Cultural differences: Sweden vs. Italy

Hej Hej dear readers!

I hope you are doing well and want to have some fun reading this blog post!

As you may know from my previous blog posts, I am from Italy and right now I’m in Sweden doing a year long volunteer project with Globala Kronoberg.

In this article I will tell you about some of the cultural differences I have noticed between Sweden and my home country. I hope you will like it and laugh a bit while reading it.

I am excited to share this with you, so let’s start!

  • Coffee break:

This is something easy to start with. You may think in Italy we are crazy about our espresso and you are right, but Swedes are crazy about the coffee break itself. This is called ´Fika` in Swedish and the word can be used both as a noun and as a verb. Welcome to the Swedish language! Noun sometimes can be also verbs and vice versa.

Usually during a workday there are two ´fikapause´ where all the workers gather to have a chat, drink and eat something.  

Love for coffee is a staple in both cultures, short and strong espresso in Italy and long and strong kaffe in Sweden. So, if you are a coffee lover, don´t worry, it will not be a problem for you!

  • Idea of personal space

As you might know, at the time I´m writing this article, all the world is affected by the spread of the Corona virus. Due to this reason, the point I am writing might be not completely understood at this time, but I am quite sure you know what I mean anyway.

Here in Sweden, Corona or not, looks like people have a clear idea of what personal space is. This is not the case in Italy. Italians reading, do you agree?

This might be the reason why in Italy there has been several lockdowns while in Sweden the country never really stopped. Who knows?

  • English:

As you may know Italy is not the best country for you if you only speak English. Many tourists travel to my home country every year, but the average person in Italy doesn´t speak a good level of English. On the other hand, we, Italians, have a second approved language. Are you guessing which one? Well, it´s the hand language, of course!  I bet you would be able to recognise an Italian straight away by the way he speaks, maybe also for other characteristics, but this I am not too sure if I want to know.

Regarding Swedes, I cannot say the same. Here in Sweden everybody, and I mean everybody, is able to speak English. You won´t have any problem if you go to any shop and start speaking English, they will automatically reply to you in English.

Another thing I noticed in Sweden: everybody speaks way quieter than what I was used to.

Guess what this image represents? Is it an Italian or a Swede speaking?
  • Idea of time and event planning

In Italy we have the saying that all the countries above us on the world map are very strict respecting the time while the countries below are the opposite.

You know, when you travel the more you go up North the more you expect people to be on time. The opposite when you travel South, for example to Spain (sorry Spanish readers).

Sweden entirely applies to this rule.

If you are curious, there´s an extra point regarding this topic you might want to know. In Italy, we tend to divide our country in half. Northern Italians are considered more like Swedes and northern countries time wisely, while southern Italians are completely opposite 🙂

In Italy, people don´t have any problems to show up to your house for a meetup without even letting you know. Sometimes they might call you to organise to meet in a couple of hours.

On the other hand, in Sweden people like to organise way before and don´t really like last minute organisation. Of course, this is different between people and might not be what you have experienced if you ever been to Sweden or Italy.

  • Currency and payments

In Italy the currency is Euro (€), while in Sweden it´s the Swedish Krona (SEK).

Regarding this topic, there is something I´d like you to know:

In Italy the most common way of payment is with cash, while here it is with any kind of electronic payment.

In my home country you will still find some shops where card payment is not allowed.

In Sweden is exactly the opposite. Here you will often find places where cash payment is not permitted. To solve this, they have a system called Swish and you can pay directly from your phone if you have previously inserted your Swedish bank card details and your phone number.

  • Nature, forests and open spaces

This is something that really impressed me (positively) when I visited for the first time Sweden (and one of the reasons I came back). There are so many forests everywhere you are and of course infinite possibilities to be outside and enjoy the nature.

Sweden is also known for its Allemansrätt (right of public access in English), for which you are allowed to freely be outside in the nature (also camping, for example). The only important rule you must keep in mind is: `Don’t disturb, don´t destroy´.

Of course, there are some limitations regarding, for example, private lands. You can look for more information here.

I think this image can represent completely Swedish style. Outdoor fika set up.

These are just some of the differences I have noticed. I hope you enjoyed reading and that now you have some curiosity to discover this country.

I wish you all the best,


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