True confessions of Swedish dating disasters

Ask any expatriate, exchange student, fellow traveler, or even the guy selling strawberries down at the Saturday market, and they’ll all tell you the same thing: Swedish women are confusing, even more so than… well, there might not be anything more confusing than Swedish women.

Dating in Sweden can be... well, complicated to say the least. Photo: Tamar Amashukeli

And you know what? I agree. I’ve gone on a few dates here, and every time found myself more and more perplexed. Christ, even O.J. Simpson’s police chase makes more sense.

Let’s save ourselves a lot of time here and just agree that Swedish women are incredibly attractive. They have terrific personalities, million-dollar smiles, and are more in shape than 99.99% of everyone else. They’re well-educated, know exactly what they want in life, and usually speak with an accent that makes us men melt every time we hear it. Oh, and did I mention almost all of them look like they should be modeling somewhere? Seriously, Tyra Banks has nothing on them.

But damn, they are enigmatic. Allow me to illustrate by sharing my personal experiences.

I’ll admit I’ve always been a little nervous courting the opposite sex, probably due to watching – as God is my witness – more romantic comedies than quite possibly any other heterosexual male on earth. But I held firmly to the popular U.S. stereotype that Swedish women go crazy for American guys, and let my friends do the rest to inflate my ego to levels perhaps only rivaled by Muhammad Ali or Zlatan Ibrahimovic himself. I was young, I was in good shape, and I was American: when I arrived in Sweden, the ladies wouldn’t stand a chance.

But as the weeks went by, I gaped in paralyzed horror as my self-esteem was quickly ground into mush. Not only did all my previously held notions turn out to be totally wrong, but it seemed the opposite was true; compared to the endless number of good-looking, well-muscled, and much better dressed Swedish guys, it seemed no woman was interested in a pale, skinny American with absolutely zero fashion sense and a shaggy haircut.

Eventually, however, I drummed up enough courage to ask a girl from one of my classes for a fika in Teleborgs Slott. We talked, laughed, and I somehow managed to pay for her – something many Swedish women, I knew, were not used to. We hung out a few more times and, in my mind, there was no way I could fail. I was IN.

Just because you had a fika with a girl in a castle does not mean she will see it as a date. Photo: Ben Mack

But then disaster struck. I asked her to dinner, assuming the answer would be an automatic “yes.” Instead, I received a text message explaining that dinner would feel “too much like a date.”

In all my 21 years, I had never been so confused. Would feel too much like a date? Really? I mean, c’mon, we had coffee at a freakin’ castle!

A good way to get to know a girl is to spend time with her, even if it involves freezing half to death. Photo: Johannes Feldmann

In one swift blow, my self-esteem returned to its liquidous state. A few weeks later, it evaporated entirely when, after getting the phone number of a girl I had warmed up to, she rejected me by flat-out saying I wasn’t her “type.” Looking back on it, I probably asked her out for the wrong reasons anyway, but if I had known what I know now I could’ve gotten a lot more sleep.

A few weeks after her – whom my friends only refer to as “Miss A” – there was yet another girl. Unlike the others, she took the initiative of “first contact” by talking to me after a class we shared. A hopeful sign? Perhaps. But then again, I’m pretty sure I’m not psychic. And later events would certainly validate that.

The two of us had something in common right away: both of us studied journalism. She seemed to spend every moment picking my brains on life in the U.S., determined to study there one day. We had similar tastes in music and movies, and even shared a secret passion for documentaties.

Travelling to places such as Kalmar Slott is also a good way to get to know a girl. Photo: Ben Mack

We hung out every day for about a week, and finally one night she spontaneously invited me over for dinner. We ate a nice meal of chicken and rice, and then we talked for a bit. And talked. And talked. And talked some more. By the time I finally excused myself and went home, it was past 4 a.m. She had poured her heart out to me, displayed the entire spectrum of human emotion, told me things she said she had never told anyone else – or so I thought.

A couple weeks later, she told me she was seeing someone. A guy whose name I never learned, of whom she and her friends had never spoken, and of whom I didn’t even see any evidence of on Facebook.

Jeez, how cruel can a girl be? If you want to say “I’m not interested,” then just say it! Mentioning possibly fictitious boyfriends only makes it crueler!

But that’s dating in Sweden for you. If I’ve learned one thing from my time here, it’s that I don’t know anything.

So everyone, I’m with you: I’m just as clueless as you are. If you can decipher the mystery of Swedish dating, let me know.

I’ll be drowning my sorrows in coffee.

  • Magica

    Apparently you’re not familiar with the concept of friendship. Unlike many countries, friendship over sex barriers is possible in Sweden. This creates lots of cultural problems when we go abroad, and apparently for you foreigners staying in our country.

    “she took the initiative of “first contact” by talking to me after a class we shared. A hopeful sign?”
    Not a hopeful sign. If she was really interested, she would probably not have shown it so blatantly. If she talked to you after class that meant she wanted to TALK to you. Period.

  • Ss

    yeah thats the swedish girles i sometime real bitches. 

    i was living with one for lie 4month and then when her birthday was comeing she was going to have a party and guess who was not invited. but her best friendes all x where invited and a friend of my. but not me. and after that we where till together i belive then she went down to malmö to mett her bestfriend x for a date. 

    so if you want to get laid don’t put that much energy just aim for the target and go no feeling just do and you will succed. 

  • Julie

    Hi Ben,

    stumbled across this, and just wanted to say: I was actually seeing someone, however, you probably never heard of him because it didn’t work out and he turned out to be a prick that eventually just stopped talking to me for no reason. So, I didn’t not make up anything, BUT I apologize for leading you on. Like Magica above me said, friendships across sex barriers is typical here in Sweden and yeah..

    Hope you have it good on your flight back to America! See u when I get there in the future!
    Best,Julie

  • DaDa

    I think this is just something that you should see as a major cultural difference. It´s not that typical to go out on “real” dates, I´ve never been on one! I wouldn´t consider having coffee with a guy from my class as a date, but as hanging out. Also, talking is not the thing Scandinavians are famous for, so don´t expect anyone being straighforward…as dull as it sounds that´s the truth.
    Anyway, I do not think it´s about Swedish girls being bitchy (I´m not a Swede so I´m totally objective ;) ) but just not taking things so seriously. So don´t you do that either! THe best way to get to learn Swedes is in the pub anyway, when they´re drunk and ready to talk to strangers :D (apart from that talkative girl you wrote about…)

    Enjoy Växjö, it´s a cool place to study!

  • Alinka

    Swedish girls are b.tch.s.

  • Monica-USA

    Not to put you down, but sounds like you were on a mission and it is all about the journey.  But you are young eventually you will figure it out. Most relationships you start out as friends and then it can grow from that. Good luck.

  • http://annesfood.com Annesfood

    Thanks for an entertaining post  - I read it as just that, entertainment.  I hope you’ll have fun getting to know lots of Swedes, romantically and otherwise. :) (And yes, the dating culture here *is* completely different from in the US. It’s getting more similar, but actual “dates” are often seemed to be a pretty big deal.)

  • ivy@ onlinedating

    Good post, very interesting read! Online Dating

  • Fredrik Häthén

    Hah!

    Yeah, I’ve always held that the women of my country are a complete mystery. Now, I’m not exactly Mr. Oh-gosh-how-beautiful-you-are myself, but I consider myself to be a nice guy who is a good listener. Still, my strategy in life thus far has been to simply wait and hope that women throw themselves on me. I’ve only taken the initiative once, and that ended up in a complete disaster. The relationship I’m in now (which is the one, I hope) came about due to me just being in the right place at the right time.

    Oh, well. Hey, I wish you luck in your future endeavours. :D

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Kanika-Kukreja/100001254008860 Kanika Kukreja

    That was truly an entertaining post/ learned a few tit bits of dating!

  • Chrissy

    Ben!!!! The sentence I like most is about your literally “zero sense for fashion” ;-)
    Although we have had so many conversations about those stories, it is still really amusing to read it all summed up. Man, you really had some sort of bad luck with the swedish ladies. But as you know from my experiences – swedish guys are not easier to understand either. 
    A really nice blog entry though. 
    I miss you!
    Many hugs from Germany :-)

  • steve

    This is honestly resembles my REAL personal experience..you will so shocked by Swedish gals. I was with a girl for over five months, throughout the cold winter, she had a car, she could pick me up from my lectures, at times we could read together in or school library, cooked together, went for cinema plus. The reality I was falling deeper for this girl each day. I got tired of this saga, being in the dark. I told her what I felt felt because we were not progressing. She shocked me, that she didn’t feel anything either, till now am still nursing my self. Its like i have instead hated them all. I was so hurt..I pray I recover, its been five months now since we stopped contact.   

  • MadSwami

    Hi Ben,

    I am sorry to hear you had a difficult time with the Swedish chicks man.. I on the other hand had a completely opposite experience than yours. I was in Stockholm last summer (Backpacking Europe with friends after completing my Undergrad degree) researching schools for Masters Programmes. I was there for about 10 days, and hooked up with about 4 beautiful Swedish girls out of those 10 days. I think it had to do a lot with the fact where I was from which I will keep disclosed but it is in the US, however, ultimately the rule for women globally is universal. All women are attracted to confidence. Plain and simple. With that being said, I’m sure you are a very charismatic and intelligent fellow, but sometimes you gotta just put it all on the line and march to the beat of your own drum.

    • Yummy_Prosciutto

      Good Sir, you are from NYC. First round on me.

  • Pingback: Swedish Love | Your thoughts

  • QuKhen

    Dude, dating in Sweden doesn’t exist.

    • Domadoris

      my Dear
      i love ur profile i want you to send your email to my email box so i can give you my picture for you to know whom i am. Here is my email address (domadoris@yahoo.com) I believe we can move from here!
      I am waiting for your mail to my email address above.
      doris

  • boazones

    Hi, I think every one must have a difrent opinion abouth swidis girls, i am runing a dating site at the mom boazones.co.uk or just .com but i think the swidis girls are realy prity!! But i know they naive and dat and some times as the Ben sayd they not realy into dating but just go along with having fun in any way they girls brother is what they do have funn with boys some times sounds not so good but girls funn includes everithing!
    Hey boys dont forguet regist at may dating site http://www.boazones.co.uk
    Thanks u :)

    • doris

      my Dear
      i love ur profile i want you to send your email to my email box so i can give you my picture for you to know whom i am. Here is my email address (domadoris@yahoo.com) I believe we can move from here!
      I am waiting for your mail to my email address above.
      doris

  • Zubia

    Hi,

    I like to have women friends from Sweden and Denmark.

    I am a student and I want to improve my Swedish.

    I am 43 years old and I like to have women friends between 35 till 60 years can be ok.

    Please if you like to talk with me drop a e.mail: liveinsunshine@rocketmail.com

    I wait of your reply.

    Have a lovely day.

  • Elin Cak

    Hey!
    Sorry about everything that happend to you in Sweden, but i don’t think the girls really understod that you wanted more then a friendship…

  • Wilbert Dunn

    I think the issue here is about dating and getting a relationship to grow.Not everybody know what they want but may be you can help that girl know what she wants.Would you not

    be pround that after dating a swedish girl she finally recognises what she wants in life.Even if the relationship ends let both parties will be winners. sex nu

  • Paul

    Ben. I’ve been living in Stockholm for 6 years and I had a similar issue to you initially. I’m English and compared to the Swedish guys, a gentleman. Swedish women are very independent. Often, they don’t like being fussed over and want a like minded partner who also knows what he wants and isn’t worried about waiting for the right time to get it. Backing up what Swami said it has a lot to do with confidence. Next time you try, don’t beat around the bush. Take the girl to a bar, have a good laugh together and get her into bed the same day! The relationship part will come along later.

  • Paul

    Zubia. Enrol on a Swedish language course and also try match.com

  • Russianladies2

    Did youever met a girl from Ukraine? They are beautiful!!!
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  • Joeshep_5

    Hey man, I’m a student in Sweden now, and I couldn’t agree more. The women are very friendly, and even make flirty eyes, but trying to get a date or going fiurther on a date is near impossible. I’m british, so not used to this aloofness. In Britain we talk, flirt and fuck, a second date is expected but not a requirement. Hereit seems women are the dominant sex, but they don’t expect to approach the guy, which makes it all very strange. I noticed it’s a lot easier to make relations with older women, 30s to 40s, I think they take a long time to grow in sexual maturity and don’t fuck like rabbits like most other young people. But I could be wrong?

    • guest

      Hi, Im a british girl who now lives in Norway, all the sweedish women here that Ive met or worked with are completly slutty and happy to admit it!
      My then Norwegian boyfriend said I am so difficult to understand compared to sweedish girls who are sex crazy, erm Ive never been a hoar plain and simple.

  • Ratchanapron

    Hej, i am so sorry to meet one man form Sweden he lie to come me on my country to have wedding party when he go back, he change not online not talk with me and he change number telphon. now all my family ask about where are your husband ?

  • Erik

    I think what most people don’t get is that the very concept of dating is an American invention. Here in Sweden it doesn’t exist. There are friends, and then there are couples, there is no dating in between.
    Basically you either pick a girl you want, or get to know her as friends before you become interested. Then you test the waters and make a few passes to find out if she’s interested, and then you make your move quickly and emphatically. If she’s interested, you’re a couple, bam, end of story.

    In the viking age, Scandinavian men would sit next to a girl at a feast and get to know her, and maybe once more at another feast, but the by the third time if he was still interested, and she hadn’t already turned him down, he was expected to ask for her hand in marriage. Thankfully things don’t move that quickly anymore, but Swedish love lives are still quite fast paced compared to other parts of the world.

  • emmymclean

    Ben,

    Fantastic entry! I myself live in Denmark and write a column on daring Danish men… I have had scenario number 1 and 3 happen to me multiple times so I totally get where you’re coming from. And I agree- I have concluded I know nothing about Danish men even after 18months living here.

  • emmymclean

    Ben,

    Fantastic entry! I myself live in Denmark and write a column on daring Danish men… I have had scenario number 1 and 3 happen to me multiple times so I totally get where you’re coming from. And I agree- I have concluded I know nothing about Danish men even after 18months living here.

  • Swedishbitchmaster

    Swedish bitches! They think because they’re so damn beautiful they should be a super-model or marry some rich old fart. Note to Heidi: Your shit does stink bitch along with everyoen else’s.

  • Folten

    Hi, well my experience with Scandinavians has been quite direct. Though only have been only with one Swedish girl, and still I´m with her. This happened quite quickly, we meet once in a bar I talk to her all night and ask her for her phone number. Then next day I text her and couple days after we went out and the evening finish in the couch of her house. What I wanna imply is that some time you just have to let it flow, and if you like her and things seem smooth just go with your guts and act. Let her know that your interested in her. As some ppl say who thinks looses. And what I have understand from Scandinavias is that they are direct in that sense. So you just strike at the first chance. If not they will see you as a good friend.

  • Davislasky516

    Buddy, you must have been doing everything wrong. Im from ny and sweden is a total goldmine. I dont know which of all of them to date the next girl seems to always be better than the one before. Step your game up son. Im 23 and prematurly bald, with a slightly deformed jaw due to boxing punches and blows that broke bones. You can do it mannn. Ps no joke i would seriously go to the bars sometimes in sweatpants or a one piece sweater

  • Yummy_Prosciutto

    The journalist gall was waiting for you to make a move. You were too reserved.
    They already have plenty of attractive, stylish but not-aggressive men.