Let’s explore some fun cultural differences between Americans and Swedes.
- Sugar Intake – Swedes are crazy for sugar. I mean, Americans are as well, but Swedes really take it to a new level. I’m guessing it has something to do with the darkness. Swedes even have a tradition called Saturday Candies, or Lördagsgodis, where they gorge themselves on gummy candies. It is one of my favorite new traditions!
- Debit vs Credit – Most Swedes live purely off their debit card, while most Americans are racking up their monthly credit card bill. Save the big purchases, Swedes use debit for everything. When it comes to big ticket items, like buying furniture or a house, Swedes take a loan out from either a bank or the store itself.
- Metric vs Imperial – Meters to feet/miles/inches. Celsius to Fahrenheit. Liters to gallons/ounces. The US makes it unnecessarily difficult.
- Taco Tuesday vs Taco Friday – In the US, Tuesday is taco day (ok, in LA, every day can be taco day). But here in Sweden, Friday is taco day. The whole idea in Sweden is that tacos are easy – just cook up some meat, open a can of salsa/corn/beans, pull some tortillas (always flour here) out of a bag, and get munching. In the US, taco Tuesday is more about going out to eat (and having that margarita you’ve been craving since Monday).
- Candle Burners – Swedes also love their candles. Like the Danish term hygge, Swedes call that warm and cozy feeling of home mysigt. You’ll find candles burning everywhere in Sweden, including open tall candle sticks in restaurants and shops. It would be a law suit waiting to happen in the US, but in Sweden it is just cozy.
- Food Days – This may not come as a surprise as I’ve already talked about Saturday Candies and Taco Fridays, but Swedes love food days. There is a cinnamon bun day, saffron bun day, crayfish day, and much more.
- Friendliness – Everyone talks about how reserved Swedes are. Honestly, that hasn’t been my experience at all. I find Swedes are more than willing to join into conversations and strike them up as well. But, I am very outgoing and open to conversation, so perhaps I’m strongly influencing the narrative.
- Open Windows – In America, once the sun is down, window curtains are closed. In Sweden, curtains are never drawn – people just live their life knowing full well that anyone can see in. I cannot break this American need for privacy and religiously keep my blinds closed at night (AKA, after 3:30PM in the winter right now), and apparently I share this trait only with drug dealers in Sweden.
- Design – Scandinavia is famed for the strong design aesthetic here, and rightly so. Homes are decked out in beautiful designer pieces that are both functional and visually appealing. But many Swedes have the same pieces of furniture or decor (I know this because I can see in their windows!). I am not sure if has more to do with the society being conformist or the limited amount of furniture store options.
It has definitely been fun learning and noticing a few of these cultural nuances over the past four months that I have been living in Sweden.
What surprised you the most? Let us know below.