12 Apr 2024
Dating in the city: the slow, subtle dance of the Swede
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Dating in the city: the slow, subtle dance of the Swede

Am I misunderstanding you correctly? YLC’s own dating doyenne Claire Duffy on the nuances of Swedish friendship and courtship – and the subtle art of working out which is which.


Whilst reading a particularly saucy email from a prospective online suitor the other day, I mused on the fact that, when safely behind a computer or phone, Swedish men are as adept as any at making their intentions clear. It’s just in person that they’re about as clearly seductive as a statue, which can be frustratingly confusing.

Recently, I met a friend of a friend at a couple of parties, and after the second or third time we met – having chatted casually and, as far as I had noticed, entirely platonically – he messaged me on Facebook. I replied, and with intriguing swiftness the messages turned undeniably flirty, culminating in a plan for him to come over with a bottle of wine so that we could “recover from our hangovers together”.

Now I think we all know that flirty messages + bottle of wine = kort romans, and as he was tall, handsome and Swedish, I was decidedly game.

However, when he arrived, all flirtatious banter had apparently evaporated and we were back to chatting casually and platonically – and I was confused. It was such an abrupt turnabout that I had to wonder whether a) I’d been messaging the wrong guy (unlikely given that the one I expected showed up at the appointed time), b) he had previously only seen me through beer goggles and when he arrived got a good look and promptly downgraded his intentions to friendly acquaintance, or c) this was simply the slow and subtle, on and off, hot and cold, dance of the seductive Swede. In retrospect, c seems quite reasonable, but we’ll never know as at the time, b leapt in the way and I instantly responded to his polite distance with politer further distance and he went home with naught but an awkward hug.

The other downside to the slow and subtle dance, it that it’s awfully easy to convince yourself that there is promise where you’re looking for it.

I spent longer than I care to admit hopelessly in love with a male friend, and it was temptingly effortless to imagine that there was more to our friendly drinks given that he’s Swedish, it’s not as though he would be making a move in any case. At least it was, until, during one of these drinks, he announced that a mutual friend was the ‘sexiest woman in the world’ and started to chat about the girl he had been dating. I only just managed to plaster a smile on my face long enough to make it to the bus home before bursting into tears. I’m not very good at being a tragic heartbroken Miss Havisham type character (I just come over all grumpy and ‘just what is the matter with him? I’m brilliant!’), so I gave myself a good talking to and that was that.

Well. A teensy little part of me would like him to know that I’ve been dating.

“Is that really childish?” I asked my friend over coffee the other day.

“It’s just that I mooned over him for so long a part of me wants him to know that I’ve moved on even if he doesn’t care.”

It was then I was reminded that, fluent as they are, there are gaps in Swedes’ knowledge of English.

“You… mooned him?” She asked in horror, clearly understanding precisely at last why he’d never returned my feelings. “…Is that how you seduce men in Scotland?”

As a matter of fact it probably is in certain areas of Glasgow on a Saturday night, but that’s beside the point.


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. 



  • Solan 8 Jul 2013

    I adore your pieces about dating in Sweden. Witty and insightful and all-too-relevant!

  • Claire 8 Jul 2013

    Thank you! I’m so glad you enjoy them!

  • Andu 8 Jul 2013

    Yes! A very good read, but..is it true? Are Swedes so..medieval? If so, maybe someone should place together a course or something on how to date for them, right?!

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