Something Swedish

How to Spot a Tourist in Sweden


This weekend we will have visitors from New York!

I am super excited to see them and for them to see and experience Sweden, not only because it’s where I live now but because its a beautiful country rich with history, tradition, and culture! Walking them through a few things and answering some questions made me think of being a tourist in Sweden. I decided to compile a little list to point out some culture differences between New York and Sweden, based on my personal experiences, stories I have heard, things I’ve seen when my family visited, and the questions my friends have asked in anticipation of arriving. **Some exaggeration and/or Halmstad specific examples might occur.**

How to spot a Tourist in Sweden

  • The confused person standing at the crosswalk not sure when to go. A look of panic and frustration as they dash in front of your car even though you are already stopped in the middle of the intersection waiting for them to cross.
  • The ones pointing, giggling, and taking photos of/with exit or entrance signs. (Utfart, Infart)
  • The ones taking photos of ANY signs, trash cans, buses, cobblestone, etc.
  • Enters your home without acknowledging that everyone else has taken their shoes off.
  • Speaks slowly, expecting you to hardly understand English.
  • Says “Hey” to everyone and wonders why it is not obvious that they don’t speak Swedish.
  • Walks blissfully unaware while you are trying to cycle past them; they don’t seem to have the sixth sense of being able to hear your tires as you approach, nor the slight ring of your bell.
  • Is more worried about getting hit by a car than a bike.
  • The one who is still bundled up while the Swedes are grilling and sunbathing.
  • Is shocked to see any other ethnicity in Sweden – anything out of the blonde hair and blue hair stereotype is surprising.
  • Wants waffles or pancakes (Snack food) for breakfast instead of open sandwiches, and “regular” sandwiches for lunch instead of full “dinner” meals.
  • Laughs louder than everyone else in the room, usually at things you do not find so funny.
  • Talks louder than everyone else, all the time.
  • Insists on striking up small talk with every stranger.
  • Expects stores to be open no matter what, at any time.
  • Talk about Ikea, Abba, and the Swedish Chef non-stop.
  • On the hunt for Swedish Fish.
  • They are surprised to find H&M in Sweden.
  • Gawks at the amount of fathers with strollers in the street.
  • Doesn’t expect a bar to close at 2am.
  • Tries to book a hotel room where smoking is allowed.
  • Leaves the largest tip for dinner at a restaurant. Or any tip for a lunch meal.
  • Doesn’t order a sweet pastry with their coffee, or even worse – doesn’t drink coffee.
  • Orders water, then spits it out when the bill comes.
  • The only one at the restaurant not eating plank steak.
  • The only one at the restaurant not eating their burger with a fork and knife.
  • Asks for a doggy bag to take home their left over food.


Any to add? Hope these were fun to read or relate to!

Being Easter weekend I would greatly appreciate some things for them to do in Goteborg that might be open/available this time of year! Any suggestions? Also #1 things in Stockholm if only visiting for one day!


7 thoughts on “How to Spot a Tourist in Sweden

  1. Very cute! Enjoy your visit this weekend . . .

  2. this is such a fun post! and soooo true! i read it out loud to my wife, and we laughed over all the things that i said in the past, upon first arriving here. i now feel vindicated & she doesn’t think that i’m a weird-o. there are other people who think like i once did! this is why i love reading your blog… i get an awesome american connection. thanks!

  3. I couldn’t stop laughing (or finding myself) in your message! You forgot one very important point — freaking out when you realize that there is NO AIR CONDITIONING at the hotel.

    Only one day in Stockholm? Take a canal tour (of course) and then spend an hour at the Vasa Museum across the bay. You can get there by water taxi, or walk around the bay on foot. The entire museum is built around a very old resurrected wooden warship and will take your breathe away when you enter. It is situated on the “pleasure island” of the royal family, which is very beautiful to walk around if the weather is good. Plus the views of the harbor are wonderful.

    If you like history, explore some of the museums clustered around the palace and watch the changing of the guard. Either way, be sure to go Gamlastan (Old Town) and walk the winding cobble stone streets which are decidedly midieval. While you are there, eat a chocolate tart and sip a bowlful of latte in the square outside the Nobel museum. Perfection!

  4. Love it!!

    My husband and I love playing spot the foreigner!

  5. Haha… I love the one about the shoes (SO very true– it doesn’t even occur to Americans to take them off!) and having to pay for water in a restaurant. And not eating a burger (or pizza!) with a fork and knife. I must confess that I still giggle at exit/entrance signs when I’m in Sweden– I know, so juvenile!

  6. Okay, as the person who the story is about, I can proudly add two things:

    The person asking what every piece of food item is on display.

    The person who STILL has no idea what to do with coffee spoons. I’m done stirring, where do I put it?

    Related, why the fuck is it always so hard to find a garbage can?

  7. The most difficult thing I have had to adjust to that I can think of in this moment is bedding. Bedding here makes very little sense, and explains the low birth rate. Two healthy people cannot “enjoy” each other in a carnal sense when their bedding only covers one person’s rear end, it seems to me. I just don’t get it. I started out asking questions about this, but my friends laugh and then pretend it’s not a problem. Personally, I fear this is a coverup for deeper and more serious social issues. But possibly not as serious as the search for chocolate chip cookies. That is a severe deprivation, especially since no Swede even knows what they are. Hence, I will be opening my shop in Växjö, selling bedding that covers two people’s posteriors and chocolate chip cookies. And large sizes of coffee, since here you can get one cup at a time, much like during the Depression in the States. 😉

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