Unwritten rules in Sweden

There are few things you always have to be aware of when visiting a country.

I thought I would help you out and give you some tips on what you need to think about when you are in Sweden. Learn the unwritten rules and you will avoid making mistakes when you come to Sweden. Whether you are here on a short visit, holiday or going to work here it is a good idea to read the rules first.

Unwritten rules in Sweden:

  • never burp in public
  • chew food with closed mouth
  • do not use both elbows on the table while eating – this is more a etiquette rule.
  • while talking use a soft and low voice, never raise your voice  – Do not talk loud!
  • do not think you are better than anybody else – It is called the Jantelag. It is a so called law. It keeps you on your feet so you will not think something highly of yourself, every one should be equal in value
  • do not cut in line. If there is a queue, you should be standing in it
  • don’t make a scene in public. That would just be embarrassing
  • never hit a child even if the child have done something wrong. You are not allowed to do so in Sweden.
  • take of your shoes when you visit someone at their home
  • if you are invited home to a Swede bring a box of chocolate called Aladdin or Paradise otherwise you can give a flower bouquet or red wine
  • always be on time. Punctuality is important for Swedes
  • sort your garbage, in Sweden there are always houses where you sort metal, plastic, color glass, non-color glass, paper, cardboard paper, food waste and all other garbage that are left after sorting. Sweden is in the front when it comes to sorting garbage and have made it into a business where we now have to import garbage to turn it into energy.
  • when you are using public transportation do not sit next to another person if there are more seats available. In the buses with few people in it you will see that people are always choosing a seat that is available next to another available seat rather then to sit next to a stranger.
  • do not expect anyone to invite you home just because you have said hi to them, in Asians countries you will often get a invitation to the persons family to eat a home cooked meal, but it is not like that in Sweden. You have to be good friends first in order to get invited.
  • Do not wear a hat or cap when you are indoors. When you are eating food at the food court or another restaurant, take of your jacket.

Of course there are exceptions to every rule. I am just exaggerating the rules so that you will be aware of what not to do if it can be avoided. These rules can be applied to all Scandinavian countries.


If you want to impress a Swede do the following things:

  • learn some Swedish words or sentences. Swedish alphabet have 3 more letters then the English alphabet. It is å,ä and ö. If you can pronounce them you have an ease for languages.
  • learn about Swedish culture
  • participate in midsummer dances around a midsummer pole
  • try all Swedish dishes, never say no when food is offered
  • if you are invited to celebrate Christmas at a Swedish family do bring gifts wrapped in gift paper to the kids, that will give you extra points


Something Swedes love to do:

  • have a coffee break at a cafe with coffee and a cookie, it is called fika
  • be out in the nature
  • if it is bad weather most people seems to be at the mall taking a fika or doing some shopping
  • complain about some small issues
  • talk about the weather
  • when it is little warm outside people seem to always have their summer clothes ready. If the sun is showing up then there will be lots of people outdoors, otherwise you wont see that many people out on the streets in Sweden. Even if its just little warm people will try to take a dip in the ocean, just so that they can say to their friends that they have been swimming in the ocean this year. Even in the winter time people take a dip in the ice cold water and then run back to a warm sauna.
  • travel to a warmer country in the winter


Learn the rules and you will get along just fine! Good Luck!

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