"Swedes sometimes express themselves or behave in a way that might be perceived as rude by foreigners. One example is the phrase “Excuse me.” If someone bumps into you, it is more likely that you will hear oj/oops than ursäkta mig/excuse me. When you are talking to a Swedish person and they do not hear what you have said, you will most likely hear a Va?/What?, not excuse me. This does not mean that Swedes are an extremely rude people, it is just means that the phrase ursäkta mig/excuse me is not so widely used in Sweden."
Another very accurate observation. I spent a very long time thinking that Swedes were being rude to each other or uninterested but nope it is just a cultural thing!
The observations in quotes on this page have been borrowed from the university website which can be found here.
Generally I find the Swedes to be a very nice set of people.
They are not being cold or disinterested in you, they just keep themselves to themselves and can be quite shy.
They are not mean spirited or rude they are just to the point and not overly emotive.
If you don't understand them don't be tempted to nod anyway and act like you understand - someone will help you understand if you just say something, they can't read your mind.
When somewhere where you might have to queue like a bank etc TAKE A TICKET - no ticket no place in queue and you will be stood there all day! There will be a machine dispensing tickets and a display telling you when it's your turn. If you miss your turn take another ticket - easy as anything!
The Swedes can be a tough nut to crack but don't forget, unless you are speaking Swedish with them then they are making an effort to speak your language to you. This is not as easy as it seems and they might be shy or embarrassed of their language skills no matter how great they seem. Often just remembering the effort they are making for you can help you realise they are a nice bunch after all!
On the whole my experience of the Swedish population has been extremely positive. I have found them friendly, willing to speak English to me and I of course am lucky enough to have a wonderful Swedish family around me.
However, there are a few idiosyncrasies I thought I ought to mention, just so you are a little prepared!
The Swedish language to an untrained ear can sound extremely harsh, in my opinion. I spent quite a while convinced people were cross with each other when actually they were being quite kind! Also, if a Swede doesn't have anything to say about what you have just said then don't be surprised if you get no acknowledgment of what you said. Silence is not an uncomfortable thing in Sweden as it is in the UK and you are not being ignored if there is silence!
Pet names and affection
There are very few ways of expressing (verbally!) affection in Swedish, few ways that are the norm anyway. In the English language we are very emotive and affectionate, even with friends etc. In the UK where we might say "Hun" to a friend to get their attention in Sweden they say "Du" which literally translates as "you!". However saying that, you will often hear phone calls between loved ones and family being signed off "puss och kram" meaning "kisses and hugs" which I think it pretty sweet. Generally if you want to be romantic when talking to a loved one, probably best to stick to english!
Just the right amount of polite
In the UK we have a tendency to be overly polite, we will apologise if we bump into someone in the store even if it is our fault, we will put please and thank you in places you might never expect to find them! This can make Swedes quite uncomfortable as they don't necessarily see the need for it. After all this is a language that has no real word for "please"! Don't expect a Swede to say please for everything they ask for or to apologise if they bump into you in a store, they aren't being rude, just being Swedish.
In a lot of people's experience in Sweden if people don't know you they don't talk to you. I have been very fortunate and not found this to be the case - I say hello to my neighbours and would probably chat more if I knew more Swedish. However, do not necessarily expect much more than a hello in passing. In the UK it is quite normal to invite neighbours into your home for a cup of tea or to chat for ages over the garden fence, not so much the case here. Exchanging pleasantries is about as far as it goes as that just isn't really the Swedish way. If you are lucky enough to make friends with Swedes or have Swedish family you will know they are the most hospitable people and very happy for you to pop round for fika etc but inviting a stranger in or accepting an invite from a stranger is a pretty unheard of turn of events. It can make making friends quite difficult when you are new here but don't let it get you down and don't stop trying to say hello. If in doubt go to any of the language courses to learn Swedish, even if you are fluent, you will meet people in the same boat as yourself and many people who I am sure would love to come round for a coffee and a natter.
"If a Swede asks you if you want to join him on a skiing trip, or if you want another cookie, make sure you know what you want before you answer. Unlike many other cultures, Swedish people will not coax or insist. They will ask you once and then accept your first answer. Therefore, if you want another cookie, you had better take the chance and accept the offer the first time around." This is oh so true in my experience, on more than one occasion have I been silently kicking myself for saying no when I mean yes!
"Swedes are a rather direct people. They get straight to the point and tend to tell you exactly what they are up to. If you are having a coffee with a group of people and one of them is a Swede, do not be surprised if the Swede suddenly stands up and announces that he is going to the toilet so that the whole group can hear. It is not that he thinks you will all want to know, but that he thinks that it would be rude to just get up and leave. Furthermore, if you are going to say something, tell the truth."
This one mainly amused me, I have not really found this to be true although the passing of wind or gas does tend to go unnoticed or unexcused!
"The concept of picking up the tab is an unknown phenomenon in Sweden. The bill is divided ‘precisely’ after what and how much you ate or drank. Tips are included, but it is always welcome if you leave some. "
This extends to buying rounds in my experience, it isn't something usually done in social groups in Sweden and no one will expect you to buy them a drink therefore don't expect one to be bought for you. Be careful if you do buy a round it is not necessarily going to be reciprocated on the next trip to the bar.