So you’ve come down with a bad case of Stockholm syndrome for the cutie holding you hostage with their alluring gaze from across the bar, and now you’re wondering how to shoot your shot. Or, at best, whether deploying any of the cringey Swedish pick-up lines you’re frantically Googling on your phone will help you at least get your foot in the door. How does one even flirt in such a nonchalant environment?
The first rule you’ll have to learn about dating in Sweden is that there’s no such thing as “dating in Sweden.” There are inebriated one-night stands that might lead to something more, and there are coffee hangouts (the infamous fika) that might be coffee hangouts, if you catch my drift. Those might eventually dovetail into a few Sunday strolls and outdoorsy hangouts, and maybe at some point between the fifth or the sixth one, you’re just in a relationship.
But how do you go from being perfect strangers to hiking pals in the first place? There are some simple guidelines to follow.
The Ins And Outs Of Asking Someone Out In Swedish
There may not be a whole lot of formality when it comes to dating in Sweden, but there are still some cultural cues you should be aware of.
One is that there are really no rules or expectations about who approaches who, whether you’re a man, a woman, straight, gay, etc. Gender equality is very baked into the culture, and women are not shy about approaching a man. In fact, as the foreigner in this situation, you’ll probably be the one making the first move anyway, simply because Swedes often don’t like to feel like they’re imposing on anyone else. Unless they have one or two drinks first. Then, maybe, you’ll get a little flirt out of them.
So, how does one break the ice? If you’re at a bar, one strategy is to simply dance next to your love interest until gravity brings you together. Otherwise, it’s probably a good idea to learn how to say hello first, and perhaps equip yourself with some compliments you can dole out to the pretty people in your midst.
- Du har så vackra ögon. — You have such beautiful eyes.
- Jag älskar ditt leende, det är så charmigt. — I love your smile, it’s so charming.
- Du dansar bra! — You dance well!
- Du ser bra ut! — You look fantastic!
- Du är den vackraste i hela rummet. — You’re the most beautiful person in the room.
- Du är väldigt snygg. — You’re really hot.
When in doubt, it’s also not a bad idea to make sure you’re not barking up the wrong tree.
- Är du singel? — Are you single?
- Har du en pojkvän/flickvän? — Do you have a boyfriend/girlfriend?
Depending on the mood you’re trying to set from the get-go, it’s a pretty airtight strategy to either offer to buy your crush a drink, or ask them to go get a coffee with you sometime. No need to call it a “date.” Alcohol implies that there might be some friskiness involved in the very near future (as in, that night), and coffee signals that you might be interested in more than just a night of fun. To be clear, though, relationships can and do form out of boozy one-night stands, and a chaste daytime coffee can also lead to more. It’s not that deep.
Believe it or not, it’s pretty uncommon in Sweden to ask someone out to dinner or a movie who you don’t know very well. Those are activities usually reserved for established couples. Indeed, you might get to know someone biblically before there’s any wining or dining involved. But just so there’s no confusion, it’s very much expected that you’re seeing each other exclusively once you’re getting coffees and taking walks together. “Dating around” isn’t really a thing in Sweden.
There’s also no expectation that a man pays for a woman on a date. Or that one person has to pay for the other in general. It’s normal and expected to split the bill, and you might actually feel a bit out of touch if you try to make a generous gesture like this. Offering to buy a drink is fine — but they’ll probably reciprocate and buy you one in return.
Here are some ideas for laying your cards on the table.
- Vi kanske kan ta en fika? — Maybe we can go for a fika (coffee)?
- Ska vi dra? — Wanna get out of here?
- Ses vi igen? — Will we see each other again?
- Vad ska du göra i helgen? — What are you doing this weekend?
- Kan jag få ditt telefonnummer? — Can I have your number?
- Får jag köpa dig en drink? — Can I get you a drink?
- Vad vill du dricka? Jag bjuder. — What would you like to drink? I’ll pay.
- Har du lust att gå på en fest med mig? — Would you like to go to a party with me?
- Ska vi dansa? — Do you want to dance?
A couple more things: make sure you’re on time! When Swedes say “seven o’clock,” they mean “seven o’clock.” Also, follow your Swede’s lead on whether there’s going to be any PDA involved. When in doubt, go for a hug, not a kiss — at least not right away.
Cheesy Swedish Pick-Up Lines That Just Might Work
You actually don’t need an overly overt pick-up line to get the message across. In Sweden, seemingly banal phrases like “See you tonight?” and “Do you want to watch a movie together?” are so loaded with innuendo, that everyone recognizes these as come-ons. In fact, don’t say these if you’re not trying to be suggestive.
- Ska vi kolla på en film tillsammans? — Shall we watch a movie together?
- Ses ikväll? — See you tonight?
We make no promises that any of the following lines will work for you — just that they might offer some amusement.
- Hundra hjärtan skulle vara för få för att bära all min kärlek till dig. — A hundred hearts would be too few to carry all my love for you.
- Vad vill du ha till frukost imorgon? — What would you like for breakfast tomorrow?
- Ursäkta, jag har tappat bort mitt telefonnummer. Kan jag få låna ditt? — Excuse me, I lost my phone number. Can I borrow yours?
- Du ser exakt ut som min blivande pojkvän/flickvän. — You look exactly like my future boyfriend/girlfriend.
- Gjorde det ont? …När du föll från himlen? — Did it hurt? …When you fell from heaven?
- Vet du hur mycket en isbjörn väger?. Inte jag heller, men den bröt isen iallafall. — Do you know how heavy a polar bear is? Me neither, but at least it broke the ice.
- Jag är en tjuv och jag är här för att stjäla ditt hjärta. — I’m a thief, and I’m here to steal your heart.
- Mina läppar är kalla. Kan du värma dem? — My lips are cold. Can you warm them up?
- Hur vill du ha dina ägg imorgon? Kokta, stekta eller befruktade? — How would you like your eggs tomorrow? Boiled, fried or fertilized?