Everyone says Sweden is expensive. I knew it was going to be expensive. In the back of my mind I brushed it off, “Yeah, yeah – I know, I know!” After all, I’d been there on holiday, I’d seen the prices in supermarkets, I knew what I was talking about. That is, until I actually moved here and began living with the reality of it being as expensive as it is. 30% tax on your wage plus nothing costs less than a pound in supermarkets. The bargains aren’t as tempting, the staples aren’t as cheap and you’re surprised on a daily basis by the things you’d assume would be a similar price are actually three times the price!
This was my reality for the first week of living here while my partner and I found our feet. Everything we did was tinged with a sense of “can we really afford to keep up our old eating habits long term?” So much so that the both of us started losing sleep over it. So far, our Swedish adventure wasn’t working out the way we expected it to. After a week or so we knew that things would have to change but we weren’t prepared to totally give up on quality. Having lived on a budget before I knew we had to be canny about what we bought, where we bought it and when we bought it to make our SEK stretch further.
Two months on and here we are, making it work in Malmö! I’ve gathered some of the best tips and hints for basic survival, but also ways of maintaining those treats that keep you sane. Living here can work long term if you’re on a budget and a bit sneaky! Here are some of the solid gold tips and tricks I’ve picked up over the past few months:
Food and Drink
Checking your local ICA Nära from 7-8pm for cheap sourdough, fikabröd & rolls should become part of your weekly (if not nightly) routine. Conveniently, ours is just around the corner but chances are wherever you’re living in Malmö you’ll be close to one too. You can pick up sourdough for 12kr, big baguettes for 5kr & rolls & pastries for 3kr a piece if you catch them at the right time.
Livs (grocery) stores are the way to go in Malmö. Cheap, good quality produce, good variety & they reduce their prices in the evening around about the same time as ICA. I’ve often got big bags of passionfruit, apricots & strawberries for 10kr & big sacks of potatoes for 25kr. Picking up a “ten bag” of fruit and veg has become a staple of our evenings!
Möllan market is like the beating heart of the city when it comes to food. With so much competition in the area you can be sure that prices are always as low as they can be. If you catch them just before closing you may end up picking up some mega bargains, but be warned you’ll have to compete with other people to get the best stuff!
If you’re looking for snacks in Malmö then you’re also in luck. Cheap falafel can be found practically on every street corner, but the cheapest storfalafel I’ve found is for 25kr at Chaplin Grill on Bodekullsgatan and Värnhem. Babylon Grill near Folkets Park also offer a great range of Vegan alternatives. There’s a lot of competition here too so you won’t be out of pocket wherever you go.
If you know where to go you can always get a cheeky gratis coffee when you’re out and about in Malmö. How about some free organic coffee, tea & hot chocolate at the design shop Bolia, with a free chocolate accompaniment? So you can have a cappuccino whilst you ‘windowshop’ all of the lovely interior design pieces. Think of this as flicking through a real life catalogue over a nice cuppa!
IKEA Malmö (like other IKEAs) offer free coffee & tea on weekdays for IKEA FAMILY card owners. Even in the most unlikely places you can get a cheap coffee a free påtar (second cup), like at the Form Design Center in the middle of town. Enjoy the stunning examples of cutting edge or classic Scandinavian design (for free) AND not feel guilty about it!
Out and about.
The JOJO (pronounced yoyo) SOMMER KORT is the best way of getting out and about in the summer. It’s only 640kr (£62 ish) and is available from June 15th to August 15th. It will take you all over of Skåne, working on busses & trains, so you can visit the beautiful features & quaint little towns of the whole Skåne region. Public transport in general is very good and the prices can be flexible. You’re encouraged to use the regular Jojo Kort or your phone with 10% discounts and the ability to pick and choose where you go (why pay for all of the city when you only go to half of it?).
Malmö city is ideally designed for biking. Picking up a second hand bike on Blocket is pretty straightforward but biking is always available for the whole year for 250kr, around (£25!) with Malmö City Bike. You just have to sign up to the service. You get the bike for an hour before having to put it in one of the many docking stations dotted around the city at key locations, where you can simply pick up another if you need to. Nothing in Malmö is more than an hour’s cycle ride away. They even have a handy app to show you where your nearest docking station is in realtime, showing you how many stations are free and ready to use.
Malmö is a hive of activity, especially in the summer when it seems there’s a festival or event every other week. Malmöfestivalen is a week long festival of culture, food, music and entertainment that sprawls across the city offering free performances from some big name Swedish acts.
In addition to that there are regularly free shows & events at Folkets Park where you can see a wide variety of things in a small area. The park draws together people of all ages as there isn’t a square inch of it not buzzing with something going on. There are plenty of free art exhibitions at Malmö Konsthall, Form Design Center & Moderna Museet Malmö. If art is your thing then you’ll find the quality and variety is high.
There’s also Malmö Gallerinatt & Malmö Art Walk, which happened on the eve of September 30th. They are events in which open spaces around Malmö from 6pm till 12am to showcase the city’s galleries and up-coming artists and designers. That night the city is overflowing with great exhibitions, talks and projects to become a part of; FOR FREE!
Loppis hunting is a big thing and a great way to pick up some bargains. Literally translated as “flea”, loppis stores are the equivalent of second hand and charity shops. This being Sweden you can pick up some big design names like Höganäs, Iittala, Stelton and many more. Emmaus near Triangeln is like a second hand department store with a huge range of men’s, women’s and children’s wear, not to mention household items and books. You can also visit Humana second hand clothes shops. Loppis Lounge on Djaknegatan also offers free black coffee and biscuits for its customers. So while you’re on the hunt for bargains, perusing the shelves for some Scandinavian design gems, you can rest assured you’re not bleeding cash as you go.
Getting stuff done.
Need to do some DIY? Can’t afford to just drop 500SEK on a drill? Then ToolPool is the place for you. Situated in a handyman shop on Störa NyGatan, they offer a service where you sign up and are allowed to take any of their power tools/DIY equipment for 24hrs, free. It’s a great way of getting things done cheaply and is a perfectly Swedish solution to a potentially expensive problem.
Malmö is a hotbed of startups and small companies eager to make money and get recognised. That means there’s plenty of talent and competition out there, but it’s great for getting the ball rolling with meeting people, creating new business or job searching, which can otherwise be a daunting prospect.
Sign up to Creative Mornings: Malmö, for free events. They are great places to network and offer free coffee. Minc Malmö StartupLabs offer the possibility of a free-of-charge workspace, with wifi & coffee included for up to 6 months. Even though the tickets for ‘The Conference’ business networking event are expensive, there are many side events, talks and workshops for free. Also, Boxspace Malmö, offer a quick and easy sign-up to their free day-pass; including wifi & coffee.
I hope my little guide has helped any budding travellers or people wanting to move to this great city!