Cultural differences between Italy and Sweden

Hej, I am Gaia and I have been an ESC volunteer at Globala Kronoberg since September 2023. In this blogpost I will go through the biggest differences between Italy, my home country, and Sweden.

The content of this blogpost does not wish to have the intention to judge the Swedish culture or the Italian one. The only aim is to tell about aspects that are very different between Italian and Swedish culture. I would also like to specify that a country’s culture is not homogenous throughout the country and that, consequently, when talking about Italy I am mainly referring to my personal life experience.

Bus #1
In Italy, when you take a bus it does not matter where you enter it: you can come in from the front door or from one in the middle. Because of that, it is quite easy to use the buses without a ticket. However, sometimes there are some people that come in the buses to check if everyone has a ticket. If you are found without one you will get a fine that varies in each city.
In Sweden, everyone enters the busses from the front door and bip their tickets in front of the driver. I have never seen a bus ticket inspector.

Bus #2
The first thing everyone notices when they come to Sweden is that people never sit next to each other on public transport. Swedes really care about their own personal space and they always leave the seat free next to them. Sometimes the bus is considered full, but actually it is not. I often think that if Swedes would come to Turin in the bus 68 (it is the line that goes from the Central Station to the University and it is always extremely crowded) they would become crazy!!

Bus #3
In Växjö and in Umeå, the two Swedish cities where I have lived, there are different apps for public transport where you can check at what time your bus will come. In Turin we check on Google Maps or on a Telegram channel the timetable but the bus rarely comes at the expected time (actually, sometimes they do not come at all!!). The other volunteers often complain about the bus here in Växjö (and sometimes I do it too) but when I went back to Italy I realised how easily I have adapted to a system that works waaaaay better!

Use of English
Almost everyone in Sweden has a very good level of English, while in Italy it is not common. Notwithstanding this, when you go food shopping you will notice that all the labels are written in Swedish, Norwegian and Finnish. I still have not understood why they do not include English as well considering the amount of foreigners and the good level of English that every Scandinavian has.

Relationship with cash
In Italy it is mandatory to allow people to pay by card if they want to only from 2021. Therefore, it is not as common as in Sweden to pay by card (I have lots of friends back in Italy that only use cash). Here in Sweden in lots of shops it is forbidden to pay by cash and you can only pay by card or by Swish (for Italian readers: it is pretty similar to Satispay).

In Sweden you cannot buy alcohol at the supermarket, but you can only do it in a Systembolaget: it is a kind of shop where they ONLY sell alcohol.
Furthermore, some Swedish people I met told me that it is not common to have a bottle of wine on the table at every meal. In Italy it is extremely common to drink wine while eating even if it is not a weekend day or we are not celebrating any particular occasion.

Both in Sweden and in Italy drinking coffee is an important part of the culture. In Italy we mainly drink the Espresso while in Sweden the Kaffe, which is pretty similar to the Americano.
What is interesting about the coffee is the price. It is known that life is  more expensive in Sweden than in Italy but I have not found such a difference like with coffee. If in Italy you pay around 10-15 SEK for a coffee (1-1,5€) in Sweden the minimum I have paid was around 40 SEK (4€).

“No such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes.”
I want to conclude this blogpost with this famous quote because it is what best represents the Swedish lifestyle. I grew up in a culture where if it is rainy ”you do not stay out”, where if it is cold ”you have to pay attention because you will get sick very easily”. Here it is completely different: when you learn how to deal with the coldness, you understand how many things you can do and how life is beautiful even without lots of light and with lower temperatures!

Tack för att du läser mig!
Vi ses,