Swedish survival guide: how not to be awkward around Swedes
Immersing yourself in another culture is never straight-forward; there is always something that seems a little off. Sweden might feel like a familiar country at first sight as almost all Swedes are proficient in English, they watch
British and American TV shows and the nature is similar to, let’s say, Canada’s. ‘Men skenet bedrar’ (‘it is not all as it seems’), as the Swedes would say, so let us talk about a few things to watch out for during your stay in Sweden. This first one has become a classic among the Swedish dos and don’ts: taking off your shoes when entering a home. During the winter season especially, your shoes will be wet and muddy. Why would you want to drag all that into someone’s home? It all boils down to respecting your host, so if you feel the need to wear shoes, just bring a pair of slippers.
Make sure to get in line. Swedes are masters at queueing so, when joining in, be sure to keep a lookout for a ticket machine. It will serve you with a number and once yours is called, it is your turn. In a full club, however, she who waves her money, or rather her credit card, the most energetically will be seen and served. Sweden is actually one of the most cashless societies in the world, so do not expect to be able to use cash everywhere. The ABBA museum does not accept it, nor do the Stockholm buses. Swedes have a reputation for being somewhat rude. However, we are just a reserved lot and like to keep to ourselves. On a bus, you should never take the seat next to another passenger unless absolutely necessary or you risk making a poor Swede feel very uncomfortable. If you ask politely for help, however, it is a different story entirely. Swedes will then generally open up and show themselves at their most hospitable and helpful.
Joakim Andersson is a Swedish musician, YouTuber, podcaster, and entrepeneur who calls himself an enjoyer of life. He is the founder of Say It In Swedish, which is a podcast, web and mobile app, and YouTube channel that teaches modern Swedish in a fun and easy-going way for free.
Check it out at www.sayitinswedish.com
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