40 things to know about Sweden

Beautiful Sweden in summer.

It can be bitter-sweet trying to integrate into a new country, culture, mentality. And even though I love to be put in such situations, sometimes what I experience can leave me speechless. Don’t take me wrong, I love Sweden, and the more I am here, the more I wanna stay, but there are few things that has brought me to culture shock, or two.

You know that person is Swedish when…

#1 Gets sentimental whenever he sees IKEA store outside of Sweden.

#2 Thinks the comedian Robert Gustafsson is the funniest man in the world.

#3 Has a guilty conscience if not going outside when the sun is shining.

#4 The only TV program he would never miss is Donalds Duck’s Christmas Eve.

#5 Can name the titles of at least 10 ABBA songs.

#6 Doesn’t really like Danes. Although like to go to Denmark cause drinking policy is more open there.

#7 Feels bad when he does not recycle his trash.

#8 Never starts a conversation, even they are neighbours for 20 years. No!

#9 Thinks that indoor bandy is a sport that is popular all around the world.

#10 Is disproportionally proud every time he sees a Swede in a Hollywood movie.

#11 Makes sure being at the bus stop at least five minutes early.


#12 Swedish Midsommer is without a doubt the most important tradition. You dance like a frog. Drink lots of snaps and consume way too much food and behave way too inappropriate.

#13 National dish is tacos and occurs usually on Friday during Fredagsmys (Friday Ritual).

#14 Eating smelly little fermented baltic herrings called Surströmming on the third Thursday in August is another tradition, but after that one you might never want to return to Sweden. I am serious!

#15 Fika - Coffee break - is sacred to Swedes. Don’t mess with fika. I love it, too.

Unwritten rules

#16 Never take a seat next to someone on a bus if there are other seats available! No joke!

#17 Never, ever, ever, try to push ahead of others in line. You shall wait politely for your turn.

#18 Be on time. The academic quarter of an hour truly exists only in theory. Be on the safe side and come even earlier than supposed.

#19 Do NOT think you are more important or better than anyone else.

Only in Sweden

#20 There are one of the world’s highest taxes. Something to upset the Swedes? Not really. They got so much for their tax revenues, therefore they are not bothered.

#21 Systembolaget (Swedish State Liquor Store). The business of Swedes and alcohol has always been a tricky topic. Since Viking times they have had a tradition of drinking a little too much (still happening), nowadays you don’t buy anything stronger than 3,5% of alcohol in grocery stores or somewhere else besides Systembolaget. So make sure you do your shopping before the weekend, nothing selling alcohol will be open in Sweden on Saturday and Sunday.

#22 Too much of '‘Thank you'‘ (Tack). It happened to me that I got confused when someone in the store replied '‘thank you '‘ on my '‘thank you ''. Then it happened again and again and again. Swedes do this in cases when logically they should say '‘please'‘. Basically, in Sweden they say thank you more often and in more different situations than in most other countries and cultures. So, if you are unsure of what to say in any situation, '‘tack'‘ (thank you) might be always a good option.

Examples of saying '‘Thank you'‘ in Sweden: Tack, Tackar, Tackar-Tackar, Tackar som varmast, Tack så mycket, Tusen tack, Tack som fan, Hjärtligt tack, Tack ska du ha, Tack på förhand.

#23 Latte Pappas - a humorous term for Swedish father. If you are in city, take a closure look in the cafés, you will for sure bump into few ‘latte pappas’ enjoying their coffee break before heading (probably) to the playground or park with their kids.

#24 Lagom - not too much, not too little. Just right :) The cake should be lagom sweet. The weather should be lagom hot. And your coffee should be lagom strong.

#25 Swedish people’s skin colour during the summer months is surprisingly ‘too brown’. I think their pigment is just getting ready until it can awake and then show up. Seriously, some people are so tanned, you wouldn’t believe they have Nordic roots.

#26 Have you ever heard about having official public days for cakes? That’s right. Here you not only bring cake when celebrating an occasion, you have actual occasion where cake is celebrated. No way? Yes! Way!

#27 Waffle day - March 25th (Våffeldagen)

#28 Cinnamon Bun day - October 4th (Kanelbullensdag)

#29 Kladdkakans Dag - November 7th

#30 In Sweden you are welcoming Easter ahead with Semla. Or in other words, period between Christmas and Easter is rather uneventful here, and there is a lot of strength and imagination required to help you overcome last cold months and grey skies. But! one should not underestimate the power of sugar and cream. Luckily that is when Semla (cardamom-spiced wheat bun filled with almond paste and topped with whipped cream) comes to shine. Semla is a pastry associated with Shrove Tuesday or fettisdag (Fat Tuesday). Semla buns are eaten as part of the final celebratory meal before the fasting period of Lent, however this fulfilling treat is available already shortly after Christmas and can be enjoyed the whole way till Easter.

#31 If you are new to Sweden, you need to try Loppis. I am not gonna explain more. You need to put yourself through that experience.

#32 One thing Swedes would not survive without? Coffee. According to latest stats I read, Swedish folk is drinking the most coffee per person after Finland. I think my boyfriend has coffee instead of blood already.

#33 You probably know that 1 mile (unit of length) corresponds to 1,6 km in the world. Well, apparently there is such a thing like Swedish mile which corresponds to 10 km in Sweden and Norway (not in Denmark). Don’t ask me, I still don’t get it. Just make sure you are talking about the same distance when it comes to 1 mile-running in Sweden.

#34 You do kick your shopping cart while waiting in queue by cashier in the supermarket. There is no force that would make Swedes grab it a move by hands.

#35 2/3 of Sweden’s land is covered by forest.

#36 Sweden is the fifth biggest country in Europe in terms of area (447 435 km2 to be exact), but despite that, Sweden has the second lowest population per square kilometer in all of Europe.

#37 At Swedish weddings, anyone who wants to can give a speech. Well…

#38 Lördagsgodis or '‘Saturday Sweets'‘ is the reason why children cannot wait for Saturday to come. Swedes for sure eat a lot of sweets but the high point comes on the first day of the weekend. You can see kids still shaking the whole week after, the sugar crash is so crazy.

#39 Swedish favourite word is OJ! Meaning '‘ooops'‘ or '‘wow'‘. This tiny, oh well, these two letters might be used in sense '‘ Oh, really!'‘, '‘Excuse me'‘, '‘Cool!'‘

#40 Swedes don’t like physical money. Yep, Sweden might be fooling us with ABBA hit Money Money Money, but the Swedes are moving faster than any other country on Earth towards being a cash-free society. Almost all the restaurants, cafés and shops will now only take cards and what’s the scariest most banks won’t let you deposit money or take it out (yes, that is what banks are here for too, right?)

The belief behind this, that is it reduces crime. Ironically, the biggest advocate of ditching cash is one of the men behind Money Money Money hit– ABBA’s Björn Ulvaeus, who has lived cash-free ever since his son was mugged for his wallet. Well, if Björn does it….