Interesting Swedish tidbits you never knew you needed to know!
There are so many things that I have just taken for granted or have accepted at face value because they were my social norm living in the US. But moving to a different country with a unique culture brought many new things to light. Here are some fun facts I’ve noticed about small differences between the US and Sweden:
- Time – In Sweden, as in the rest of Europe, military time is used. So instead of making a date to meet at “1:30 PM”, you will see “13:30.” I’ve had Swedish friends take a look at my bullet journal and make joking comments that I do so many things early in the morning because everything is listed as 1, 3, and 5 (pm) in my calendar. Even more interesting, if you make plans with a Swede via email, I’ve seen the time written as “13.30”, with a period used instead of a colon. It has happened enough times for me to think it isn’t a mistake!
- The Period vs Comma – Speaking of punctuation, the comma is used here to indicate cents instead of a period. So you’ll see “200,50 SEK”, or Swedish Krona, instead of “200.50 SEK”.
- Cash is Out – And speaking of money, Swedes don’t bother with cash. The country is pretty much card-based now. In fact, you see many cash-free hotels and restaurants. It is something I really appreciate about life in Sweden. It is so nice not needing to carry cash and run to the bank.
- So Many Hair Salons – I don’t know why, but they are literally everywhere here. And they are always busy. Swedes just really prioritize their hair here!
- Recycling is an Art – It is serious business here in Sweden. Each apartment has about five recycling options (clear glass, colored glass, hard/soft household plastics, metals, newspapers, and paper packaging and cardboard). Plus composting bins everywhere, even in some parks. And most trash rooms also have a place for electronics recycling, batteries, lightbulbs, and textiles.
- Booze – Like in Oregon where I lived previously, purchasing spirits are State run here in Sweden. But unlike Oregon, where you can buy beer and wine at the grocery store, in Sweden you can’t buy anything over 3.5% alcohol unless you are at a Systembolaget, the liquor store. Systembolaget began in 1955 and are closed entirely on Sunday and close at 15:00 on Saturdays, often resulting in crazy lines on Saturday afternoon. The purchasing age for alcohol is 20 here, but you can be served alcohol at a bar at 18.
- Portion Sizing – Most things are smaller in Europe, but especially so when it comes to food. It seems that grocery stores even keep singles in mind when they package food. For example, you can purchase a quarter of a cabbage if needed – perfect for someone living solo. But cheese is the one things that I don’t understand. It comes in these giant wedges at the grocery store! Nearly the size of my face, these wedges are wedding-reception ready.
- Rx – Going to the pharmacy is an interesting thing here. If you need any thing strong, you need a prescription. This includes cold medicine, which makes sense in some ways as medicines like NyQuil contain pseudoephedrine which can be used to make methenamine. But the rule of needing a prescription extends even to antibiotic gels like Neosporin! I was shocked to hear I would need to go to a doctor if I got a small cut that I wanted to put some antibiotic on.
- Screen-less Windows – The windows don’t have mesh screens here, so if you open a window anything can come flying in. It also makes it hard for me to open a window fully to let fresh air in without my cat Clea trying to sit on the windowsill five floors up, which doesn’t feel so safe!
- Babies – Basically every third woman I’ve seen is pregnant or holding a new baby. Seriously, this place is popping with mamas about to pop. But when it comes to parenting, I’ve never been in a place where the dads are so involved. It is refreshing to see!
- Håller Tummarna – When you want to wish someone good luck in Sweden you “hold your thumb,” or tuck your thumb into your fist. If you cross your fingers like you would in the US, it means you are lying in Sweden!
- Curtains – When you move into an apartment here be prepared to buy your own curtains or blinds – they aren’t always included like they would be in the US. And most Swedes don’t bother to close their curtains at night when it get dark and the lights inside come on, so you can see right in. This really surprised me considering Swedes are quite reserved. While Swedes aren’t as nosey, I can’t help but look in while walking by – it is like a real-life Scandi Land inspirational Pinterest board!
- Ask for the Check – Going out to eat here is quite expensive. The Value Added Tax (VAT) is around 25% and tip is included in the bill. The nice thing, however, is that you can sit for as long as you want! You are rarely asked to give up your table and can easily stay well past finishing your last bite and having your plates cleared. When you are ready to leave, it is up to you to flag your server and ask for the check. Enjoy your time – you’re paying well for it.
These are just some of the many differences I have noticed between the US and Sweden. Some of these things, like recycling and buying alcohol, I’ll take more about in separate posts, so stay tuned!
Hope you learned some new Swedishness today and I’ll see you in the next post!