Swedish Culture

Swedish Culture for Study Abroad Students

Photo: Carolina Romare/imagebank.sweden.se

Swedish Culture: Guide for International Students

Depending on the country you grew up in, you may or may not be surprised by the differences you encounter while studying in Sweden. So what is it like to study in Sweden on a cultural level?

Highlights of Swedish culture

Named Europe's most innovative country in 2016, Sweden was lauded for its innovative approaches to Human Resources as well as for its quality of academic research. Startups abound in Sweden's growing digital industry, Spotify being perhaps the country's most famous recent example.

Swedes value openness and cooperation at universities and workplaces and abhor ranking some people as more valuable than others. Although you may be surprised to call your professor or boss by their first name and find them dressed more casually than expected, you'll soon grow used to the egalitarian nature of Swedish dynamics.

Interested in studying in Sweden? The link below is a guide that will show you the 7 steps you need to take to study abroad in Sweden.

7 Steps to Studying Abroad in Sweden


Photo: Susanne Walström/imagebank.sweden.se

Food in Sweden

The Swedish love of the outdoors carries over into their food culture. When you make Swedish friends, you'll probably be invited to go to a crayfish party which might involve setting traps and feasting on this shellfish. If crayfish aren't appetizing, you can enjoy the outdoors by picking berries and mushrooms in one of Sweden's many forests. Lingonberries picked in the forest are often made into a jam and eaten throughout the year as a condiment for many Swedish foods. Fresh and pickled herring are common in Swedish cuisine as the Baltic sea is bountiful in herring. Herring is also a staple in Swedish holiday foods for midsummer and Christmas. You might be shocked the first time you order a sandwich in Sweden and only receive one piece of bread. Swedish sandwiches are typically open-faced with meat, vegetables, and sauce piled on top.

Swedes are typically health-conscious and their diets reflect this with one exception: Saturday candy. The average Swedish person consumes approximately sixteen kilos of candy per year and most of that consumption likely happens on Saturdays where adults and children eat a large amount of candy.

Want to know more about Swedish food and culture? Here are student stories written by international students studying in Sweden right now:

Hear from Students Studying in Sweden Right Now!

Swedish Culture for Study Abroad

Photo: Stefan Berg/Folio/imagebank.sweden.se 

Holidays in Sweden

Like much of Europe, Sweden takes holidays seriously with ample time off of school and work to celebrate with family and friends. Sweden's biggest holidays are Christmas and Midsummer.


Midsummer is celebrated on the summer solstice - the longest day of the year. As a northern country, Sweden has a long period of daylight and in the northernmost reaches of the country, the sun never sets. The prolonged daylight leads to prolonged parties as Swedes flock to the countryside to celebrate. Traditionally, Swedes wear flower crowns and dance around a maypole and eat several meals, drinking schnapps accompanied by rowdy drinking songs.


Soon after the winter solstice, Swedes end the year by coming together with family and friends to celebrate Christmas in their homes. Although the cuisine varies depending on the region and family, typical dishes include ham, meatballs, herring, hard bread, and mulled wine. A unique tradition that many Swedes partake in is gathering in front of the television to watch a Christmas Disney special in the afternoon that has aired for decades. Like Christmas celebrations around the world, Swedes exchange presents with the addition of writing rhymes as clues that are read aloud before each present is opened.

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Photo credit: (from left) Niclas Vestefjell/imagebank.sweden.se, Melker Dahlstrand/imagebank.sweden.se. Melker Dahlstrand/imagebank.sweden.se, Johan Willner/imagebank.sweden.se, Ola Ericson/imagebank.sweden.se, Ola Ericson/imagebank.sweden.se, Carolina Romare/imagebank.sweden.se, Helena Wahlman, Söderarm/imagebank.sweden.se, Rodrigo Rivas/imagebank.sweden.se, Magnus Liam Karlsson/imagebank.sweden.se, Erik Leonsson/imagebank.sweden.se.

Last update: 24 Oct 2016