Swedish Culture

Etiquette

Basic Etiquette

  • Much etiquette in Sweden is based on maintaining equality throughout interactions. For example, thanking people for their efforts and reciprocating actions that occur regularly. 
  • Everyone is expected to form an orderly queue when waiting to be served. Almost no reason is accepted to get in front of the people who arrived before you. In fact, many places use a “queuing ticket” system, whereby you take a number from a machine when you first enter the store. When your number is announced, it is your turn to be served.
  • When one answers the phone, they will say ‘Hallå’ (‘Hello') and identify who they are.
  • Punctuality is essential in Sweden. Avoid arriving too early or too late for an appointment or an engagement. It is not uncommon for guests to sit in their car or walk around the block if they are early until the scheduled start time has arrived.


Visiting

  • It is common for people to get together for ‘fika'. Similar to morning or afternoon tea, fika consists of coffee, tea or soft drinks often accompanied with a light snack (such as a sandwich or pastry). People may meet for fika at cafes or their home.
  • Arrangements are usually made when visiting one another. Unannounced visits are uncommon.
  • Guests are expected to arrive at the designated time.
  • People will typically remove their shoes before entering someone’s home, particularly in winter. 
  • Many Swedes will give their guests a full tour of the house if it is their first time visiting.
  • Hosts will usually offer their guests a beverage, often black coffee.
  • It is impolite to leave straight after finishing eating. Guests are expected to stay for coffee and some conversation.
  • It is important for guests to thank the hosts for their hospitality the next time they meet. This is done by using the phrase, “Tack för senast” (Thank you for last time).

 

Eating

  • A person places the utensils side by side on the plate once they’ve finished eating.
  • Leaving any food on the plate is impolite.
  • Guests usually wait for the host to offer second helpings. It is not impolite to decline, and guests may take more if they desire.
  • Each guest will personally thank the host directly after the meal.
  • People look directly in the eye of someone when they are toasting one another. 
  • Some Swedes may offer guests seven different types of cookies for each guest to sample. It is important to only take one of each flavour if you and fellow guests are offered a variety of cookies.


Gifts

  • Swedes open gifts upon receiving them.
  • It is common for people to bring gifts for any children who may be a part of the family they are visiting.

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