Swedish Language Blog

Swedes love HUGS!  Posted by on Oct 15, 2010 in Culture, Uncategorized

If you have lived in Sweden for a period of time and have Swedish friends then you will surely recognize all the hugs (kramar/kram) that are given. If you look sad, when you are happy or look worried, anytime you are around friends (and sometimes even when you aren’t) you will receive hugs. It is kind of our (Swedes) way of saying: “How are you?” or “I have noticed you, what has happened?” (In both the sense, has something good happened, or has something bad happened?) But also when greeting a friend, often when meeting after a longer period of time.  Everyday greeting hugs are also very common.

Of course young people have a lot of physical contact but even older people in Sweden show affection in a physical way. This can be quite a cultural shock for people who come from places with different cultural customs.

Different hugs list:

Greeting hug

Conforting hug

“Happy Birthday, or other special occasion” hug

“I just feel like hugging you” hug

“I love you” hug

“Good work” hug

(sorry if I have forgotten some, which I’m sure I have)

Please note that not all Swedes are this way! I think it is more of a characteristic for Sweden than some other countries.

In Sweden and most of the western world you shake hands when you first meet somebody as a greeting. But in countries where you just bow, is that a sign that people refrain from all physical contact?

What does physical contact say in your country? And more importantly if somebody does not follow the cultural customs for example when greeting, what happens?


Tags: ,
Keep learning Swedish with us!

Build vocabulary, practice pronunciation, and more with Transparent Language Online. Available anytime, anywhere, on any device.

Try it Free Find it at your Library
Share this:
Pin it


  1. Nikki:

    I think hugs are pretty widespread in England as well, at least where I’m from. My friends and I always hug in greeting; I can’t imagine not!
    Let’s spread the love!

  2. Cristine:

    One funny comment that a Brazilian friend heard from a Portuguese person was that us Brazilians HUG TOO MUCH 🙂 …

    I completely disagree with that and I would say that we do use physical contact as much as the Spanish or the Italians and I am not too surprised with English and Swedish also using this form of contact.

    If done with respect and meaning in most cases friendship and care, why not?


  3. Letícia:

    Thank you so much for this post! Knowing that in Sweden people only shake hands when greeting someone they’re meeting for the first time is a valuable piece of information for me. In the city of São Paulo, people greet each other with a handshake and a single kiss on one cheek (if you’re a woman greeting another woman or greeting a man. Men just shake hands with other men). I think it’s interesting that people there all greet people in the same way, because in other places in the country it’s kind of a mess, I don’t know if the person will just shake hands or shake hands and give me a kiss on each cheek (that’s the most common way of greeting here). When greeting friends, you usually hug and give them a single kiss on one cheek.

    I don’t have a problem with physical contact (I’m actually all for it and it makes me happy to know that people hug so much in Sweden!), it’s just awkward thinking that maybe I’ll be the one hugging or kissing someone when they’re not used to greet people that way (like when I meet someone from São Paulo and forget it and give them two kisses instead of just one). I don’t think it’s a big deal though, it’s just a bit awkward.

  4. Efrutik:

    This is very interesting to hear about the Swedes. I actually would not have thought that they were huggers, so there you have it learning something new. As for U.S. professionally wise you wouldn’t hug rather you use a handshake. As for an informal encounter with friends and family I think it depends upon the multiculturalism of those groups. My family and friends are from very diverse countries we use hugs and three kisses as well most of the time. But definitely there is a lot of hugging that goes on.

    So in a professional setting the Swedes give hugs (for example when coming for a job interview) or handshakes ?

  5. Julie-Ann Neywick:

    I have friends from Australia. They not only hugged when we first met, but they also kissed too. They are nice to be around.

  6. Katja:

    If you have never met a person it would be very awkward, but if you have a realationship outside of the business then you might hug. Men hugging men might not be as common as women hugging men.

    You might want to read the situation and if it feels like a hug would be ok, then go for it!!

    If somebody walk towards you and has their arm spread then most likely thats the sign of hugging time 😉

  7. Luke (Sydney):

    “Good work” hug doesn’t happen here in Australia as far as I know, but you do get “farewell” hugs (handshakes from man to man of course) when leaving a job.

    “co-M-forting hug”, I first read “confronting hug” and thought it’s a Swedish man to man hug 😀

  8. Antropologa:

    I’m not totally sure I believe you. 🙂 I live in Sweden now and have been visiting here for ten years and have very rarely been a part of any hugging. Maybe it depends on where you live or something.

  9. Katja:

    What I think it depends more on is who you spend time with. Of course not everybody does hugging…

  10. Minty:

    As an Aussie girl, I don’t think I can agree with you about the kissing thing. My friends and I often greet with a hug, but NEVER a kiss. It is very mucha european thing. In Australia we never hug at work unless you are very close with them personally as well…at least not where I live, maybe its different for Luke….or maybe hes just cute enough that the girls want to hug him when hes finished a job interview! 😀 haha
    Perhaps Australia has different customs in different areas, especially considering we’re such a large country. Im from North Queensland, so thats quite far away from Sydney.
    I also noticed the conforting/comforting slip up and smiled 😛

  11. Minty:

    I forgot to share my 2-cents on Swedish hugging….I don’t have many swedish friends, but whenever I visit My boyfriend’s family hugs are a must (but no kisses). If I try to dodge a hug or forget one 😛 I will be pursued until the hug is completed!! Also, farfar like very, very long hugs….although I think thats just cos hes old and thinks Im pretty :S

  12. Ring-Arla:

    I’d say hugging is pretty common in most western countries (and their former colonies) if you are familiar with the people you are hugging, not so much a characteristic of Sweden.
    I come from another country and Swedes hug a lot less and in more restricted ways than in my country.
    In my country I hugged co-workers on a weekly basis, but I haven’t seen that happen too often in Sweden. If I’d meet a friend’s friend for the first time, we’d most likely hug, but here in Sweden I rarely get hugged when meeting my friend’s friends for the first time, and I feel it’s often me who starts the hug (by mistake, because it’s my default greeting form).