Top 5 ‘Good-to-Know’ for First-timers in Sweden

As I reflect upon what it was like when I first moved to Sweden, I made quite a few minor adjustments in adapting to the Swedish society and culture. For first-timers in Sweden, I have compiled the top 5 essentials to help you settle down and kick-start your stay and studies in Sweden. Let’s get started.

1. Addressing by First names

Swedes tend to call people by their first names regardless of their status. For students, this applies to addressing your lecturers, professors, supervisors and/or managers. In fact, this applies to everyone with exceptions to the Royal family and in very formal occasions. Coming from Asia, calling teachers/seniors in their first names would deem disrespectful but it is absolutely a norm here.

2. Remove your Shoes

Be polite to take off your shoes when you enter someone’s home. There are also places like clinics, sports-halls and gyms which require shoes to be removed prior entering, so keep a look out for the signs. Some places also provide disposable shoes wraps for those who want to keep their shoes on.

3. Take a Queue Ticket

Swedes take queuing up seriously. When visiting the banks, pharmacies or collecting your posts/parcels, don’t forget to take a queue ticket. This queue system also applies to the student service center at my university and many other places. Not only is this queue system orderly, it also efficiently eliminates the odds of people cutting queues. Win-win, I like.

4. Sort waste, Recycle garbage and Clear your trays

More than 99% of all household waste in Sweden is being recycled and there are different bins for different waste. Recycling bins are categorized into plastics, coloured glass, non-coloured glass, metals, papers and magazines, cartons and cardboards, batteries, light bulbs, to name a few from the top of my head. Food waste is also placed in compost bins. So, know the bins.

Don’t forget to clear your trays and utensils after eating. Self-service clearing is very common in schools, cafes, even some hotels and restaurants. If you’re unsure, the best thing is to observe around or simply ask the staff where to leave your tray.

5. Know the ‘Weeks’

It is common in schools and at work to use the ‘week system’. As students, you may have to get used to communication in the terms of week.  For instance, ‘submit the thesis topic by week 50’ or ‘registration for the student event take place during week 28’. Since I had no sense of ‘week’ in the beginning, I relied on my phone a lot. Fret not, you will get used to it after awhile.

So now you know, welcome to Sweden!

Photo: Simon Paulin/


Written by Angelina

02 Dec 2015