Panion: Making Friends in Stockholm
Melanie Aronson shows us how to make friends in Stockholm using innovative app Panion.
Documentary filmmaker and photographer Melanie Aronson came to Sweden a few years ago on a U.S. Fulbright grant to conduct research for a documentary on refugee integration in Sweden. She realized through her research and through her own struggles to meet people when she first arrived, that there was no efficient tool for rebuilding your social circle when you’ve moved to a new place.
So, she decided to create a solution – Panion – and shares in her own words below how to use it to make new friends.
Meeting new people in a new city can be a daunting experience, especially when you’re unsure of the local social codes — those which influence when and how it’s acceptable to approach someone, what questions are off-limits and at what pace friendships progress.
In Stockholm, striking up a conversation with a stranger is an unusual sight and when it is initiated, it is purely for pragmatic reasons: asking for directions or the time. Even the concept of “stranger” is different here — someone you see every day whose name you don’t know is still a stranger and if you smile or nod at them you might be met with a puzzled, or blank stare in return.
In other European countries, inviting people over for coffee, lunch or dinner is an established way of getting to know each other. These invitations are often offered and received spontaneously and indicate interest on both sides though do not guarantee friendship. Such invites are usually aided by a cultural requirement to be hospitable.
In Sweden, by contrast, keeping to yourself and even being a recluse are not characteristics frowned upon by society. Hospitality is something you save for special occasions. A dinner invite signals close friendship and is sometimes made months in advance which keeps it at a certain level of formality.
As my Stockholm-based friend Matilda explains “inviting someone to your house is a big thing. I’ve had dinner invites three months in advance — and this is from people I can already say I am friends with.”
What can you do about it?
If talking to people on the street is not an option, inviting them over — even less so, then how do you go about meeting new Swedes?
A typically Swedish way to meet new people and increase the likelihood of a friendship or a meaningful exchange is by taking a class — a popular way to spend your free time thanks to the concept of “folkbildning” — the life-long right to freely acquire new knowledge. This also corresponds with the primary way Swedes interact with new people: through organised socialising.
Of course, this doesn’t work for everyone. If taking a class or offering and receiving dinner invites aren’t on the cards, there are other strategies for meeting and speaking with Swedes we can recommend. Instead of breaking the unwritten social rules, try using technology to find people who’ve already chosen to be approached by a stranger.
The best app for connecting with people through common interests is called Panion and, fittingly, it was created in Sweden.
Among Panion’s users are people from all walks of life whose interests are just as varied. Filter them according to your preferred location or a specific interest and you’ll be one step closer to finding a new friend.
Perhaps you’re into museums, or hiking or classic films? There’s someone for everyone.
OK, now what?
You’ve downloaded the app and are ready to go but what are the activities you could suggest to your potential Stockholm friends?
Feeling bold? Try ice-swimming (if your doctor approves), followed by sauna at Hellasgården. You are likely to be the only non-Swede here which would definitely be a conversation-starter!
Check out the Rooftop sightseeing tour of historical Stockholm from 43 meters off the ground. This one is not for the faint of heart but promises to be an exhilarating way to see a new place.
Want a night out with a little more variety? Why not grab a new companion and head to Ugglan Boule & Bar where you can play a range of games including pinball, shuffleboard and ping pong.
Or, if you’re a proud nerd Hey STHLM is your go-to place for classic arcade games such as Street Fighter, MarioKart and Dance Dance Revolution.
Whatever places you decide to visit and people you end up meeting, you are bound to have a new and memorable experience in Stockholm.
And while your trip has an end date, using Panion doesn’t — there are always new people to meet wherever you venture to next in the world.
Panion is a mobile app that allows you to run keyword searches to find people with specific interests and to browse your overlapping interests with those nearby. Without the stigma of a dating app, Panion encourages you to meet people of all ages and genders. It can be used at home or to meet new people while traveling abroad.