Getting used to living in another country can be quite difficult and you might be making some mistakes. Swedes have some “rules” that no one tells you about, but can do wrong many times. Are you doing something wrong?
Paying in cash
Sweden has the most beautiful banknotes in the world (literally), yet they actually don’t really want you to pay in cash! The irony! Seriously though, try to avoid it. Some bars don’t even accept cash anymore, and cashiers might look a little surprised when you actually try to pay with a 500. Just use your card or use Swish (you need a Swedish bank account for Swish though, but it’s really useful once you have it). Your wallet will be much lighter and you won’t have the awkward moments of coins falling out when you try to reach something else..
I will never forget the look this old lady gave me when I was in Sweden for the first time, just finished my water bottle, and threw it away in a normal trash bin.. Absolute no-go! Always check the bins before you throw your trash away, recycling is really important in Sweden (which is awesome), so don’t be the rude foreigner who doesn’t care..
Small talk ?
Nej tack, Swedes don’t want it! Sure some do, but don’t risk it.. A nice smile and a happy attitude is much nicer to stand next to than someone who tries to talk to you when you’re just waiting for the metro to arrive. Cultural differences! I agree that it might seem a bit distant for people who are used to the very open cultures, but Swedes don’t mean it in a bad way. Just let us do our thing and we let you do yours 🙂
The wonderful world of Systembolaget
One day you will find yourself running dramatically to Systembolaget at 14.55 on a rainy Saturday, I guarantee. If you’re used to just buying alcohol in the supermarket, this will be very different. A rather sad-looking store which tries to make alcohol look as bad as it can, weird opening hours, and you can only buy alcohol when you’re 20.. Remember: when you’re 18, you can buy alcohol in bars and restaurants, but NOT at Systembolaget until you’re 20! Don’t even try it, they’re strict with IDs. Also don’t forget your ID, you really will not get any alcohol if you can’t show it. If you live in Stockholm you’re lucky, but when you go a bit more to the countryside you’ll notice that getting to Systembolaget is pretty difficult. Have a fun party anyways 🙂 Skååål!
Handshake or hug?
After some awkward half-handshake/half-hug encounters, you might wonder what you’re doing wrong! Most of the time, it’s a handshake the first time you meet someone and every time after that it’s a hug. This of course really depends on the person, but for a casual meeting this is the way to go.
“Hey wanna go for drinks after work?” “uh.. no thanks..?” Ouch!? Work and friendship is something completely different, so don’t take it personal when your colleagues don’t want to go for drinks after work or just hang out. They’re colleagues, not friends! It’s not that no one likes each other, it’s all about balance. Free time is time to not think about work!
Don’t be late or early
If the party starts at 19:00 or you have an appointment, don’t show up at 18:30 or 19:30. Just be there at 19:00, simple as that! It’s not more polite to be early, it’s rather stressful for the one that organises it, and you’re not fashionably late but just a bit annoying.
I think we can all agree that getting used to living in Sweden can be a bit difficult sometimes, but you get used to this faster than you might think! Just do your best 🙂
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!