Sweden: What The Guidebook Doesn't Tell You

Sweden has been my favourite country since I was 12. It all started with a tv show, Eva och Adam, which was filmed in Sweden and which was a remake of a quite famous youth comic strip in Sweden. Of course I've also read all the children books of Astrid Lindgren and watched Michel (or Emil as he is called in Sweden) from Lönneberga every holiday it was on.

When I was older I started learning some Swedish and then when I went to University I visited a few Swedish courses. I also started to read many guidebooks and advice books for immigrants-to-be. But now that I've actually lived here for one week I begin to change my view of this country. As I live with a Swedish family and visit a Swedish course five mornings a week, I definitely experience more of the Swedish culture than I did on my vacations where I always stayed in a hotel and always spoke English.

So there are a few things that I didn't know about this country and also a few things that are quite the opposite of what has been written in all those guidebooks. I thought I'd share these things with you and I think it's the right topic for the #TravelTuesday-Travel Tips. So here are 7 things you should know about Sweden.

(But please note: My experience comes from staying in Stockholm. Everything I'll say does not necessarily have to apply in places like Kumla, Sundsvall or Pajala!) 1. The guidebook says: Everyone in Sweden speaks English and you can get around without any knowledge of Swedish. Well so far that's right BUT if your counterpart discovers that you are able of speaking just one sentence in Swedish he will refuse to talk English with you. This happened to me a few times in this week now and I find it quite disturbing. Every time I asked my counterpart if he could also speak English (I ask this in Swedish just because I can), he either ignores my question or simply says No! Why is that??

I know that every Swede has to learn English at school and I also know that most Swedes hear English every day, as films are not synchronized but only subtitled so why do people refuse to speak English even though they can? I'm not asking anyone to held a speech on economics in English, I'm just asking them to speak English with me when I'm in the supermarket or in a restaurant and I simply don't understand their Swedish.

Of course it's okay for me as I'm studying Swedish in a course and that way I just have to use the language but what about tourists who learned a few Swedish sentences just to be polite? They will have even more trouble with people simply refusing to speak English. And then again this is Stockholm, the capital of Sweden and the tourist magnet number 1! I expect of people working in a restaurant in Gamla Stan, THE tourist hotspot of the city, to be able to speak English! ......

So be careful with using nuggets of Swedish!

2. The guidebook says: Sweden is one of the child-friendliest countries of Europe. Which means that you are surrounded by babies and todlers as soon as you leave the house and I guarantee you, at some point of your stay, you end up with a serious headache because of children's hue and cry. The Swedish way of raising children is....let's say it takes some time to get used to.

Swedish children are allowed way more than for example German children, if they are not allowed everything. A 2-year old throws down two chairs in a cafe and nothing happens. Neither is the child told to stop nor are the chairs being put in place again. Another 2-year old wants to crawl on every free seat on the train and daddy is a good boy and simply tags along behind his son.

In Germany he would have gotten some nasty looks by a majority of passengers and so would the family in the cafe been frowned upon by most guests but in Sweden it's just normal.....

3. The guidebook says: Punctuality is an important thing in Sweden. Well not in Stockholm. Our teachers are mostly late for class and then overrun. Maybe it's just them? Yeah.....maybe.....

4. The guidebook says: You can pay EVERYTHING with credit card, even 5 cents. What the guidebook forgets is that you need 5 or sometimes 10 Swedish crowns every time you want to hire a locker at a museum or every time you want to use a public restroom. So you can of course pay everything with card but remember to bring at least 50 Crowns which you can then change into coins, for example at the Centralstation in Stockholm.

5. The guidebook says: Swedes are tolerant and patient. In the supermarket everyone waits patiently until it's his/her turn at the refrigerated counter and no one becomes impatient when the queue at the checkout is half a mile long. Well not in Stockholm, I can tell you. Stockholmers are impatient and this is the worst in those tiny little city supermarkets where you block the aisle by simply standing there with a shopper basket.

6. The guidebook says: Recycling is common in Sweden. Well, my hosts have one bin. Just one.

7. The guidebook didn't tell you that spitting, slurping, sniffing back one's snot and snuffling are common among men and women. So whenever I leave the house I hear someone doing just that and I find it disgusting! I understand, this is a cold climate and winter is long but why can't you just blow your nose like everyone else in Europe does. Winter in England, Scotland, Germany (insert your country here) is cold too but nevertheless you don't hear as many people snuffling there as they do here. WHY, JUST WHY????

My coursemates complain about the Swedish food (so easy to prepare it's not even cooking) and dress codes (Swedish women never show their curves) but I couldn't form an opinion on these things just yet. But please don't get me wrong. I still like this country and I like to be here (altough I couldn't live in Stockholm forever, I want to go back to little Tromso).

And there are many many things I like about this country: one restroom for men and women, free education for everyone, special Swedish courses for immigrants paid for by the state, butter knives and salted butter, free and healthy tap water, free Wi-Fi everywhere, equality, the Swedish royals, the Swedish nature (basically everything Germany lacks of can be found here :P)...... But then again, I'm just a visitor not an immigrant. I can complain can't I?! And one thing is for sure, I don't want to leave again in 3 weeks.....

Have you ever been to Sweden/Stockholm and have you noticed something of the list? Or have you maybe noticed something else, that hasn't been written in your guidebook or which you simply didn't expect? Tell me about your Sweden experiences!!

Travel Tuesday