How to embrace solitude like a Swede

Elin Asklöv, the in-house linguistic expert at language learning app Babbel explains the Swedish concept of Ensam är stark: "alone is strong".

Ensam är stark. When translated to English, this Swedish phrase means "alone is strong".

This term reflects just how important the value of independence is in Sweden. There, striving for financial independence as soon as you’re an adult—from the age of 18—means moving out of your parents home, making your own living and getting by without help.

This philosophy accompanies Swedes throughout their lives: not being dependent on a spouse as an adult, nor children as you grow old, are principally all part of this Swedish concept. The motto can be illustrated by Swedish living conditions. Forty per cent of the nation’s single households are enacting Ensam är stark, with one in five people living by themselves. This is the highest number of single households in Europe.

Swedish solo living on a boat

The idea is so deeply ingrained in the country’s psyche that you can find the idea of being happy in yourself scattered throughout the Swedish language. Take the proverb Själv är bäste dräng, which means you do better without help (when literally translated into English, this phrase means "by yourself is the best farm worker").

The phrase Man är sin egen lyckas smed translates to being "the smith of your own luck" in English, or in other words that you create your own luck. There are plenty more examples: Bra karl reder sig själv translates to "a good man takes care of himself", and Ju fler kockar, desto sämre soppa is the Swedish take on the well-known phrase "too many cooks spoil the broth". The list, as you can imagine, goes on.

alone and happy woman

Whilst actively choosing to take time for yourself is a typically Swedish trait, doing so, or choosing to live alone, doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t meet friends or family. The Swedes do not advocate for a life of solitary confinement. It’s more that the decision to spend time alone is not seen as unusual or unexpected. Simply being with yourself can provide relief from social pressures, increase mental happiness and improve stress management.

 

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