Readers reveal: The top food mistakes foreigners make in Sweden

a cup of coffee on a newspaper
Sweden is the world's second-largest consumer of coffee per capita. But do you know your bryggkaffe from your cappuccino? Photo: Jessica Gow/TT
The Local's readers got in touch to share the Swedish food quirks that caught them out, after we published an article about Swedish food mistakes to avoid.

We’ve already covered accidentally putting fil in your coffee and the important distinction between finpizza and fulpizza, but it turns out our readers have made even more Swedish food mistakes in their time here.

Pancakes and pea soup

Yellow split-pea soup and pancakes is a traditional Swedish dish eaten on Thursdays, often seen on lunch menus.

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Reader Kerstin Larson got in touch to tell us about a mistake she made one day at work when her office decided to treat their employees to this dish.

“After you picked up your food there was a cute condiments station with cream, lingonberries, and yellow stuff,” she said. “So I put all three on the pancakes.”

She soon discovered, thanks to her coworkers’ laughs, that the yellow stuff was mustard meant for the pea soup. “My coworkers basically all peed their pants laughing at me,” she continued. “Well now that makes sense… but well… I was new to the pea soup game.”

How did pancakes and mustard taste though? “Not too bad!” says Kerstin.

Yellow split-pea soup, traditionally served on Thursdays in Sweden. Photo: Susanne Walström/imagebank.sweden.se

Sweden’s take on tacos

Tacos are, perhaps surprisingly, an integral part of Swedish cuisine, with some Swedes eating them as often as once a week. They are the epitome of fredagsmys or “Friday cosiness” – an easy, quick and tasty meal eaten together as a family, which doesn’t require any hard work on the part of parents at the end of a long work day.

Those expecting authentic Mexican-style tacos, however, may be disappointed when meeting Swedish tacos for the first time. Swedish tacos usually consist of minced meat fried with a packet of taco spice, served in soft tortillas or hard taco shells with tomato, sweetcorn and cucumber, topped with sour cream, salsa, guacamole and grated cheese.

Readers Johan and Renee Envall were disappointed by Swedish tacos. “Real tacos are made with pulled pork, brisket or grilled chicken and complimented with pico de gallo or a simple salad onion cilantro mix,” they said. Their message for popular Swedish Tex-Mex brands was as follows: “I hope they find a Latin culinary consultant to guide them to the light.”

Tacos in Sweden are definitely more Swex-Mex than Mexican. Photo: Gorm Kallestad/NTB/TT

Swedish coffee culture

The Nordic countries love coffee. The world’s top four coffee consumers per capita are Finland (3.5 cups per person per day), Sweden (3.2), Norway and Denmark (tied at 3.1 each), according to the International Coffee Organization. But despite this love of coffee, it’s not always easy to know what to order as a foreigner.

Most Swedes drink bryggkaffe or filter coffee – strong, and preferably brewed in a Moccamaster. This is reflected in restaurants and coffee shops, where filter coffee is expected to include gratis påtår, free refills. Don’t even think of ordering decaf – you’re unlikely to find anywhere selling it and most Swedes will raise their eyebrows if you ask for it. What do you expect in a country where a strong cup of coffee is considered a perfect after-dinner drink with a piece of cake?

Reader Jeannette Longo told us about a mistake her sister made in a Swedish coffee shop, which may resonate with our American and Canadian readers.

“My sister asked for half and half in her coffee” she told us. Half-and-half, a dairy product made of half milk and half cream, commonly used in baking or added to coffee in North America, does not exist in Sweden.

Instead, the barista gave her half a cup of coffee and half a cup of milk.

No Swedish kitchen is complete without a Moccamaster. Photo: coffee-rank.com

Chinese apples

Reader Arshdeep Singh got caught out by this Swedish false friend – looking for apple juice in the supermarket, he ended up coming home with orange juice.

It’s an easy mistake to make – the Swedish word for orange – apelsin, looks a lot like the English word apple. What he should have been looking for was äpple or äppel juice.

But why does the Swedish word for orange look so much like apple?

Well, as the story goes, the Swedish word apelsin comes from middle age Dutch and German: appelsina/appelsine, which in turn means “apple from China”. Even more confusingly, a “Chinese apple” was originally an English term for a pomegranate.

Are you wondering how to find pomegranate juice? Look for granatäpple.


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