Wow, it has officially been one month since I arrived in Sweden. Can you believe it? I know I can’t. I have been here for a full month, and it STILL doesn’t feel real. It seems like a dream, and sooner or later I will be woken up.
Since living in Sweden for a month, I have learned many different things. The majority of the things I have learned have been cultural differences between life here in Europe and life back home in America. I didn’t think there were going to be so many differences, but there are a good amount so far. Some of the differences are minor, while some came to a shock to me.
Here are the top 10 things I’ve noticed while living here in Sweden.
- Students bring their lunch in university. While there are places on campus to buy lunch, I’ve found that the majority of students here prep their meals at home and bring them to school with them. At university here, there is no meal plan. You either bring your lunch from home, or you can buy something from one of the restaurants or supermarkets that’s on campus. Except, don’t purchase the food on campus. It can be pretty expensive.
- Public transportation is nice. I’m from New York. Not the city, though. We don’t have public transportation unless you’re catching a bus or train into New York City. Otherwise, you’re either walking everywhere, biking, or driving. I’ve found that public transportation here is friendly and easy to use. I got my bus pass, and I can practically go anywhere I need to with the bus.
- Classes are not on a set schedule. Maybe I’m missing something here, or I did something wrong while setting up my timetable. But, I’ve noticed that my classes are not on a set schedule. Back at my home university, I would have two classes on Monday’s and Wednesday’s and then two on Tuesday’s and Thursday’s. They would always be at the same time as well. It’s nothing like that here. I’m taking two classes this quarter, and they almost always start at a different time every day. Makes it a bit hard to plan your week, but I’ve been managing.
- Fikapaus är mycket populära. I threw in a bit of Swedish here for you (also because I need to practice, haha). Coffee breaks are very popular here. People drink a ton of coffee here, and it’s pretty common to go out with some of your friends during the day to grab some fika (coffee) and talk with each other. It’s an excellent time, and I thoroughly enjoy this a lot. It’s not like back in America where everything’s rushed, and you don’t get to enjoy your time with your friends. Here you sit down with your friends and just have a great time enjoying each others company.
- “You’re Welcome.” This phrase isn’t one I hear a lot here. After purchasing something, like coffee, I usually tend to say “thank you, ” and the barista would say “you’re welcome.” Well, while living here, I’ve noticed that when I say “thank you,” I usually get a “thank you” back. This confuses me a lot if I’m honest. I don’t know why it’s said back like this. I’ll have to ask my language professor this question, next class.
- Joggers/sweatpants ARE NOT for public. Alrighty, this one was probably the biggest shock for me. Back in America, it’s okay to go out to a store or classes in sweatpants or joggers. I would do it all the time if I didn’t feel like wearing jeans. That’s not the case here in Sweden (or most parts of Europe). People almost never go out in sweatpants or joggers. Those clothing items are for lounging around your house. You hardly ever see people wearing them out in public. I learned that lesson by attending class in joggers, and my friend (who lives in Europe) gives me a look and saying “you do know that in Europe, most people don’t wear joggers in public, right? They are only actually worn when you’re at home or going to the gym, etc.”. And since that day, I only actually wear my joggers in public when I’m heading to the gym.
- Drinking. We all know that America has a pretty high drinking age compared to most other countries. Like, Sweden for example. You can be 18 and order a drink from a restaurant or bar. I’ve never seen a university have a pub/night club on campus, though. At LTU (Luleå Tekniska Universitet) we have a place called STUK. It’s a student ran bar, pub, restaurant and nightclub. I don’t know if other universities in America have something like this on campus, but I know my home university doesn’t. Which is why I found this so interesting because I haven’t seen anything like this back in America.
- Grocery shopping is surprisingly cheap. Overall, living in Sweden can be cheap if you know how to manage your money (that’s something I’m still working on). There is a grocery store here called “Willy:s.” It’s the best place to grocery shop because it’s so cheap. I tend to buy the majority of my groceries for a month at a time, and it’s easy to do that there without spending a lot of money. This month I spent about $60 (about 535 KR) for a month of food. If I did a month of grocery shopping back in the US, with the amount of food I bought, it probably would have come out to over $100.
- Coffee shops have a more “homey” vibe to them. Back in America, I started drinking coffee once I got to college. Once I got to Sweden, I started drinking like twice the amount I use to because 1. It tastes good here, 2. It’s cheaper than America, and 3. Fikapuas with friends. Whether I’m enjoying a matcha latte at Wayne’s Coffee or a vanilla latte at the Espresso House, they have such a friendly and welcoming vibe to them. In America you order your coffee, get it in a to-go cup and leave. Here, if you stay you’re staying there to drink your coffee, they give you a real cup, and you can sit on the couch and enjoy your coffee peacefully. I tend to go to the Espresso House or Wayne’s Coffee when I want a change of scenery while doing homework. It’s wonderful!
- Winter here is a different type of cold. I was always the person who loved the cold back home. I never minded the cold back home because it wasn’t that bad. When I got to Sweden (during January), I experienced a new type of cold. It’s FREEZING here. I see people wearing ski pants while walking outside and now I understand why. Temperatures are supposed to drop to -15 F this week. Send help.
However, I am so glad that I pushed myself to study abroad because it has been on of the best decisions of my life so far. I’m so happy I picked Sweden as my destination, and I can’t wait to see what the next three months have in store for me!