Things That May Surprise You When Moving to Sweden Posted by Transparent Language on Jul 21, 2009 in Culture
Because all of your comments under the post about “Culture Shock When Moving to Sweden” were so great, and because that entry is proving to be quite popular, I thought it might be useful for those planning a move to Sweden to list all the major points you have mentioned in there. And because there are quite a few of them, I decided they deserved a post of their own.
So, here they are, in no particular order, the many things that may surprise you when moving to, or visiting, Sweden.
Personnummer. Yes, that’s a biggie. Kind of like a Social Security number in the US, but much more important. You can’t do anything without your personnummer – you’ll be asked for it when opening a bank account, signing up with an internet provider, going to the doctor, getting a job, applying for a discount card at your local ICA supermarket and many, many other things. In other words, you’ll need it pretty much everywhere and for everything, maybe with the exception of using a public restroom.
Bike paths. They’re everywhere and they’re actually being used! People ride their bikes here almost everywhere. Even in the dead of winter. If you’ve never ridden a bike in the snow to pick up a package from your local supermarket (because mailmen here don’t deliver them), then you can’t say you’ve had a truly Swedish experience.
Consumer culture, or rather – lack thereof. This is something that most native Swedes and I disagree on. In fact, my Swedish readers are always very quick to voice their displeasure whenever I comment on the apathetic customer service in Sweden. However, this particular point is not unique to Sweden. And yes, Ann is right – the situation is improving, slowly, but improving.
Nummerlapp. The queue number dispenser. You better get used to it. Fast. And like it. You’ll see it everywhere, from electrical shops to health clinics. And don’t be surprised when you see people queuing up to take a queue number – now that’s a truly Swedish experience!
Silent people. Yes, Swedes are known for being the strong, silent types, but really, would it hurt them to say “hej” when passing a stranger? Or a neighbor? I heard a joke once that if a person is greeting random strangers, that person most likely is: a) drunk, b) insane, c) American, and d) all of the above.
Coffee. Yes, it’s THE national drink of Sweden.
Men proudly taking care of babies. I’ve written about it before. And this is one of those things that I absolutely love about Sweden. But their job is not limited to taking care of babies. Swedish guys do everything a woman does (except giving birth) and sometimes even better. I know quite a few Swedes who won’t let their foreign wives cook or bake bread, because they (the men) think they can do a better job.
Health care. I guess depending on where you’re coming from, you will say that health care in Sweden is either dismal or fabulous. But regardless of your opinion, I agree that Swedish health system is just something else entirely.
Post office. There isn’t any. That takes a bit of getting used to.
Swedish mile. Just so you know, it’s 10 kilometers long. I know of at least one foreigner who, upon hearing that “oh, it’s only about a mile from here”, decided to walk. Needless to say, he was not amused.
And those are just some of the things that may surprise you when moving to Sweden. Or not. 🙂