The biggest culture shocks I had in Sweden

As you all may know, I am from India. I completed most of my studies there before coming to Sweden to pursue a master’s degree. Having lived in one country for most of my life, moving to Sweden came with some interesting culture shocks. All these experiences made my stay here so far extremely enjoyable, while still maintaining appreciation for my hometown. In this blog, I will take you through some of my biggest “excuse me, WHAT” moments in Stockholm, Sweden!


This one wasn’t a shock, really, I had anticipated it, but the difference between the way people dress here in Sweden and back home in India is something that still catches me off-guard.

In India, you will find people dressed in all kinds of colours and fabrics- regardless of what time of the year it is. The versatility in fashion can range from an oversized hoodie over a pair of jeans, to flowy and colourful traditional wear. Even if there is no festival or occasion being celebrated, you can walk outside and be greeted with a burst of colours and contrast.

On the other hand in Sweden, while the whole narrative of “there is an absolute dearth of colours” is simply untrue, the colours you see people sport are more subdued. Neutral toned outfits with long, sophisticated coats or thick padded jackets (especially during the winters) are very common (I have not been here long enough to experience Swedish summers, so excuse me for being unhelpful in that area). Most people here are dressed to the nines and come across as so put-together and chic, that I often find myself wishing I could look like that.

Fika culture

Back home, meeting up with friends or catching up with someone usually happened over lunch or dinner- or any big meal, really. And in my experience, this was also accompanied by another activity, such as shopping. Meeting someone over coffee and cakes, while not entirely unheard of, is not exactly considered the norm in India.

Having lived in Stockholm for almost half a year, I can say that I fully understand the hype behind “fika”. For anyone unfamiliar with the term, fika is simply a Swedish custom that involves enjoying a coffee and some treats with your friends. More so than just a custom, it is a concept and a state of mind, and is very important to Swedish culture. When almost every corner of a busy street has a quaint coffee shop, and the best conversations happen while having a kanelbulle and sipping a cappuccino, you realise that you can have the time of your life even without elaborate plans.

Sometimes, a good time= good coffee + good company. Image credits: Anano Maisuradze

The winter

This is going to come with the risk of sounding like a broken record, but it had to be said. I have a whole other blog about my first experience with the Swedish winter, so if you are curious and/or worried about the weather, check it out along with some other fun blogs written by DAs Zaynab, Karolina, and Anna.

Coming from the northern region of India, I wasn’t unfamiliar with winters and the cold. What really caught me off-guard in Sweden during the winter was the darkness. I am used to the days being shorter during December and January, but having it be pitch-dark at 4pm is an out-of-body experience the first time. This tends to get worse if you have class the whole day, because by the time to get to class, the sun hasn’t quite risen. But by the time leave, around 16.00, it will seem like nightfall. It’s great for productivity :’). A tip here would be to light up your surroundings- get fairy lights and candles and whatever else floats your boat. Compensate for the lack of light outdoors by making your environment bright indoors.

Another aspect of the winter that actually caught me unawares was icy roads/streets. I thankfully did not have to deal with this much, but one needs to practise caution while outdoors during the cold. Sometimes, you can barely see an icy stretch in front of you and before you know it, you are one with the ground. Then on the other hand, it does seem to get you from point A to point B faster (this is obviously a joke, please don’t break your bones because of me).

A snow…something made by my friends. Winters aren’t that scary after all. Image credits: Sanya Koikkara

This is by no means a comprehensive list of the culture shocks I have had so far. But these things did make me appreciate both- Sweden and India a little more.

If you are curious about life in Sweden, check out some fantastic blogs by my colleagues here. I hope you enjoyed this blog, and as always- if you have any questions, you know where to find me.

Naomi- Biomedicine (MSc)

Naomi- Biomedicine (MSc)

My name is Naomi, and I am from India. I am a master’s student in Biomedicine. I have always been drawn towards research and knew early on that a career built around it was the one for me. So as a result, here I am! I enjoy spending time with my friends and exploring the city with them (though the introvert in me also loves some alone time). I hope I can be of some help with my blogs!


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