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How to Make Your First Friends in Sweden

Making friends in Sweden is a big deal. It even gets awkward as you are advised to avoid ‘small talks’ with strangers. Although people here are very polite and may never embarrass or be mean to you, it remains a mystery how it is a constant battle to making new friends. Here are few tips on how to make your first friends at Södertörn University:

Studenter tar en selfie tillsammans

Credits: Simon Paulin/

By Amaraizu Genius

Be Intentional

You are in a new school, in a new city and in a new country. It is indeed a job to make new friends and you have to be intentional about it. You must prepare your mind to talk to strangers, no matter how strange it may be or how uncomfortable it appears at first. It pays to have friends. It multiplies your joy, your good moments and wonderful memories of your stay in Sweden; and it can be most rewarding during the long hours of winter darkness.

Being intentional allows you to make extra effort, expand awareness and be particular about meeting new people. Imagine the worst scenario in meeting a total stranger to say ‘HI’ and accept the consequences you may encounter. What consequences? In fact, there’s none. Like I mentioned earlier, people here are very polite and will never embarrass you. There is no worse scenario other than people refusing to share their contacts on first meeting. And that’s totally okay. People get comfortable to share contacts after regular meet-ups and not on first encounter. You just need to try more in reaching out.

Know the Basics

It may be that you have never given it a thought, but it is usually a tough task to make the first move in talking with strangers. How to start, approach the potential friend is really tough, and I understand. That is why you need to know the basics.

The most rewarding basic thing to do is to introduce yourself and ask a question. Any meaningful question likely leads to a meaningful conversation from minor to major. When I see a new person I would love to interact with, I go through our conversation in my mind’s eye and then I move: “Hej, my name is Genius, and I study Media, Communication at Södertörn University. How about you?” Whatever I get from the reply will eventually give me the topic for our conversation. You may want to go the classic way, it also works: “Hej, my name is Genius, what is your name?” “I’m from Nigeria, where are you from?” “I have been in Sweden for one year, how long have you been here?”

Studenter på restaurang

Credits: Simon Paulin/

Know What to Avoid

Many people in Sweden don’t like small talks, but it remains the only way to start a conversation with a stranger. Unless you are seeking out for help or have something in particular to discuss, small talks remains the surest way to start a conversation. So, don’t avoid them. However, there are things to avoid.

Avoid complimenting strangers. Yes. This may sound strange, but people in Sweden feel uneasy with compliments from strangers. No matter how nice it sounds: “You look beautiful” “You look gorgeous” “You look sweet” “You look handsome” and other forms of compliments can be your enemy in making new friends. This is not absolute, but the least you want is to make the person you are talking to feel uncomfortable or not relaxed. While some will appreciate such compliments and thank you for it, many others may find it a bit unattractive coming from a stranger.

Another thing to avoid is seeking for personal contacts or personal information on first meeting. For example, you should not ask for their phone number right away, it is truly private in Sweden. You can start by asking for their social media handle, and it is usually a comfortable first point to connect with this stranger. Also, you do not want to ask for their address or their religion or sexual orientation. These sort of questions are not welcoming and not the best way to start your conversation with a stranger.

Easiest Friends to Make

Straight to the point – the easiest friends to make are those with whom you share things in common. It could be that they are in the same department as you, or they live in the same building or from the same country as you are. Also, remember that it is easier to make friends with other international students than Swedish residents. The reason is simple: while your fellow international students are looking for new friends and making their individual efforts to meeting new people, the residents here seem to have their lives all figured out, their friends of many years settled and their trusted life partners found. Allowing a stranger in is tough, and an ice to be broken.

With those you share things in common, you could make your friends on your first week of arrival to Sweden. Let me show you how: are you aware of the orientation exercise for new students by Södertörn University? Endeavour to attend, and connect with someone or everyone. In that event, everyone is willing and ready for a connection, and that is an easy ground to build friendships. Can you cook or bake? Or do you have candies? Just buy some and knock on the door of your new neighbours at your accommodation. Introduce yourself and let them know you are their latest neighbour and new to Sweden while you share your candies with them. This is not a regular practice in Sweden, but it can be highly rewarding. You may want to join online groups too dedicated for social activities; there are many of such on Facebook.

Meanwhile, I am still your easiest friend to make. I am just a chat away! Feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn: External link.

Picture of the author Amaraizu Genius

Amaraizu Genius is an International Student Ambassador at Södertörn University

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