This Blog is specialize in Swedish language, culture and communication, with a focus on the business environment. We teach and guide professionals who wish to improve their Swedish language skills, or improve their understanding of Swedish culture and communication.
Last Saturday, the biannual event of communal cleaning at my BRF (Bostadsrättsförening) took place. If you don’t already own a flat in Sweden, you are probably not familiar with the fact, that in fact, you cannot own a flat a Sweden. Technically speaking, you own two things, the right to live in this flat, and a part of the building(s) belonging to your BRF, being proportionate to the size of your flat in comparison to the whole. With this comes not a communal spirit (not) but also the obligation to take care of communal areas. Of course, everyone pays a monthly fee which goes to repair work, clearance of snow, repair of washing machines, but in terms of outdoor spaces, a joint effort of all residents is required.
Traditionally this takes place in October (höststädning) and April (vårstädning), and the event is announced through a piece of paper (en lapp) stuck to the front doors three weeks in advance. All residents then spend those three weeks coming up with a good excuse for not attending, or scheming a way of leaving the building unnoticed. The same used to apply to myself and my husband, based on the premise that 10.00 am on a Saturday is far too early for any human being to take part in any physical labour. We would not even had had breakfast at that point! Now, with our children around, 10.00 am on a Saturday is ridiculously late, and conflicts with our lunch hour, and afternoon fika! But the kids make the whole thing more difficult to avoid. Although I am lazy and individualist, I do not want to pass that on to my offspring, so despite a delayed lunch, we do attend.
Our BRF has a history of poor leadership and low attendance when it comes to this event. Different strategies have been applied in order to counteract this, although none have proved particularly successful. Moving the whole event from a weekend to a Tuesday evening at 6 pm (dinner time!) hit rock bottom, but not far was the year when they recruited the local dictator to assign tasks. More democratic approaches have been attempted since, a method which lasted a few years. This spring, however, the point of consensus was openly questioned by a couple of Austrians who were brave enough to speak openly about people just pretending to be doing work, as no single person actually knew what was to be done, and everyone was scared of getting it wrong.
So thanks to the Austrians (who did not show up this time), this most recent event, taking place last week, was very well structured. The invitation clearly stated that everyone needed to sign up for tasks listed on a piece of paper (ansvarslista – list of responsibilities) posted on the door to the tvättstuga. Neighbours who were unable to attend the actual event were invited to assign themselves - and complete - tasks in advance. This was followed by a series of rather threatening letters (arga lappar), with the same message, appearing in our post box the following weeks.
As the big day came, the list was still empty, and although we appeared in the garden (to which the ansvarslista had been relocated) 45 minutes late, no pen had touched that paper (silent rebellion). My husband and picked raking leaves right away, only to discover this - well at least all the rakes - had already been taken. So we went for weeding. We spent 30 minutes on this, arguing about what plants would qualify as weed (pretty much everything, according to my husband) and not (pretty much anything, according to me). This was as unproductive as not doing anything at all, so we swapped to scraping moss off tiles.
This went well, until the inventory of vegetarians (for the BBQ) began, now using a different list. In order to reward participants, the BRF had invested in 10 kgs of hot dogs, rolls, mustard, ketchup and some saft, meaning an opportunity to network mid-through labour. We declined (blaming the kids) and soon retired to our flat (blaming the kids) and watched the whole event from our kitchen window). See photographic evidence above.
The first summer I was about to spend with my then boyfriend, now husband, I was surprised to learn he had very few days of holiday available. I couldn’t figure out how, as he had, apart from a couple of weeks when he had been really sick in the flue, not taken any time off work that year. On the contrary, he had very high work ethics and he was very keen on showing his high level of commitment to his employer. After all, this was his first year and first job in Sweden, and he really wanted to make a good impression.
In fact, this was the very reason for the lack of holidays. It turned out he had registered his sick days as holidays when completing his timesheets, afraid of exploiting the generous welfare system of Sweden.
I have had another client who - far too late - learnt that she, in her role as manager - was supposed to have utvecklingssamtal (a form of performance review) with her employees, something that she completely missed.No person informed her. This was only one thing out of many that harmed her credibility, and that finally led to her resignation. I have had clients and friends missing to join the communal fika at work, instead trying to make a good impression working away as efficiently as they can, but instead giving the impression of not being part of the group, which is in fact your highest priority when being new to a Swedish workplace. And then, there is the milk. Hands up for everyone who has poured filmjölk into their coffee, in the belief that this is just another type of milk among dozen of others. For those of you who have not had this experience, filmjölk is a fermented dairy product, half way between milk and yoghurt, tangy in flavour and slightly grainy in texture.
Entering a new workplace and navigating its internal politics can be daunting enough. Doing this in a new culture makes you particularly vulnerable. Not adhering to the social codes, using the wrong type of arguments when negotiating, or signalling your dedication to work in a way your colleagues don’t understand can lower your self-esteem and give a feeling of frustration.
There are also the practical details. Most people coming to Sweden are aware of the celebration of Lucia, taking place on the 13th of December. There is plenty of information available on the ceremony in itself, but only Swedes are fully familiar with how this actually affects work and business culture. School celebrations normally take place early morning or late afternoon, meaning parents of small and big children will arrive later or leave earlier this day. This is not a good day to schedule meetings or deadlines!
Although Sweden is a great place (I really believe so), Swedes are not the best at cultural self-awareness, and this often results in poor communication and information on how things actually function at a typical Swedish workplace. This is why we, Anne Pihl, a professional relocation consultant originating from Ireland and I, have put together our top 250 pieces of advice in our book Working in Sweden - The A-Z Guide. This is a practical and fun handbook in Swedish work culture. We have listed what is expected from you, and what you can expect from your co-workers and employers, practical life hacks used by Swedes (often related to the weather), and what dates you need to watch out for in the calendar.
Working in Sweden - The A-Z Guide can be purchased from online retailers, such as Bokus, or directly through the publisher LYS läromedel.
The meaning of life, that is, Swedish summer is coming up. This means the Bee Swedish team will take a well-deserved break, to be back to business from the 1st of August.
To celebrate this, we offer new and existing clients a 10% off one-to-one tuition and 20% off language training for two or more people, for contracts starting during the month of August 2018, on the conditions that we agree on a timetable and the first 10 sessions are paid for before the 21st of June. The discount applies to the full contract, that cannot be cancelled. The offer is valid for individuals and corporations and cannot be combined with other offers. Our pricing plans can be found on beeswedish.com/pricing.
Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to tell us more about your needs and goals.
Why Bee Swedish?
Ask our clients on beeswedish.com/testimonials. Also, you should know that in contrast to other language centres, we don’t outsource our teaching but you are guaranteed to be working with an experienced teacher with a proven record of very high student satisfaction. We are called Djina Wilk and Sofi Tegsveden Deveaux and we are Bee Swedish.
Swedish is a rhythmic language. There are many short syllables, and in each sentence, a few long syllables. A long syllable consists of a long vowel and a long consonant. Long means that it takes a long time to say.
In glas there is one long syllable, and this one is a long vowel - a.
In glass there is also one long syllable, and this one is long consonant - ss. It takes exactly as much time to pronounce glas as it takes to pronounce glass.
In glaset there is one long syllable, and one short [ _ . ]. The same applies to glassen [ _ . ]. In musik there is one short syllable, followed by a long one, i [ . _ ].
In a sentence, or phrase, only ‘interesting’ or ‘informative’ words have long syllables. Thus, jag vill ha glass still has only one long syllable, the ss in glass [ . . . _ ] and jag gillar musik [ . . . . _ ].
This needs to be taught from the very first moment of your very first Swedish class. Failure to pay attention to this fundamental detail of the Swedish language will lead not only to poor pronunciation but also to difficulties when understanding and using phrasal verbs, and for declining nouns in the plural.
And by the way, yes, it is possible for an adult to have an almost perfect pronunciation in Swedish, and, yes, this applies to anyone.
2. Not being picky about word order.
In all Latin languages, including, in this case, English, the first verb of any sentence must come after the subject. This is not the case in Swedish. The first verb always comes second, in any main clause. Students should be made aware of this from lesson 1, and they can start practising this also from the very beginning. Any mistake should be corrected, immediately. Errors in basic structure will make it impossible to learn more complex structures (for example sub-clauses) and this will stagnate complexity development on higher levels, as learners use the wrong word order automatically after only a short period of learning. For professions where language validation is necessary, a correct and complex structure is necessary to pass the exam, and if this has not been correctly from the start, it is very tiresome and sometimes impossible to correct fossilised erroneous structure.
Other grammatical mistakes should be corrected according to when the detail in question has been taught.
3. Not correcting your mistakes
Learners who are not corrected when mispronouncing a word or sentence or putting the words in the wrong order will be fearing of getting it wrong, and are thus discouraged to experiment with the language. Lack of correction will make learners shy and afraid of making errors.
4. Explaining why instead of showing how
Explanations are good and necessary, but teaching that focuses only on explaining why the language looks the way it does will make learners get a false impression of language being a theory. Teaching with a focus on explanation will result in learners waiting for the day when they will ‘understand it all’ and thus being ready to use the language. A good teacher shows how to construct a certain piece of language, explains the core of it briefly (in the target language. If they use another language, this is a clear sign that the explanation is taking too much space) and then spends at least five times as much time on making the students produce the same structure, and corrects it. This way, learners will make progress at every class.
5. Not using a natural language when communicating
Speaking slowly, using fragmented sentences, or pronouncing silent consonants will not help a learner to speak correctly, nor to understand spoken language.
Very recently, I was given a new learner. In order not to reveal anything about their identity, I cannot give you more details than that they needed to improve their Swedish pronunciation drastically, in order to save their career.
Pronunciation is a sensitive topic. I have noticed - after 9 years and 10 months of teaching, that this is what people feel the most offended about if I tell them they do not get things right. Tell someone their grammar is wrong, not complex enough or they do not use the right words, learners are keen on improving. Tell them their pronunciation is incorrect, they are sometimes offended.
Similarly, when discussing teaching questions related to pronunciation with fellow teachers, I very often encounter the attitude that pronunciation should not be corrected, and that a foreign accent is only something positive. I agree, a foreign accent - in any language - is a sign of hard work and bravery, and it means that you have actually bothered to learn another language than what you grew up with. However, sometimes, like in this case, pronunciation can come in your way and have great consequences. Therefore, I think it is a really important issue to address, for both teachers and learners.
So the learner I got to know the last week struggles heavily with Swedish vowel sounds, to the point where I have difficulty to understand what they are saying. They also pronounce their R very far back in their throat rather than using the tip of their tongue (like my own Stockholm accent). Initially, we agreed that there was no point trying to make them imitate my Stockholm R, but rather stick to their guttural R, as this is common in the south of Sweden. Instead, we worked on the vowels.
The first few days of training passed, with no improvement. Needless to say, I always question my competence in these situation. We continued working on the vowels. Despite our agreement, I got tired of listening to the guttural R, and perhaps mostly due to irritation asked my student to produce an English R (that is rather similar to my Stockholm accent). This took some time to integrate, but to our amazement something else happened. When the R sound moved closer to their lips, the vowels followed. And within minutes, that improvement, that had been lacking for days, came. Things are not yet perfect, but we have now found a way to solve their problem.
I found all of this very interesting from a language learning point of view. I often encounter prioritisation strategies of different kinds when getting to know my students. Learners who are perfectly confident they will never write in Swedish, so they refuse to take notes in class. Other learners who decide that a certain type of vocabulary is unnecessary for their kind of field, or that there is no point at all learning vocabulary until ‘all’ grammar has been fixed. Others - and this is very common - refuse to acknowledge the long vowel and consonant sounds in Swedish, as there is no equivalent in their first language. What they may not realise is that these different aspects of language are interlinked, and that by skipping what they consider unnecessary will actually stand in the way of mastering what they find essential. This applies also, or perhaps even more, to language teachers.
You know when you want to make that monster really frightening, and you end up calling it a pattern? There must be plenty of post-ignorant expats out there, laughing smugly at their idiotic co-patriots who are too naive to take those dots seriously enough.
When teaching any beginner’s course, and even further up in the food chain - and this applies only to people who insist on using pen and paper despite digital advance, I always receive a certain type of written assignment. These texts have often been written rather carefully, and to make that final touch, they have been artistically decorated with randomly distributed dots and rings, to make the visual experience of the text seemingly more Swedish.
Spoiler alert, you cannot fool me this way. In fact, those dots and rings - prickar och ringar, as we call them, follow a strict logic that cannot be understood from guesswork. Instead, they make three letters Å Ä and Ö, in that order. We never talk about A-Z, it is A-Ö for us, because these letters qualify as nothing but letters, not just variations on a theme. É however is just another form of E.
Added, they are vowels. And Swedish is a language in love with vowels of all sort. Worse, they have serious implications on meanings. We are not talking about minimal pairs here, we are talking about minimal families, or extended families of words that are identical except one single letter. Sometimes, the confusion is added as the consonants following the critical vowel could come in twos as well as ones. One consonant is almost always short and automatically makes the preceding vowel long (we are measuring in time, here), whereas two consonants make a long consonant sound, following a short vowel.
This means that all the following words exist, and all have different meanings. Grab some coffee, a dictionary and prepare to have your mind blown.
ratt - rot - rott - rutt - rått - rett - rit - ritt - ryt - rät - rätt - röt - rött
satt - sot - såt - sått - sett - sitt - sytt - sätt - söt - sött
kal - kall - kol - koll - kul - kull - kål - kel - kil - kill - kyl - köl
ar - ur - år - er - yr - är - ärr
mor - morr - mur - murr - mår - mer - myr - märr - mör
In 2010, I decided to write a book. At that point, I had taught Swedish for two or three years, and also came back to Stockholm after seven years abroad, and I had truly discovered what weird habits Swedish people comply to. I decided to compile one-habit-a-day sort of book, where each day in the calendar would prompt the reader to embrace some Swedish way of doing things.
Well, life (and mortality, unfortunately), came in the way, and my book never happened. Opportunity has come back, but now I have a different focus (stay posted, folks) and this project is no longer qualifying to my top-ten books to produce. But do not despair, because in the meantime, and without my knowledge, involvement or consent, my book has already been written!
In 2017, Matthias Kamann, a swedified German residing in the mighty town of Växjö, published How to be Swedish - a quick guide to Swedishness in 55 steps. As you can derive from the title, his readers are missing out of 310 of my quirky Swedish habits, but that is probably for the good.
As the title implies, this is a how-to book and nothing else. There is no trace of analysis, no asking of Why and What for? There is little historical reference, and a refreshing lack of values in compliance or in conflict with Swedish ways of reasoning. And here, I believe there is plenty to learn from Kamann.
Although he finds the idea of taking off his shoes when entering someone’s home slightly eccentric, there is no attempt to rebel. He even finds his own system, carrying around a pair of slippers, although he becomes the subject of laughter at a student party. He observes his Swedish neighbours paying careful attention not to talk to each other, but he does not judge (well, at least he does not waste his time on judging). He acknowledges pre-school children dressed up in their reflexvästar in winter, and correctly concludes that such measures are necessary on a latitude where winter nights set in right before your early afternoon fika.
With this in mind, this is not so much a guide book to Sweden as a piece of travel writing, or perhaps settling writing, depicting Kamann’s own experience of becoming a permanent resident in Sweden. I do not have the pleasure to know him personally, nor the nosiness to look him up on Ratsit.se, but I would guess he would qualify as still looking forward to (or dreading) his thirties. There are some substantial sections related to partying, meeting a new partner (or several), flirting, and such activities that I (soon 36) categorise as belonging to the past.
In this way, How to be Swedish is not at all all-encompassing, but fairly narrow in scope. Not only in terms of stage of life, but also geographical location. For example, in the very relevant section of godis, he brings up the on-going debate on how to pronounce kex, with a soft (sh) or hard (k) k. Well, here in Stockholm, there is no such debate because there is only one way to do it (with a hard k), despite the whole west coast of Sweden having it wrong. Kamann, who was lucky enough to find his new home in Småland, by chance ended up in the very trenches right in the middle of the kex pronunciation war.
This is a good thing. Because there is not one, but many ways, to be Swedish, and Kamann is showing us this.
And for reference, what did he fail to include, that you would have had the pleasure to read in my version of the same book, in a parallel universe? Well, you are missing out on details such as putting a slice of red pepper on top of a croissant that has already been disrespected by dressing it in butter and cheese. That is about it.
The word think, or the equivalent(s) in your language, is conveniently translated into three different words in Swedish: tycker, tänker, tror. Do not believe that you can use these sporadically, as per your own preference, because for any Swede, these three words have very distinct meanings, and cannot be mixed up.
This is the easiest one to grasp the meaning of, but also the most abused one by language learners. I personally believe that the phonological similarities to the English think makes it feel like a safe choice, when you are not feeling perfectly sure what word to use. This leads to inaccurate use of the term.
Tänker refers to the actual process of processing thoughts in your head:
Vänta, jag tänker. [Hang on, I am thinking]
Tänk innan du pratar! [Think before you speak.]
Tänker can also refer to your plans or intentions:
Jag tänker lära mig att spela fiol. [I am planning to learn how to play the violin.]
De tänker kanske köpa en sommarstuga. [They are thinking about buying a summerhouse.]
I have also paid attention to a curious thing: that tänker is often used together with a negation, objecting to an order or instruction:
Du ska tvätta händerna nu! [You need to wash your hands now!]
Jag tänker inte göra det! [I am not gonna do that!]
All your Swedish teachers stress that tänker cannot be followed by att. This is true, for the above example, when you are talking
The problem, as many of my more observant students have noticed, is that this is not entirely true. Tänker can in fact be followed by att. This is rarely recognised in textbooks, but I would describe it as a method to communicate that what you are talking about is still in the thought process. A sort of real-time streaming from your brain:
Jag tänker att det kanske inte är en jättebra idé. [I am thinking that this is maybe not a great idea.]
Jag tänker att man kanske skulle kunna be Berit om hjälp. [I am thinking that we could ask Berit for help.]
Then, there is tycker and tror.
Tror på is the easiest construction, very similar to the English believe in. You can believe in God, or Santa, angels, and whatever else builds on
Han tror på Gud men inte på Jultomten. [He believes in God but not Santa]
But, just like English, you can also believe in what you see, hear and read:
Tro inte på allt du läser i tidningarna. [Don’t believe everything you read in the news.]
And just as in English, we can also use it to express encouragement, believing that someone will make it.
Jag tror på dig, du kommer klara det! [I believe in you, you will make it]
Jag tror inte på deras affärsidé. [I don’t believe in their business idea.]
So this should be fairly clear to you, but it will soon get trickier, when we start looking at the difference between tycker and tror.
First, let’s look at the difference between tycker om and tycker, because this is huge. Tycker om is a phrasal verb (partikelverb in Swedish), and just as for phrasal verbs in English they can acquire completely different meanings than the base verb. Get over is not the same as get, and nod off is not the same as nod. Tycker, as we will look at in more detail very soon, means to have an opinion, based on subjective and direct experience. Tycker om, in contrast, would translate as like or enjoy.
Han tycker inte om kokt ägg. [He doesn’t like boiled eggs.]
Tycker du om Sverige? [Do you like Sweden?]
Jag tycker mycket om att bada. [I really enjoy swimming.]
Opinion versus speculation
The classic example here is to compare the two following sentences.
A: Jag tror att filmen är bra. [I think the film is good.]
B: Jag tycker att filmen är bra. [I think the film is good.]
The difference may seem marginal to anyone who is not a native speaker of Swedish, but it is really not. In example A, the person has not watched the film yet, they are merely speculating. There is an unconfirmed hypothesis about the quality of the film. In example B, the person has watched the film, and they are expressing an opinion about it. Tycker is always based on experience.
Direct or indirect experience
In fact, I think the key term should be direct experience of tycker. Consider the following two examples.
Jag tror att du är trött. [I think you are tired.]
Jag tycker att du ser trött ut. [I think you look tired.]
In example A, the observer thinks/guesses that the other person is tired. What this is based on is of course impossible to tell, but there must be some clues. One clue, at least if I refer to myself, is black circles under their eyes. In example B, however, you are (if you pay attention to subtle nuances) dealing with something that cannot be speculated about. You are not guessing that the other person looks tired,
So from this, we can conclude that: tror is more or less the same as tycker + verkar [seems] / ser ut [look] or låter [sound]
Tycker may also be used for making recommendations or giving advice, based on subjective opinion.
Tycker du att jag ska söka ett nytt jobb? [Do you think I should look for a new job?
Jag tycker att du ska studera i ett halvår till innan du skriver testet. [I think you should study for another six months before taking the exam.]
Compare this to:
Jag tror att du ska studera i ett halvår till innan du skriver testet.
This is pure guesswork, speculating about the other person’s plans, intentions or uncontrolled future.
Tycker can express an attitude to something.
Vi ska åka på en konferens med jobbet. Jag tycker att det ska bli roligt. [We are going on a conference with work. I am looking forward to it.]
Vi ska åka på en konferens med jobbet. Jag tror att det blir roligt. [We are going on a conference with work. It should be fun.]
This may all seem a little daunting to you right now, but it is definitely not impossible. Your first step to master these verbs is to start paying attention to how Swedes use them. Good luck!
I am often told miracle anecdotes about people who learn fluent Swedish in three months. Apparently, this makes others feel inspired, and it is also concluded that such fast progress is due to motivation. “She really wanted to learn.” As a teacher of Swedish since the last nine years, I am very sceptical to all of this.
First of all, this is not true. Naturally, you may come really far in three months, if you study hard with a systematic approach, and you can definitely make much more progress than most people do. I do agree it is a matter of definition, and the word ‘fluent’ is in itself very blurry. But you could compare that to that a Swedish adult should be able to know 50 000 words to be able to function in society. So just counting words, not grammar, pronunciation, listening skills, etc., this could be a reasonable measure. So 50 000 words in three months? Well, that would mean acquiring 330 words per day. For three months. Most of my students struggle with three words per day!
Added, reaching a high level in listening comprehension (which is the skill that is the most difficult to acquire, and, ironically enough, also the one everyone overestimates their own proficiency in) takes several years, however much you study and consider yourself a natural talent.
For reference, the fastest I have seen someone reach low level B2 (CEFR) is 6-7 months of full-time studies. In these cases, it has been people of nearly psychopathic levels of intelligence, who have invested plenty of time (all their time), energy (all their energy), and money (all their money, I do not know, but I would guess a hefty proportion of it), on first-class training, full time, with really good teachers.
Second, we should be very careful with telling these stories. They may sound inspiring at first, but when you are in the middle of struggling to memorise three words per day, such a role model will not seem very friendly any more.
Last, and of course, most importantly, the whole concept of motivation is misunderstood, or misused.
Motivation will not help you if you are a beginner in an environment where everyone speaks ‘authentic’ Swedish, that is, without adapting their language to you. In contrast to children, adult learners lack that flexibility of the brain to pick up and make sense of a language they are exposed to. Nor will motivation get you far if you are yourself an advanced learner and put in a group of beginners. Willpower will not do the job if you are short on time, sleep, money, or someone who can help you with your homework. However much you want to pronounce sjuksköterska without difficulty, it will not happen unless someone shows you to find that sj sound (try to whisper ooo-sjoo, ooo-sjoo, and you will see).
A long-term goal is too easily clouded by a teacher whose explanations are contradictory, or monotone classes where you get one minute only to try your Swedish voice. Your grand plans are easily crushed during hours of lectures that bear no relevance to your reality.
Motivation is not so much something that enables learning, but rather something that grows from a good learning experience. And a good learning experience is one where you are making perceivable progress. So if you are about to start learning a new language and worry about your lack of motivation, this is not something that should set you back.
Ah, and you want to impress me? Tell me about someone, who, year after year (because let us face it, it takes years to learn a language fully), spends 10 minutes every day on taking notes of a new word, reading a new chapter in their course book, listening to audio files on their level, sitting down with their homework. In fact, this is a much more tangible and effective goal than going from nothing to everything within three months. And, A, if you are reading this, I am truly amazed.
To celebrate the change of clocks this weekend, please find this guide to help you through the tunnel, that will be the experience of your Swedish life up until mid-April next year.
Why? Like most people, I believe that it is not the cold that presents the greatest problem of winter, it is the darkness. Personally, I enter a somehow claustrophobic dizziness mid-October, that lasts until late February, followed by a re-lapse throughout March.
If this is your first winter in Sweden, you might not know what to expect. You might not know that the most difficult part is not the few hours of daylight themselves, but rather the fact the daylight itself does not live up to its name. With the sun lurking behind some trees just above the horizon, and behind a mile of clouds, anyway, dawn turns into dusk without even bothering pretending there is anything in between. It is self-explanatory that this can have disastrous effects on your well-being, mood and activity level. If you are a winter tunnel novice, you need to watch out for the traps of comfort and isolation. Surviving the Nordic winter is all about creating a sustainable routine where you make the effort of getting out, meeting people, get some exercise and catching some light.
First, sort out the necessary supplementsVitamin D
Called D-vitamin in Swedish, for reference.
If you do not have the time or money for monthly trips to Thailand, or the stomach capacity for 35 kilograms of salmon per day, your solution comes in little jars purchased from your local pharmacy (most likely closed on Sundays).
Does help you through the gloom according to some experts. Others claim the opposite, pointing out the dangers with addictive substances.
At the end of the tunnel
Take a walk before sunset
That is, during your lunch break. It will make your afternoon so much easier. No excuses.
There are light cafés, that tend to shut down and re-appear every winter, so I cannot advise you on any permanent location. Personally, I think they are too expensive to make a sustainable solution. I use more affordable, and less conventional, solutions. On a bad day, I visit Ulriksdals trädgård or a similar enterprise. A garden centre, a green-house, full of retired enthusiasts, stressed parents, plants, a cat. There’s even a café. And it is bright, lit up like summer.
Beyond light therapy and greenhouses, you need to think about lighting. The more is not always merrier when it comes to light in the dark. Instead, take a look at how the native Swedes excel at creating warmth through low, soft, strategically placed. Table lights, window lights, candles.
Get out of your den
Go against your intuition
You probably feel like hibernating. This is actually the core of the problem. Half-way through December, you are feeling the way you do, mostly not because of the weather, but because of your habits changing with bad weather. Spending five months on the sofa will do you no good, regardless of weather.
I hate anything related to myself, but the sedentary lifestyle caused by unwillingness to leave your house may actually have more disastrous effects than the darkness in itself. Compensate for the time you do not spend outside by doing something else. Dancing, swimming, sports.
Plan it. No one will have the energy to improvise. Also contrived solutions are solutions.
A Lutheran approach
Work first, couch later
Try to do things that require energy before sunset. Starting the day on the sofa means you will not get further. This is particularly relevant if you are a student or looking for a job.
Stick to a routine
Although having children means much less sleep, and a ongoing sleep deprivation beyond imagination, the winters have actually become much easier since my twins were born. Why? Because weekends are not spent as an everlasting sleep-in. I am down at the play park at 9 am, regardless of temperature and precipitation. This means two things: It does not mess with my body clock, and, I always make it outside before sunset. It is lonely though, please join me.
Plan a few, regularly occurring, events that you can look forward to. Make the days and the weeks different from each other. It is not a coincidence that Swedes plan ahead so much, join associations and have weekly schedules also for their private lives.
Remember, it will pass
When the first reliable snow starts falling, it is relief. A relief, in the way that it paints the black ground, the ugly branches, traces of summer with a glistering light-reflecting surface, a Christmas gift to your eyes and brain. The soundscape changes. Distant sounds seem closer, closer sounds are softened. You wake up one morning, and although you cannot see any trace of the snow, you can hear it.
With February comes the end of the tunnel. The mornings are no longer black but midnight blie, and the concept of afternoon is returning to your mind. High pressures, bright blue skies, and blinding sunshine brings a new sharpness to the real world. Dust is visible again, and you will take your tired coat to the dry cleaner, tidy up at home, one day realising you are suddenly not forcing yourself to do things things. There will be white spring evenings, summer nights. Dusk will be dawn, and dawn dusk.