How to Live in Stockholm When You’re Young and Broke
All illustrations by Mikaela Saletti

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How to Live in Stockholm When You’re Young and Broke

Life can be pretty shitty if you're young and broke in an expensive city. Here's how to make the most out of Stockholm, in those circumstances.
7.4.16

Stockholm has a lot to offer: amazing coffee, extremely good-looking people and lots of water, since the city is made up of small islands. It's basically heaven if you want to be able to combine your love of caffeine, aesthetics and canoeing, all in one day.

But there's one thing that repeatedly makes me question why I still live here: the cost. Living in Stockholm is more expensive than living in Paris, Brussels or Rome. And if you happen to be young and broke like me, Stockholm is one of those cities that will never let you forget it. A single night out with a couple of drinks and entrance fee to a club will easily cost you over a hundred euros, the damage from seeing a movie (a movie) can easily be 20 euros if you're buying snacks.

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However, having lived in the city for a couple of years I've picked up some tricks to survive in Stockholm without having to resort to crime. So allow me to enlighten you on how to survive in Stockholm when you're young and broke. HOUSING
If you happen to be a millionaire, Stockholm might just be the place for you. Want to buy a flat? No problem! As long as you have 15% of the total flat price in your bank account, you're good to go. Good luck finding a one bedroom flat in a decent area somewhat near a subway station that sells for less than 2 million SEK (around 215,000 euros). If you're looking to rent a humanely priced flat or even just a room, you'll be sorely disappointed. The city's shortage of rental flats, combined with the fact that half a million people are on the city's waiting list for proper housing, makes it almost impossible to find a flat for under a thousand euros a month.

Illustrations by Mikaela Saletti

You can spend an eternity on Swedish sublet sites and the replies may vary, but there's a catch: if you're a woman, you'll likely be offered to live for free in a beautiful apartment in exchange for a monthly blowjob or a spooning session with some pervert. This is a real problem for poor students in Stockholm and in the nearby student town Uppsala: men proposing to be paid with sex in exchange for a room or flat.

So what to do in the midst of this housing crisis? Well, make sure you have friends with apartments and couches in those apartments. Just crash on their couch and be a little dramatically vague and artistic about the reason for your staying at their place. Say: "I can't talk about it right now", when you're being questioned about it. Rotate to the next friend whenever the current host starts being outright hostile. Repeat.

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Another solution is to do what a lot of other desperate Stockholmers do: move out. Why live in a city that doesn't want you? Find a nice commune in the north of Sweden with other housing refugees from Stockholm and pay a fraction of the rent you would pay in the city. In the evenings you can all gather around the fireplace and talk all night about how you couldn't ever even imagine living there anymore now, no really, who'd ever even want to live there anymore?

FOOD
Having a digestive system can wreak havoc on your financial security, in Stockholm. If just halving your daily food intake isn't an option, there are other ways to save in on food. Try a minimalist approach (very Swedish in itself) and go on an instant noodles diet, or, if you need more adventure and variety in your life, go dumpster diving. Remember: Best before dates are suggestions. Join Facebook groups like Dumpstra i Stockholm and Dumpstrande Veganer to find the best places to dumpster dive and meet like-minded freegans to go eat out with.

Another option: start living on fika. The long-standing tradition of fika in Sweden is an integral part of Swedish society and as close as secularised Swedes come to a holy national ritual. Fika is basically a social coffee break, but in some work places it also entails cakes, buns, candy. Make fika the main focus of your calorie intake instead of a sweet sidekick. In Sweden, free fika is all around you, you just have to know where to look: teacher's rooms, offices, churches, kids sports games and activity centers for seniors are gold mines when it comes to free coffee and carbs. Just dress for the part and start crashing.

TRANSPORT
The city's public transport is pretty great, but it's expensive as hell. A single trip will cost you around 3 to 5 euros and a monthly pass will cost you 85. Imagine what you could do with all that money. Well, in Stockholm, nothing really.

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Either way: if you want to avoid paying the absurd monthly fair, bunking is the obvious and most popular option. Please note that we're not encouraging you to bunk the train. But if you were to do it, the basics are that you need to find someone in a rush, who has a working ticket, and who doesn't mind you getting uncomfortably close to this person as they're going through. If the ticket barrier detects a gap between you and the person, it will immediately close. Hard. Expect some bruises in the beginning. Again, we're not encouraging you to illegally ride the train, but if you're doing it (which you absolutely shouldn't), you'd want to do it at T-centralen, Slussen, Skanstull, Gullmarsplan, Hornstull, Östermalmstorg or Fridhemsplan – stations that are crowded at all hours.

Another option is to pay the Swedish bunk organization planka.nu a monthly payment of 10 euros. They'll pay your 130 euro fine if you happen to get caught. You can pay per week or month, depending on how often you use the train. The nonprofit has around a thousand members and if you get fined, you'll only have to pay a deductible of ten euros.

DRUGS
Drugs in Sweden are super expensive. Even our potheads need to have a job here. The street price for one gram of cannabis is around 13 euros. It might be because we're so up north that the cartels are having a hard time finding us, or because the Swedish narcotic laws are very stringent. It's completely illegal to sell, own, produce, buy or even introduce a dealer to a buyer in Sweden. The cheapest way to get your hands on decent drugs is probably to keep your friends close, and your stoner friends closer. Consider that smelly neighbour a friend now. Same thing with that guy from high school who started posting some xenophobic shit on Facebook recently. No one said there weren't going to be any sacrifices.

Another option: go overseas to get high. Some low-cost airlines sell tickets for under 50 euros to Amsterdam. Once you've arrived in Amsterdam, there's a smörgåsbord of relatively legal drugs to enjoy. You can also take the train or the bus down to Copenhagen for around the same price, where you'll find freetown Christiania.

If you're really broke and can't afford to travel anywhere, there's one last way to get a little hazy: booze. Luckily, there are many ways ways to get drunk for free in Stockholm. Stockholm is packed with art exhibitions, restaurant openings and fashion shows. Map out the week's events and dress accordingly. If anyone asks who you know there, say you know Erik. It's the most common name in Sweden, so your chances of being invited to the event by an Erik are pretty high.

There. You now have all the tools you need in order to survive while young and broke in the money hungry city that is Stockholm. If the survival tips mentioned here don't work for you, maybe it's just time to find a job. You can always try IKEA.