The Local’s readers: What Swedish habits do you inevitably pick up?

It may take months, or even years, after you move to Sweden to start picking up local habits, but it will inevitably happen. The Local asked our readers what Swedish habits they've made their own.

The Local's readers: What Swedish habits do you inevitably pick up?
Fika is synonymous with Sweden. Photo: Christine Olsson/TT

Evan Nickel, a game producer from Los Angeles, reflected on how living in Stockholm has made him start to value experiences he had previously underappreciated.

“I just close my eyes and face the sun,” he said. “I had so much sun in Los Angeles, but I never appreciated it. Sun is now the most amazing and appreciated thing in the world for me.”

“I find myself doing the classic sun worship, closing my eyes, and facing up to the sun, even on random park benches or patios, like a classic Swede.”

Multiple readers agreed that a few common habits Swedes have are related to personal space.

Erika Garcia, who has lived in Sweden for 10 years, said she now goes as far as making sure there isn’t anyone outside her apartment door when she leaves, so she won’t have to make small talk.

“I check that no one is outside before getting out of my apartment to avoid the neighbours,” she said.

Akira, a tattoo artist in Malmö, admitted he does the same, adding that “it’s silly, but I can’t help it”.

Naomi, a native Californian and recent university graduate, said that this habit extends to public transit.

“I will always stand on the bus rather than sitting next to someone,” she said.


Unfortunately for Swedes, the bus is a place where personal space is hard to find. Photo: Jessica Gow/TT

However, Serena, who works in Stockholm as a researcher, explained how this practice has improved her life.

“I think that the most ‘disruptive’ change that occurred to me is how I see, evaluate and handle my personal space and time,” she said.

“Coming from a very social country, but being a bit of an ambivert, I always struggled with how much people were constantly present in my life; how I barely had time to spend alone taking care of myself.”

“Since I moved here, given that demanding a lot of personal space is the standard, I finally started embracing it, and I feel so much better,” she said.

She also commented on how the “greeting” culture differs from her native Italy.

“I definitely adopted hugs as a way to greet people, to the extent that when I visit friends and family in Italy I feel weird using kisses and they ask me what the heck I’m doing,” she said.

Giving a hug is one of the most common ways to greet a friend. Photo: Antonio Calanni/TT

Sara, a student in Malmö, said that the practice of taking off your shoes when you enter a house is very different from what she knew back home in Lebanon.

“I was visiting Lebanon a few months ago, and it was quite weird seeing everyone in their shoes in the house,” she said. “I would think to myself how can they live like that with all the concentrated blood in their feet the whole time, not to mention bringing in all the germs from the streets into the house.”

She added that another difference she noticed was how most Swedes refuse to cross the street when the light is red, and when she brought that custom back to Lebanon, she got weird looks.

“Waiting for the green light to cross was a bit troubling for me in Lebanon as the street lights are quite confusing,” she said. “But either way I would wait until it’s green before crossing and people would look at me as though I’m doing something out of the ordinary, but I felt more comfortable saving energy than having to maneuver to cross the street.”

Julija, an entrepreneur from Latvia, said that she adopted one habit so soon after moving to Sweden that it almost affected her health.

“I drank so much coffee in the first year, that now my stomach can’t handle it any more,” she said.


Swedes drink over three cups of coffee a day on average. Photo: Jeff Chiu/TT

Priscilla, who has lived in Sweden for one year, highlighted one of the habits for which Sweden is well known by people around the world: recycling.

“I became more ecological,” she said. “I learned how to recycle and compost and utilize less plastic.”

Lastly, and probably the most iconic Swedish tradition, is fika.

Lucienne Coenegracht, originally from the Netherlands but who now resides in the Swedish countryside, said the custom of fika is more intense than similar traditions she knows from back home.

“In Holland we just serve coffee with a cookie or some chocolate, but not these elaborate dishes with pastries and bread and cheese,” she said.

Joel, a Lund-based software developer from Mexico, said he had also grown used to fika, but not Sweden’s adaptation of Mexican food: “I still can’t get used to hard-shell ‘tacos’.”

And Sumit Mehra summed it up best with his all-caps response to the otherwise broad question.

“FIKA,” he said.

Member comments

  1. Just to add my little point of view living in a coastal village in Bohuslan far far away ……from Stockholm.
    If they are happen to be outside, neighbors in our street come to us when we walk out from our house, yes , yes
    Small talk is at every corner of the harbour, although we are not really good at Swedish langage, it really sounds like small talk, even gossip …
    If you happen to paint your house, just about everyone passing by would stop and say “Oh you are painting ?” which is quite obvious

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