Understanding the Swedes

Be on time

Both at work and in our social life, we are usually very punctual. If you want to be like a Swede you should rather arrive five minutes early than five minutes late. One exception from this rule is the so-called “academic quarter”, which only exists at the university. Lectures are usually posted to start at 10 o’clock, but in fact they start at 10:15, but not all lecturers apply this Uppsala phenomenon so please ask to be on the safe side!

Taking your shoes off

When you visit somebody´s home, you will usually take off your outdoor shoes right at the entrance. It is quite normal to walk around in your socks only, even if you did not think so!

No smoking

Smoking is not allowed in public buildings. If there is a special smoker´s area, you are not allowed to smoke anywhere else. To be sure, take it as a good rule always to ask before smoking (especially in people´s homes).

Paying the bill

After grabbing a beer with your friends or after having a wonderful dinner, with the man/woman of your dreams you will realise that picking up the tab is an unknown phenomenon in Sweden. The bill is usually split according to how much you eat and drink. Tip is included in the price, but you are welcome to give some extra if you feel like it.


You will not find beer stronger than 3.5% at the supermarket and no wine or spirits. To obtain some involves a trip to the Systembolaget, which is open Mon-Sat. You will also need to be over 20 and you will need your valid ID(passport or European Identity card) to be able to purchase anything there. Even if you are over 20 it is still better to take your ID with you as the staff will ask anyone looking younger than 30 for it!


Besides punctuality we are known to be law abiding and very fond of forming queues. Whenever you are waiting for something: at the cinema, to pay in the shop etc you are supposed to wait in a proper queue. Almost no excuse is good enough to push your way forward in the queue. A modern version is a system with queue tickets (a little paper with a number, indicating when it is your turn). This gives you the liberty to move around freely while you are waiting (and it can be quite some time at the Systembolaget on a Friday afternoon). Do not forget to take a ticket and look for the number display!

A trip to the supermarket

Useful to know before you embark on a fun filled adventure to a Swedish supermarket.

You may notice that items can cost e.g. 4.65 kronor. However the lowest coin is 1 kronor, so after the cashier has added up the cost of all the items, it is rounded up or down.

Plastic and paper bags are placed before the register. They usually cost 1- SEK for plastic and 2- SEK for a paper bag. Small thin plastic bags at the other side of check out are free.


Dairy products

Minimjölk (yellow) = milk with 0.05% fat - you might as well buy water!

Lättmjölk (blue) =  skim milk with 0.5% fat

Mellanmjölk (green) = semi-skim milk with 1.5% fat

Mjölk (red) = milk with 3% fat

Ekologisk mjölk = organic milk

Låglaktosmjölk =low lactose milk

Filmjölk = Sour thick milk. Go and try some "A-fil" with fruit and muesli for a refreshing and tasty breakfast

Keso = cottage cheese

Messmör = soft goat cheese

Meat, fish and shellfish

Ren = reindeer

Älg = elk

Falukorv = the most popular Swedish sausage 

Kassler = smoked pork chops

“Hamburgerkött” (hamburger meat) which can be found in the cold meat section is horse meat.

Sill (in jars) = herring


Långfranska = French loaf

Vörtlimpa = wort flavoured rye bread (available usually at Christmas and Easter)

Knäckebröd = crispbread

Skorpor = rusks

Kex = crackers


Strösocker = white sugar

Farinsocker = brown sugar

Bakpulver = baking powder/baking soda

Grötris = round-grained rice for rice pudding/porridge


Kolsyrat = carbonated

Cider = cider, but often with no alcohol

Öl = beer

Other words and phrases of relevance

Späda = dilute

st. = it is short for stycken which means pieces 

Extrapris = bargain price/on sale

Kortpris = price for those who have a customers card/membership of the store

Jämförpris = comparison price, this is the price per kg or litre.

Pant = money back in exchange for empty bottles, cans. You add the cost of the deposit if the price is given + pant.