Tips to Get Along with Swedes

How to get to know Swedes
Photo: Peter Kvarnström

Akanksha Rai is doing her internship at International House Gothenburg. She is from India and has been in Sweden for a year. Here she gives her best tips on how to get to know Swedes.

Patience is really the key to everything when you are in Sweden, be it getting your first apartment, getting a job or making friends. Learning to embrace the unhurried process can take you a long way. After spending a year in Sweden, here I am, sharing a few tips from my experience.

•    Understanding their culture: To blend in, it is important to learn the Swedish culture. Swedes in general are keen on helping but you must ask for it. Be open to adapt.

•    Learning the Language: Though you can easily get through with just English but if you are planning to be friends with Swedes, then it’s the language that unites you. Somehow the opening sentence to any conversation or the jokes are always in your mother tongue. And you don’t want to miss out on that laughing session.

•    Observe and learn: We all have few unwritten rules at every place. Keep your eyes and ears open to observe and learn from them. For instance, I have come across a lot of glare & stare while taking a seat at the public transport. Until I realised, a stranger getting too close is perceived as intrusive in Sweden. So, the trick here is if there’s a bench completely vacant, you’re supposed to occupy that. Otherwise prefer standing or take a seat next to someone only when its offered.

•    Facebook to your rescue: Go to Facebook, find your interest group like running, camping, knitting, yoga etc. Join that group and here you are. Making friends while pursuing your hobby. It’s easier to bond when you share common interests. You can also sign up for group sessions at Gym and meet new people there. It’s much easier for parents as you can always meet with other fellow parents at the pre school or the playground.

•    Try apps for socialising: One such app is Go Friendly. Its an app designed for women to make friends in their local area. Through such apps its easier to find like minded people you know you’ll get along with.

•    Initiating the conversation: If you’re anxious on how to take that first step, I think the following could be a few safe subjects to start with:

  1. Weather
  2. Pets
  3. TV shows or series (Ex: FRIENDS; yes, you read it right, everyone has watched that show)
  4. Are Swedes into fitness?  Oh, you have no idea to what extent. A discussion around that could turn out into a plan of working out together sometime.
  5. Swedes are reserved people. As much as they would like to indulge in a good conversation, they avoid sharing much about their personal life.
  6. Most of the Swedes avoid discussing money (ex: salaries, house rent etc.) and politics.

•    Be modest: One skill Swedes have mastered is to not say too much about their achievements. They are generally kind and down to earth so make sure you don’t brag too much about yourself.

•    Hanging out with Swedes: You can be direct and ask your Swedish colleague to join you for a coffee or beer afterwork. Well, I think alcohol gets everyone talking.

Few things to keep in mind

Don’t be too pushy about it and give them a few days’ time to confirm. `Swedes don’t like their privacy to be invaded’. Be open to meet at public spaces until you get to know each other very well. Make sure you reach on time as Swedes in general are punctual.


Don’t be afraid of asking questions because then you come across as a genuine person. You are not supposed to know it all. You can find a friend for life in Sweden, be patient enough to give that friendship time to bud and flourish. Hope this helps.


Writer: Akanksha Rai