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Sweden: Destination Guides - Must read

Things to know about the Swedish culture

Heading to Sweden for your study abroad? Or just a short summer vacation with your friends? Check out our guide here.

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You’ve finally got that coveted acceptance letter from the Swedish university that you applied to. You’ve settled all of your travel, accommodation and budget for your study abroad in Sweden. Now you’re both excited and nervous. Would you thrive there or would you just barely survive? Is the transport system easy to decipher? Most importantly, what are the Swedes like? Do they welcome foreigners? How do you best interact with them and what are the things that you should avoid? We’ve shortlisted a couple of things that you must know about Swedish culture, what you should steer away from, why they behave the way they do, what’s expected of you.

 

Stockholm, the capital of Sweden is built on 14 islands

The city centre is literally situated on water, which is unique, most countries’ capitals are land-locked.

 

Swedish people are shy

Don’t take their taciturn nature for surliness or very aloofness. The Swedes just need time to warm up to you. They are also really kind, if they see that you need help, they will be more than happy to provide the assistance that you need.

 

The drinking culture

Like water is to plants, alcohol is the same to Swedes. It’s easier to make friends and get to know people over a beer. It also bears mentioning that when the Swedes raise a glass and shout skal, everyone must make eye contact with everyone else at the table before drinking. So don’t freak out when you find that everyone’s staring at you.

 

Queues have numbers

If you see no lines at the cashier counter or a help desk, it doesn’t mean that no one is waiting to be attended to. Everyone has a number ticket, and you risk the ire of those who were before you by waltzing straight up to empty desk and asking a question.

 

Summer aficionados

Swedish love their summers. The whole country shuts down throughout the whole month of July and everyone heads off to the archipelago to frolic in the Baltic sea.

 

Quite a lot of Swedes speak English

89 percent of people in Sweden speak English. You don’t have to worry about not being understood, just be polite when asking for directions.

 

Empowered citizens

Did you know that the official Twitter account of @Sweden is given to a random citizen every week to manage.

 

Punctuality

Swedes don’t like to be late. It’s rude to be late and punctuality is highly valued. If you know that you fall under the perpetually “fashionably late” crowd, ensure that you get everything ready two hours before, just to be safe.

 

Timing norms

If you’ve set a meeting for half six, it means that you’re meeting someone at 5:30 not 6:30.

 

Swedes are stylish

They’re not the drop dead fashionistas of Paris, but they have their own modern, sophisticated style. Just take a look at the Swedish households, minimalistic, yet so comfy. So why not check out which parts of the Swedish style suits you?

 

Silence is golden

It’s okay to not speak every second of every moment. You may feel that Swedes can be unusually quiet, but it is not because they’re mad or annoyed. They just enjoy a bit of peace and quiet.

 

Get your shopping done before five pm

Many stores close early, especially at weekends. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a store open past ten in the evening that isn’t a petrol station. It’s worth keeping in mind that since many Swedes are done with their regular jobs around five, you’ll likely be battling crowds to get your shopping done between five and half past six.

 

Outdoor lovers

The Swedes love doing things outdoors whether it’s in the sun, under the rain or in the middle of a winter blizzard.

 

Take off your shoes

You’ll notice that shoes are taken off when entering private residences. Some explain it with the simple fact that Swedes spend a lot of time outdoors during winter and are prone to dragging in dirt. Others say it’s a sign of respect for the home. Either way, always ensure that you take off your shoes before entering a Swede’s home or even an office, unless you’ve been told otherwise by the hosts themselves.  

 

Fantastic seafood

Swedes love their fish as Sweden is an island-heavy country, you can easily obtain fresh seafood anywhere you go. Be sure to indulge in all the different dishes and step out of your comfort zone.

 

Pastry holidays

In Sweden, they celebrate cinnamon buns, waffles and saffron pastries, it’s awesome.

 

Fika is a culture

Swedish take their coffee and cakes breaks really seriously. It’s a way of life for the Swedes. Be sure not to reject them when they ask you to join them.

 

Sweden and Switzerland are different countries

Do you like it when a Westerner assumes you’re from China or India because of how you look, despite the fact that you’re from Malaysia? How Westerners make this offhanded quip about how all Asians look the same? Well, the Swedes don’t like it when you confuse them for Switzerland. You’d think that would be an easy distinction to make, but many people do. So please don’t.

 

We hope that this guide has been helpful. Speak to your friends and even teachers for any advice for your study abroad adventure in Sweden.

 

Interested to study in Sweden? Check out the courses available here.

Or download a university’s prospectus here.

 

Useful links

Finding a graduate career in Sweden

Setting up broadband and phone services in Sweden

Three fields to study in Sweden

Common misconceptions of Sweden

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About Author

A fan of anime and all things Japanese, Khai has been writing professionally since 2010 and “unofficially” for much longer. In her free time, you will often find her baking, reading, travelling and doing everything else in between.