More than one in ten newcomers in Sweden don't have close friend

A recent survey by Statistics Sweden reveals a concerning trend - a significant portion of the non-Swedish newcomer population lacks close friends. But Norran English has a huge list of tips for those who are struggling to build friendships.

More than 15% of non-Swedish newcomer males in Sweden do not have a close friend.

More than 15% of non-Swedish newcomer males in Sweden do not have a close friend.

Foto: Donna Richmond

Engelska2024-04-23 15:55

The data suggests that between 610,000 and 720,000 Swedes aged 16 and above, which translates to 7-8%, don't have someone they consider a close confidante.

However, this issue is particularly prevalent among foreign-born residents, with 13% reporting a lack of close friends. 

This is more than double the rate compared to native-born Swedes (around 6%). 

Interestingly, the survey also indicates a gender disparity within the foreign-born population, with men (over 15%) being more likely to experience social isolation than women (almost 11%).

Swedes have a deserved reputation for being a very reserved people. They often stick with friend groups they've known since school.

But that doesn't mean you can't make friends with Swedes - you just have to be a bit persistent, according to Rob Hunt, who runs the Kork wine bar in central Skellefteå. Rob also says you should try to annoy Swedes!

– Most people are coming here to work for companies. I think it's a good idea to socialize with your colleagues and get to know people. You have to be a little more outgoing to get people to warm to you, Rob says. 

– But Swedish workplaces can be quite closed off. And the people can seem a little insular. So you really have to make an effort. So get them out, and pester them and annoy them a little, so they actually speak to you. Once you make that effort, it's definitely worth it.

Here are more tips from both newcomers and local Swedes to help you break the ice and find your crew:

Schools & work: These are goldmines for friendships! Classmates, colleagues, and fellow students often share your interests and goals, fostering natural conversation starters. You'll build trust through shared experiences, and there's always something to talk about – from projects to upcoming events. (Anders Lindberg)

Scatterfun: Join clubs. Throw dinner parties. Have barbecues. (Andrew Page)

Fun and flats: Swedes are known for their love of activities that foster friendships. I made friends from all over the world by taking dance classes, joining an English-language theater group, and singing in an international choir. The key is to choose activities you genuinely enjoy (or something new you've always been curious about!). When you focus on having fun, the pressure to make friends melts away, and you'll naturally be more relaxed. A neighbor in my building started a Facebook group by setting up a QR code near the mailboxes for people to easily join. This could be a springboard for forming book clubs, beer-tasting groups, or even potlucks where everyone takes turns cooking. Offering to cat-sit or water plants while neighbors are away is another great way to connect with your local community. (Sarah McIver)

Public transport: Talk to people you see every day on buses to work. Keep nudging them until they become more friendly. Most Swedes are quite reserved. They don’t want to bother you. But if you make it clear you’re interested in being friendly they’ll usually let their guards down. (Johanna Sandgren)

Get out! Join social groups like Meet-Up, GoFriendly or local FB meet-up groups. If that doesn't work, create a group (that's what I did). Like a job search, you have to put a lot of effort into going out and meeting people here. Talk to your neighbours, people in the gym, servers in bars or coffee shops. I have Swedish and international friends here and my social life is just as rich and varied as any other country I've lived. (Elaine Thatcher)

Fika like a local: Forget the ordinary coffee break. Fika, the Swedish ritual of coffee and conversation, is your gateway to new friends. Grab a colleague or classmate and bond over a fika date.

Join assocations or clubs: After 30 years away in the UK my Swedish mother joined the Goteborg British Club, the Anglican Church in Goteborg and various bridge clubs. Her social diary quickly filled up. It seemed that every time we went out in Goteborg she would say hello to at least one person. They may have been "candy floss" friends (entertaining but insubstantial) but she wasn't lonely. (Philip Keen)

On yer bike! Get a bike and start mountain biking or road cycling. It's amazing fun and I've met some good friends doing it. You can join a cycling club as well. (Alan Gallacher)

Volunteering: Volunteering is a good tip. In Skellefteå there is Vän i Skellefteå which is run with the help of lots and lots of volunteers. Every week over 15 activities open for all and free of charge. They are always happy to find more volunteers. The group is an offshoot of the Umeå branch, Vän i Umeå, which is much larger. (Annika Mossing)

Find your tribe: From book clubs to sports teams, to choral groups, Sweden has associations for every interest. Dive into yours and meet like-minded people who share your passion. Read our guide to associations here.

Dog's life: Take your dog out for a walk, and meet other dog owners or dog walkers. Plus, your dog will always be a great friend; even if dogs can't talk, they are great companions! (Paula C Mendes)

More dogs: Dogs and children! Works every time, more so with dogs. Children grow up and leave home! (Nicola Gapp)

Even more dogs! I always see people chatting away when walking a dog; the dogs meet and the owners have a good ol' chinwag. (I don’t actually have a dog, it's just what I’ve noticed on my lonely walks!) (Lucy Glen)

Kids and dogs: Seems like having a dog or a kid is a bit of a key to unlocking Swedish society. (Beth Thomas)

Learn the lingo: While English is common, a sprinkle of Swedish shows effort and opens doors. Take an SFI class, use an app, or ask a friendly local for some basic phrases. (Jan Petterson)

Embrace the outdoors: Swedes love nature. Join a hiking group, cycling club, or any outdoor activity. It's a fantastic way to connect and enjoy stunning scenery. Again, check out our guide to Swedish föreningar.

Dive into traditions: Midsummer celebrations, crayfish parties – these are more than just fun; they're cultural experiences. Embrace them and create lasting memories with new friends. (Johan Berg)

Persistence pays off.

Patience is key: Friendships with Swedes take time. Don't get discouraged if it doesn't happen overnight. Keep a positive attitude and keep putting yourself out there.

Apartment living: Apartment buildings can be surprising sources of friendships. Strike up conversations in common areas, offer a helping hand, or organize a casual get-together. 

Parenting perks: Schools and kindergartens can be breeding grounds for parent friendships. The shared focus on your children's well-being creates a natural bond and eases conversation. Plus, you'll likely encounter other parents in similar life stages.

New neighborhoods: This is an especially good tip in Skellefteå where new neighborhoods are relatively common. Moving to a new area where everyone's new can be a social advantage. You'll all be in the same boat, navigating an unfamiliar environment. This shared experience fosters a sense of community and opens doors for connection. (Donna Richmond)

Finally, read this very funny and insightful article about making friends in Skellefteå. 

How to make friends with Swedes