When you think about Italians you might think about passionate people and passionate food. When you think about Americans, well, I see big spenders and big cars. But what about Swedes? Do we have anything that gives us a spot on the map? I had to think about it before I realized that we do have some strange and funny ideas about how life should be. If you’re coming to Sweden, here’s some advice that I gathered -useful do’s and don’ts, in form of few funny facts about Swedes.
- Take of your shoes
You’ll quickly notice that shoes are taken off when entering private residences in Sweden. 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, you might want to think twice before wearing full lace-up boots when visiting folks.
- Midsummer, Eastern and Christmas
At holidays Sweden literally closes down. The factories, offices and schools are closed as Swedes retreat to countryside cottages or their families to celebrate the holidays.
- It is safe to drink the water
Drinking straight from the tap is the norm here in Sweden. The water is clean and fresh, so you can save both money and the environment by not buying bottled water.
- Be on time
It is common knowledge here that ‘time’ should be respected at all times – regardless of whether you’re going for an interview or a friendly fika. Meetings will start on time with or without you. The train leaves on time with or without you. Swedes value punctuality.
- We love our coffee
Few people drink more coffee than us Swedes. In Sweden, coffee drinking is fostered through a tradition called fika – in which friends, family or colleagues meet for coffee or tea, often with something sweet on the side. Most Swedes will enjoy at least one fika a day as an opportunity to bond.
- English? No problem!
Swedish is spoken by almost 10 million people. However, most people in Sweden speak English as their second language – great if you’re not much of a linguist, as you can always revert to English if you’re stuck. In Sweden, we start learning English around the age of seven.
- Please stand in line….
Sweden is all about queuing. Whether you’re at the bank, pharmacy or phone repair shop, expect to take a number from a machine and wait your turn. You might only have a quick question to ask, but if you dare ask it before your number is called, you will be met by an onslaught of death stares from everyone around.
- Allemansrätten – right of public access
During the summer, many Swedes venture to their local forest to pick wild berries. We can do this because the Swedish Constitution grants its residents the right of Allemansrätten. As long as we don’t disturb or destroy the land, we have freedom to roam in nature. This freedom entitles us to camp, ski, hike, cycle and swim in any public natural area.
- Get your shopping done in time!
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 it’s likely that you’ll be battling crowds to get your shopping done between five and half past six.
- Business casual= Jeans
General everyday fashion in Sweden is simple, relaxed and casual. This same concept has seamlessly seeped its way into more formal business settings. Unless your colleague is meeting foreign clients or attending a high stakes board meeting, chances are they are wearing jeans and a long-sleeved shirt.