It’s a cool, cosmopolitan city populated by more than its fair share of beautiful people. So why are so many Stockholmers single?
Shouldn't Stockholm be the perfect dating city, with all its singles? Photo: Henrik Trygg/Image Bank Sweden
According to some fairly unscientific internet polls, Swedes — and Stockholmers in particular — are the most attractive people in the world. As a well-traveled Englishman living in Sweden, I can readily confirm this.
Nevertheless, Stockholm is also said to be home to more single people per head of population than any other world capital. So what gives? What’s stopping the legendary blonde goddesses from hooking up with their masculine counterparts? And is the city swarming with free-spirited swingers or desperately lonely souls yearning for love?
Sweden is well-known for topping international rankings for equality between the sexes, and Marie Hagberg, a dating consultant and author of four books, believes that this has complicated the dating game. She says that some Swedish men have misunderstood what equality means and dropped chivalry from their courting activities altogether.
"Swedish women still want to be treated as ladies even though we want equality," says Hagberg. "At the same time quite a few Swedish women don't like it when a guy pays for them, or opens the door or carries their bag for them, because they somehow think that has to do with equality. It’s messed up. You can actually be romantic and equal at the same time."
Magnus Martinsson, who works in sales in Stockholm, says he never has and never would pay on the first date. "It’s not the money, it just feels wrong," he says. "She might think I was expecting something back. It goes against how I was brought up."
Bring on the chivalry — one of dating consultant Marie Hagberg's tips to Sweden's single men. Photo: Martina Wärenfeldt/Mstudio
Miss Picky versus the Shy Guy
Let's not forget the fussiness of Swedish women. "A majority of them say they are single because they are too picky," says Hagberg, referring to a May survey by online matchmaking site Parship.se.
According to that same survey, the biggest hurdle for men is shyness, but Hagberg is quick to add her opinion. "A lot of the men are just too lazy."
Sexual equality of a different kind could also be a factor. "A lot of the guys in Stockholm are metrosexuals,” says Hagberg, referring to the term used to describe men who are particularly image conscious and in touch with their feminine side.
“Somehow they are trying to be both man and woman at the same time. I would like to tell them that you don't have to behave like a woman in order to get a woman. In other parts of Sweden men are still manly, but in Stockholm they are not, and that’s a problem.”
Female readers who by this point have lost interest in the thought of meeting a blond Adonis should not give up. Hagberg says that despite their faults, Swedish men are still "the best in the world".
"They're honest, kind, good-looking, and polite. They just need to learn how to date."
Where's the initiative?
According to Parship.se’s 2008 European single survey that comprised both men and women from 13 countries, only Dutch singles invest less cash in finding a partner than Swedes. Of their Nordic neighbors, Danes invest twice as much and Norwegians three times as much in finding Mr or Mrs Right as Swedes do.
Blogger Jacqueline Joo has introduced Stockholm to shop-dating, hoping it will give its singles a much-needed push. Photo: Rickard Gillberg
Perhaps most tellingly, according to a survey by the Swedish edition of dating site Match.com, only 17 per cent of single Swedes (men and women) were prepared to make the first move.
"If they want a new job, they are out looking and asking. But when it comes to love they (the Swedes) seem to think that their prince will just show up at the door on a white horse," Hagberg remarks somewhat mockingly.
Jacqueline Joo, a 25-year-old girl-about-town whose blog "I Date Joo" gives tips and tricks for Stockholm singles, is one of the few ready to take the first step.
Jacqueline lives in Kungsholmen, where according to official statistics some 80 percent of apartments have just one occupant, making it Stockholm’s most single-dense neighbourhood. She points out that the reserved Swedish character is not conducive to chatting up people of the opposite sex — although it’s not a problem she has.
"I think we are overall quite shy and we are pretty bad at picking people up," she says. "We don't look for contact; we don't speak to each other on the subway. We need a lot of alcohol to do it, and I don't think that's the right way to go."
Shopping for love
Having observed that her local supermarket is frequented almost exclusively by singles after 8 pm, Jacqueline has set up her own version of speed-dating which she calls shop-dating. Two eligible strangers are presented with a shopping list and get five minutes together to pluck the items from the shelves, hopefully finding romance among the ready meals along the way.
Modern technology is also helping Stockholmers, be they picky, thrifty, lazy or shy, to find love. Of the Greater Stockholm region’s approximately 350,000 singles, more than 223,000 are registered with online matchmaking sites. "Online dating has been a huge blessing for Swedes," says Marie Hagberg. "It has completely revolutionized dating life as Swedes are not exactly famous for being open and outgoing."
By being able to get those awkward introductions out of the way using a computer screen as a protective shield, she says, making that all-important first move has been made more bearable. "Online dating means you don’t have to be drunk to chat someone up. And it’s cost-efficient for the cheap."
Swede Per Bäckström has found more luck with the women in New York than in Stockholm. Photo: Self-portrait
Playing the field
So if you take a Stockholmer out of their native environment, do they have better luck? Per Bäckström, a Swede living in New York, says yes.
"I have lots of Swedish friends here in the US and I think it’s true to say that all of us find it much easier to date American girls here than Swedish girls in Sweden. Maybe we seem interesting and exotic to them, but finding a date is never a problem here. The people are more open."
On the question of whether all these beautiful and unattached Stockholm residents are enjoying playing the field or simply lonely and pining for a partner, the truth probably lies somewhere in between.
"We go out, we have fun, and we are very career-focused," says Jacqueline Joo. "We want to find a prince or a princess in the future, but right now we’re just having fun and enjoying Stockholm’s nightlife. Everyone is looking for love, including me, but he’s got to be the right one."
David Wiles is a British journalist living in Sweden. He managed to avoid the trials and tribulations of the Swedish dating game by marrying a Swedish woman before moving here.
The author alone is responsible for the opinions expressed in this article.
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