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Indians in Sweden: Indian foreign minister's speech and culture shocks

Emma Löfgren
Emma Löfgren - [email protected]
Indians in Sweden: Indian foreign minister's speech and culture shocks
India's Minister for External Affairs S. Jaishankar pictured in Brussels on a separate occasion. Photo: AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert

What did India's minister of external affairs tell his compatriots on a recent visit to Sweden, what are our readers' biggest culture shocks, and the latest work permit news explained. Here's The Local's monthly newsletter for Indians in Sweden.


India’s minister of external affairs, Dr Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, was in Sweden in mid-May for the EU Indo-Pacific Ministerial Forum – hosted by Sweden as the current president of the EU.

He met Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson, Foreign Minister Tobias Billström, among others, and spoke to a gathering of the Indian diaspora in Stockholm.

The Sweden-India relations go back a long way (over a thousand years, as we talked about last month) but they’ve intensified in the last few years, and Jaishankar said he had high hopes of strengthening the ties further.

“I heard and felt great enthusiasm in Sweden about working more closely, looking at new opportunities that are arising out of India’s growth and development,” he said in remarks tweeted after the visit.


Speaking at the event for the Indian community in Sweden, he expressed hope that the country’s strong reputation in green technology would help India grow sustainably. 

He thanked the tens of thousands of Indians living and working in Sweden for their contribution to shaping the image of India abroad and for being “a bridge” between Sweden and India.

“As Indians who live here, whether you still have Indian nationality or are settled in Sweden, you are all stakeholders of this relationship,” he said of the diplomatic ties between the countries.

You can listen to Jaishankar’s address at the event for the Indian diaspora here.

Indian culture shocks in Sweden – and vice versa

It’s almost impossible to, however open-minded and well-prepared, move to a new country and not experience at least one culture shock, isn’t it? Things that come naturally to those who have lived there for years are a pain to navigate, incomprehensible, scary or just amusing. 

Last month we asked readers to share the biggest culture shocks they had faced since moving to Sweden. Among Indians, the responses ranged from Swedes’ liberal attitude to nakedness in the sauna or a public changing room to the (lack of) a tipping culture.


Tipping does exist in Sweden, but it is relatively unusual and it’s unlikely anyone will be offended if you don’t tip. Several unions are also against tips – they argue that tips erode their bargaining power when fighting for higher wages.

If you do tip, 5-10 percent is usually considered lagom, or rounding up to an even sum.

In the survey, silence also came up several times, from the peaceful kind of silence compared to the busy cities of India to how strangers’ reservedness can make Sweden feel cold, at times.

The funny thing about culture shocks is how they sometimes become the new normal without you even realising, and you even find yourself experiencing "reverse culture shocks" when you go back home.

Malin Mendel, Swedish public broadcaster SVT’s correspondent in India, told The Local she is often struck by the difference between the two countries when she's in the taxi from Arlanda Airport. But having lived in India for two decades, she also says it’s a luxury to have one foot in each world. “I learned so much from India, and I think many people in Sweden can learn a lot from India,” she said.

Mendel is also known for her TV programme with Indian-Swedish comedian David Batra, Världens sämsta indier (which literally translates to “The World’s Worst Indian”, although the English title is Homecoming), which sees Batra trying to learn about his Indian heritage.

Have you watched the show and what did you think? It’s available in Swedish on SVT Play. And do you experience "reverse culture shocks"?

Sweden's plans for a new work permit system for high-skilled labour

Sweden's Migration Agency will at the end of this year launch a new international recruitment organisation, with separate units devoted to highly qualified work permit applicants. This will replace the current scheme of a fast track for certified employers, which the outgoing director-general recently argued in an interview with The Local has become inefficient.

Instead the idea behind the new scheme is that it will help Sweden attract more high-skilled workers and make work permit processing times faster for everyone. You can read about it here, but if you prefer to listen, we also explain it on the latest episode of The Local’s Sweden in Focus podcast.

This newsletter for Indians in Sweden is available to paying members of The Local. To receive it in your inbox every month, update your newsletter settings here.


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