Week 2 in the Island City was a success! Our group was able to visit many more places this week after finally “mastering” the public transportation system. I almost feel like a local now despite the “loud, obnoxious Americans” thoughts I can still feel lingering around our group everywhere we go. This week, I thought I would discuss a little bit about the difference in culture here in Sweden.
Obviously, anytime you are travelling outside of the States, you are going to experience a bit of a culture shock. What I find so fascinating about Sweden is how the culture shock is much less intense due to the general friendliness of people here. Just about anyone you come across speaks English and is more than willing to help translate or explain anything to you, but if you meet a random Swede do not try to engage in much small talk other than introductions…they hate it! I found that this feeling stems from the Swedish idea of a work-life balance. In the US, most small talk consists of the typical questions about what you do, what your spouse does, etc., but you will almost never find a Swede discussing work outside of the office.
By law, every work place is required to give their workers a ten-minute break in both the morning and afternoon. Often, these are where Swedes will fika! What is a fika? This is the Swedish idea of a coffee break…except the central idea of a fika is to get together with friends, family, and/or coworkers (the more the better) and simply have a coffee or cinnamon bun and talk. Once again, you will NEVER hear work being discussed at these times…they will more than likely be discussing things such as their summer home, nature plans after work, or family updates.
Because Swedes (along with many other Europeans in general) live by the idea of “working to live” rather than “living to work,” they are OBSESSED with nature, especially the sun. The winter months, where the sun sets at three o’clock in the afternoon, might contribute to this obsession…regardless, when the 16-18 hour days of summer come around (yes the sun is up from 4 AM to 10 PM), the people of Sweden take advantage of it. Most are off work by 4 o’clock, go to pick up their kids from daycare (which is free), and then find some kind of activity like boating or eating outside to take in nature.
The restaurants of Stockholm are also packed with Swedes sitting outside during the hour allotted for lunch. Because lunch is their biggest, most important meal, most people will enjoy salad, lunch, and/or a coffee while taking in the 70 degree summer days.
I have been amazed and envious of the lifestyle and culture here in Stockholm and can’t wait to see what the next week has in store!!