Funny little realisations that make Sweden different from Kenya (Part 2)

Last week, I shared with you some of the funny little realizations that make Sweden different from Kenya and I had so much to share that I am back with Part 2! In case you are curious to know what Part 1 covered, here’s the link.

1. Dating, gender equality and going dutch.

A man and a women having drinks in a bar.
Photo: Simon Paulin/

Gender equality is a phenomenon to behold here in Sweden. I have had my feminism put to the test a few times when I was expected to go dutch on a date. Going dutch during dates in Sweden is quite normal so if you come from a society where this would be unheard of, do not take offence. Back in Kenya, this would be highly unlikely and the guy’s chances of scoring a second date would be close to none but in Sweden, it’s a norm. If you would like to hear more juicy stories about dating life in Sweden, might I recommend Emma and Sanjay’s podcast ↗️?

A father is working out at home with a pilates ball while the baby lies on the bed right next to him.
Photo: Kristin Lidell/

The upside of this, however, is when you see how parental roles are shared equally between parents. It is a common sight to see dads taking their kids for walks and looking more involved in roles that may have generally been given to women. Sweden is so serious about equality that they coined a gender-neutral person pronoun: “Hen” so that you don’t have to refer to ‘him/her’ all the time.

2. Self-service

A family at the self check-out at IKEA, scanning all their items. The child is sittning upon the shopping chart, the mum is scanning and the dad is behind the chart.
Self check-out at IKEA. Photo: Simon Paulin/

One of the favourite things I look forward to whenever I visit ICA supermarket is getting to check out, packing and paying for my groceries without having to line up at the cashier’s stand. All I have to do is scan my groceries and pack them then tap my receipt at the exit door. I prefer this option than lining up at the cashier’s for several reasons: It saves me time, I feel like I am an early adopter and I get a feeling of accomplishment.

Recently at a hotel, we were presented with the option of pressing our own orange juice and making our own waffles and you cannot believe how long the line at the make-your-own-waffle stand was. I guess being home to IKEA where you literally assemble your own furniture, it is no surprise why self-service here thrives. Most konditoris (Swedish coffee houses) will expect you to clear your table when you leave. In Kenya, there are fewer instances where self-service is encouraged.

3. Your mailbox will be active.

A child is crafting by a red house, right by a meadow, on a sunny summer day.
Photo: Clive Tompsett/

Back home, mailboxes are not used much because everything seems to be sent through digital channels such as emails. You would naturally expect that Sweden moved to document scanning and physical mail would seem like a thing of the past. However, I was surprised to see how the mailbox and address are very important in Sweden. My bank will always send me documents through my mail. Sometimes, I am expected to send documents that could otherwise be scanned and emailed, via post. Postal address is so important that if changed, Sweden’s Tax Agency has to be notified!

4. Almost everyone goes to the gym.

People out jogging on a summer evening in a beautiful back light.
Photo: Sara Ingman/

This is not an exaggeration. 80% of the people I know belong to a gym! This may be partly because gym fees here are very affordable and most of them will almost always have student discounts that make them even cheaper. As a student, you may pay between 150Kr – 250 Kr per month. Not too bad ey? A common conversation starter would be ‘Where do you work out’?

5. Guest etiquette – showing up with your own booze

A close up of dark glass beer bottles with colourful labels.
Photo: Björn Tesch/

A visit to Systembolegat is essential if you want to stock up on your alcohol. When invited to pre-parties and dinners, even when it’s not clearly stated, the law is that you bring your own booze! Showing up with your own booze is courteous and will have you welcomed anywhere :). In Kenya, I found that hosts would ask you to bring some drinks or not.

6. H&M.

A smiling girl at a stand on a flea market, surrounded by clothes, on a sunny summer day.
Photo: Faramarz Gosheh/

H&M is Sweden’s common clothing retailer and you can find these stores literally everywhere. It is one of the more affordable clothing options here (of course second-hand shopping takes the lead). Therefore, many people will get their clothing from there. In Kenya, H&M is a little ‘exclusive’ and not as common as it is here.

7. Sweden is cashless.

A man buying cheese at a cheese stand from the woman working. It is a cloudy day and it is at a Christmas market.
Photo: Melker Dahlstrand/

When was the last time I had physical Swedish money on me? I cannot possibly remember when! You swipe everywhere, even at the paid bathrooms :). Initially, I had physical notes with me but was given a reality check when the IKEA cashier bluntly mentioned that they do not accept cash. Since then, it’s me and my cards. While both Kenya and Sweden use mobile money, I would argue that Sweden is definitely is an almost cashless society.

This makes the temporary end to my realizations but since am always having AHA! moments, look out for Part 3! If you have any realizations or funny things you noticed after coming to Sweden please share!


Written by Concillier

18 Mar 2019