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From Chai to Fika: My Culture Shock in Sweden

Hey there buddies! If you’ve been following my journey, you might already know that I hail from India. Now, imagine arriving from a city in India, where the population equals that of the entire nation of Sweden! In this post, lets look at top 8 culture shocks that I faced when I moved to Sweden.

A picture of a church in the background, has picturesque flowering plants in the foreground.
A beautiful day in Odenplan

1. The informal way of addressing people

In Sweden, there’s a delightful quirk – everyone goes by their first name, no matter the social or professional setting. Even your professors might introduce themselves as “Anna” or “Ben”. There is no “Mr.”, “Ms.” or “Sir”, “Madam” here, just a warm and friendly atmosphere that takes some getting used to, especially for me, as this type of addressing might be considered as disrespectful in India.

2. Greetings and small talk

When you make eye contact with someone while taking a leisurely stroll in Sweden, you’ll often hear a friendly “Hej!” This is the perfect opportunity to respond with an equally warm “Hej Hej!”, “Hejsan!”, “Hallå!” or “Tjena!”. Interestingly, these greetings usually mark the end of the interaction. Swedes aren’t particularly fond of small talk, which is quite the opposite of India, where we may not greet strangers on the street, but once a conversation begins, it can quickly delve into personal topics and stories!

A pier on a beautiful lake
Found this beautiful spot, just a few minutes walk from my accommodation in Lappis

3. How close Sweden is to nature 🏞️

As someone accustomed to the hustle and bustle of an Indian city, my expectations for Stockholm were set on the typical concrete jungle image that often characterizes cities. However, I was pleasantly surprised and genuinely awestruck when I realized that a breathtaking nature getaway was just a few minutes’ walk from my doorstep. Picture this: stunning lakes, inviting forest trails, and captivating hiking spots all within arm’s reach. Whether you’re an avid hiker or simply someone who cherishes nature’s beauty, Sweden is an absolute paradise waiting to be explored!

4. Sweden’s daylight duality! ☀️

Sweden’s unique daylight patterns were a striking part of my culture shock experience. As someone from India, where we enjoy a consistent level of daylight throughout the year, the dramatic shifts in Sweden’s daylight hours are captivating. During summer, the sun would grace the sky as early as 3:30 am and linger until 10 pm, offering over 18 hours of sunlight. And then, winter is coming! That’s when the narrative takes a dramatic turn. As of yet, I haven’t personally experienced the Swedish winter, but my friends say that the daylight becomes a precious commodity, gracing the land for only about 5-6 hours a day.

A sheep and a cow relaxing on a grass field
I was on my way to the university and found them chilling on a pleasant summer evening.

5. No street food ☹️

If you’re a fan of Indian street food, be prepared for a street food culture shock. Unlike the bustling food vendors in India, Sweden has very limited street food options. You’ll find cozy cafes and charming bakeries aplenty but eating on the go is not as common. So, say goodbye to those impromptu pani puri and chaat cravings (salivating while typing..🤤😐) and give a warm hello to fika and cinnamon buns!

6. Buses can tilt sideways!🚌

It’s true! the buses in Sweden can do this sideways tilt/lean maneuver. The first time I witnessed it, I was left utterly amazed by how these buses gracefully tilt toward the curb-level, making it incredibly easy for parents with strollers and individuals with lower mobility or in wheelchairs to board smoothly. I couldn’t help but be utterly shocked and impressed by the thoughtful design and consideration for passengers with mobility needs. I wish buses in India could do that 😅.

A view of a garden with a cloudy sky.
I went on a hike the other day and was amazed by this view.

7. Drinking water

Back in India, we’re accustomed to using RO filters to purify our drinking water, but Sweden’s tap water is a whole different story – it’s so clean that you can drink it straight from the tap! Initially, sipping water directly from a tap felt a bit unconventional (yes, you can technically drink from a toilet, too! 😅), but you’ll quickly adapt. Just remember the golden rule: avoid drinking from the hot side of the tap! 🚰🌊😄

8. No fixed price for groceries

In India, there’s a standardised pricing system for commodities across the nation. This means that a packet of coffee from a particular brand will cost you the same, no matter where you purchase it. However, in Sweden, the prices of groceries can fluctuate from one store to another. Initially, it posed a bit of a challenge for me to track down the best deals, as I had to compare prices across different stores before making a purchase. But fear not, you’ll quickly get the hang of it and become a savvy shopper in no time! 😉🛒🤑

If you’re interested in reading about career events, this post by Samantha on Finance x Consulting Day might be perfect for you.


3 thoughts on “From Chai to Fika: My Culture Shock in Sweden”

  1. Loved the title of this blog post and nice contexts! Keep going ✨

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