Swedish fish out of water!
June 6, 2013 4:55 PM   Subscribe

I'm going to be visiting Stockholm, Sweden for the first time in a couple months. I'm planning on going the AirBnB route, so where's the best part of the city to stay? And what are some etiquette tips for an English-only speaker without a lot of international travel experience?

I'm very excited to be visiting Stockholm, where I'll be for about two weeks. I'd like to stay in an AirBnB rental for about a week of the visit, and I'd like to be close to fun things to do (eating, water, museums/cultural opportunities) by foot or by public transportation. I'd prefer to be in a quiet-ish part of the city, or at least not in a notoriously loud part. Any recommendations for neighborhoods or regions I should focus on? Places I should be sure not to miss? Bonus points: tips for a vegetarian!

Also, while I've done some international travel, it's been mostly to English-speaking countries or countries where it was clear that I wasn't a native speaker. What is the best etiquette for initiating conversations or purchasing tickets - ask if the person speaks English first? Simply start speaking in English? What about responding to someone who attempts to speak to you in their native tongue? I know English is spoken widely throughout Stockholm, but I want to be respectful, and I've never been sure how to best handle these situations. I'll be trying to have at least some bare bones Swedish under my belt by then, but that's about it.

Thanks in advance!
posted by Ms. Toad to Travel & Transportation around Stockholm, Sweden (8 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
I stayed in the Vasastan area (this hotel to be precise) and it was a pretty typical urban-residential area with bars and restaurants and shops under hotels and condos.

If I needed to address someone and I didn't know if they spoke English, I'd usually start with "Excuse me?" It'd be pretty clear right away if they understand. If someone addressed me in Swedish, I'd either try to muddle along, or I'd say "I'm sorry, I don't understand" (in English - IME saying "I don't understand" in the host language just leads to confusion) and either they'd switch to English or we'd... muddle along. Basically just be polite, in Swedish when you can and in English the rest of the time.
posted by muddgirl at 5:21 PM on June 6, 2013

I spent a few months in Sweden a while back and I can count on one hand the number of Swedes I met who did not speak excellent English. And I was camping above the Arctic Circle for most of the time, not in downtown Stockholm! Just say "Hello" or "Excuse me" before you talk to a stranger, like you'd do anywhere.
posted by acidic at 5:57 PM on June 6, 2013

I was in Sweden a few weeks ago everyone spoke English. I did an airbnb in vastastan and it was awesome.
posted by k8t at 6:47 PM on June 6, 2013

Best answer: I visited Sweden for a week in March and, like you, am a vegetarian who did not speak any Swedish. My trick in cafes and restaurants was to wait to be addressed (invariably) in Swedish and respond with an apologetic "Sorry?" in English. Every single person I encountered, from service staff to ordinary Swedes, spoke English in levels ranging from passable to impeccable.

If I needed to start a conversation, most Swedes that I encountered in travel-related contexts would address me with a friendly "hej hej!" (sounds like "hey-ay"), to which I'd respond "Hej!" and just start talking in English. As long as I spoke relatively slowly I never had any problems.

I loved the hip and eclectic Södermalm neighborhood, and I had the best espresso of my life at Mellqvist Kaffebar on Hornsgatan. There are a ton of restaurants in Söder, and most will have multiple vegetarian options that are clearly marked as such. There's even an all-vegetarian restaurant right next door to Mellqvist. Don't miss the view of the city at sunset from nearby Monteliusvägen.
posted by a bird, it's a bird at 7:03 PM on June 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

Yeah, people in Sweden speak English to the point that I wandered into a kebab shop to get lunch one day and attempted to order in halting Swedish and the guy looked at me funny, then laughed and went, "Oh, American, right? Good effort!" in perfect English.

By the way, the Vasa museum was spectacular. If you care about history at all, take the time to go and give yourself enough time to really explore it.

Another general etiquette note: Scandinavians in general tend to be really, REALLY quiet if you're from somewhere like New York where people are much more noisy. It's probably going to take a bit for you to stop BELLOWING in comparison, but do try.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 7:25 PM on June 6, 2013

If you're going the airbnb route, please remove your shoes indoors. Shoes are put inside the house / apartment, right next to the door.

We (as in, Swedish people) never wear shoes that we use outdoors in our indoor living spaces.
posted by yonglin at 8:19 PM on June 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

We loved staying at the south end of sodermalm in an airbnb on a boat. for us, the location was perfect: in the morning we wandered north through the cafes and the little independent shops, mostly skipped the touristy old town, then either walked or took transit (i can't recall) to the vasa museum. At the end of the day, it was time for a bottle of wine on the top deck. I really enjoyed sodermalm. It's a trendy place that still manages to have a great community feeling. We got along with our two words of swedish, only one of which came up: takk (thanks) & hatten (the hat).
posted by monkeymonkey at 9:54 PM on June 6, 2013

Best answer: Swedes actually have a hard time understanding badly pronounced Swedish. The advice above to just say "Hi, excuse me?" to get someones attention will be fine. I would also suggest the Södermalm island, you could also get away with just the other side of the water like Liljeholmen, but you may as well be on one of the islands, I doubt people are doing you lower prices only slightly outside of town. I would suggest getting a City Bike card (it's 300kr for a whole season ticket) so you can cycle around on bikes that you pick up and drop off at 100 automated bikelocks around the city. Here's some veggie restaurants, the ones marked Stockholm should do you. Hermans and Sehymus would be go-to places along with many of the others.
posted by Iteki at 2:39 PM on June 7, 2013

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