To find one word that sums up Stockholmers is tough. As true East Londoners are supposedly defined by if they were born within the sound of Bow church bells, ‘real Stockholmers’ are defined by having being born and raised here for 6 generations. That’s no mean feat, and needless to say there’s not that many of them.
So what is a Stockholmer? Like most world cities, the people of Stockholm are urban mongrels. In the rapidly expanding population, if you literally swung a cat on the street, you would probably hit somebody from another part of the country. The majority of the residents of Stockholm have migrated here from ‘the countryside’. Chosen to come to get a job, go to college, chase a dream or eat from the smörgåsbord of the capital. Consequently, you will find that Stockholmers are hard-working, focused, cosmopolitan people who want to make a difference to their lives but still dream of the idyll of the countryside.
On the surface, Stockholmers seem fairly homogenous in terms of appearance. People are generally very trend conscious and if one person wears a checked scarf, it’s not long before everyone’s doing it. Diversity of style is not so easy to find when compared to other, larger cities. Often voted amongst the most beautiful people in the world, this conformity and fashion-consciousness combined with fitness orientation can be part of the reason. However, Stockholmers rarely find themselves in the top list for the most friendly people in the world. Residents are often perceived as cool and aloof and not very helpful. I’ve personally had enough people closing doors on me, walking into me as though I wasn’t there and ignoring me to share this perception to some degree. Like many urbanites, Stockholmers are busy, stressed and wrapped up in their own thing. For example, balancing child care with child events, work and social life can sometimes lead to a lack of awareness of others around. Add to this the challenges of being battered by a cold dark winter and you find a population generally more inwardly-focused than outwardly-conscious.
That said, Stockholmer’s can be schizophrenic. The inward focus of the winter shifts as the lighter warmer season arrives. An understandable lifting of the spirits is tangible, cafés move out onto the streets, people ditch the quilted coats in favour of airier clothes and more laughter is heard. People embrace the outdoor life and try to soak up as much UV as possible. It is literally like coming out of hibernation.
For Stockholmers, cultural activities, sport of all kinds, physical activity, shopping, personal pampering, eating out are all part of the agenda. The social Swedish concept of ‘fika’, drinking coffee and eating cake, is popular in the city and reflected by the large number of cafés and bakeries. Even here, trends play an important role, and the current trend of artisan baked goods seems to have a long-lasting grip.
Most Stockholmers seem to love their city and many take an interest in planning regulations and environmental issues. Despite this, Stockholm is the only city in the world that I know of where the term ‘unSwedish’ is used as a positive description of, for example, a cafe, a butique or a restaurant. It seems like the migrant soul of many Swedes extends beyond the capital city to other, more exotic places.
So, one word to describe Stockholmers isn’t possible. A diverse, cosmopolitan, schizophrenic, conformist population is perhaps the closest definition we can get.