There are a number of factors why studying abroad in Sweden is so great! Free education is probably top of that list, however when actually there, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with the customs of your host country before you set out. The more familiar you are with these customs, the less likely you are to accidentally insult someone. Here is a list of 5 things not to do in Sweden, specifically if you are an international student planning to study there.
You will find that most Swedes are fairly forgiving of these social faux pas, but it is still best to avoid them entirely.
1. Don’t be loud or flashy
The Swedes are a fairly moderate people when it comes to most things. If you show up in Sweden and are disruptive or flashy in any way – whether it be in your clothing or behavior – you will find that the Swedes avoid you like the plague. Try not to call too much attention to yourself.
2. Don’t talk for the sake of talking
Americans are socialized to feel uncomfortable with silence, and will sometimes attempt to fill what they perceive as an awkward silence with small talk and irrelevant chatter. Not so with Swedes; Swedes speak directly and when they have something to say; what you might think of as an awkward silence is a comfortable pause to Swedes. Don’t feel pressured to fill it with whatever comes to mind.
3. Don’t assume all Swedes speak English
Although the majority of people in Sweden do speak English, you should not assume that everyone you meet does. Learn a few basic Swedish phrases before you set out, and always ask if someone speaks English before you try to converse with them in English. Often, Swedes will warn you that their English is not very good, but you will be surprised by just how good their English turns out to be.
4. Be mindful of your body language
Scandinavians are not generally an animated people. Non-Scandinavians often don’t realize just how animated they can be in conversation, or just how excited they can get. If your voice begins to carry, you can expect to be gently reprimanded. If you notice that someone you are talking to is subconsciously turning their body away from you, or shielding their eyes as if to block out the sun, this is your cue that you need to tone down your body language a bit.
5. Respect personal space
The Swedes are not a touchy people; they enjoy their personal space. Do not intrude on this personal space; for example, don’t sit next to a stranger on the bus if there is an available seat elsewhere. Be mindful of everyone else’s personal bubble.
To learn more about Sweden, its customs and what its like to study in Sweden, please see our Sweden International Student Insurance section for more information and advice.