Swedish Winter: Is It Really That Bad?

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Covering an area of 175,500 miles2, Sweden is a big country that stretches from a latitude in the South that is on a par with Scotland up to the north which sits well above the Arctic Circle. As a result the weather in Sweden varies significantly depending upon your location.

From Gallivare in the North to Malmo in the South temperatures during a typical Swedish winter can vary by as much as 15oC with the latter seeing average temperatures in January of minus 14.6oC.

How cold is winter in Sweden?

In the north, winters can seem harsh to those who have not grown up with the conditions and are a combination of freezing temperatures and exceedingly short days; firmly in the land of the midnight sun, in winter there is only a maximum of one hour of daylight during January. With the days shortening from September and not getting longer until April, spending winters in Norther Sweden can be a deal breaker for those looking to relocate.

However, are Swedish winters really as bad as they seem?

How to Survive Winter in Sweden

Well, the first thing is to focus on the positive aspects of a Swedish winter.

Along with the cold comes the snow and only in the snow can you take part in such great outdoor activities as dog sledding, skiing and riding a snow mobile. And, if the great outdoors isn’t for you then there are plenty of other activities to enjoy.

Many Swedes swear by the tradition of plunging into an ice hole before spending some time in a hot sauna. Not for everyone, those that do partake will tell you that it will bring out the Viking in anyone, clear your head and even burn more calories as your body burns energy to keep you from hypothermia!

As a Christian country, the Swedes celebrate Christmas and in a big way and they love a chance to combine this with their love of food. There are plenty of Christmas markets to enjoy which start as early as November.

Irrespective of how you spend a day in the winter there is the universal activity of a coffee with friends, or even some mulled wine or hot chocolate.

The other thing to remember is that when it does snow the swathes of white landscape bounce a lot of light around so the nights, though dark have beautiful blueish grey hue that you can come to appreciate.

How Do The Swedes Cope in Winter?

Low rising sun in the Swedish winter

Precious hours of sun are never taken for granted in the Swedish winter

As a country where the slightest amount of snow causes travel chaos Brits fail to understand that countries can run efficiently with more than a few inches of the stuff; however, Swedes prepare well and can carry on with their daily lives despite the winter weather.

Firstly, as winter approaches the ‘datumparkering’ law kicks in which states that on even days you may only park your car on the side of the road with even numbered houses and vice versa on odd days. This means that snowploughs can keep the streets clear.

They appreciate the sun when it comes out.

When you only get a few hours natural daylight every day during the winter then the Swedes know how important it is for their wellbeing to take them all in.

On a winter’s day you will see the locals sitting outside or stopping in their tracks to soak it in. You certainly won’t find anyone indoors during that narrow window.

By the same token, on a ‘warm’ day when the temperature reaches a balmy 5oC you’ll see Swedes without their jackets. Again, they appreciate the most of the better weather when they get it. You’ll find that the Swedes who hail from the north have grown to be a lot hardier and tolerate the cold better.

Being Prepared for the Swedish Winter

Nordic countries that live within or around the edge of the Arctic Circle know that darkness can bring depressions so they embrace every opportunity they can at having fun. Accept invitations to visit friends and enjoy life a little. Many expats swear by using a sun lamp which mimics natural daylight to avoid the blues.

The Swedes also understand the importance of being prepared in the winter and take into consideration the amount of daylight and temperature before making any plans.

There are many tourists or new resident who fall foul of a winter walk because of the fast descending night. Take a leaf out of the natives book and prepare well!

On that note and as a final word, embrace the Swedish saying of “det finns inget dåligt väder, bara dåliga kläder“; there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.  

Wear plenty of layers and you will soon adapt to the cold.


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