• Sweden's news in English
The Local List
The ten weirdest taboos you must never break in Sweden
Don't jump the queue for the coffee. Photo: Simon Paulin/imagebank.sweden.se

The ten weirdest taboos you must never break in Sweden

The Local · 13 Apr 2016, 10:59

Published: 13 Apr 2016 06:59 GMT+02:00
Updated: 13 Apr 2016 10:59 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

1. Don't question the alcohol monopoly

Sweden's state-owned alcohol retail monopoly Systembolaget is untouchable. Don't challenge it, or your Swedish partner and friends will launch into a tirade about how the selection of wines is really good, how knowledgeable the staff are, how it's really not all that expensive (ha!) and how it keeps overall alcohol consumption down (which anyone who's ever been to a Swedish party would sincerely question, see number six below).

Get in line, get on time and pick up that bag-in-box. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

2. Don't leave fluff in the laundry room

Forget having your own car, summer house or private island. Owning your own washing machine is a sign you have really made it in Sweden. Until then you'll have to wash your underwear in the tvättstuga (laundry room) and contend with all manners of bitchy passive aggressive notes from your neighbours, whom you otherwise never speak to. Spotted some fluff in the drum? About time you wrote your own laundry room note (tvättstugelapp) then!

"I can't believe Lasse left fluff in the dryer again!" Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

3. Don't hog the butter knife

The Swedish butter knife, usually made of wood or colourful plastic, was invented for a reason. The butter knife is better. The whole table gets one to share between themselves and you simply have to wait for your neighbour to butter his or her sandwich before it's your turn. When you're done, remember to put the knife back in the butter. Do not under any circumstances leave it on your own plate. Also, don't try to avoid the problem by using your own dinner knife instead. This is not done.

Also, don't use the butter knife for anything other than butter. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

4. Don't drink until you've made eye contact with everyone

Cocktails? Wine? Champagne? Doesn't matter. Any time there's a toast you must make eye contact with practically every single person at the table before you take a sip. It's not enough to look at their eyes; you must have impeccable timing or simply be very persistent until you have had that awkwardly intimate moment with everyone. You may then proceed to hide in your drink.

See how awkward he looks? Photo: Miriam Preis/imagebank.sweden.se

5. Don't jump the queue

Swedes have been standing in line since the dawn of time. They love nothing more than grabbing a ticket and forming up orderly to buy pretty much everything. Attempting to jump to the front of the queue will be met with a sterner look than when meeting the taxman to tell them your tax return is late. However, nobody will actually tell you off, because that would mean the Swedes would have to communicate verbally with a stranger (which coincidentally is another faux-pas not included in this list).

"Oh, a queue! I must join it." Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

6. Don't stay sober at Midsummer

Ah, yes, glorious Midsummer. It's a time to do the frog dance, lip-synch badly to olde Swedish tunes and embrace the national spirit. Actually, it's more about getting completely sloshed by getting your hands on any booze still available before Systembolaget bolts up (don't forget to observe number one and five in this list). Not a time to start your period of sobriety in other words.

The Swedish Midsummer frog dance. Photo: Henrik Holmberg/TT

7. Don't have coffee at your desk during fika

The obligatory coffee breaks at many Swedish companies may start to wear so you may want to sip on your caffeine fix at your desk. Don't. This leads to collegial alienation and eternal social exclusion. The same goes for your hour-long lunch break which must be enjoyed in the office kitchen while discussing Volvos, sommarstugor ('summer houses', a Swedish favourite) and Ikea furniture. Oh, and remember that a Swede never says no to coffee

"... and then yesterday I came home to find fluff in the dryer!" Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

8. Don't go on holiday in September

Didn't you realize that the entire country grinds to a standstill for July and most of August too? Even many restaurants in some of Stockholm's tourist hotspots close for the holiday season, while some newspapers take a break and turn off the printers for half the summer (as no news occurs during this time of year of course). Your boss is the only one who may appreciate your offer to stick around at the office for the summer, while he or she is off enjoying their sommarstuga.

Story continues below…

Swedes enjoying the sun in Malmö. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

9. Don't decline to take out parental leave

Staying at home with your newborn child for at least six months, usually more, is well ingrained into Swedish society. That goes for mothers and fathers alike, who are both entitled to at the very, very least three individual months which cannot be given to the other parent and are lost if they are not used. So switch on your automatic 'away from the office' email, bid goodbye to your colleagues and prepare for months of being allowed to have your coffee wherever you like.

Not taking parental leave is a big no-no in Sweden. Photo: Christine Olsson/TT

10. Don't eat the last biscuit at a dinner party

There's a Swedish rule stating that a final morsel of cake must be left on the table at the end of every meal, with none of your humble Swedish friends wanting to be the one to think so highly of themselves to presume that they are entitled to it. If, after at least 15 minutes, nobody has made any claims to it, you can extend your arm very carefully, stop mid-air, pull your hand back slightly and say in a concerned voice "oh, sorry, does anyone want the last biscuit?" Nobody will say yes, and the biscuit is yours. Just be aware that you will forever be known as "that pushy foreigner" among your Swedish friends.

A good way of making sure nobody gets the last slice. Photo: Anders Wiklund/TT

For more news from Sweden, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

The Local (news@thelocal.se)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Today's headlines
Refugee crisis
Asylum requests in Sweden down by 70 percent
Sweden's migration minister Morgan Johansson. Photo: Christine Olsson/TT

Sweden received 70 percent fewer requests for asylum in the period between January and September 2016 than it did during the same time last year, the country’s justice and migration minister Morgan Johansson has revealed.

The unique story of Stockholm's floating libraries
The Stockholm archipelago book boat. Photo: Roger Hill.

Writer Roger Hill details his journeys on the boats that carry books over Stockholm's waterways and to its most remote places.

Refugee crisis
Second Stockholm asylum centre fire in a week
The new incident follows a similar fire in Fagersjö last week (pictured). Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

Police suspect arson in the blaze, as well as a similar incident which occurred last Sunday.

More misery for Ericsson as losses pile up
Ericsson interim CEO Jan Frykhammar presenting its third quarter results. Photo: Claudio Bresciani/TT

The bad news just keeps coming from the Swedish telecoms giant.

Facebook 'sorry' for removing Swedish cancer video
A computer displaying Facebook's landing page. Photo: Christine Olsson/TT

The social media giant had censored a video explaining how women should check for suspicious lumps in their breasts.

Watch this amazing footage of Sweden’s landscapes
A still from the aerial footage of Sweden. Photo: Nate Summer-Cook

The spectacular drone footage captures both Sweden's south and the opposite extreme, thousands of kilometres north.

Sweden could be allowed to keep border controls: EU
Police ID checks at Hyllie station in southern Sweden. Photo: Stig-Åke Jönsson/TT

Sweden could be allowed to keep ID controls on its border with Denmark beyond the current end date of November, following discussions among EU leaders in Brussels last night.

Why women in Sweden will work for free by November
File photo of a woman working in a Swedish office. Photo: Anders Willund/TT

A new study into the gender pay gap suggests Sweden still has some work to do.

Look familiar? Meet your jawbone's ancestor
Thank God for evolution, eh?

There's something fishy about the human jawbone – it has its origins in the placodermi, a jowly species of fish that lived 400 million years ago, Swedish and Chinese researchers say.

Isis claims unremarked arson attack in Malmö
The arson attack took place on Norra Grängesbergsgatan in Malmö. File photo: Emil Langvad/TT

An arson attack in Malmö that caused only minor damage and was barely reported in the media has been claimed by terror group Isis.

Sponsored Article
This is Malmö: Football capital of Sweden
Fury at plans that 'threaten the IB's survival' in Sweden
Sponsored Article
Where is the Swedish music industry heading?
Here's where it could snow in central Sweden this weekend
Analysis & Opinion
Are we just going to let half the country die?
Blog updates

6 October

10 useful hjälpverb (The Swedish Teacher) »

"Hej! I think the so-called “hjalpverb” (auxiliary verbs in English) are a good way to get…" READ »


8 July

Editor’s blog, July 8th (The Local Sweden) »

"Hej readers, It has, as always, been a bizarre, serious and hilarious week in Sweden. You…" READ »

Sponsored Article
7 reasons you should join Sweden's 'a-kassa'
Angry elk chases Swede up a lamp post
Sponsored Article
Why you should 'grab a chair' on Stockholm's tech scene
The Local Voices
'Alienation in Sweden feels better: I find myself a stranger among scores of aliens'
People-watching: October 20th
The Local Voices
A layover at Qatar airport brought this Swedish-Kenyan couple together - now they're heading for marriage
Sponsored Article
Stockholm: creating solutions to global challenges
Swede punches clown that scared his grandmother
Sponsored Article
Swedish for programmers: 'It changed my life'
Fans throw flares and enter pitch in Swedish football riot
Could Swedish blood test solve 'Making a Murderer'?
Sponsored Article
Top 7 tips to help you learn Swedish
Property of the week: Linnéstaden, Gothenburg
Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
Swedish school to build gender neutral changing room
People-watching: October 14th-16th
Sponsored Article
'There was no future for me in Turkey'
Man in Sweden assaulted by clowns with broken bottle
Sponsored Article
‘Extremism can't be defeated on the battlefield alone’
Nobel Prize 2016: Literature
Sponsored Article
Stockholm: creating solutions to global challenges
Watch the man who discovered Bob Dylan react to his Nobel Prize win
Sponsored Article
Why you should 'grab a chair' on Stockholm's tech scene
Record numbers emigrating from Sweden
Sponsored Article
'There was no future for me in Turkey'
People-watching: October 12th
Sponsored Article
Where is the Swedish music industry heading?
The Local Voices
'Swedish startups should embrace newcomers' talents - there's nothing to fear'
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
How far right are the Sweden Democrats?
Property of the week: Triangeln, Malmö
Sweden unveils Europe's first elk hut
People-watching: October 7th-9th
The Local Voices
Syria's White Helmets: The Nobel Peace Prize would have meant a lot, but pulling a child from rubble is the greatest reward
Missing rune stone turns up in Sweden
Nobel Prize 2016: Chemistry
jobs available