Which Scandinavians call their country Sverige

Travel etiquette for Sweden

Swedes and Germans are similar in many ways. When it comes to temperament, culture, values, political, moral and ethical standpoints, we are often not far apart. Nevertheless, there are enough stumbling blocks that make a German foolish (in Swedish: “trampa i klaveret”).

Personal experiences

We have described some of the differences on the following sub-pages. As always on Schwedentipps.se, these descriptions are personal. It is experiences that we in dealing with Sweden. Other Germans will have had different experiences.

Know-it-alls have a hard time

The Swedish customs, norms, values ​​and customs described here can often be violated as a German and yet not offended. As always in life, it is a question of how to do it. If you do it with charm or sympathetic ignorance, then you can count on the Swedes with friendly indulgence. If you act loudly, aggressively and as a “know-it-all” (a word that has found its way into the Swedish language), you have to expect rejection.

Vikings and Teutons

It is often the case that the Swedes are more willing to look after the Germans than other foreigners, despite the terrible burden of German history. At such moments you get to hear from the Swedes with a wink that “we Vikings and Teutons” somehow belong closely together. Then you stand there and don't know whether to find that nice or oppressive.

These are our topics

  • take off shoes
    About bare feet, woolen socks and blue overcoats.
  • Perfume
    Why fragrances are used sparingly in Sweden.
  • Number lapp (Kölapp)
    Why it is fair and serene while waiting.
  • Eat in the restaurant
    The topics: cloakroom, tap water, payment, tips ...
  • Smoke
    What should smokers in Sweden consider?
  • Honk
    Use of horn, headlight flasher and hazard warning lights.
  • Duzen
    Who can you use duo? And what applies to the first name?
  • Alcohol - manners and habits
    What applies to private invitations? Why does Sweden have a different relationship to alcohol than the continent?
  • Butter knife
    Why you sometimes don't get a knife in Sweden.
  • prudery
    Where has the “Swedish sin” gone?
  • punctuality
    What applies to private invitations and in business life?
  • Reluctance
    What the Jante Law is and why you shouldn't appear as a know-it-all.
  • Political correctness
    What can you say and do where? Of self-censorship and a “Toblerone affair”.

The book on the subject: “Fool Guide Sweden”

Delia Kübeck, “Fool's Guide Sweden: The Unimagined Secrets of Blue and Yellow Etiquette” (March 2010) - the book is now in its 6th edition (end of 2016)

If you want to know how Swedes behave in private, as neighbors, as colleagues at work or as customers, you will find clever and well-informed answers in Delia Kübeck's book. Kübeck also tries to find out why the Swedes behave the way they do. She explains, for example, why many Swedes still have difficulties using a knife and fork at the table.

Kübeck's “fake guide” consists of three parts: a part for visitors to Sweden (the topics range from everyone's rights to shopping to invitations and meetings), a part for immigrants and finally a part with faux pas from A to Z, from “Farewell take ”to“ understanding of time ”.

Faux pas everywhere

Like Kübeck, we have been living in Sweden for a long time. We can understand all the faux pas described in the book - we stepped into many of them ourselves, and by no means only when we were new in Sweden. This also happens to us today, whether with neighbors, at work or when dealing with authorities, craftsmen or when shopping.

Kübeck described the typical Swedish in her book. However, things don't always have to be typically Swedish in Sweden. Kübeck himself repeatedly points out that things can be (gradually) different in the big cities of Stockholm, Gothenburg and Malmö as well as in northern Sweden.

Kübeck's examples sometimes seem badly constructed and overly clear. Overall, however, the book is a very useful guide for everyone who wants to understand their Swedish neighbors and friends, colleagues and customers better - and for everyone who seldom wants to embarrass themselves as a guest in Sweden.

The book is available at Amazon: Delia Kübeck, “Fool's Guide Sweden: The Unimagined Secrets of Blue and Yellow Etiquette”

You can find more books on the subject on our page Our book tips: Advice for emigrants from Sweden.

Germans love Sweden, but it is difficult the other way around - The “Bullerbü Syndrome”

The (apparently) German Niels Reise describes the German-Swedish relationship as he sees it in a contribution for the Swedish SVT1 television program “Kobra” and in a documentary for a theme evening on SVT2 (both October 2008).

Germans cultivated an “over-love” for a “kitsch Swede”, he claims by way of introduction. There are over 200 “Astrid Lindgren Schools” in Germany, but only one in Sweden. He calls this love affair the “Bullerbü Syndrome” and thus takes up a phrase coined by the former head of the Goethe Institute in Stockholm, Berthold Franke. The Germans would not love real Sweden, but an invented land of longing that they call “Sweden”.

This love would not be reciprocated by the Swedes, says Reise.

How we see the German-Swedish relationship

We can hardly share the opinions of Niels Reise. Of course there are Swedes who don't like one or the other German. Maybe you have had bad experiences with German business partners or German vacationers. I have also experienced rejection before, but not because I was rejected as a German, but because I misbehaved as a person.

Germans and Swedes are very, very similar. This is precisely what often results in misunderstandings (one thinks that the other must know how to behave correctly in a certain situation) and sometimes fraternal competitive situations.

Inga Lindström

The Swedish broadcaster SVT2 once showed two Lindström films in a row on a Saturday evening. Before the two “Inga Lindström” films were broadcast on SVT, screenwriter Christiane Sadlo told the ddp news agency: “Let's see if there is a market for it.”

She added that it was clear that the films were not a Swedish reality. She also got the impression that the Swedes deal with television differently: "This kitsch and emotional level that we started with Pilcher is not there so clearly there." On the other hand, she had been called by people who said, “we would like to see something like that too”.

"Look how beautiful this is!"

Something like that is the name of the game five or six times in “Inga Lindström” film Summer of decision. Yes, we also thought the pictures were fantastic. But, please, what did that have to do with Sweden? Nothing! Christiane Sadlo doesn't claim that either.

Sadlo writes a love story (also quite constructed) and needs a milieu that creates a romantic, longing mood with great pictures and annoying musical accompaniment. The film was shot in Sörmland, but could just as easily have been set in the Black Forest or Mecklenburg.

In this film there is no mosquito clouding the picture and no raindrop. Poor Bavaria film team that had to wait maybe two weeks in Nyköping for the right weather to finally come for the shoot ...

We just found the film shallow. My Swedish colleagues found it bizarre.