7 September, 2016

5 Cultural things that may look strange to an African Newbie

Cultural confusion

As an African newbie, the cultural shock might be the first thing that will dawn on you when you first land in Sweden. These tips can be a guide to help you scale through some of the unexpected cultural questions and experiences you may encounter.

  • Calling your lecturers by name. It might sound strange or funny when you see that you can address your Professor by his or her first name. “But that is lack of respect”, an African newbie may say, but that is the culture here. It might take some time to adapt to but you sure will after few weeks of discovering you are the only person left saying “sir”, or “mam” in your class, LOL.
  • Having long hours to write exams (4-5 hours). Oh yes! This is probably the most interesting part for a student coming to study here from an African country where you have a range of 2-3 hours for each exam. And most times you have to be careful about your answers given the time constraint while food or drinks could be barred altogether. Well, here in Sweden, you are allowed to take some snacks, drinks, coffee or tea to the exam hall. Exams are typically 4 or more hours long. So sit and relax and think of proper responses. Remember, you could also take as many breaks as you need without being escorted. Swedish exams are pretty relaxing.
  • Numbering years in weeks. How about being told that you have an appointment in week 35 instead of August 29? A typical African would be puzzled at first. “Excuse me, did you just say week 35? I don’t even know the week we are now at the moment”… lol, funny but true. Don’t be surprised when you hear that. You can easily bookmark this link on your mobile and check incase you are lost or confused.
  • Knowing the temperature of your country. This might sound strange to you at first. Swedes like to talk about the weather so don’t be surprised when asked “What is the temperature of your country?” I was totally thrown off when I was first asked this question and I said “It is either hot or cold” LOL!!! As Africans we often take weather readings for granted, so save your face, download any weather app on your phone and add your country so that when you are asked, it will be only a click away.
  • Knowing the appropriate distance to describe places. Oh, this is probably the weirdest. How well can you use distances to describe a place? Hmmm, when you ask a Swede to describe a place, they go “Oh, it’s just 500 meters away”, Huh? What does that even mean? Is there no landmark like a green house or a black gate that I can use to locate the place? Very funny but true. You might probably find this confusing at first but you will adjust. Besides, Google Maps is sure ready any time to lead you to your destination.

Written by: Wemimo Ibidunmoye

My name is Wemi and I recently moved to the Northern part of Sweden (Umeå) with my husband. I’m originally from Nigeria and I blog at where I share a bit about everything such as living in Sweden, motherhood, hacks, tips, life experiences amongst others. My hobbies are reading, writing, making new friends and listening to music.

Don’t miss out! Get updates on new articles, opportunities and other goodies by signing up for our newsletter.

The Newbie Team
The Newbie Team posts news, tips and general goodness that can be useful for all Newbies. We always try to find Newbie related information that will help all Newbies on their new life in Sweden.
Please let us know if there is something you wish we'd write more about and we will try to add it to our repertoire.

4 Comments on “5 Cultural things that may look strange to an African Newbie

9 September, 2016 at 08:09

I relate so much,I remember another culture shock was people being on time for everything not that Africans aren’t but we are usually excused for being late even up to an hour late without a reason.

Wemimo Ibidunmoye
9 September, 2016 at 08:40

Lol, we are used to the “African time” syndrome and so a bit difficult to adjust. I understand dear.

9 September, 2016 at 21:46

I totally relate took me some getting used to # culture shock is real

Wemimo Ibidunmoye
10 September, 2016 at 19:15

Very real my dear…Infact, am still getting used to it…

Leave a Reply