study in sweden
Are you planning to study abroad? Here are five quirky things about the Swedes to keep in mind before you study in Sweden. Source: Jonathan Nackstrand/AFP

Planning to study in Sweden? If you’ve set your eyes on this Northern European country, you’ve probably read why it makes for such a great study abroad destination

Beyond the surface — such as its world-class education, work opportunities for international students and its reputation as among the world’s safest countries — and the fact that Greta Thunberg calls this country home how much do you really know about Sweden?  

Here are some of the one of the things to keep in mind before you study in Sweden:

Swedes stare

… a lot. 

Just take it from Burger Abroad, who hilariously captures this reality: “I first noticed the staring. I thought something was wrong with me, that my fly was unzipped, or that I was doing something horribly alarming to society. But I wasn’t. Everywhere you go, Swedes stare.”

While staring is seen as impolite in some societies, you could, however, practise avoiding making eye contact in public if the staring makes you uncomfortable.

Cashless society

study in Sweden

Almost seven million Swedes use Swish, an app to send and receive money, in Sweden. Source: Shutterstock

Cash isn’t king in Sweden. The country is expected to become the world’s first cashless society by 2023.

Reports note that the use of cash is declining in the country, with payments via cards and mobile apps (like Swish) serving as the primary modes of payment. So don’t get confused if a friend asks if they could “Swish you” after a meal.

Fika is a sacred ritual

Fika, Swedish for coffee break, is an important part of Swedish culture. It can be taken just about any time, be it in the morning or evening.

This tradition is more than setting aside some time out of your day for coffee and some sweet treats — it can be enjoyed at home, work or even at a cafe by yourself or with family and friends.

They’re serious about sustainability

study in Sweden

Trash containers for different rubbish in the center of Stockholm, Sweden. Source: Shutterstock

Sweden is aiming for a zero waste society, so don’t be surprised that it might take some getting used to in understanding the correct bins for your recyclables. Just take it from exchange student Abrisham Ahmadzadeh, who said, “It took me a week and a half to find the recycling cupboard, and over four months to really understand it.

“Separating light glass and dark glass, not crushing the pant and being able to recycle all forms of soft plastic is all quite new for me, and I grew up in London with a pretty large environmental conscience.”

A sharp inhale means something

Don’t get distracted or worry if a Swede is having an asthma attack if he or she does several sharp inhales during a conversation. In Sweden, sucking in air during a conversation shows agreement rather than nodding or saying “ja” (yes) without disrupting the flow of the conversation.