in every sunny corner.
  • Be more likely to hook up with or go back to or reconsider someone from before.  Companionship is the name of the winter game... and that means that connections aren't taken for granted. In fact, who needs a spontaneous sailing trip where one might meet someone new on a Saturday afternoon? Isn't it more cozy to stay in and make brunch with that familiar face? They sure are fun to look at youtube videos with, after all.
  • Solidify their love. The summer fling lasted in fact, and in the months that follow, the building blocks for something more and deeper may be put into place. During the snow and the rain, the first fights, the missing them when they are away for a week with their family over Christmas, the more nights than not spent together, the getting to know their friends and their annoying habits... it becomes real. What it would be like if the next sunny summer was spent by their side? That could be pretty magical. 

When it comes to friendship, the Summer Swede may...

  • Invite more people more easily.
  • Develop new friendships more easily. 
  • Say yes to new events more easily. 
  • Forget to celebrate their friends' summer birthdays, or not be able to due to vacations and whatnot.
The Winter Swede may...

  • Give deeply to their closest friends, and see mostly only them repeatedly.
  • Limit the social scope of focus and invest more time with family, if there wasn't a chance in the summer. 
  • Create meaningful events and celebrations for friends' and their own birthdays. 

    When it comes to lifestyle, the Summer Swede may...
    • Live in the moment. There is very little that isn't lovely on the five senses in a Swedish summer, and there's little work to be done, usually, and little than anyone else expects from another. Why rush to tomorrow? To the next hour? The sun is here today, this minute. Work lunches out in the sun last longer. A midweek evening beer by the water turns into three.
    • Plan less, think less and go off the beaten path. 
    • Hardly ever be inside, at home or the gym. The oven is rarely turned on, and it's simple outside grilling that makes for most meals. The morning yoga gym routine is brushed aside for perhaps a run by the water, but most likely a picnic with beers. 
    • Be inspired to change. There's things about the brightness and the happiness that can kick one into gear, see the present situation more clearly, and realize what may need to change, what might be dragging one down. "It's time to switch jobs" or "I need to move abroad"and "I can't be with my boyfriend anymore." But that isn't often the time that the change is actually made, just inspired, because...
    The Winter Swede may...
    • Enact change. There is time to contemplate, plan, take steps and move forward in the colder season. Distractions are fewer, so that idea or realization they had in the summer? It gains legs now. Many new jobs are secured, serious relationships ended, and life paths re-directed in this season. 
    • Plan more, invest, and develop routines that help with health or consistency. 
    • Spend a lot of time inside. This going without saying of course, when the weather is cold, but the Winter Swede knows how to do it and do it well. Light candles for any or no occasion. Cook and bake a lot. Work out a lot. Homes are kept so bright and clean and Scandinavianly uncluttered here primarily because of the indoor needs of the Winter Swede. 
    • Live in the future. Thoughts are not as much in the moment, they can be in the abstract. The future of one's business, of one's family, the introspection of self... there's all kinds of processing that the cold dark months enable so well. 

    One side is buoyed by the other. They wouldn't be happy being only one self or the other. I'm grateful when I, and my friends, and everyone else I encounter here, shift from the Winter version of ourselves to the Summer one, but also vice versa. And most of all, I appreciate that for those that I'm close with, generalizations don't really apply so well, and that our loyalty, sense of fun, investment in each other and devotion to quality of life doesn't really shift much at all from season to season. 


    1. Hey! My name is Sara and I just came across your blog and I'm honestly obsessed because we are so much alike! I want to go to college and eventually live in Sweden because when I visited I just fell in love and I would love to have somebody like you who has experience and knowledge about it to talk to!

    2. Hi Sara!

      Thanks for the comment and compliment! Would be really fun to go to college here!

      Some things to know about doing that:

      -most Swedes are at least 20 but usually a bit older when they start college/university
      -they drink like fish here. it's bananas. student life is extremely fun but it totally centers on intoxication, it seems. i sorta think that in the States there's pleeennnttyyyyyy of partying in college but there's a lot of student life options going on that are not as centered on drinking. but as i said, being a student here for one year (when i was 27) was a total blast.
      -since the university system here is largely based on one grade from a final at the end of each semester, with fewer hours in class compared to American universities, you need to be prepared to really keep yourself in check studying-wise and learning-absorption-wise. plenty of my friends made it through their Swedish university years by studying everything at the end in like two days but i think that is not an ideal learning process.

      But all that said, going to university in Sweden is THE best way in my opinion to get super plugged into an amazing social life here, which is especially valuable if you live here post-graduation as I did. I have never had a problem with having enough friends since I studied here and then most of those friends moved to Stockholm as I did after university. AND it's really helpful to have a Swedish university on your resume for finding a job here.

      I think if you have already visited and fallen in love with the country, your love would only deepen if you ever lived here. I encourage you to follow that love! :)

      Write me anytime!


    3. This comment has been removed by the author.

    4. I don't how I accidentally deleted my last comment, whoops haha, but thanks so much for taking time to reply and giving me some of your insight! Right now I'm still in high school so I was looking at foreign exchange/study abroad program for a semester because I think that would help me a lot in deciding (if I am able to because there's so much you have to do like find a program, get matched with a family, fill out forms, etc.) Anyways, thanks again for replying and I look forward to talking with you more :)

    5. Sounds like a smart plan, Sara! It's a lot of work to get yourself abroad for study or work or anything. But it is so worth it. Check in with me if you have more questions or need encouragement!

    6. Sounds like a smart plan, Sara! It's a lot of work to get yourself abroad for study or work or anything. But it is so worth it. Check in with me if you have more questions or need encouragement!

    7. Hi Corinne, I enjoyed reading your posts! Do you have an email I can contact you on?

      Thanks :-)

    8. I think it would be the same in Chicago or any place that has distinct seasons? Anyway, I love your blog, have read much on it lately. I am a 30 year old swedish man who lives close to Stockholm. Maybe we can go out for a drink?

    9. Hi Corinne! I recently stumbled upon your blog and have enjoyed reading your posts! I am looking to do my masters in Sweden and have a few questions about studying there and life after graduation. Is there a way I could email you? I would appreciate it so much! Thank you!

    10. Dear Corinne,

      I am writing on behalf of Newcomers, a Stockholm based relocation company. We enjoyed reading your blog and wondered if you would be interested in guest blogging for us.
      We have a new section on our website called Expat Stories where you can read about other expats’ relocation to Sweden. We would be delighted if you could share some of your experiences of moving to and living in Sweden with us – and fellow expats.
      We would appreciate if you could have a look at our website and let us know if this could be of interest to you. In the meantime, please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions that you might have.
      We look forward to hearing from you.
      Best regards

      Anne Pihl

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