Swedish Language Blog

Visiting a friend in Sweden Posted by on Sep 17, 2012 in Culture, Living in Sweden

When visiting someone you know in Sweden, whether it be for the first time or the tenth time, there are some things you should always remember as a guest at a Swedish household.

First of all, never(!) forget to take off your shoes at the door upon entering the friend’s home. Forgetting this simple rule is considered extremely rude in Sweden and your host will not be happy. Always take your shoes off, regardless of how long you’re planning to stay. (The only exception to this rule is if you don’t leave the first meter’s radius of the door.) This rule is similar to how it is done in Japan, for example, the difference being that the Japanese put on slippers when entering a home while the Swedes do not. As such, you should generally always have socks on when visiting a Swedish home.

Another good tip is one that really shocked me, having grown up in the American culture. When you visit a friend’s place on short notice (or even not-so-short notice, depending on your relationship to the family in question), it is not uncommon that you will not be invited to eat dinner with them. Your friend will often be called to dinner while you are expected to occupy yourself separately in the friend’s bedroom or other room that isn’t a ‘family’ room. If you are hungry, you may be able to use the kitchen after the family is done eating. (Your friend will, of course, be with you at that time but not eat with you.) I have several experiences with this: once when I was visiting a friend in the city of Umeå in nothern Sweden (farthest away from any other European cultural influences), another time when I visited a friend in a little town outside of Uppsala (close to Stockholm, in eastern mid-southern Sweden). The first time I didn’t really think about it all that much – I just thought it had something to do with the type of family I was visiting – but the second time, it really struck me as odd. I wonder if there are any other cultures out there like this?

If you do, however, have dinner with the family in question, do not(!) forget to thank the family for the food afterward when the meal is over. A simple Tack för maten! will do. For conversation during the meal (and in general), even more ‘rules’ apply – some things that are okay to talk about in some cultures are generally not okay to talk about with Swedes. (This, of course, also depends on the relationship you have with the people.) Two of perhaps the most important examples are financial income and political views.

Good luck visiting your favorite Swedes! Hope these tips will help you in the future. 🙂

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About the Author: Stephen Maconi

Stephen Maconi has been writing for the Transparent Swedish Blog since 2010. Wielding a Bachelor's Degree in Swedish and Nordic Linguistics from Uppsala University in Sweden, Stephen is an expert on Swedish language and culture.


  1. Katyusha:

    Thanks for this post! It’s obviously very helpful to know about such common things in a typical Swedish household. 😀 We do take off our shoes in the Czech Republic too, I can say.

  2. Malena:

    Wow! that part about not being asked for dinner really seems odd! do you know why is it like that? and also, is it seen as “rude” to invite the guest to have dinner in that setting?

  3. Orcun:

    I think I also forgot to say, if you’re invited to a dinner, always bring a present? 🙂 Mostly wine 😀

  4. Marina:

    Thanks for the information. Very interesting. I am not at all happy with the dinner arrangements. Personally when I plan to visit I will not be in anyone’s home as not to be offended or to offend anyone. That dinner is not good with me. I am from the Caribbean with a British background.

  5. Rutger:

    I lived in Sweden for over 3 years now and can relate to the first and the thirth but I never came to experience the not being invited for dinner. I live just outside of Uppsala and maybe it helps that my friends are mainly young Swedes (<30) that maybe change traditions.

  6. Leif:

    Being a Swede, I don’t recognize the custom of not inviting a friend’s friend to dinner when they’re both there as guests. I too would feel most offended if I had to sit in another room while my friend had dinner with the family. Am I missing something?

  7. Jennifer:

    I’m Swedish and I have been left in the back room during dinner. This depends on the family though.

    This is just when visiting the children in the house. I think it has something to do with dinner planning. Housewifes are not a common thing and the family often prepares dinner in advance and just for the people planned to eat.

    So there might only be one porkshop for each family member. Im not sure, but it could be the case…

  8. Thomas:

    The not being invited to the dinner table only applies if your friend lives with his parents or if you’re visiting very socially awkward people. There are more of those up north in Sweden.

  9. Peter Isotalo:

    I grew up in southern Stockholm suburb of Hägersten. Not being invited to dinner was quite common. Not everyone did it, but you could never count on getting fed by other families.

    I always this habit to be pretty cold and stingy. Swedish culture is socially awkward in many ways. This is one of the least likeable ones.

  10. Gucci Ojiig:

    Last time we visited for midsummer. I was invited to meals because my daughter plans meals precisely. One of her friends invited us last minute! What a treat.

    I cooked one night and was surprised how much their houseguest considered our invitation to join us. We almost had to beg her to join us. Perhaps she did not want to intrude?
    When in Stockholm, I get new socks.

  11. Sally:

    I am of Swedish descent, however I don’t know many of the customs having lived in the United States my entire life . My aunt had a porcelain shoe with a slot in it so that you were able to drop a coin inside like a bank. It was my understanding that this was a Swedish custom for good luck. I have been searching to find information about this to no avail. Has anyone heard of this custom for good luck? She recently passed away and it is the one thing that I wanted from her estate. I would like to be able to share with my friends this custom. Any help will be appreciated. Thank you