27 Things To Know Before You Visit Sweden
- Cinnamon buns are eaten with everything.
Coffee culture is very developed in Sweden. The most popular and the most “Swedish” thing to eat with coffee is a kanelbullar (cinnamon bun). When Swedes give it to you to try, don’t say no! They won’t understand if you don’t.
- IKEA is life.
You understand you’re in Sweden when you see IKEA everywhere. For a lot of families visiting IKEA cafe, seating and chatting is kind of a weekend ritual.
- Social roles are SUPER different!
Sweden is far beyond all of the countries in the world when it comes to speaking and acting on equality. Of course, how far ahead Sweden is depends on the country you’re coming from; but, anyway, Sweden is leading here, sorry!
- Sweden is not cheap.
I mean, really! Be prepared to spend a lot of cash. Especially if you’re kind of a party person and plan to spend a lot of money on alcohol.
- The sun is not a frequent guest.
Sweden is definitely not the sunniest country in the world. In fact, in the far north of Sweden, people sometimes don’t see the sun for months. But don’t worry! Vitamin D supplements will help you deal with it. Swedes begin to take it as early as their kindergartens.
- Recycling is hugely encouraged.
- There are plenty of vegetarian and vegan restaurants.
As I’ve mentioned, Swedes like to eat healthy. (Well… Friday night and weekends can sometimes be an exception to this rule.) But most of the time, they really do! When I saw the huge range of vegan and vegetarian food in Swedish shops for the first time, I was shocked in a positive way! I’m not heavily into any of it but I loved to buy this food from time to time. Now, back in Poland, I miss such a różnorodność of choice sometimes.
- The English language is spoken everywhere.
You’ll find that most people in Sweden speak the English language better than you do. So, just deal with it!
- Summer is everyone’s favorite season.
Since there are so few sunny days during the year, when summer arrives, people prefer to spend the time outside enjoying the warm weather and sun.
- Shops close early.
The majority of the shops in Sweden close quite early (around 5-6pm), especially on weekends. Keep this in mind when you make your shopping plans.
- Swedish dads are the best.
Of course, I’m not saying that dads in other countries are bad; but, the fact is that the Swedish government has taken gender equality (and the removal of gender-specific roles) to a totally different level! As a result, a woman walking with a baby stroller is not a very common happening here, as its mostly dads who are doing that. I really advise you to read more about this amazing phenomenon.
- Lagom is a huge part of Swedish identity.
Swedes really like to have the golden mean in EVERYTHING in their lives and lagom is their national ideology. Check out my previous article to discover more on what lagom is.
- Expect special traditions at Christmas time.
Just like in every other country, there are some special Swedish-based traditions that occur on Christmas in Sweden. The big ones include: showcasing Donald Duck on Christmas Eve; the holding of the St. Lucia ceremony; the use of long, white candles; the drinking of the popular Christmas soft drink, julmust; and having family around.
- Don’t wear shoes indoors.
Always remember to take off your shoes when you’re entering someone’s private residence in Sweden. Also, don’t expect Swedes to give you slippers instead. It’s not something that is common behavior.
- Always be on time.
People in Sweden really don’t like it when someone is late. You won’t have someone screaming at you because of it, but, anyway, it’s better not practice being late in Sweden.
- Alcohol is not easy to get.
In Sweden, the state has a monopoly on alcohol, and the advertisement of it on TV is officially forbidden. The only way to buy alcohol that is more than 3.5% in strength is to go to Systembolaget, which is the only state-run liquor store and the only one legal option to getting a drink. (Of course, you can also do it in in bars or restaurants if they have a permission to sell it.)
- There are holidays for foods.
Do you know any other country where there are so many days dedicated to people celebrating food? In Sweden, they have a ton of food-based celebrations! Examples include Semla day (Fettisdagen), Waffle day (Vaffeldagen), Cinnamon Bun Day (Kannelbullens dag) and Kladdkaka dag.
- Education is not necessarily free.
If you’re an EU, EEA or citizen of Switzerland then Swedish universities will offer you their course free of fees. Unfortunately, for others, there are payments. The good news is that there are a lot of scholarships for people from other countries, so be sure to research around to see where you might be able to study!
- Cash is facing decline.
Sweden aims to be one of the first non-cash countries. At a result, some shops and bars have already stopped accepting cash. Keep this in mind when you’re going there and be sure to use up any krona you may have.
- Accommodation is hard to score.
In Sweden, there is a big lack of accommodation. The Swedish government is trying to solve this problem, but there is still a lot to do. The biggest problem exists in Sweden’s capital, Stockholm. So, if you are thinking about living there, think about booking accommodation in advance!
- Parties end early in the night.
In Poland, which is my second home country, we usually begin parties at around 9pm. In Sweden, parties begin at around 7pm, while clubs start to close at around 2am.
- Small talk doesn’t work well.
Swedes really don’t like when someone does not respect their private space and breaks into their comfort zone. So, if you want strangers to feel comfortable around you, then don’t make them encage in small talk.
- Making friends can be challenging.
You’ve probably heard about the fact that it’s quite hard to make friends in Sweden. But don’t give up and don’t fall into the trap where you’re hanging out only with people from your own country. Try dabbling in Tinder (which is a very popular way to get to know people from in Sweden, since they are quite shy), joining Facebook groups, visiting networking events or using portals and organizations whose aim it is to helping in people make friends (kompissverige.se).
- Forget about formal addressing.
Everyone in Sweden greets each other by saying “hey”. It doesn’t matter who you’re talking to – even if it’s the Prime Minister of Sweden, saying “hey” is best way to greet people. Also, while studying in Sweden, forget about addressing your university teachers by their titles. Speaking to them with their first names is a commonplace practice.
- ID is necessary if you’re buying alcohol.
When you’re going to Systembolaget, don’t forget to take your ID. Your beautiful eyes and smile will not work on their own here; no one will sell you alcohol without some form of ID proving that you’re over the legal age.
- Laundry machines are hard to access.
There are no laundry machines in apartments. Usually, there are some in the basements of the buildings, where you have to put your name on a list to wash your clothes. It’s a long and tedious process. That’s why not coming to a party because your clothes are in the laundry is kind of big deal in Sweden.
- Hugging strangers is not cool.
If you’re meeting someone for the first time, don’t hug them. Instead, just shake the person’s hand. Oh, and especially don’t try to kiss them on the cheek! Both hugging and cheek-kissing are not seen as an acceptable form of greeting between two strangers. So, if you attempt to do either, you might encounter some awkward situations!