Things I do in Sweden but would never do in Indonesia


Written by Nana

23 Feb 2024

I have been living in Sweden as a student for around 6 months, and so far my journey to Sweden has been nothing short of a delightful cultural rollercoaster. From the food to the interactions, there are some things I’m used to doing back in my home country Indonesia that just don’t translate here and vice versa.

Ok, so let’s dive into some of the daily things I find myself doing here in Sweden that I never imagined doing back in Indonesia (or even perhaps Asia in general)!

First name friendliness

In Sweden, everyone’s on a first-name basis, whether it’s your lecturer, friend’s parents, or your boss. It’s a sign of equality and friendliness in Swedish culture. Very different in Indonesia, where formal titles like “Bapak” or “Mas” (Mr.), “Ibu” (Mrs.), and “Mbak” (Miss) are the norm, emphasizing respect in social interactions.

Credit: Season 4 Reaction GIF By Grown-Ish

Queueing with numbers, everywhere!

Swedes love their queues, but before joining one, they grab a number ticket to ensure fairness, order, and efficiency. In Indonesia, queuing often resembles a chaotic free-for-all, with no need for tickets (only in certain places) – just assertiveness and maybe a little bit of elbow nudging.

Weather chit-chat

We always talk about the weather, perhaps 5 times a day! I personally think it’s a Swedish national pastime lol. While in my home country, the temperature is quite constant all year long (summer all year~) so we never check the weather app. When talking about the weather it’s usually a complaint about how sweltering hot it is!

Credit: Hey Arnold Nicksplat GIF

Being very consciously silent in public

Swedes are masters of comfortable silence in public spaces. No honking, no loud talking with each other or on the phone, that’s crazy! I could even hear the silence in the airport (yes, AIRPORT)! This is a stark contrast to Indonesia, where bustling and crowded streets are the usual, with lively conversations filling the air.

‘Lagom’ gift-giving

In Sweden, expensive presents aren’t the norm; instead, it’s always lagom or ‘just the right amount’, more about the thoughtful gestures. People would think it is weird if you give something expensive, like in a way you want to show that you are ‘better’ than them. In Indonesia, extravagant gifts are often seen as a sign of generosity and respect, reflecting the importance of grand gestures in celebrations.

Street crossing is not a life-death situation

I could not believe when I first got here that crossing the street was so easy! It’s a leisurely stroll, even you can do it with your eyes closed (not recommended though hehe) because cars always stop whenever a pedestrian crosses the street. It’s a far cry from the adrenaline-fueled adventure of navigating Indonesian traffic, where weaving through cars and motorcycles is practically an ‘extreme sport’.

International students, dressed in winter attire, are crossing a zebra crossing in an urban environment on a cloudy day.
Crossing the street without worries at all~ Photo: Nana

These experiences may have seemed unimaginable in the Indonesian context, but here in Sweden, they’ve become interesting parts of my international student journey. BUT! Even though there are some differences, Sweden and Indonesia also have a lot in common (you can read about that here)

So, if you want to share some similar stories, whether they are culture shocks or similarities to your home country, you can always tell us by writing in the comment section!


Written by Nana

23 Feb 2024