Interesting Things You Never Knew About Sweden

Though there are a few things they’re known for, there’s a lot more to Sweden and it’s people than Swedish meatballs, IKEA, and ABBA.

For instance, did you know that the country of Sweden has more than 300,000 free-roaming moose? Take that, Canada! Sweden offers its citizens free education, a good healthcare system, clean air, and a whole lot of other things. Here are a few things you probably didn’t know about life in Sweden.

Children Only Eat Sweets On Saturdays

boy in moscow eating cotton candy
Photo Credit: ALEXANDER NEMENOV/AFP via Getty Images
Photo Credit: ALEXANDER NEMENOV/AFP via Getty Images

Sweden eats candy at a higher per capita rate than most other countries, but the trick is that they only consume it on Saturdays. The brainchild of dentists decades ago, children are taught to only eat candy one day a week. Dentists determined that it’s better for your teeth to eat all your weekly candy in one sitting rather than a couple of pieces every day.

Sweden Wants To Become A Cash-Free Country

swedish krona cash free society
Photo Credit: Karol Serewis/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images
Photo Credit: Karol Serewis/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Sweden is moving towards being a cash-free society, with many restaurants and shops already making the jump to only accepting credit or debit cards. The idea behind it is that it will reduce crime.

They’re Not Big On Small Talk

Life in Sweden public transporation
Photo Credit: Melanie Stetson Freeman/The Christian Science Monitor via Getty Images
Photo Credit: Melanie Stetson Freeman/The Christian Science Monitor via Getty Images

If you’re standing in a line or seated on public transportation, striking up a conversation with a stranger next to you is considered abnormal. They’ll answer your questions politely if you ask, but they would prefer to not have the conversation altogether.

Students Scream Every Night In Flogsta

students in portland yelling out window
Photo Credit: Getty Images
Photo Credit: Getty Images

Flogsta is a neighborhood in the Swedish city of Uppsala that is mostly inhabited by students, students who have a tendency to scream in public at 10 p.m. The tradition of students screaming at night began in the 1970s, and the origins for it vary depending on who you ask, but the tradition has continued on.

A Daily Coffee Break Is Part Of Their Tradition

sweden fika coffee and cinnamon bun
Photo Credit: Barrie Fanton/Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Photo Credit: Barrie Fanton/Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

The concept of fika is a big part of a Swede’s everyday life. To put it simply, fika just means to have coffee, but it’s more than that. While they’re private people, fika is the time to meet and hang out with friends, get to know new people, or even network.

In many workplaces, fika is built into their daily schedule, with fika in the morning at 10 a.m. and in the afternoon at 3 p.m. Skipping fika doesn’t earn you any extra points with the boss either; taking a break is important too.

There Are Strict Regulations About Alcohol

people in line in sweden
Photo Credit: JONATHAN NACKSTRAND/AFP via Getty Images
Photo Credit: JONATHAN NACKSTRAND/AFP via Getty Images

You might think that because it’s a European country, Sweden would be more relaxed about alcohol, but that’s not the case. Any alcohol stronger than 3.5% has to be purchased through the Systembolaget, which is the government-owned liquor stores. The minimum purchase age at stores is 20, and the drinking age for restaurants or bars is 18.

North Korea Owes Them A Lot Of Money From 1974

new volvos at plant
Photo Credit: Jonathan Raa/NurPhoto via Getty Images
Photo Credit: Jonathan Raa/NurPhoto via Getty Images

More than four decades ago, Sweden made a deal with North Korea to sell them 1,000 Volvos—a deal that Sweden has still yet to be paid for. North Korea received the cars but Sweden never received their payment and they’re still trying to collect on the debt that has now grown to around $2.8 billion Swedish kronor (around $308 million USD).

Standing In Line Is A Part Of Life

swedish people in queue vasa museum
Photo Credit: STINA STJERNKVIST/TT News Agency/AFP via Getty Images
Photo Credit: STINA STJERNKVIST/TT News Agency/AFP via Getty Images

Sweden is a nation that places great importance on equality in all aspects of life. Queuing up or waiting in line is a big part of their life because everyone is an equal, so don’t even think about trying to cut in line! Practice patience before visiting Stockholm, and be prepared to stand calmly in a line for however long it takes.

They’re A Country Concerned About Their Impact On The Planet

recycling paper bin stockholm
Photo Credit: JONATHAN NACKSTRAND/AFP via Getty Images
Photo Credit: JONATHAN NACKSTRAND/AFP via Getty Images

The Swedes are concerned about the ecological state of the world and are doing what they can to reduce their impact on the environment. Less than 1% of household waste in Sweden ends up in landfills, with about 49% going to recycling, and the rest of it going to power plants to be incinerated.

Sweden Actually Imports Garbage From Other Countries

swedish recycling center in eskilstuna
Photo Credit: JONATHAN NACKSTRAND/AFP via Getty Images
Photo Credit: JONATHAN NACKSTRAND/AFP via Getty Images

Their efforts to recycle and reduce waste are so effective that Sweden actually has to import rubbish from other European countries in order to have enough garbage to incinerate in their power plants. These plants supply heat to more than one million homes in the country, and with those chilly winters, they’ll need the heat!

Hierarchy Doesn’t Really Exist In Society

swedish students in classroom with teacher
Photo Credit: TOBIAS ROSTLUND/AFP via Getty Images
Photo Credit: TOBIAS ROSTLUND/AFP via Getty Images

For the same reason that people willingly wait in lines, there isn’t much of a hierarchy in Swedish society. Everyone refers to each other by their first names regardless of their position within a company or community, students refer to professors by names rather than “Dr.” or “Professor.”

Don’t Even Think About Rooting For The Finnish Hockey Team

swedish and finnish hockey players feb 2020
Photo Credit: ERIK SIMANDER/TT NEWS AGENCY/AFP via Getty Images
Photo Credit: ERIK SIMANDER/TT NEWS AGENCY/AFP via Getty Images

Swedes are very passionate about hockey and are die-hard supporters of their national hockey team. If you’re watching a game in Sweden, you should be prepared to be passionate too. Sweden and Finland have a complex history that often gets played out on the ice between the two teams, so we recommend that if you’re a fan of the Finnish team, you keep it to yourself.

Making Friends Can Be Difficult

woman seated at work blue and yellow
Photo Credit: Pexels
Photo Credit: Pexels

Swedish people are private people, and avoiding small talk goes far beyond not wanting to talk to a stranger on the bus. If you move to Sweden, you could meet someone, and months later you still might not know anything about their personal life. They’re very particular about who they share personal information with, and it takes a long time to win someone over or show them you’re trustworthy.

It’s Illegal To Name Your Baby “IKEA”

ikea store location lyon france
Photo Credit: Nicolas Liponne/NurPhoto via Getty Images
Photo Credit: Nicolas Liponne/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Sweden regulates the naming of all children in the country, requiring parents to submit the proposed name of their child to a government agency within three months of birth. “IKEA” is one name that’s never going to get approved, as is “Metallica” and “Elvis.”

Sweden Allows For 25 Consecutive Days Of Vacation

passengers in swedish airport
Photo Credit: STINA STJERNKVIST/TT News Agency/AFP via Getty Images
Photo Credit: STINA STJERNKVIST/TT News Agency/AFP via Getty Images

Where most workplaces only allow employees to have one or two weeks of consecutive vacation, Swedish workers by law are entitled to 25 days straight, so it’s not uncommon for colleagues to simply take a month off in the middle of the summer.

There’s A Political Party Named After A Cartoon Character

enamel pin of donald duck
Photo Credit: Unsplash / Anne Nygard
Photo Credit: Unsplash / Anne Nygard

It doesn’t have any legitimate political affiliations or ideologies, but the Donald Duck Party (Kalle Anka-partiet) does exist. Over the years, it has received joke or protest votes in several elections despite never actually being registered with the official election authority.

Anyone Can Give A Speech At A Swedish Wedding

sweden royal wedding king gustaf prince philip
Photo Credit: Jonas Ekströmer – Pool /Getty Images
Photo Credit: Jonas Ekströmer – Pool /Getty Images

If you’re ever looking to get something off your chest to a crowd of people, find yourself a Swedish wedding. Their typically subdued personalities are thrown to the wind, allowing any guest of the wedding to give a speech at any time. They’re still typically planned out speeches, but don’t be surprised if there are people talking for the entirety of the reception or dinner.

It Can Be Hard To Practice Your Swedish With Locals

stockholm people in cafe
Photo Credit: ANDERS WIKLUND/TT News Agency/AFP via Getty Images
Photo Credit: ANDERS WIKLUND/TT News Agency/AFP via Getty Images

While you may be looking to practice a few Swedish phrases while visiting, most Swedish people speak English and will likely end up answering you in English if they suspect you’re not a native Swedish speaker.

Don’t Beat Around The Bush In Conversations

two women seated discussing
Photo Credit: Pexels / Tirachard Kumtanom
Photo Credit: Pexels / Tirachard Kumtanom

Swedish people are straight shooters. If they ask you a question, the answer you give is the answer they’re going to accept, so don’t dance around an answer. For example, if someone asks if you want a serving of food, say yes the first time because they’re not going to ask a second time or try to convince you. Say what you mean, and mean what you say.

Students Are Basically Paid To Study

university students laughing
Photo Credit: Unsplash / Priscilla Du Preez
Photo Credit: Unsplash / Priscilla Du Preez

University is accessible to pretty much anyone in Sweden, and thanks to a state student grant loan, students can receive around $1000 euros a month in the form of a grant to help support themselves while studying. University in general is more relaxed, with students taking fewer classes at a time, and if they were to not pass a course, they would simply go re-sit the exam. No harm, no foul!