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30+ Facts About Living in Sweden That Made Us Say, “Wait, What?”

Sweden gave the world safe and comfortable Volvo cars, cheap and stylish IKEA furniture, great games like Minecraft and Battlefield, and many other awesome things. According to HSBC, this country is in 20th place in terms of the attraction of immigrants. Free education, a good healthcare system, clear air, and untouched nature — these are the things that attract new citizens to Sweden.

We at Bright Side have read the opinions of people who have moved to Sweden recently and some who’ve been there for several years, and we’ve learned a lot of interesting things about this country that make it very different from any other.

  • Sweden is in first place in the European Union when it comes to the number of given patents. So it’s no surprise that most of the attention here is directed toward digital technology. And among these inventions made by Swedish people are the 3-point-seat belt, the pacemaker, oat milk, the pipe wrench, the walking frame, and many others.
  • Swedish people are very concerned about the ecological situation in the world. Only 1% of the trash is sent to landfills, 52% of it is used to produce energy, and 47% is recycled. The country is so good at dealing with waste that they even have to import trash from other countries in order to support the work of the companies that produce energy.
  • There’s almost no such thing as a hierarchy in Swedish society. Everyone addresses each other by their names, despite their position in a company or within a community. When talking to professors, students don’t use their titles.
  • Honesty and sincerity are the most important things to them. It’s better to admit your mistakes right away in order to avoid being punished by your boss. If you offer your friends some food and they decline, it’s better to stop right away and not insist they take it because that would be considered extremely rude.
  • People in Sweden have a deep respect for private space. Don’t start small talk with strangers or ask cashiers how they’re doing.
  • It’s not polite to ask personal questions about family, previous workplaces, and so on.
  • However, it is polite to be brief. Swedish people don’t like useless talk. Even a friendly meeting may start with a long pause. They don’t try to talk just to avoid silence.
  • Moving to Sweden is easy, but making friends is hard. Many people complain that even several months after meeting someone, they can’t move past the polite “hey” and “bye” phase. The Swedes are very careful about choosing people for their inner circles. It takes a lot of time and patience to win someone’s trust.
  • The best way to find friends is to start a hobby and take several classes. There are a lot of things you can choose from. Another way is to take a sports class you like. The Swedes pay a lot of attention to physical activity.
  • Finding an apartment is an incredibly difficult task in Sweden. It’s the worst in Stockholm, where it’s almost impossible to find a place to buy. Some people spend years in lines waiting for the right apartment. In smaller towns, it’s better. The prices for property are very high, but most apartments and houses are in great condition.
  • The Swedes say that every person dreams about 3 “V” — villa, Volvo, dog (Villa, Volvo, Vovve). But even this dream is easier to achieve than a private washing machine. This is why everyone uses laundromats. But before using one, you should read the rules. Some aren’t allowed to be used after a certain hour. Also, it is important to clean up after yourself and wash the machine. Otherwise, your neighbors might become really unhappy.
  • Paper money is not something the Swedes love. Even for the smallest things, they pay with their credit cards. Some places don’t take cash at all. Only some vending machines may take coins.
  • Banks and shops work until a certain time. And in summer, in July-August, during the vacation period, most places are closed, even cafes and restaurants. This is why you should have no plans for this time of year. Don’t change jobs or plan renovations.
  • The Swedes have a special knife for butter made of wood or plastic. It belongs to everyone when you are sitting at a table with others. So, if you try to use this knife when it’s not your turn, or worse, if you put it on your plate, it is considered very rude. Obviously, you should never use this knife for anything other than butter and you shouldn’t use other knives to cut butter either.
  • The last sandwich or cookie should remain on the table. Even if nobody is interested in it, it will stay alone on a giant plate.
  • Lingonberries go with anything. But they don’t put them on toast.

  • Lines are sacred. They are silent and extremely patient. Trying to talk in a line or act irritated while waiting is frowned upon. Obviously, if you break this rule, nobody will say a word to you because it would be a violation of another rule — not talking to strangers.

  • You can’t raise your voice. And you can never scream. A Swedish person might just think that you hate them.
  • Shoes used on the street are left at the entrance to homes. Walking around the house in shoes is a huge violation of rules. This is why they are very careful about the color and the condition of the socks they wear.
  • Arriving late or earlier than the agreed upon time is a terrible mistake. This rule works for all aspects of life, from business meetings to friendly gatherings. The Swedes are extremely punctual and they expect the same attitude from others.
  • Planning is superlative. Most people have calendars with all of their planned events for the next few months. Business meetings, trips, visits with friends and relatives — everything is in this document. Ask a Swede what they are doing next Friday at 5 pm, and they will instantly be able to tell you.
  • In offices, everyone, including the management, takes part in the everyday routine. So don’t be surprised to hear, “Sorry, the manager can’t answer right now, it’s his turn to do the dishes today.”
  • Swedish people love business meetings. Any member of the team can talk about their ideas. They welcome the open exchange of opinions.
  • All phone numbers and e-mail addresses can be accessed. If you need someone’s phone number, you can ask any employee and they will give it to you.
  • A standard work day finishes at 5 pm and the office instantly becomes empty. Parents leave earlier to pick up their kids from school or kindergarten, and they don’t need to tell their boss that they’re doing this.
  • The most sacred tradition of any team is fika. This is a special coffee break. You can’t drink coffee at your desk or refuse to meet your colleges for coffee. It is also not appropriate to answer business letters and calls during fika.
  • Any 2 parents have maternity or paternity leave for 480 days. Each of the parents can spend 3 months with the child and the rest can be divided between them. Not taking the time to be with your child is wrong. Nobody will appreciate or understand this kind of behavior.
  • Aside from this time, parents can take a vacation to take care of their children and 80% of their income will be paid to them. Everyone understands this: it’s better for the child to be at home if they’re sick rather than go to school and potentially infect everyone there.
  • Most Swedes have an average of 33 vacation days a year (at least 4 weeks). They usually go on vacation in June or July.
  • Family time is crucial for the Swedes. This is why they try not to work more than 6 hours a day.
  • Playgrounds in Sweden are for play. Nobody will stop children from running around, yelling, and climbing different objects on playgrounds.
  • The Swedes love sweets: a family of 4 eats about 2.6 pounds of chocolate and candy a week. But this happens mostly on Saturdays. In the ’40s of the last century, doctors decided to do an experiment to find out what happens if they eat chocolate once a week. This experiment turned into a tradition.
  • Before giving a name to a child, it has to be approved by the Swedish Tax Agency during the first 3 months after the child is born. Fortunately, options like Ikea and Metallica are prohibited for little Swedes.
  • The Swedish people prefer to rest and relax in the fresh air.
  • All of the land in Sweden, except for the land near people’s homes, is accessible to all citizens. There, people can have picnics and set up tents. Just don’t forget to collect your trash.
  • Let’s say there’s a new TV series and you invite your Swedish friend to watch it together. Be careful: there’s a chance she will ignore you for a couple of weeks or even slap you in the face. The phrase, “Shall we watch a movie together,” is so overused that it has become the equivalent of an invitation to cuddle in bed together. Either way, you won’t be watching any movies together.
  • In Sweden, people don’t talk to strangers on the street, on public transportation, in shops, or anywhere else. And strangers can be people that live in the same building as you, work not far from you, and so on.
    Igor Di Marco, from Italy, shared this funny story, “A friend of mine, a Spanish woman, a few days ago tried to say hi to a guy she has been seeing on the train every day for the last 3 months (they are commuters on the same line). This guy ran away from her. Literally.”
  • The Swedes are very straightforward people and when they get an answer to their question, they won’t ask again. In some cultures, it is polite to turn down the first offer and expect the one who offers to insist. The Swedes don’t do this. Fay, a student from Greece, shared a funny story, “I came and stayed at the place of a Swedish guy I knew. He offered to let me sleep in his bed and said he would sleep on the couch. I told him that I’d be fine even sleeping on the floor. So, who do you think slept on the floor? I did. I shouldn’t have said that. I’d much rather have slept in the bed.”
  • Summer is a time to collect berries and mushrooms, although people should be careful not to do this in a private area and avoid protected plants.
  • There are many different animals in Swedish forests. The most famous ones are wolves and moose. But the Swedes are not afraid of them. The scariest animals for them are badgers. The Swedes believe that if this wild animal bites a person, it will not let go until their bones break.
  • Even though people in Sweden are not used to showing their emotions, they still do it sometimes. Uppsala University has an amazing tradition. At exactly 10 p.m., any student can open their window and yell as loud as they can. This is how young people can blow off steam after exhausting lessons or stressful exams.

Maybe you live in Sweden and know some other amazing facts about this country? Share them with us!

Preview photo credit kristofferp83 / depositphotos