It is easy to confuse the very formal, organised Swedish state with the very informal nature of society. Being new here almost guarantees you’ll get them confused at some point! Here are eight things you can do that should help you avoid the most common mistakes:
2. Never forget to remove your shoes before entering someone’s home
Shoes are strictly worn outside and in certain public settings. For instance, if you happen to find yourself in court – do NOT remove your shoes. However, if you're in a library or hospital, you will notice that certain areas are no shoe zones. Look out for helpful signs and strange blue plastic things in baskets on the floor – they are for covering your shoes with if you don’t want to take them off.
3. Avoid chivalry
If you happen to be male, maybe even a southern gentleman and decide to hold the door for some unsuspecting woman, she might consider it to be an insult. Sweden has come a long way when it comes to gender equality and the current generation of young to middle aged women do not want to be treated differently at all. However, holding doors and offering to help someone who is carrying something (especially a buggy) is fine.
4. Expect to use on-line banking
Physical banks are becoming a thing of the past in Sweden and cash is disappearing. Do not expect to receive much service even if your bank happen to have such a location and do not expect them to handle cash, except if it is coming out of an ATM. Getting used to on-line banking will help you.
5. Don’t judge Swedes by your first impression
One of our resident Swedes says: “Swedes are like coconuts – hard shells with fluid insides. Sort of.” You may well notice that when talking to a Swede that you don’t know that the person usually reacts to your communication with a perplexed look. That's just the Swedish default mode. Keep on talking and you'll see them relax and get into the swing of chattering.
6. Don’t think that people expect you to understand tradition
Things such as surströmming, nubbe and crayfish are sometimes presented as being part of mythical traditions that must be dealt with in accordance with strict regulations. Not even swedes know how to deal with crayfish and most of them hate nubbe. Go with the flow, it's not an exam.
7. Avoid riding your bicycle on the side walk
Doing this is actually illegal, unless the pavement has a sign marking its dual nature. It will also awaken the rage of the Swede, causing some seriously angry looks to be hurled your way.
8. ...and don’t walk on the bicycle path
This is just dangerous. Let's say you're walking in the bicycle path and a bike rider turns a corner and hits you. You will be to blame. Even to the point of being responsible for paying his or her medical bills. It's called negligence and the Swedes don't mess around. Plus it will hurt.
If you now have even more questions about life in Sweden, get in touch with us :)
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About the blog
Interesting bits and pieces about life in Sweden, including all-important song words.