27 February, 2017

The social guide to understanding Swedes

In most cultures across the globe, people have habits and quirks that make perfect sense in that particular country but that can totally baffle a newbie. Swedes are no exception and have certain lifestyle codes which can be good for newbies in Sweden to keep track of. As a newbie, it can sometimes be hard to understand why the locals do things they way they do – no matter in which country you are. So here we have taken some fairly typical Swedish traits and explained them a bit.

1. Lagom

“Lagom” is a lifestyle. Not too hot, or too cold. Not too close, or too distant. It’s the philosophy of balance and “just right” and Swedes appreciate it in all aspects of life.

2. Fika

“Fika” is a coffee break. It’s (an almost mandatory) relax & fun moment in the afternoon and a great occasion to get to know your workmates better. If you don’t show up, it can be even considered a bit suspect by some people.

More on fika

Want to go for a fika?
Short & Sweet – fika

3. Shoes

Simple and easy. Everybody likes to be comfortable at home – and keep the place clean, right? That’s why in Sweden having colorful socks is quite a trend!

What to expect from a Swedish visitor

4. Punctuality

In other words, arrive 5 minutes early. 🙂

5. Avoid conflicts

Swedes consider opinions to belong to the very core of your soul – the most private part, that should be treated carefully. That’s why conflicts of opinion are often avoided.

How to make a good impression at work

6. Dress code

Here is “lagom” again. Or as one of our bloggers said – “the dress code is Darth Vader“.

7. Dating

Swedish dating style can be confusing to other cultures. Things happen naturally and not necessarily in the traditional order. Besides, marriage is not a strong institution. You can just be “sambo” (move in with your partner) and live happily ever after. You can raise kids together and never wear rings. Either way, love is what matters. Always.

And if things don’t work out – this is how a divorce works in Sweden.

8. Personal space

Regardless nationalities, some people are just reserved. Swedes just happen to be reserved most of the time. If you can understand that, it will be easier to get closer  – and yes, we do know it is a bit contra-intuitive 🙂

9. Bring some drinks!

If a local invites you for dinner at his/her place, you should probably bring some alcohol. First, because it is a contribution, second but not less important, people like it! For those who do not drink, you are welcome to bring any other kind of beverage.

The wonderful world of System Bolaget

What is typical Swedish food

10. Communication at the workplace

Just keep it short, it doesn’t equal rudeness. Read what our blogger Anne wrote about what she has learned after almost two decades living and working in Sweden.


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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *