What makes Gothenburg unique?


Written by Usisipho

30 Nov 2018

Moving to a new city is always exciting. What is it gonna be like? Will I like it? How’s it different from other cities? Well, I’ve lived in Gothenburg for over a year now and I think I finally have a good idea of what makes the city unique. Here are some things that I think make Gothenburg unique!


One of the first things you’ll notice in Gothenburg is probably the trams! They’re pretty hard to miss. The trams here are very retro-looking, and sport an easily identifiable baby-blue and white colour palette. You can spot some in the following video:

At first you’ll probably also notice how nobody checks your tickets when you get on. The Swedish system of trust, right? So even if nobody checks, please buy a ticket, it’s the right thing to do!

Every now and then you will find ticket inspectors on the trams, but not too often. Naturally, this has given birth to a bit of a Gothenburg “extreme sport”, which locals call “[to] planka”. This basically means to ride without buying a ticket. Thrill-seekers sometime ride the tram without buying a ticket, though I would not recommend this!

When you ask most Swedes what they think about Gothenburg, they’ll probably say that the people are very friendly. Though I haven’t lived in other Swedish cities, I think I agree with this. People from Gothenburg are always willing to help, love having a good time, and are quite sociable by Nordic standards. Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, Gothenburg was recently voted the world’s most sociable city! I guess there’s a reason behind the “goa gubbar” name?

Some social students in Gothenburg | Credit: Usisipho

Gothenburg has a few nicknames. These include “Lilla London” (Little London) and “the face of Sweden“, this one often used jokingly to imply all sorts of things about the other side of Sweden. The surrounding coastline is also often referred to as “västkusten bästkusten” (the west coast, the best coast). I think these nicknames give a good impression of the city – a small but vibrant coastal city, which strives to punch above its weight.

People here speak a little bit differently to other parts of Sweden. The accent is said to be somewhat melodic, the pronunciation is a bit different, and there are a lot of slang words.The video below has a bit of a Göteborgska lesson:

According to a survey, Göteborgska might be a pretty good choice of Swedish dialect to learn! People generally describe the accent as rhythmic, friendly, nice, and associated with people who are funny.

I talked about this in my recent blog about Swedish music, which you can find here. Håkan Hellström is a mythical figure in Gothenburg. He isn’t just a musician, or a celebrity – he’s a super star to the highest degree. He performs in sold out arenas of 70 000 people – where everyone in the audience knows all the words to all the songs. Just to put it into perspective – his concerts sold 130 000 tickets (2 shows) in under 3 hours, breaking records for the local arena. People here love him, so if you’ve just met some people here, bringing up Håkan Hellström’s music is often a good icebreaker!

The streets of Gothenburg | Credit: Usisipho

Gothenburg is (in)famous for its special brand of humour. Here, this is the pretty much the local equivalent of a dad joke. You know, the kind of jokes that are so cheesy, that they’re actually good. The jokes are often based around Swedish puns and plays on words, so it is often quite difficult or even impossible to translate these jokes to English. But here’s a few examples anyway!

Which country has the cheapest meat? Ko-rea! [in Swedish, ko = cow, and rea = sale]

What is the cosiest neighbourhood in Gothenburg? Mast-hugg-et! [a neighbourhood with a name that sounds like “must hug it”]

If you understand some Swedish, you can find more Göteborgsskämt here.

What makes your city special?
Do you have any questions above Gothenburg? Feel free to ask them below!


Written by Usisipho

30 Nov 2018