Welcome to Sweden

From the Handbook for Cultural Understanding.

Official Government Website: http://www.sweden.se/

Capital: Stockholm
Currency: Swedish kronor (SEK)
Population: 9 million
Official Language: Swedish
Country Size: 450 00 km2

In Sweden a firm handshake is the most common way of greeting people when you meet them the first time. People that we meet everyday we just say “hi” to, even though some people like to shake hands (especially men). We like to hug people that we are close to and people that we don’t see that often (like the exPY’s for example) we like to hug.

Because of the sometimes-harsh climate trousers and a pullover or a blouse is very common. In the summertime we like to dress very casual in shorts, dresses, tops and other comfortable clothing. We dress like many other Europeans. There are one official national costume and some of the provinces and villages have different costumes, that aren’t so common anymore but they do exist. Swedes like to be clean and proper and most people enjoy following the latest fashion. We don’t wear overly colourful clothes, especially during the winter season. It’s probably because of the darkness and the fact that most people are pale.

It’s a way to socialize and a part of our culture. It’s widely spread and very common both among men and women. It’s more common and accepted to drink during weekends. In Sweden you must be over 20 years old to be allowed to by strong alcohol and wine but you can drink alcohol at the pubs if you are older than 18. Swedes like to party and to have a good time, especially in the summer.

We eat with a fork and a knife. We don’t eat with our hands, except for some food like hamburgers and fries. It’s not accepted to make sounds, like burping, or to shew with your mouth open. Many people have the dinnertime as the only way of talking with the family due to work and various interests and a dinner can take an hour or so. Food is also a way to socialize and meet. In Sweden it’s quite expensive to go to restaurants and therefore we often have private dinner parties. We sit for a long time talking and socializing.

Gestures are common, in helping to explain a point. Interruptions are pardonable, and many conversations, especially between the elderly, are richly laced with proverbs/sayings/riddles.

Swedes are ironic and sometimes sarcastic, but friendly. Sometimes the humor is bizarre. We like to make jokes about people’s private lives and also their sex lives. It’s considered to be very rude to tell people that they’ve gained weight and to make fun of that (unless you’re really close friends).

It’s not that important in the way of traditional dances. The Swedish traditional dances are strict and not attractive to young people. When we are young it’s most common to dance disco. There is a culture of dancing that starts when people are around 35 – 40 years old. Recently, it’s been getting more and more popular to dance to the so-called world music, like salsa and African dances.

Not that much. We do have respect but it is more like talking to someone you know. We talk to people like to anyone, there are no big differences. Elderly people can be offered a seat on the bus, but unfortunately that’s about it.

People are tending to get embarrassed and dislike it if it’s too much. It’s common though to show your feeling, like hugging and holding hands and especially young people are showing more affections, like kissing.

Punctuality is something Swedes are very good at and it is considered impolite and even rude to be more than 15 minutes late. If you have a business meeting, don’t be late. It’s better to be a couple of minutes early.

Almost none. We seldom discuss religion and we don’t consider it to be important. There are a few traditions that are important for us but we don’t think of them as religious. Sweden has a Protestant church and the royal family are Protestants, but there are all kinds of religions (even though they are in a minority).

Working on it to be as equal as possible, even though some traditional social rules between men and women still exist. There is a liberal look upon sex and relationship and both men and women are considered to be free individuals with needs and lusts. Sex outside of marriage is not considered shameful and many Swedes live together without being married. In Sweden homosexuals can get married and they are also allowed to adopt children.

The Swedish / Scandinavian climate is often talked about and some people even think that ice bears roam in the streets In the winter, which begins in mid October and ends in early April, the temperature can drop below -40 in northern parts of Sweden, but that is uncommon. Normal temperature in winter is around -15 but since the global climate started to change so did the Swedish winters and it’s getting a bit ”warmer” now. In the summer the temperature rise to +30 or even more, normal is around +23. In the far north the sun never sets in the summer. It’s called “the midnight sun”.

© 2007 Ship for World Youth Alumni Association