Thinking of traveling to Europe, or more specifically, Scandinavia? If you are like me, packing can be a struggle. Pack too much? Pack too light? Pack for the absolute wrong weather? After my year abroad of packing, unpacking, and repacking, here are my ten tips to successful Swedish vacationing.
1) First things first, Sweden is extremelycold. Prior to leaving, it was hard for me to grasp just how freezing it would be. I thought I would be okay coming from Central Illinois where it gets pretty chilly: wrong. In my normal winter gear it was literally painful to be outdoors. However, once I had the right coat, Swedish winter was one of the most beautiful parts of my trip. Overall, my advice to anyone planning to travel in the winter is to buy a warm jacket with suitable lining.
2) Secondly, if you are planning to travel in between the months of July and September, be sure to bring raincoats, rain boots, and umbrellas. Sweden gets the most rainfall during those times and near Stockholm the country gets nearly 22 inches of rain annually. A light rain jacket in the summer is also recommended.
3) Also, bring appropriate attire. Although most settings do not enforce a strict dress code, Swedish people enjoy dressing up and dining with friends. You do not want to show up for a champagne dinner in hiking gear.
4) Speaking of dinner parties, I found it exciting to share my culture with the Swedes. Because the Swedish people are knowledgeable of the English language, they are very involved with American culture. They listen to a lot of American music and watch a lot of American movies. So, sharing gifts from home with them (candy, CDs, etc.) was very exciting. Bring gifts to events and impress the hostess that you came so very prepared.
5) A camera is a must. Swedish people value preserving the environment and protecting nature. I remember my first drive around Sollentuna (the suburb I lived in). As we drove along the Baltic Sea surrounded by rich, green grass, the views were postcard worthy. The unique scenery is breathtaking and is definitely something to share with friends back home.
My Swedish host sister and I (October 2009)
6) As far as style goes, when packing clothes think Stylish but practical. Although the younger generation’s style is becoming less practical and more trendy, Swedes still take pride in the practicality of their culture. Natural fabrics, low-heeled shoes for all of the walking, and more subdued colors are very much part of Swedish style.
7) If you are in need of a mobile phone while in Sweden, prepaid SIM cards can be purchased there. SIM cards are the most convenient and economical way for staying in touch while in Scandinavia. It is simply a small card you buy from a cellphone company which houses your contacts and is slipped in to the back of your cellular device. Similar to pay-as-you-go cellphones in the US, minutes can then be added as needed.
8) Plan to walk a lot in Sweden. It is rare that one drives a car and it is not needed. I was extremely impressed with the public transportation during my stay. It felt safe and buses and trains were generally right on schedule. However, you will need good walking shoes. It was not long before I realized that my usual flats and sandals just weren’t cutting it. For many young Swedes, Vans and Converse are the way to go for style and comfort.
9) Bring your bathing suit! Swedish summer is the heavenly. After making it through the long winter, I loved the long, sunny days in Stockholm. Each morning, my host-sister and I would head down for a morning dip in the sea. Although it can be a little chilly, it is always refreshing. I can still remember my Swedish “mormor” or grandmother always saying that “you never regret a swim,” which is something that many Swedes live by.
10) Finally, the most important thing to bring when traveling abroad is an open-mind. The Swedish lifestyle can be quite extreme after living in the US. However, if you embrace every day, whether it be cross-country skiing on the coldest of days or morning swims in the Baltic Sea, it will be such a rewarding experience. The Swedes genuinely enjoy this type of lifestyle; after all, they were the Vikings.