A Swede Way of Life

Travelling to a foreign country often means having to behaviourally adapt in order to engage with the culture as a smart traveller. Sweden is no exception, where even a few weeks will cause one to see just how different Swedish decorum is to that of their own country.

As such, I have compiled an overview of Swedish ‘DOs‘ and ‘DON’Ts‘ to help you avoid making any potentially embarrassing or inappropriate mistakes… (you can thank me for it later):

Don't be one of these people.

Don’t be one of these people.

DO…

  • Be punctual. Late? Call the person to tell them why. Early? Occupy yourself by playing Candy Crush (they won’t mind… it’s actually a Swedish game)
  • Say your ‘pleases’ and ‘thank yous’. I might sound like your mother, but expressing gratitude is important to Swedes. Failing to do so is perceived as being especially rude
  • Respect the cultural creed ‘lagom‘, meaning ‘in moderation‘ or ‘just the right amount‘. Swedes value simplicity and practicality in many aspects of life, from aesthetics to the workplace… except for ABBA

    Err on the side of Acne rather than ABBA. You'll thank me for it later.

    Err on the side of Acne rather than ABBA.

DON’T…

  • Boast about your achievements or possessions. You might be proud of that reindeer pullover you knitted, but Swedes are extremely humble and dislike boasting
  • Underestimate women’s status in Sweden’s corporate world, with one of the world’s highest ratios of female-male labour force participation
  • Make a scene in public. While in Australia it isn’t uncommon to witness a quarrelling couple or jubilant group of partygoers, Swedes tend to avoid public emotional displays
  • Impose upon another’s personal space. Abandon the bear hugs, shoulder-slapping and la bise 
  • Try not to burst another person's personal bubble.

    Try not to burst another person’s personal bubble, as this meme aptly illustrates.

    While this might seem ‘anti-social‘ to non-Swedes, such is the nature of Swedish decorum and social conformity (as I mention in a later post). Observing decorum will enable you to have a tolerant, cosmopolitan outlook on the world – an essential step to becoming a respectful, smart traveller who can surpass the ‘tourist’ status.

    Typical 'tourist' status

    Typical ‘tourist’ status.

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