There are a few things that are typically Swedish and if you want to understand your new country you should be aware of these social norms that make Sweden typical Swedish.
What is tea for the British is coffee for the Swedes. Fikaor coffee breakis a very important part of everyday life in Sweden. People will meet with friends, colleagues and family and enjoy a cup of coffee with some pastry. But having company isn’t really necessary to enjoy your fika, a nice cup of coffee all by yourself counts as a valid coffee break as well.
Many stores close early, especially at weekends. Unless you want to go to a gas station to buy your bread for breakfast you should do your shopping before 10:00 pm. It’s worth keeping in mind that since many Swedes are done with their regular jobs around five you’ll likely be battling crowds to get your shopping done between five and half past six.
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 caviar, mayonnaise, mustard, and other similar condiments. It takes some time to get used to that especially if you come from the US or Canada, but please be assured that food from a tube is just as good as if it comes out f a jar or can.
In Sweden, couples are entitled to 480 days of paid parental leave, and this time can be shared between parents. So don’t be surprised if you see lots of young fathers taking care of their new babies and the housework while their wives are back at work.
In Sweden people have the Right of Public Access which means that it allows the public to roam freely, even on private land, to camp overnight and to pick mushrooms and berries. The right also brings responsibilities – to treat flora and fauna and other people’s property with care. It can be summed up in the phrase ‘don’t disturb, don’t destroy’. The Right of Public Access is written into the Swedish constitution. But it is not a law as such, rather a custom or part of the cultural heritage that has evolved and become accepted over the years.
Most people take their annual vacation in July so you might find many restaurants and stores closed during that time of year.
When you visit a private home don’t forget to take off your shoes. This way you show respect for the home you enter and avoid dragging in dirt especially during the winter months.
Swedes are very punctual and when you are invited to either a business meeting or a private fika or dinner you are supposed to be there at the given time.
If you like to have a nice relaxing drink when coming home from work or celebrate with friends at home you should be aware that you won’t be able to buy alcohol in a supermarket. The only legal option to buy stronger spirits is to purchase them from one of the about 400 state run liquor stores.
In Sweden you will be charged for the plastic bags you need to bag your groceries. So many people recycle and reuse the bags until they fall apart thus helping to keep waste low and keep the environment a little bit healthier.
Drinking straight from the tap is the norm in Sweden. The water is clean and fresh, so you can save both money and the environment by not buying bottled water. And if you like to celebrate your favorite food, maybe you will like Shrove Tuesday (Fettisdagen), which in Sweden calls for a semla; Waffle Day (Våffeldagen) on March 25; and Cinnamon Bun Day (October 4).
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