Distinctly Swedish

Since arriving in Sweden, I have been noticing things that differ significantly from the States. Sometimes, these experiences stand out to me while riding the metro or in my homestay. I have been compiling a list, and I thought I would share them (in no particular order).

  1. First, October 4th is kanelbullens dag, or national cinnamon roll day! Sweden is known for their kanelbullar. To celebrate the occasion, DIS bought students kanelbullar and placed them in the student hub for us to enjoy.
  2. Swedes do not often smile at each other. As an American, I am accustomed to smiling at strangers in stores or riding the train. Swedes, however, are usually reserved and quiet. 
  3. In a similar vein to number 2, it is considered respectful to be silent or speak softly while riding the train. I always get self conscious when I am with other DIS students because many of us have loud voices compared to Swedes. I get nervous that we will regarded as the “loud, annoying Americans.”
  4. It’s not unusual to see fathers pushing baby carriages. Sweden is progressive regarding parental leave. Parents are entitled to 480 days, and each parent is granted 240 of those days. 
  5. It’s also not surprising to see little kids as young as seven riding on the train or walking to school by themselves. Swedes allow their children to have significantly more independence than American children.
  6. Swedes do not use a top sheet. For those of you who know me, I despise top sheets and find them to be useless, so I love this aspect of Swedish bedding!
  7. Swedes are informal with names. I call all my DIS professors by their first names, and it is not unusual to hear my host sisters calling my host parents by their first names either.
  8. Milk and Sweden’s yogurt-like product, fil, come in the same container. I learned this the hard way because, one day, I made a coffee in my homestay and put fil in my coffee rather than milk. 
  9. Cafes and restaurants always have non-dairy options. Oat milk originated from Sweden. 
  10. Every Saturday is regarded as “lördagsgodis,” or Saturday candy. It is a Swedish tradition to eat candy and sweets on Saturday. 
  11. In terms of candy, Swedes like salty licorice. My host sisters are obsessed; therefore, I have tried it multiple times. I cannot say it is my favorite candy, but I also don’t gravitate to licorice in general. 
  12. In the student housing and other Swedish apartments, their showers are not enclosed by glass or a tub. The showers consists of a curtain and the bathroom floor as a drain for the water. Often, the entire bathroom gets pretty wet. 
  13. Certain condiments that usually come in plastic containers in the States come in tubes instead. Some of the tubed condiments I have seen have been caviar and mustard. 
  14. The state owns a monopoly on alcohol stores called Systembolaget. This means that if you want to buy higher percentage alcohols, such as wines or liquors, you must go to a Systembolaget instead of a grocery store. The Systembolaget have limited hours, and they are closed on Sundays.
  15. Emergency exit signs are green instead of the usual red. This has proven to be somewhat of a hazard for me because when I see the green sign, I assume that’s where I should exit. 
  16. Most doors have key buttons. For my host family’s apartment building and the doors in DIS, you must press a key button to unlock a door before entering. 
  17. If you look like you are going to cross the street, cars usually stop for you. It has been SUCH a nice change from the States, especially after living in Massachusetts, where people do not often stop for pedestrians.
  18. The time it takes to complete laundry averages out to be three hours; however, it can take a shorter or even longer period of time depending on the size of the load. This is a stark difference from laundry at home where I can finish a dry and wash cycle in an hour. 
  19. In Sweden, most apartment buildings have a laundry room or a tvättstuga. Residents typically book a time block to use the laundry machines and are very punctual about their time block. This differs greatly from doing laundry at my college, where laundry can sit in the machine for hours or even days until the owner comes to retrieve it. I get the luxury of having a washer-dryer unit in my homestay’s apartment, and I feel very fortunate!

Those are some observations that I have found to be distinctly Swedish! I will keep the blog updated if I see any more.

Some sweetly Swedish buildings in Gamla Stan.
Don’t forget to follow my abroad Instagram, @swedishfrisch_, to receive more constant updates!

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