11 February, 2017

How to act like a typical Swede

Unsocial, cold and candy lovers is often how people describe the Swedes. However, I had noticed many more things in Sweden, but I couldn’t quite figure out what it was. I decided to really pay attention to the Swedes around me and wrote down everything I noticed.

The dress code is Darth Vader

Swedes are very fashionable and you will almost never see a Swede dressed up like a slob in central Stockholm. Long, black jackets and black pants are the dress code in Sweden, preferably with black boots and a white warm hat. Swedes don’t really want to stand out of the crowd by wearing bright colours and flower patterns, although of course everyone has their own taste and there are people that prefer that.

Swedes stare a lot, get used to it

But really, STARE. Whereas other people would maybe look at you for around 2 seconds, Swedes do that for like 5 seconds with a pokerface. Don’t feel uncomfortable when they do that (plus you tend to do the same thing to check if they’re still staring…), I’ve asked around and many just responded that they’re thinking about something else and don’t notice they’re staring at you!                                                           

Look at your phone constantly while waiting 

Road sign in Stockholm – Photo: AFP

Don’t  you dare just look around, you would look like a weirdo!… Joking, you wouldn’t actually look like a weirdo of course, but it often feels like you are the weird one when you’re just waiting without looking at any electronic device. It’s the perfect way to avoid eye contact and strangers won’t suddenly talk to you; the ultimate Swedish nightmare!!

They are very open and friendly with friends, don’t judge too fast 

They can go from the Darth Vader, pokerfaced, ‘avoid eye contact as much as possible’ -person to the most hospitable person in a millisecond. When you first meet them they might seem very reserved, but when they’re talking with friends you often see them laughing really hard and being happy in general. Often they have a great sense of humour and you can really laugh with them!

Keep conversations simple

“Jahaaa.. ja precis.. nej..oj!.. ja.. jahaaa.. jahaaa.. nej…oj!” *goes on for minutes like this*. You will get used to people “talking” on the phone like this, believe it or not, even today I’ve heard 5 people doing this! Even normal conversations are quite simple as they try to avoid small talk. Just get straight to the point.

Be relaxed when driving

Unfortunately, you can’t go faster than 110 km/h on this forest road when you’re biking this time..

Driving in Sweden is really relaxed, and it’s really not done to drive like a southern European here. Don’t use the car horn, just chill, relax, everything will be okay! Even if people are jaywalking everywhere in the centre, just be careful and stay calm.

Complain about Denmark

Did you know that it is totally legal for a  Dane to hit a Swede with a stick when the Swede is walking in the direction of Denmark? Yeah, it’s pretty serious between Sweden and Denmark as you can see! Although this is a really old law, the countries still joke about each other. “Danish is just Swedish but with porridge in their mouth”, and yeah, it really does sound like that… Sorry dear Danes!

Enjoy fika food and other candy!

Don’t always think about being healthy, exercising, dieting, and so on. You deserve to go for a fika with good coffee and the best cakes or other treats, especially when it’s still pretty dark and cold outside. Swedes love candy as well, they consume the most candy in the world, and you see the candy shops everywhere. As you can see, Sweden is really about balance: your health is very very important, but enjoy life!!

Written by Lydia Hallie 

I’m Lydia, a 19-year-old Dutch girl living in Stockholm. I try to write many helpful posts to help younger people who recently moved to Sweden to get to know the country and how everything works here! 

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7 Comments on “How to act like a typical Swede

EVA Aberg
20 February, 2017 at 07:51

Wow ! The staring part is rather irritating..Not social or polite to others orotund you – as though we thought we were invisible to them.. But we are rather judging to ourselves and others too.
We don’t let people in at first sight! But then we go for it – if we feel safe!!

Connie Jensen
29 May, 2017 at 19:04

We enjoyed a good chuckle as we read this. It is quite a little bit different where we have a house in Jämtland, but it is also quite a bit the same. Jahaaa. Ja, precis.

27 July, 2017 at 23:36

I’d like to give an explanation and perhaps a different perspective regarding swedish behaviour.
I understand the amount of humor in the article, and I have no intent to take that away, but since we (Sweden) and Finland are among the most “unsocial” countries in the world, there might be an (to many unknown) explanation for this.

The magic word is: Introversion.
It might have to do with our climate/seasons, our high amount of educated people, biological heritage or many other factors – but swedes are more introverted than most other countries.
USA is the exact opposite – if we are to look at the nations as “units”.

Introversion is in no way any form of dysfunction, handicap, disease, diagnose or something like that. It is simply a dominant preference in our personality,

There is a lot to be read on this particular topic, and I suggest You start by looking at TED.COM and look for Susan Cain. I’ll be happy ta answer any questions You might have on this topic. I’m not an edjucated psychologist, but I have read quite a few pages on this matter, and I observe this in my work as a teacher and parent each and every day.

There are lot of other personality traits that make up a person, but this in particular points right at the “swedish mind”,.

To make tings simple – and perhaps a little mean:

Introversion: Look inside, think before You speak, come up with facts. (Albert Einstein)

Extroversion: External impressions make up this preference, speak what You feel, Your emotions (or non-thinking) becomes truth. (Donald Trump)

…and the above statements are all but true for each and everyone…
I urge You, who read this, to take a simple webbased MBTI-test to see what traits apply to You.
One can later on think if it’s applicable on whole nations, depending on their location, religion etc etc… Might be so.

15 October, 2017 at 10:05

Love your description . I have lived in many countries . Body language , social etiquette and behavior are so different – can be subtle , can be huge .
But the staring with blank face was new for me. I had to be careful not to interpret it as it would be interpreted in other countries . Then I tried learning it. I failed , but interesting to try .
I have experienced all you write about , it’s so helpful to be able to laugh about it. And when we talk about it , we get to realize it’s not as personal but cultural often ……..
Some cultural traits are really unexpected . This clear line between strangers and friends I never expected. And as a new comer it can hurt and isolate when you need to meet people the most. But it’s been interesting to hear some swedes also struggle with this , when they move eg. I’ve been trying to learn their perspective too.

Lovely article . Thanks for writting it!

22 July, 2018 at 22:26

Well interesting Reading,
I often take first step very social as i am from uk.
Been here 14 Years,somebody Said the swedes Will warm to you Im still waiting,ive invited many people around for coffee still waiting.

In many cases people only make Contact When they want My help and i always do help because Thats what good people do,then I don’t seem to see must of those people again.
In the winter it’s to cold in the summer it’s to hot,I think it’s very differcult for them to find there happy place.

4 February, 2019 at 13:03

i really appricate everyone who particepate to write their commnets,
and i got some help to write en essay regarding tipical swedish in positive and negative views,

Brenda Smith
26 June, 2019 at 02:36

My grandparents are from Sweden. Several of our family members are introverts, even though we live in the US. There’s nothing wrong with being an introvert. Extroverts do think it’s a problem.
I’m so excited to have the chance to visit Sweden in a few weeks!!

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