Date: February 13th, 2018 2:31 PM
Author: acoustic thugicide
In many ways, at least on the surface, Brits and Swedes seem fairly similar.
However, we really are poles apart. I find Swedes very reserved (even so far as to say they seem cold), especially in situations where us Brits would make eye contact or say hello. Classic example, at the supermarket: you know that little dance you sometimes do when someone is coming down the aisle and you both go the same way? That would usually evoke a little laugh, a smile or connection between two people in the UK. Here in Sweden, nothing. I find that really hard. They also donít raise their voices very often. We went to a garden party for all the residents in my street in the summer and despite never seeing any of them before, they all knew me: the English lady in the corner house. We are louder and brasher than most Swedes and generally, more open with our feelings and emotions, too.
Itís important to point out that Swedes are not unfriendly, not in the slightest; what they are is quieter, more reserved and not for idle chit chat. That said, Iíve lived in both small villages in the UK and London and people in the Big Smoke werenít the type for casual chatting, either. So it most definitely depends on where in Sweden we are talking about.
Swedes are painfully PC. Most of the time I would be on board whole-heartedly, but to me, sometimes feels like it is some kind of a competition. That said, one of my favourite cultural differences between Sweden and the UK is the male role in family life. The fact that there is absolutely no distinction between male and female positions in relation to bringing up kids and housework is brilliant. I remember being so shocked to see packs of dads walking along pushing prams, but it is very much the norm. The way Sweden takes care of families (and children) on the whole is brilliant.
Most Swedes are very health conscious; you only need to look out of your kitchen window at any given time to see people jogging by. However, they have a borderline obsession with all things sausage. The ironic thing is that the food in Sweden has the kind of E numbers we got rid of decades ago in the UK and it always makes me smile that these health conscious people think nothing of packing in a sausage that is full of artificial nasties. In fact, many Swedes seem blissfully unaware of how unhealthy their supermarket food really is.
Swedes have an odd relationship with alcohol. As mentioned, they have government run shops that sell alcohol. They are open at certain times and you can not buy it anywhere else. They run what I believe to be very sanctimonious ad campaigns about how wonderful the system is and how they are protecting Swedes from the darker side of alcohol. However, in reality, Swedes buy their alcohol either in bulk when they are in the shop or from places like Denmark and Germany. Swedes drink a lot - they are mainly weekend binge drinkers. I think they system they have in place is antiquated and rather than prevent addiction to alcohol or over consumption, actually reinforces the binge mentality.
I find driving very different here. Nobody lets you out, there is very little waving in thanks for being let out, and they don't indicate, especially at roundabouts (apparently someone once told me that roundabouts are relatively new in Sweden and they donít indicate because they arenít sure how to navigate them. Not sure how true this is). They also have odd little rules you need to know about, too.
Lastly, my biggest bone of contention and one thing I probably find hardest, and thatís customer service. Swedes are helpful, but they are rule followers. If it isnít in the rules, it isnít going to get done. Because of this, they have no flexibility, and when in a customer service capacity, can be very frustrating. They only give you an answer to a direct question, and will never volunteer additional information. Similarly, any contact you have via email, for example, is succinct and to the point (this includes correspondence to your boss or work colleagues). I am a waffler. I never realised how much us Brits flower things up and just how much we apologise even if you havenít done anything wrong (I am so sorry to bother you is nothing a Swede would EVER say).
Generally, the cultural differences are subtle and not always immediately apparent!