Keystone logo

Swedish Culture: Everything an International Student Needs to Know

Apr 7, 2024

Highlights of Swedish culture

When you get to Sweden, you'll discover there are a few key values that underpin life in Sweden. These include freedom, equality & sustainability and make up the Swedish Way. While it might be unusual for strangers to strike up conversations with you on the street, you'll find that Swedes are quietly passionate about working together to create a radically better world.

Find out from the link below what it's like to live and learn the Swedish Way.

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 and live in Sweden on a cultural level?

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.

In Sweden, you have the freedom to be who you want to be, how you want to be. And you have the freedom to express your opinions, fight for your rights, and make a difference in society.

Sweden is one of the most gay-friendly countries in the world. In recent decades, Sweden has passed laws to try and ensure that the LGBTQ+ community has the same rights as everyone else. Some of these laws include gender-neutral wedding laws (2009) and a prohibition of discrimination based on sexual orientation (2011).

An important element of what makes Sweden one of the most progressive countries in the world is that people continue to fight and work - for improvements, as well as to ensure their freedom and rights are protected.

Read about what it’s like to be an LGBTQ+ student in Sweden:

Study in Sweden - Swedish Food

Photo: Susanne Walström/

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:

Study in Sweden - Swedish Holidays

Photo: Stefan Berg/Folio/ 

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.

Study in Sweden Student Ambassadors

Digital Ambassadors are the core of Study in Sweden's student blog. You can read their stories here:

For even more content on studying in Sweden, check out Study in Sweden on Instagram and YouTube.

Learn more about studying in Sweden:


Sweden is known for its openness toward the international community – and its education system is no exception.

Online Fairs

Join Study in Sweden's free Online Fairs to learn more about the educational opportunities in Sweden and explore the diverse programs that the country offers.

Entry Requirements

In order to study in Sweden, you'll need to meet general entry requirements in addition to program-specific entry requirements.

Tuition Fees & Study Costs

How expensive is it to study in Sweden? Yearly higher education costs in Sweden vary depending on the university and program.

Student Visas

If you're considering studying in Sweden, you'll be relieved to know that Sweden has a clear easy-to-follow process to apply for studies.

Student Stories

Read about the experiences that other international students like you have had during their studies abroad in Sweden.

Application Process

Applying to universities in Sweden is a lot simpler than other countries thanks to a centralized application system.

Swedish Universities

Swedish universities offer degree programs according to the European standard. Browse a full list of higher education institutes in Sweden.

Learn Swedish

Swedish is a northern Germanic language and is closely related to Norwegian and Danish. If you do want to learn Swedish, most Universities offer language courses for international students.

Student Life

Wondering what it's like to study abroad in Sweden? Leaving your country to study abroad is about more than just the classroom!

Student Jobs

Sweden grants international students the right to work while they study. And if you're from an EU/EEA country, you automatically have the right to stay and work after your studies.


There are many opportunities for international students studying in Sweden to receive scholarships, both from universities, and from other governmental and private organizations.

The content of this study guide has been developed in partnership with Study in Sweden.

About Study in Sweden is a comprehensive, official resource on studying in Sweden for prospective and current international students. is built and maintained by the Swedish Institute, a public agency tasked with promoting Sweden abroad. 

Keystone Team


The Keystone Team is comprised of experienced educators and advisors dedicated to providing valuable resources and advice to students all over the world.