The government owns all the alcohol
Never heard of a Systembolaget? Neither had I until about two weeks ago, but now come Saturday afternoon I’m running down the street along with other Swedes who forgot to go during the week. These government owned stores are the only places you can buy an alcoholic beverage above 3.5% alcohol by volume. Need that bottle of wine to take with you to meet the boyfriend’s parents, or that bottle of vodka you promised your friend’s party? You are at the mercy of the opening hours and prices of the Systembolaget (which, by the way, closes from Saturday afternoon until Monday!).
Swedes have this preserved innocence when it comes to things to do for fun. My first two weekends here, I saw the inside of more cafes, the outside of more parks, and played more board games than I have in years. I have actually really enjoyed swapping cultures and having a pear cider and a game of Yatzy in a local billiards bar on a Friday evening instead of partying all night. And what could be better than a coffee and a warm cinnamon bun on a Sunday afternoon?
You can find almost any cuisine
Packing to move to Sweden I fit as many spices and non perishables as I could into my two suitcases. Walking into the grocery stores here, I felt silly as I saw the majority of what I had packed on the shelves available to buy. I even found the brand of barbeque sauce I love! Despite probably being slightly pricier than in your home country, grocery stores and special stores like Asian markets offer a ton of options for you to recreate your favourite dishes from home.
I thought that finding diverse foods in Sweden was going to be difficult, but on every street in Stockholm I seem to encounter restaurants with cuisines from all areas of the world!
Fika and meatballs are amazing, but sometimes when you’re feeling homesick, there is nothing better than a small taste of an old life.
Everyone pays with card
No matter how small the amount, most everybody will whip out a credit card. Cash is rarely used! There are no dollar amount minimums to pay with a card like there are in other countries. Some places even have signs up that say ‘no cash’. This is great and efficient if you have a Swedish credit or debit card, but if you are using a foreign card, they will ID you every time.
So you have your monthly access pass, and you tap to get into the metro or bus. The weird part to me is that you don’t have to tap out! The doors just open for you and you can walk right out.
Another suprising thing is that your transportation pass includes a boat!
After a day out at the Abba museum, I was looking at google maps to figure out the way home. I thought my eyes were playing a trick on me because it said the quickest way was by boat! Sure enough, I followed the map around a corner and saw a huddle of locals waiting for the boat to cross the river to Gamla Stan. Awesome!