Do you have Swedish friends and wonder their behavior is strange or just Swedish? What makes Swedes different from the other Europeans? And if you are visiting or just moved to Sweden, what should you know about them?
- Swedish men are shy. It will take some time to speak to one, especially if you don’t know him. Swedish guys that you know, through the office or elsewhere, are easier to deal with. It’s said that even Swedish girls can be shy too.
- Like water is to plants; alcohol is the same to Swedes. If you meet a guy at a party, give him an extra beer, it’s sure to liberate his speaking ability. For that matter, give a girl an extra beer too.
- Swedes are passive, both the men and women. Many can even be passive aggressive because they do not like to vocalize issues. They prefer to avoid conflict at all costs.
- They can be direct. Going completely against #3, Swedes are ironically direct people. However, their directness can be subtle and hard to read. For example, if your manager says to ‘get a little more work done,’ what they mean is ‘you’re in the dump right and really need to kick ass at work.’ You could say that in some ways this quiet directness is similar to being passive aggressive. It takes time to read them.
- Social systems are closed. In many European societies, making friends is difficult, almost painful at times. Becoming friends with Swedes and joining their social circles is arduous. Most Swedes hang out with friends from gymnasium (high school) or college and have a tight, small social network. Hanging out with coworker Swedes, is rare. However it is possible to make lots of friends as a newcomer.
Here are a few options to making new friends:
- Join a company which is international and has many foreign employees;
- Join a small but new company that is also part Swedish and part foreign employed;
- Attend clubs or general expat events. This option is dangerous because you could end up with lots of other foreign friends and forget about the Swedes. But, there are always a few Swedes at these mixers, find those folks and chat them up.
- Find activities that you used to do in your home country and do them in Sweden too! Yoga classes, ballroom dancing, knitting, gym, sailing, belly dancing, and much more. Don’t mope at home hoping for friends to magically appear or be depressed by TheLocal forum group; get yourself out there and you will start to meet new people.
- Seek out some good Swedish online communities to learn more about Sweden and make virtual friends that can hopefully transcend into reality.
- Swedes do not like to be late. I love to be late, it is my motto; I just am unable to get myself to parties exactly on time. Dinner plans or coffee dates, I will be there, otherwise, forget it. Still, in Sweden, you do not go anywhere late. Their motto is to be punctual, so stick to it.
- Swedes are stylish. They are not the drop dead fashionistas of Paris or Rome, but the Swedes have their own ultra modern, sleek style. Swedish households say it all, gorgeous and beautifully decorated. Be prepared, being stylish in Sweden is expensive. There’s a reason why Nordiska Galleriet (not NK) charges 10.000SEK (approx $1,300) on a wrought-iron chair. However, I have to say, their clothing fashion reeks of the 80s too much.
- In Sweden, people have no desire to give better service. We all know it: Swedes suck at customer service. Restaurants, shops, airline counters, you name it and they will give you no service. It is not case of bad service, you just get no service. I understand now that for many Swedes, they consider too much customer service as intrusive. And Swedes can be annoyed when asked “Can I help you find something?,” “Do you want another drink?”, while Americans expect that kind of questioning from service professionals. But sometimes I wonder, can’t people just smile more? Is it that hard to communicate with others. There’s a lot of discussions that Swedes do things on their own, but mammal societies are socially based. Why would we want to move backwards and become more unsocial?
- Silence is golden. It is okay to not speak every second of every moment. Þorbjörn and I sometimes sit at the breakfast table silent for 10-15 minutes before either one of us speaks. If your Swedes seems unusually quiet, they are not mad or annoyed at you, they just enjoy a bit of peace and quiet.
- Swedes love nature. Sweden is a beautiful country and they take great pride in taking care of the natural landscape. If you have a day off, you will walk around the city or go hiking, but never stay indoors. Most Swedes seem to have Swedish summer houses, a place to relax and get away from bustling life. I admire that they take nature seriously and it is even evident in recycling habits.
- They love potatoes and herring. I don’t like herring but I do love potatis med graddfil!
- Fika is a religious experience.Everyday of the week, Swedes love coffee, love kakor (cake), and love to talk (they can!) in a profound experience called the fika. You cannot get away from and you cannot live without. Consider it to be a high end coffee break with the icing on top too.
And there you have it! What else should we know about Swedes?