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Monday, October 8, 2012

Undoing Stockholm: A guide to surviving the big city

Beware of Stockholm: This beautiful and charming city can eat you alive, or at the very least turn you into someone you don't want to be.
Stockholm may not be among the biggest in the world as far as cities go, however when it comes to hustle and bustle it is your scandinavian destination of choice. Whether you live here or you're just visiting, beware of Stockholm: This beautiful and charming city can eat you alive, or at the very least turn you into someone you don't want to be.

In an effort to counter all that "big city feeling" that Stockholm carries with it, here's my short and simple guide to surviving the capital of Scandinavia, in a few easy-to-follow everyday actions:

1- Keep it in your pocket

In Stockholm everybody and their grandmother has a smartphone. Literally. Just because you have one doesn't mean you should be fiddling with it every chance you get, especially while using public transportation. Remember to look up every once in a while, who knows, you might make eye contact with someone, hell you might even get a smile !

2- Listen to the sounds of the city

If you put your earphones on every time you step outside on your own, this little piece of advice is for you: Stop the music, and take those earphones off! As far as things covering your ears go, anything that isn't there to prevent them from freezing should stay in your pockets, or at home. Instead of drowning out the rest of the world, try taking it in for a change. If you're lucky, this just might encourage people to start a conversation with you.

3- They don't drive themselves you know..

You know how big cities are, everyone looks like they've got somewhere to be, and they're already late. Well that might be true for most people, except for bus drivers.
Imagine having to drive up and down the same route for a few hours at a pretty slow pace - during rush hour if you're lucky - having nobody to make conversation with and no music to sing along to. That doesn't seem like much fun, does it ?
If you appreciate the effort the drivers put into making sure you get where you want to be, return the kindness: Next time you get on a bus, start by saying hello to the driver and smiling, I'm sure he'll appreciate it.

4- Say 'Thank you'

For a capital, Stockholm has a surprisingly low risk of getting run over by a car. Drivers here are generally very well behaved, and never miss an opportunity to slow down to allow pedestrians and cyclists to cross the street. Yet for such kind drivers,
it's not very often that you see someone make eye contact with the driver while crossing the street, smile, or say 'thank you'. Wouldn't that be nice ?

5- They're only strangers until you talk to them

Never will you see a scene so bewilderingly asocial as that of Stockholmers waiting for a bus under the pouring rain. Everybody is squeezing themselves under the shelter to avoid getting wet, and yet everybody's avoiding each other, looking at their shoes or their smartphones. That is perhaps what best underlines the average Stockholmer's aversion to taking the first step towards interacting with strangers.
It's all over now: Starting today you will start a conversation with at least one complete stranger every day. It doesn't have to be a meaningful conversation, you could just say Hello, it counts as long as you say something !

6- And while I've got you doing stuff you wouldn't normally do..'s one more for you: Hug an expat ! Or maybe just talk to one.
Stockholm has an amazing expat community, and if you don't have at least a few friends that aren't Swedes, you just might be missing out on some of the fun and excitement this beautiful city has to offer. Think of it as a two-way exchange: You help us get the insider scoop on everything Swedish, and we let you in on the secrets of the rest of the world. Pretty sweet deal, right ?

Recommended media:

Wondering where all those expats are hiding ? A few good places to start:
- Language Exchange - Stockholm for those interested in learning new languages.
- The Stockholm Expat Meetup Group, Stockholm Party People and Internations for interest based-events and other types of mingling get-togethers.
Making the morning commute more humane (on topic TED Talks)
Campaign aims to teach Swedes how to say 'hi' - Chin up Stockholm, it seems things aren't better in Malmö..

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October 8, 2012 at 10:38 AM sheeshany

Well, this shall come handy when we visit I guess :)

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