18 Apr 2024
Dating in the City: Being a fearless Swedish woman
Community Dating Expat Dating Lifestyle

Dating in the City: Being a fearless Swedish woman

Surrounded by silent Nordic types – what does it take to find love in Sweden? YLC’s fabulous new columnist Claire Duffy sets out to explore the unchartered territories of expat dating in Stockholm.


I noticed him almost as soon as I arrived. I was a bit early, so hovered by the bar while I waited for my friends, pretending to read thousands of texts of general fabulousness instead of a Facebook message from my mum, and ever so subtly glanced over from time to time. I caught him glancing back. Promising.

Well it would be, were we not in Sweden. Anywhere else, a bit of promising eye contact will likely be followed by an approach, an ironic cheesy line perhaps, a bit of flirtatious banter, and possibly everlasting lurve or at least an awkward breakfast. In Sweden, a bit of promising eye contact is normally followed by a bit of less promising eye contact.


Next comes a little more eye contact, during which you start to wonder if it’s really eye contact or he’s just staring randomly into the distance and you’re in the way. Then the the bar closes.


I had been trapped in this world of naught but promising eye contact for quite some time when I had a bit of a moan to a Swedish girlfriend. “Why don’t they ever come and talk to me?” I whined. Don’t get me wrong: I’m well aware that promising eye contact can be hit or miss at the best of times, but I also (err, modestly) feel it’s statistically likely that at least handful of the men in the Greater Stockholm area would be interested enough to elevate matters to a bit of flirtatious banter. So what’s going wrong?

“You are supposed to go and talk to them!” she diagnosed cheerfully, and I won’t lie to you: I went a bit cold.

You know that bit in Grease, during the high school dance, there’s a shot of a few dorky girls sitting on the bleachers, bored, tapping their feet to the music? Then a guy comes and asks one of them to dance, her face lights up as he leads her away and the others look on mournfully? I hate that bit. I’ve resented it since I first saw the film, age 12, long before I was interested in any boys other than Brandon Walsh off 90210. In some ways, it feels like the last frontier of feminism: women are free to pursue lives of professional and financial independence, yet – where I come from and have previously lived – we’re still trapped being somewhat passive in matters of romance. We wait for him to ask us out, him to call, him to propose.


So it’s brilliant and exciting and liberating that kick-ass Swedish women think nothing of taking matters into their own hands… but it’s still deeply terrifying.


Determined to come over all kick-ass Swedish woman and make the move, but unfortunately remaining British and so frozen to the spot in horror at the thought of it, I had a brainwave. There was talk of moving on to another bar, and so I decided that on the way out, I would slip a note with my phone number into his hand with an enigmatic smile, then disappear into the night, leaving behind only an air of mystery and allure. Brilliant. Classy, seductive, and best of all, I wouldn’t actually have to talk to him.

It all started to fall apart when I handed him the note. I was just about to do my enigmatic smile, when… he hugged me. No, I don’t know why either. I left less an air of mystery and allure, and more a dent in his jumper from my nose unexpectedly smooshing into into his chest. I pulled back, and, feeling suddenly that it was rude to just walk away after a cuddle, I… nodded at him. Nodded at him. Like little old people when they pass on the street, or spies silently acknowledging one another across a crowded room.

No, I don’t know why either; at this point I was just relieved I didn’t mysteriously tap the side of my nose or mime being stuck in a box. He looked a little startled, nodded back, and I turned heel and ran.

… all the way back to our table, where I discovered that, clearly having not received the ‘disappearing into the night’ memo, my friends had ordered another round of drinks. I spent the next half an hour pretending to be invisible as Promising Eye Contact Guy watched, bewildered, from a safe distance.

I may not be cut out to be a kick-ass Swedish woman.


Claire Duffy


Claire is a writer and filmmaker originally from Scotland who moved to Stockholm in 2011 for no particular reason.  She is fond of snow, pickled things and very tall men, so it’s working out very well so far. 









  • Amy 10 Jun 2013

    What a great article! My very tall Swedish husband and I will soon be celebrating a decade since we met. I was on holidays on Sweden’s west coast 10 years ago and out with a group of Swedish friends when I spied my husband across a room and well…love at first sight, you know? I did not speak Swedish at the time, so my friends advised me to chat with him in English. They said even if he wasn’t interested or had a girlfriend most young Swedish men enjoy practicing English and will be pleased to do so. Well, I did start chatting with him in English and instead of bringing home a Dala horse that summer, I came back to New York very much in love. 10 years together and 3 children later, I’d say that it was good advice. 🙂 Good luck Claire!

  • Martha 10 Jun 2013

    Love your courage to just slip a not to a stranger, I never tried this in my life. I am curious now did it work and did he call you?

    I hope you will have a great dating time in Stockholm, Martha.

  • Claire 10 Jun 2013

    Thanks Amy… maybe I will try just talking in English next time, it can’t go any worse!

    Martha, sadly he did not call though given the nodding and so on I probably would have judged him if he did!!

  • Debbie 10 Jun 2013

    Love this article. Thanks for sharing. When in doubt, nod! x

  • Margaret 10 Jun 2013

    Great article,

    just what are all the Swedish guys thinking of passing up on my beautiful granddaughter? Just keep nodding Claire!

  • Claire 10 Jun 2013

    It was just one guy Grandma! But thank you 😉

  • Helen 10 Jun 2013

    ha ha – great article Claire – well done!! xx

  • Olivia Hahne 12 Jun 2013

    Brilliant article – made me laugh out loud. So did he ever call?! Looking forwards to reading the next installment of Dating in the City….

  • Mdl 13 Jun 2013

    Yes, apparently in Sweden equality goes all the way, even here. So buckle up and be a man 🙂

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