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28 February, 2019

The Most Surprising Things for Newbies in Sweden

Depending on where you come from, Swedish culture can be more (or less) different from what you are familiar with. In any case, Sweden comes with unique characteristics that are continuously shaped by societal norms and expectations. Here are 10 surprising things in Sweden.

Presented by Discover Media

Sweden might be in the north, but the country is full of warm colors and surprises. Photo Credit: Wikimedia

You Can Camp Anywhere

Allemansrätten is among the most surprising to newbies about parts of Swedish legislation — the term refers to the legally ensured public access to nature. Everybody in the country is free to camp in nature, even on private land.

Of course, limitations apply. For instance, you can’t enter a private residence, their immediate vicinities and cultivated land. So it’s best to make sure you know the rights and responsibilities of allemansrätten so you avoid getting into trouble.

Swedes are Serious About Recycling


Sweden is close to being able to recycle all its household waste.
Photo Credit: Pexels / CC0

Recently, the EU made a push to rid its member states of single-use plastic products, like cups, straws and Q-tips twigs. But Swedes, already environmentally-conscious, have almost 100 per cent recyclability of household waste thanks to the practice of incinerating garbage and turning it into energy.

Surprisingly, the country is still not completely satisfied with its efforts. That’s because incinerating litter releases more CO2 than a coal mine and uses more energy than reusing the burned material to make a new product.

Paper Money is About to go Extinct

A survey by the Swedish central bank (Riksbanken) reports that only 13 per cent of Swedes pay in cash. Keeping a cash register and doing the accounting for such a small portion of payments is therefore inconvenient. So, it comes as no surprise that it is very normal to see “no cash” signs in stores and restaurants.

In other words, the country is on the verge of becoming the first cashless state in the world. However, researchers and the Riksbanken differ in their estimation as to when this will happen, with the central bank giving a more conservative prognosis of a decade.

The Country Imports Garbage

We already touched upon Sweden’s recycling practices, but this one warrants a point by itself. Sweden imports garbage from other countries, which brings in an estimated $100 million each year.

The move might sound weird, but in 2016, Sweden ran out of garbage, which is a necessary resource to meet Swedes energy needs. On the other hand, countries with less efficient garbage disposal systems gladly pay Sweden close to €40/ton to take care of their trash.

Grocery Variety is Limited (for a Good Reason)


The focus on healthy living means that Swedish stores stock less junk food.
Photo Credit: Pexels / CC0

Sweden has strict criteria over what foodstuffs make it to the market. As a result, Swedish stores might have less foreign brand variety than in countries with looser laws, especially when it comes to unhealthy products, such as potato chips and soda.

One treat that is big in Scandinavia, though, is candy in bulk — you can pretty much find it in every store. So, if you’re into sweet stuff, you must visit the Gottebiten candy store in Charlottenberg — it’s one of the largest in the world.

Denominations are Big

You’ve probably heard how expensive it is to live in Sweden, but it’s less known that the country (like the rest of Scandinavia) uses large denominations. That might make prices look even scarier.

For example, 1,000 Swedish krona is the equivalent of approximately 100 euros. So, for example, the price tag for a loaf of bread will show something like 20-30 SEK (€2-3). It takes some getting used to, but once you get accustomed to average prices, it’ll be easier to compare without having to convert to your native currency.

There Was a State Monopoly on Gambling

Newbies who come from countries with less stringent gambling laws might be surprised that up until recently, the state had full control over the industry. The idea of letting go of some of the control circled around for some years. However it was only in January 2019 that Swedish authorities began to issue licenses to non-state operators, which includes the increasingly popular online casino operators.

Newbies to gambling who would like to take advantage of the new platforms can read all you need to know (including tips and tricks) before playing on the 888casino blog.

Most Businesses Close on Weekends


Most stores close early on the weekends while others don’t work at all.
Photo Credit: Pexels / CC0

It’s typical of Scandinavian countries to enjoy a rest on the weekends and public holidays. In many smaller towns, it’s almost impossible to find an open store on the weekends. Large stores, however, do open on the weekends but usually close in the early afternoon.

On public holidays, it’s even harder to find an open store, especially on Midsummer day — one of the most important holidays for Swedes celebrated annually on a Friday between June 19–25. As for 24-hour stores, they are not common at all.

Motorcades are Not a Thing

Public transportation and cycling are preferred transportation methods for Swedes. The country is bike-friendly, and city transport is well-operated and convenient.

Well-regulated public transportation is common in many places around Europe, what’s more of a rarity is to see high-ranking politicians riding on the bus next to you.

In Sweden, however, this is a usual sight. Showing off is frowned-upon in the country, and so, even Swedish ministers opt for a bike or the subway instead of riding in an expensive government vehicle.

High School Students Get Paid to go to School

Sweden has the highest income tax in the world, but this has resulted in quite a few perks for its citizens. Apart from affordable health care and free education, taxpayer money goes to high school students who get a monthly allowance for attending school.

According to Swedish law, a high school student is entitled to a monthly stipend of 1,050 SEK (€100). The purpose of the stipend paid from ages 16–20, is to encourage students to attend classes and teach them financial responsibility.

Bonus: “Fika”– The Swedish Siesta


Fika is the Swedish tradition of taking a couple of coffee-breaks during working hours.
Photo Credit: Pexels / CC0

The Spanish and the Italians may be best-known for enjoying breaks during working hours, but Swedes are not bad at this either. While shorter than a typical siesta, the Swedes take several fikas (coffee breaks) during the day.

During this rest period, Swedes grab a cup of coffee, sometimes with a pastry dessert and slow their day down. The Scandinavian way of life is about taking things slow and getting cosy, much like the Danish concept of hygge.

As you explore Sweden, you’ll definitely discover even more peculiarities about this country that boasts a rich history and culture.

Now, it’s fika time!

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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.

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