Yes, Swedes eat a lot of meatballs and equip their homes with IKEA furniture. Many drive Volvos and listen to ABBA. But being Swedish is more than that…. Here are few things you might want to know before packing your bags to the “perfect “land.
1/ARE ALL SWEDES BLOND?
There are still plenty of fair-haired people on the streets of Stockholm, but immigration from the Middle East, Africa, Latin America and Asia is rapidly changing the makeup of the nation. About 1.5 million of Sweden’s nearly 10 million inhabitants were born in another country. Many others have foreign parents, like Sweden’s most famous athlete — dark-haired soccer star Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who has a Croatian mother and a Bosnian father. Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt has immigrant roots; his great-great grandfather was an African-American circus artist.
2/ EUROVISION CONTEST SONG OR MELODIFESTIVALEN
Melodifestivalen is more likely “sacred” as it seems to unite the entire country. This widely popular music event, held every February through March, is a welcome distraction on long dark winter nights. Melodifestivalen is an annual national music competition and its voted winner goes on to represent Sweden in the Eurovision Song Contest, which pits European countries against each other musically. Definitely one reason I will never become “swede”. Watching this tv show would be like a torture. In France, this show contest is very unpopular and kitsch.
This is what I call kitch…cute though…
3/SWEDEN IS THE WORLD´S HIGHEST TAXES.
Since taking office in 2006, Reinfeldt’s center-right government has accelerated the move away from socialism, selling off state-owned businesses including the maker of Absolut vodka, trimming welfare benefits and income taxes and abolishing the tax on wealth. Sweden still has a relatively generous welfare system and taxes still account for about half of the economy, but neighboring Denmark’s tax rates are even higher.
4/ CONFLICT AND SWEDES
As they love peace so much they want to avoid conflict. Saying ‘yes’ or ‘no’ can lead to conflict so Swedes avoid these words and replace them with ‘it depends’, ‘maybe’ and ‘I’ll see what I can do’. You and I may get angry, the Swedes call it hysterical behavior. Hysteria is abnormal and uncomfortable and should preferably not occur in office hours. If, on the other hand, a Swede ever tells you to go a place called ‘hellsike’, then, take my word for it, you’ve upset him.5/ BEING “NORMAL”
Swedes love to be more average than most. When looking for a partner Swedes describe themselves in contact ads as being ‘just an ordinary guy’, or a ‘usual kind of girl’ who is ‘just like everyone else’. Whereas you and I probably want to be seen as somebody special, Swedes actually try to be nobody in particular. This is quite a turn-on in Sweden so they get very excited when reading about someone’s normality. You think I’m joking, don’t you? They also boast that they like to do normal, nothing-out-of-the-ordinary things like walking in the countryside, picking berries and gardening. And it is quite true, Swedes love being outdoors and ‘at one with nature’. They know the names of all the creepy-crawly insects, which bird has a particular tweet in the mornings and at what time of year a certain flower blooms and when it doesn’t. But I bet you they don’t know the names of their neighbors.
6/ ARE SWEDES RUDE?
If I have to compare with French or British people, I must say, yes…. After living here for some years, I quite forgot about it, I guess. I don´t pay so much attention about it anymore and actually if I was, I would be having an argument basically everyday with some rude swedes on the street. But I do remember it when coming back from a trip in France where we have more manners and etiquette. Also, when my friends are paying a visit. Once, me and my friend from Paris were having a nice walk. It was a wonderful day, cold but sunny. When we were inside the park, a woman suddenly bumped into my friend from behind and passed away without excusing herself. My friend was a little chocked and I told her…”Don´t be surprised, it happens often here, people walk on your feet, hit you with their bags in the tube, never hold the door…and rarely say I´m sorry”… They pretend not seeing you…
The etiquette expert in Sweden, Magdalena Ribbing said that people stopped being polite after 1968 and that the baby-boom generation was the rudest, that their fight for freedom and equality led to this kind of sans-gêne attitude. Social awareness, empathy and common courtesy simply disappeared.
But don’t get me wrong, not all Swedes are rude. Most people are nice, but what I am pointing out is a culture where it’s optional to be nice and all right to be rude. I must say though that once you get to know Swedes, you want to forgive their rudeness for they are astonishingly kind. I love my Swedish friends!
Saying “I don´t like coffee “in Sweden falls somewhere between “Puppies aren´t cute” “Dolphins are tasty with noodles” on the offensiveness spectrum. You don’t like COFFEE? Are you even HUMAN?
Coffee might very well be the glue that holds Swedish society together. It is typical among the swedes to take a coffee break in the middle of the day and gather together with friends, colleagues or family. It is known as Fika, which can be used as both a noun and a verb. Sweets, cookies and biscuits such as flikabröd is often eaten together with the coffee. Since Fika is a very widely accepted event, and it’s seen as something very normal, it is a very good way to get to know your new Swedish friends, coworkers or classmates. Don’t miss this great opportunity to socialize like a real swede!
For the love of Thor, take off your shoes ! Even if it appears that people inside are wearing shoes: they are not. They are wearing slippers that might look like shoes but never have, nor ever will, touch a pavement. If you take a step over the threshold with footwear that has seen the light of day upon your feet, you will be shamed. This is a nice tradition that keeps floors away from the dirt.
9/SWEDES AND SPITTING
Sweden is the only country in the world where I have seen more public spitting than in China. The Chinese spit a lot’. But the Swedes will out-spit the Chinese any day of the week. The guys and girls (yes girls) chew “snus”, which elicits a spitting reaction. The result is nothing less than a veritable minefield of spit checkering the sidewalks that must be danced around on your way down many streets in Stockholm. The Swedes abide by a universal custom: Never wear your shoes indoors. Now you know why…
What is snus?? For those of you who have never ventured this far north before, Snus is peculiar to Sweden and just plain peculiar. It is moist tobacco, which you stick up on the inside of your gums either loose or in what looks like a small teabag. This teabag is sucked on for a while and that spat out and left lying about the place. It is a both strange and disgusting habit.
To control alcohol consumption in Sweden, the government founded in 1955 the Systembolaget. This monopoly controls all alcohol sold for private consumption in Sweden. It is the only store allowed to sell alcohol over 3.5% vol. and there is one in every city in Sweden. You need to be at least 20 years old to buy alcohol in Systembolaget.
No, it´s not a queue for some signing book at Systembolaget but a regular queue to buy alcohol.
11/ SWEDISH DADDIES KNOW HOW TO PUSH STROLLERS
When it comes to equality between the sexes, Sweden is one of the leaders, and the men definitely pull their own weight in staying home and raising infant children. In Sweden, couples are entitled to 480 days of paid parental leave, and this time can be shared between parents. Thumb up for Swedish daddies!12/SQUEEZE FOOD OUT OF TUBES
To prepare you for your first visit to the cold foods section of a grocery store, understand that in Sweden, tubes are also used to package foods such as beans, caviar, mayonnaise, mustard, mozzarella cheese and other similar condiments. At some point, you’ll probably squeeze some caviar from a tube onto half a boiled egg for breakfast.
Drinking water from the tap is not only possible but a normal thing to do. Swedish tap water is clean and cold so you won’t need to buy bottled water, which is great for both your wallet and the environment. If you find cucumber inside a jar of water, don’t be scared, swedes sometimes add some fresh vegetables such as cucumber to the water to give it a subtle flavor. This is a good reason to live in Sweden. Coming from Paris, the taste of the water in the city of light is not really what you can call a clean water. So thumb up again for Sweden!
14/THEY HAVE ACTUAL HOLIDAY DAYS FOR PASTRIES
There is a societal code of conduct in Sweden, which really has no direct translation in English nor in French. Loosely translated, the word “lagom” means “just enough,” “in moderation,” “appropriate,” and other synonyms you can pull out of the dictionary. When used in reference to societal behavior, it means blending in appropriately without extreme displays of emotion. I must say though that when it comes to alcohol and from Friday, I have not witnessed so much lagom in this area… Surprisingly, You might see the same person, heading the gym everyday of the week, eating very healthy, drinking only water during his meals and when the weekend has arrived, he will party, party, party and drink, drink, drink…. The lagom thing seems to take some days off during the weekend and will be back the following Monday…I am wondering if this lifestyle is actually lagom and healthy then…
16/ FREDAGSMYS – FRIDAY COZINESS
I love how Swedes masterize the art of getting cozy! I had no problem adapting myself to this cozy Friday. There is no such a special cozy day in France.
Fredagsmys “ Friday coziness” is fairly modern, though I don’t know how far back it goes. My Swedes friend practiced it when they were young, but that was only about a couple of decades ago. As you can guess, Fredagsmys occurs on Fridays, the day in which people can relax after a long week of work or school and transition into the weekend.
Families spend Fredagsmys with each other by curling up on the couch and watching a movie together. Food is a necessity and can include a bowl of chips, soda for the young’uns, perhaps a glass of wine for the adults, loose candy, popcorn, etc. Couples without children will do the same, except maybe they’ll begin by making a warm, cozy meal together, like pasta with wine, before cuddling up.
The idea of coziness only gets amplified if the weather outside is miserable. Candlelight, delicious food and good company, dark clouds and rain. Super mysig! Of course other countries know how to enjoy the cozier sides of life, but Swedes have institutionalized it.
You would want to live in Sweden just to experience “Fredagsmys”.