An attitude that will serve you well in Sweden

I had a conversation with Andrés not too long ago. We were sharing some thoughts on how even though we’re from different countries (South Africa and Mexico), we found a lot of parallels in our experiences of moving to Sweden. One notable point was the independent, do it yourself attitude in Sweden compared to our home countries. It’s not just assembling your own IKEA furniture – it’s in all parts of life, from grocery shopping, to moving apartment!


Something I had to pick up when I moved to Sweden: a more do it yourself (DIY) approach! I remember one of the first times I went to a grocery store here. I picked all my items, went to pay and felt a little lost for a second. Where was I supposed to pay? There was only 1 cashier counter, which happened to be closed at the time. The rest of the cashier counters were all self-checkout. Self-checkouts exist but are quite rare in South Africa, so I’d never needed to use one before. So, I walked over, stared at one of them for a few seconds, and gave it a shot. It was surprisingly simple. Pick the number of bags you’d like, scan and put each item in the bag one at a time, and then pay with your debit/credit card.

It’s fast, easy, and especially cool if you don’t want to wait in a queue. I guess that’s why people often call them snabbkassa (fast checkout/cash register). A store with almost entirely self-checkout counters – that was new! It’s very different in South Africa – not only does someone scan all your items, but they often they prepare your bags, and pack your groceries for you. Looking back, it feels a bit weird; I guess I’m used to packing my own groceries now!

A typical self-checkout | Source: Usisipho

I’ve started noticing just how popular the independent, DIY culture is in Sweden now, even the little details. It’s not just for checkout at grocery stores. Buying some filter coffee? You’ll probably fetch your own cup and pour it yourself. The only time you’re served coffee is generally for espresso-based drinks. Quite nice in many ways, no need to specify if you’d like it with milk or sugar. What if you’re moving house or apartment? Enlist the help of a friend, rent your own small trailer, and DIY!

A typical hired cargo trailer | Source: Usisipho

According to Svensk Dagligvaruhandel, the portion of stores offering self-checkout rose from 16% to 25% between 2010 and 2016 in Sweden. So why is this approach so popular? I can only speculate but probably a combination of culture, convenience, economics, and of course, advances in technology.

Have any questions about studying and living in Sweden? Feel free to email me on usisipho.studyinsweden (at)!


Written by Usisipho

31 Jan 2018