Swedish Fun Facts


Interesting Swedish tidbits you never knew you needed to know.

I’ve learned quite a few things in the month that I have been living here in Sweden. Here are some of my favorite fun facts.

  1. Time – In Sweden, as in Europe, military time is used. So instead of a cell phone showing “1:30 PM”, you will often see “13:30.” Even more interesting, if you make plans with someone via email, you often see the time written as “13.30”, with a period used instead of a colon.
  2. The Period vs Comma – Speaking of punctuation, the comma is used here to indicate cents instead of a period. So what would be $2.50 in the US, is 2,50 SEK in Sweden (SEK is Swedish Krona).
  3. Cash is Out – And speaking of cash, Swedes don’t bother with it. The country is pretty much card-based now. In fact, you see many cash-free hotels and restaurants.
  4. Ask for the Check – Going out to eat is a treat here as it is quite expensive. The Value Added Tax (VAT) is around 25% and tip is already included in the bill. So when you do go out, you are really allowed to enjoy your time. You are never 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.
  5. Land of the Large – Light switches are about 5 feet (or 1,5 meters) high on the wall. That is near neck level for me, where in the US they were near my elbow. Definitely a land of Vikings, not midgets.
  6. So. Many. Hair Salons. IDK why, but they are literally everywhere here. As in 20 salons in a mile radius from my apartment.
  7. 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 the parks. That being said, almost all produce comes wrapped in plastic. I’ve even seen individual turnips plastic-wrapped. What is with that?! It grows in the ground…how can it get much dirtier?
  8. Booze – Like in Oregon, purchase of 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. These Systembolaget began in 1955 and are closed entirely on Sunday and close early at 3pm on Saturdays, often resulting in crazy lines. The purchasing age for alcohol is 20 here, but you can be served alcohol at a bar at 18.
  9. 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. You can purchase a quarter of a cabbage (plastic-wrapped) if needed. 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.
  10. 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 spseudoephedrine which can be used to make meth. But the rule of needed 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.
  11. Windows – The windows don’t have screens here. Making it hard for me to let fresh air in without Clea trying to walk outside (I found a rubber band around the window handles to be a great solution). Considering Swedes are quite reserved, it is interesting to always see their blinds open at night! You can often see right into a Swede’s home at night when they have their blinds opens and lights on. Maybe Swedes aren’t as nosey, but I can’t help but look while walking by – it is like a real-life #scandilandinspo Pinterest board!
  12. Babies – 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!
  13. 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 do in the US, it means you are lying in Sweden!

Interesting, huh? Hope you enjoyed!


Which fact surprised you the most? Let us know below.


One thought on “Swedish Fun Facts

  1. Jeanette

    Tess, I loved this post! What a great way to get a glimpse into a different culture. Thank you for the fun facts on Sweden!


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