Black Coffee and Clothes: 10 Initial Impressions of Stockholm

We’ve all heard that the Swedes are tall, blonde, and quiet, but there is really a lot more to them. After a couple of weeks in Stockholm, I have picked up on a few unique characteristics of this city and the people who live here. Now that the initial culture shock is wearing off, I’ve come up with a list of my top impressions of Stockholm and the Swedes.

1 ) Reserved Swedes

At first, it was an adjustment for me to monitor my tone of voice and learn to not start conversations with strangers. Although this was a bit of an abrupt switch, it didn’t take long to learn that the reserved nature of the Swedes is not rudeness or shyness, it’s a different way of communicating. Which brings me to my next point…

2) The Swedes are very in tune with each other

There seems to be a lot of nonverbal communication going on that I don’t yet understand. People know when to get out of each other’s way to get off of public transportation and I seem to be the only one constantly bumping into others on crowded sidewalks.

3) Everybody jaywalks

The lights signaling when it is and it is not okay to cross the street are basically irrelevant. If there is not a car coming (and sometimes if there is), the Swedes are walking. Compared to my semester in Copenhagen, where everyone obeys traffic signals, jaywalking in Stockholm feels like a walk on the wild side!

4) Personal space

I take my “personal bubble” pretty seriously and I’m not used to sitting next to strangers. It was an adjustment for me to take the empty seat next to someone on the train rather than opting to stand. It was even weirder for me to sit next to a stranger without saying anything to them!

5)  The Swedes like their clothes like they like their coffee: black.

When did gray start to look like such a bright color? I tend to wear a lot of black and neutrals, but some of my gem tones are really looking eccentric here.

Trying to blend in with my neutrals!

6) Even the children are fashionable


From infants riding in style in their carriages, to toddlers in full body snow gear, to 6-year-olds in skinny jeans, the kids all look awesome. There is even a large population of well-dressed tiny dogs. Although I don’t think I would look great in a stroller or snowsuit, Swedish children look adorable in them, and some of these young kids really are more fashionable than me.

7) Not everything is IKEA

The combination of modern and classic design makes the city interesting. DIS students are lucky to have the opportunity to go to school in a modern facility and have the opportunity to take in classically beautiful architecture, too.

Gamla Stan could not get any more beautiful


8) It’s cold and dark

No surprises here. As a Minneapolis native, I understand cold, but it can be difficult when combined with such short daylight hours. This may be even harder for those who aren’t used to winter the way I am. Bring on the fika.

9) I can’t do the SEK to USD conversion in my head, but I know that 50 SEK is a lot to spend on coffee

I consider a good cup of coffee to be priceless, but I also would like to come home without completely draining my bank account. Try out TheFork and Foodora for deals on food and search for student discounts wherever you go! (Speaking of wherever you go- get there by public transit.)

10) Coffee is a way of life

Now, this is something I can get on board with. I had heard about fika before I came to Stockholm, but now I understand just how seriously the Swedes take their coffee breaks. I started drinking a lot of coffee when I got here because I was jetlagged, but I kept drinking a lot of coffee to keep up with the Swedes.

From enjoying lovely lattes in quaint cafes, to drinking drip coffee at my desk, there is no wrong way to drink coffee!


I have always been a coffee drinker and all-black-everything has been my style mantra for years, so in some ways I feel like I fit right in. Next steps to becoming a real Swede: Stop talking to strangers and get a tiny dog!

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