How to be a local in Sweden
Abba, meatballs, Ikea, smorgasbord, saunas, massages, beautiful landscapes and vibrant cities are just some of the things that may spring to mind when you think of Sweden.
The country is also seen as a place that offers those that live there an egalitarian and relaxed environment and this is borne out by its societal code of conduct termed Lagom which loosely translated means 'just the right amount'.
And while the Swedish are in general an easy going lot, there are still some important cultural dos and don'ts that are best to be aware of before you visit.
So if you're planning a Swedish sojourn, the Flexicover team has noted the main five aspects that are worth bearing in mind. Just imagine exactly how you'd want society to run in an ideal world, and you're halfway there.
Calm and Collected
Sweden's reserved demeanour extends to expressiveness generally. They communicate with quiet conversation rather than gesticulation, so it will be late in the day before you see Swedes highly emotive. We're not singling out public displays of affection - just consider that a handshake is probably enough physical contact. So try not to become irate with the cab driver, fall about laughing (however hysterical that joke might be), or greet your old friend with a shriek, giant hug and sloppy cheek-kiss!
One of the trickier aspects of life in Sweden is the sauna. It's definitely a place to know the correct etiquette - particularly when to strip, when to cover up and most importantly, what to do with your eyes. Generally speaking, Swedish people aren't ashamed of their nakedness. It's treated in the mature way they deal with everything else (see a theme developing here?). So users of same-sex saunas and some mixed-sex ones will be naked, and visitors are expected to follow suit. If you really prefer, keep your towel on but don't wear a bathing suit into the sauna - Swedes feel this is unhygienic. Once in, don't stare. Instead, try and (mentally) embrace everyone's nudity - it's a liberating experience at the very least.
Going Dutch isn't done
It's no secret that Sweden is an expensive place. A glass of house wine at a restaurant is around £6 and pints of beer can be around £6.50 each, and if you're on a budget don't even think of ordering a gin and tonic, spirits are charged by the centilitre and can set you back £10 or more. A whole meal can add up quickly, so in true egalitarian style, it's commonplace for those dining out in groups to pay for what they've consumed rather than split the bill. It's not considered rude or ungenerous; it's just necessity when a fellow diner's alcohol bill alone may reach £50 and all you had was Coke.
Drinking out in Sweden is a relatively costly exercise, but the Swedes have very specific rules and rituals set out in regards to toasting. If you're invited to a Swedish home for dinner firstly be on time as it's considered rude to be late and you should also take a small gift. When you're at the table make sure your hands are always visible and wait for the host to give a toast before drinking. When the host has raised their glass, make eye contact and say Skål ('Skoal'). And before putting your glass down make eye contact and give a friendly nod to all those present. Simples!
Indulge the national pride
As a country with one of the best records for quality of life, education, gender equality and pop music, it's understandable that the Swedish are fiercely proud of their nationality. While other countries are self-deprecating and don't mind if you poke fun at their expense, don't try that in Sweden. National pride also extends to locality, so it's also a risky move to sing the praises of Stockholm when you're in Malmo. The rule of thumb is the place you're visiting is the best area ever - but more than likely, you won't even have to pretend.
Following a few cultural tips like these will mean your time in Sweden should go smoothly and you'll be embracing the culture in more ways than one! Plus it's good to know that Flexicover are committed to providing you with the highest level of protection to ensure that you are safe and secure 24 hours a day when away.