How to “Swedify”: 6 easy steps to understand Swedish culture
By: Yulia Toropova
It is your first week as a student in the Swedish capital, and everything surely seems new and unknown. But no worries, you will get it very soon. Here are some important tips on how to understand Swedes and make yourself feel at home.
1. Learn the art of queuing
Swedes simply love queuing (a feature describing a very organized nation), and are very natural at it. Orderly queues are formed everywhere: from the banks to the stores and bus stops. If you need to collect your medicine from the pharmacies or collect deliveries from the post office, you will also need to get a ticket to wait for your number being called.
Why? Swedes really take punctuality seriously, so in a way the queues make a lot of sense: Come at a good time, otherwise you will have to wait in the end. So be nice and wait in line for your turn. 🙂
2. Drink that coffee (or maybe a few cups of it)
Whether you’ve been a tea or a coffee drinker in the past, your new motto will now become: “Coffee is king.”
And not just any coffee, but the famous Swedish “bryggkaffe” or brewed coffee; which forms an essential part of the Swedish fika tradition. But no worries, there are still various types of coffee drinks (and some tea) available in the local chains, so everyone can find something to cater to their taste.
3. Enjoy the great outdoors
Even though Stockholm has been named one of the greenest cities, sometimes I miss the big parks right in the city center, which is typical of my hometown in Russia. It took me almost a year to hack this one: the majority of Stockholm’s green zones are actually located outside of Stockholm.
If you’re in the city center, take a car or a ferry to Djurgården or the archipelago and you will be pleasantly surprised with the variety of nature presented in Sweden’s many nature reserve parks (naturreservat). You can also enjoy activities that Swedes love, such as berry or mushroom picking, depending on the season.
4. Understand Swedish pop culture
Despite being a small northern country, Sweden is home to many world-renowned big companies such as Ikea, Spotify, Skype, Eriksson, Electrolux and H&M, as well as many talented artists, like Avicii, Zara Larsson and ABBA. In fact, did you know that Sweden has a dominant force in the world of pop music due to its talented composers and songwriters? They can be found in the Swedish Music Hall of Fame. The famous ABBA Museum is also located in Stockholm.
You might also want to check out Eurovision Song Contest, which is a thing here – and one of the most popular television programs in Sweden.
5. Choose a sport or activity
Swedes are keen on various sports, which are also a popular hobbies and activities among people of all ages. You will be truly surprised how many people are jogging and cycling around, and how many elders you will find regularly exercising at the gym.
People here are obsessed with a healthy lifestyle, so choose your sport: would you like to ski or hike outside, or prefer playing badminton, or floorball (innebandy) indoors instead? No matter what your choice is, Stockholm will always have an option for you.
6. Plan ahead, especially for the weekends
When talking about punctuality and organization, this one really makes sense. People have very busy and organized lives here, and often plan their weekends ahead of time. So do not be surprised if you will be invited to a party taking place in two months’ time, or your local friends turning down your invitation for tomorrow’s dinner.