Life in Stockholm

What comes to mind when you think of life in Stockholm? Can you picture a daily routine or the city’s landscape? Stockholm is actually built on 14 islands and consists of one­third water and one­third green space, making it a special place to call home. Find out more, with these insights.

Stockholm was founded in the 13th century and developed through the centuries into an important European cultural centre. City districts are mostly self­contained islands, centred around medieval Gamla stan. Home to 2.2 million people across the metropolitan area (just over a fifth of the Swedish population), it’s a vibrant, modern city. However, due to large amounts of green space – and water – it rarely feels crowded.


Outdoor activities are very important to Stockholmers, whether it’s skiing, ice­skating and sledding in the winter or barbecues, watersports and nature walks in the summer. Public access to the countryside is protected by law, so you can make the most of the beautiful forests, islands and rivers. Despite its high latitude, the weather is fairly sunny – Stockholm has more hours of sunshine in an average year than London or Paris. There are many bus tours you can take to explore different aspects of the city which can be found in The Ultimate Stockholm Guide for Tours.

Stockholm has many excellent galleries and museums with affordable entry fees, due to state support. It also has a vibrant music scene and its own literature festival. The Stockholm underground is known as the world’s longest art gallery (110km long), since most stations are adorned with sculptures, mosaics, paintings, installations, engravings or reliefs – the work of 150 different artists. Sweden is of course also known for textile and interior design, combining function with aesthetics.


Sweden is known for its commitment to equality and the national culture is comparatively non­hierarchical. Lagom is a great Swedish word for illustrating this; it could be translated as ‘just right’, ‘appropriate’ or ‘fair share’. Dating back to the Viking era, it originally referred to sipping from a communal horn filled with mead – having your share, but leaving enough for the others. In a cultural sense, it means that Swedes value balance, moderation and consensus. When English texts are translated into Swedish, it’s often necessary to delete superlatives and tone down over­enthusiastic language, which can come across as over­the­top. Politeness and punctuality are also valued. If you’re invited to someone’s home, be sure to arrive exactly on time and take off your shoes before entering.


Work­life balance is taken seriously and workers in Sweden receive a minimum of 25 days of holiday a year, which they often take in the summer months. Stockholm can feel almost empty in July! Many people have holiday homes in the archipelago. On the downside, this means that shops often don’t open past six o’clock, close early on Saturdays and may not be open at all on Sundays. Shared parental leave is the norm for couples with children – mothers and fathers can both take paid time off after a child’s birth, up to 240 days per child each.


Despite its family­ oriented culture, only around a third of Swedes are married. Most couples have sambo relationships – sam being short for samman, together, and bo being short for boende, accommodation. They live together without being married. 89% of Swedes speak English and there are excellent bilingual schools. However, for full integration, learning the Swedish language is crucial. Free schooling is available to all, including at university level, although students from other EU countries must pay university fees. Sweden pays high school students a small grant and the majority of teenagers stay in school until at least 18.


As well as Christmas, New Year and Easter, there are a few other special occasions in Sweden. One of them is Walpurgis Night, a celebration of Spring and the end of the administrative year in Medieval times. It takes place on 30th April with singing and bonfires. Another celebration is Midsummer, the summer solstice, which is celebrated with maypoles, dancing and lots of herring! Wearing flowers in your hair is practically compulsory. Did you know that Sweden has one of the highest levels of coffee consumption in the world? This is probably due to ‘fika’ – coffee breaks with sweet pastries that can be taken at most times of the day to catch up with friends, colleagues or family. ‘Fika’ is a very important part of life in Stockholm. Outside of bars or restaurants, alcohol can only be purchased at the systembolaget (government­controlled stores). Alcohol is fairly expensive and the Swedes are no strangers to the ‘booze cruise’ – trips to neighbouring countries to buy cheaper alcohol. Swedes also celebrate several food­specific days across the year: cream buns on Shrove Tuesday, cinnamon buns on October 4th, waffles on March 25th and King Gustav II Adolf cakes on November 4th. Not to mention the many crayfish parties, usually held in August.


If you still have questions about life in Stockholm or Sweden, you may wish to take part in a new initiative to celebrate the 250th anniversary of the outlawing of censorship: “get connected to a random Swede and talk about anything”. More details available under