1. “Oh, I love your cheese and your Alps.”
Getting Sweden and Switzerland mixed up is not only unforgivable, but it's embarrassing. Just because two different things begin with the same two-letter combo, that doesn't mean you can get them mixed up. That's like getting chalk and cheese mixed up, and no one ever compares chalk with cheese. It's like chalk and cheese. But you'd be surprised how many people make this mistake.
Say what you like about Switzerland, but their flag is a big plus. Photo: Leif R Jansson/SCANPIX/TT
2. “Hurdy gurdy gurdy gurdy.”
If you've ever watched The Muppets, you'll know about the show's Swedish chef and his fictional accent. Swedes do not say hurdy and they most definitely don't say gurdy. Or anything like it, really. Besides helping Sweden edge its way past Norway on the international stage, the Swedish chef was nothing but a thorn in Swedes' sides. Swedish is a beautiful language, sing-songy and lovely, like a bird in a Midsummer meadow. It is not like a muppet with a big mouth and a careless hand in the kitchen.
The Swedish Chef accepts an award. Photo: Jonas Ekströmer/TT
3. “Is it true that Swedish women are easy?”
A Swedish woman told me this was the thing she hated hearing the most when she met foreigners. “Not only is it incredibly rude to ask that, but it's irritating that people think Swedish women have this reputation. And even if it were true, what kind of terrible pick-up line is that anyway,” she said.
Photo: Isabell Höjman/TT
4. “Hey, I was just walking past your house, can I come in for a coffee?”
Regular reader and expat Carlos Perdomo pointed this one out. In the big cities in Sweden, people do not like spontaneity. At all. There's no better way to panic a Swede than to show up on their doorstep. Try it and see.
See how uncomfortable he looks? Photo: Janerik Henriksson/TT
5. “How much do you earn?”
This is a big no no in Sweden. Why? Swedish journalist Fredrik Stjernström explained on Twitter: “It's the semi-socialist upbringing of former generations. And secondly we compare ourselves to our neighbours all the time – since we're pretty polite we want to spare them the humiliation if we earn more than them.” And anyway, all the information is available online. Just look it up like everyone else does.
Photo: Izabelle Nordfjell/TT
6. “Fancy a joint?”
Goodness gracious, do not ever bring up the topic of drugs with the typical Swede. Even softer drugs like cannabis are extremely taboo in Sweden and there is a zero-tolerance approach from the authorities. Keep your weed to yourself, if you're into that kind of thing.
Photo: Helena Landstedt/TT
7. “Do you wanna get the first round?”
We've mentioned this before. Swedes don't buy rounds of drinks while out at night. Asking them to get a whole round for the group might even panic them a little bit. In Sweden, everyone lines up separately for their own drink. Tip: Get your rounds in first. Drunken Swedes are much more relaxed, and more likely to buy a round of drinks. They will also open up a bit more after the first few.
Photo: Gorm Kallestad/NTB scanpix/TT
8. “Well, Sweden's not really that neutral, is it?”
Bringing up how Sweden helped the Nazis in World War II is always a big gamble. It's a major sore point, especially for those who are proud of being “at peace” for 200 years.
Photo: Magnus Hjalmarson Neideman/SvD/TT
9. “Norway, Sweden, same thing.”
First, Sweden and Norway are at least a little bit different, thank you very much. But secondly, Swedes don't like Norwegians very much anyway. There's a joke: “Do you know how to save a drowning Norwegian? No? Good.” Comparing the two is sure to raise an irritated eyebrow.
Sure, Norway is beautiful. But no need to make comparisons here. Photo: Marianne Løvland/NTB scanpix/TT
10. “Coffee and cakes? No thanks.”
Turning down a coffee break with a Swede is social suicide. They take this so seriously that they even have a word for it – fika – which they claim is untranslatable. Swedes claim that it's a concept, a way of life, a movement. And not having a fika with someone is essentially an insult to the whole country.
Photo: Tina Stafrén/imagebank.sweden.se
This article was first published in 2014.