5 Unwritten Rules of Daily Life in Sweden

Are you excited to come to Sweden? Do you know what to expect? Sweden is a wonderful country with a unique culture and quirks. Learn what to expect upon your arrival to Sweden and get cultural tips on how to manage your daily life in the Swedish way!

1. Queuing is a big thing in Sweden

In shops, supermarkets, and other public spaces across Sweden, you’ll notice a common trend. Swedes are very good at forming orderly queues, each person patiently waiting for their turn. Talk about mastering the ‘art of patience’. There’s an unspoken understanding of “first come, first served,” and cutting in line is considered a big breach of social etiquette. The same applies to housing queues which you can enter to get student accommodation. Housing queues are common in every city. For each day in the queue, you get a point. The person with the most points gets the apartment. More on how to find accommodation in Sweden.
At first, I found all this queuing in Sweden really annoying but now I learned that the patient approach to waiting is also a reflection of the Swedish culture. It’s like without all these queues, it just wouldn’t be Sweden.

GIF: South Park/Giphy

2. Swedes do not usually sit next to each other on public transport 🚎

Swedes value personal space and maintain a comfortable distance in social interactions. Respect for individual space is an integral part of Swedish culture. It is not unusual to leave an empty seat next to someone. But, of course, if the bus or tram is full (often in big cities 😒), you can sit next to another individual. Just be polite and sit down while being mindful of the other person’s personal space. Also, public spaces in Sweden are generally quiet. Try to keep conversations at a moderate volume, and use headphones if you want to listen to music or watch videos with sound. 🎶

A photo taken of a blue bus waiting by a bus stop in Sweden.
Photo: Patrik Moravcik

3. Sustainability is a budget-friendly lifestyle

The second-hand culture, recycling, and biking to work/school align with the country’s commitment to sustainability. In Sweden, you learn to slowly implement sustainable approaches into your daily life. My personal favourite are second-hand stores. They can be found in almost every city and they are usually very nice. I recommend visiting Erikshjälpen Second-hand which has clothes, furniture, books, appliances, and sometimes even a café. You not only reduce your fashion footprint, but you get to buy a nice piece of clothing or furniture for a truly affordable price. Once you are tired of shopping, pick up a book and get a nice cup of coffee. Usually, for less than SEK 30 in these shops.

Heart-shaped waffles with whipped cream, blueberries, and jam, accompanied by a cup of coffee. The scene is set in a cozy indoor café.
My favourite second-hand store café. Photo: Annamaria

4. Never say no to ‘fika’

Fika’ is not just about indulging in a cup of coffee and a yummy sweet treat 😋; it’s an important and cherished part of Swedish social life. It’s basically an opportunity to pause for a bit, connect with others, and appreciate the moment. Fika encourages meaningful conversations. That is why it is not uncommon to have fika at work or school. The student unions might be offering Swedish fika for free on some days to allow students to meet and socialise. What surprised me the most is that there is time for fika at almost every job (at least those I tried). It might be in between your working hours or right after. There might even be a designated day for fika. Fika culture to me represents the work-life balance that is so important in Sweden. I find this piece of Swedish culture very comforting.

5. Learn to love the outdoors

Nature is accessible everywhere, literally. Sweden is a huge country covered with forests, lakes, and even some mountains. You have hiking trails at almost every corner. This country is full of natural wonders waiting to be explored. I find nature in Sweden to be both therapeutic and inspiring. Especially, during the cold winter months, taking a walk in the Swedish forest is probably the best medicine for your mental health. You get to escape the hustle of everyday life, breathe in fresh air, and organise your thoughts. That is why I try to take a walk just about every day. If that’s not enough, the accessibility to nature also encourages a healthy lifestyle. You not only get to explore the country but it also allows you to implement healthier habits into your daily life. This is what I’d call the ‘Swedish way of enjoying life to the fullest.

A woman with a contented smile stands by a lake, arms crossed, in a serene natural setting with calm waters, reeds, and a forested hill under a soft evening sky.
Härlandatjärn. Photo: Annamaria

Read more about practical things to know before coming to Sweden. Let me know in the comments what worries you the most about moving to Sweden or what are the things you wish you could know before arriving.


Written by Annamaria

19 Mar 2024