Top 5 Differences of American and Swedish Culture

Top 5 Differences of American and Swedish Culture

Since today marks the end of my first month in Sweden, (which is crazy and I have no idea how it went by so fast), I feel as though it’s a good time to talk about some of the differences I have noticed so far.

1. School Differences:

So far I have noticed many of these. I always get asked by my friends at school what is different about school here than school in America and which I like better. I always answer Swedish school because of one key factor, THE SCHEDULE.

I have already told you about my insanely amazing schedule. It’s so funny to explain American school to my friends here because when I tell them I have seven, 50-minute classes a day and go to school from 7:33 to 3:00 p.m. their jaws drop. They don’t know how we get work done in such short classes and how I wake up at 6 a.m. every morning. I think I have crushed some of their dreams about American high school by giving them the harsh reality not shown in the movies.

Another difference I’ve noticed here is instead of calling the teacher Mr. Smith or Mrs. Francis, we call the teacher by their first name. Apparently, Sweden thinks it’s important to have mutual respect between the students and the teachers so I have two Magnus, two Jörgens, an Anna, and a Karoline.  This is something I have definitely had to get used to and it still seems a little weird!

Another thing that is strange to me is that you don’t have to raise your hand and ask to leave the classroom. If you have to go to the bathroom or forgot something in your locker, you can walk out of the classroom and get it. You don’t need a hall pass or the teacher’s permission. Since this is still new to me, I get startled when people just walk out, but then I have to remember where I am and it is normal here.

2. Public Transportation:

Trains, buses, subways, and walking are all things that are very new, different, and exciting for me here since there is zero public transportation in Tampa, FL. One of my favorite parts of everyday is my walk to and from school. I love being able to get the fresh air and exercise while doing something good for the environment.

Trains and buses still are very confusing. I have no idea how to tell which way they are going or when they will get there so I kinda just follow Ebba or Lina and we get there some how. I can’t wait for the day when I am finally able to navigate around the city on my own! Subways are only in big towns like Stockholm and Gothenburg, so I haven’t used that yet, but I’m sure it is only a matter of time. I think public transportation is great and an easy way to get around and much better for the environment, which Swedes are all about.

3 Energy Conservation:

Since I just explained one way Swedes help out the environment, I will share the other ways I have discovered. In Sweden, nobody uses a dryer for their clothing. They believe it uses too much energy so everyone hang dries their laundry. In my house, our drying room is in our basement but we also have a rack in the backyard for the months when it doesn’t rain too much. Often when you are driving in the country, you will be able to see some of the clothing racks.

Another way the Swedes try and convert energy is recycling. When I say recycle, it is a kind of recycling you have never seen before. It takes time and sorting to do it properly. In the basement we have five different recycling bins for metal, wood, stuffed furniture/clothing, technology, and cardboard (for milk cartons and things). You would think five bins would take care of everything, but there is more.

My 8 sectioned garbage cans.

In our kitchen we have three trash cans; one for food, one for packing (normally from food), and one for regular trash. When we take out the trash, we separate it in 8 different sections. Hard plastic, soft plastic, colored glass, clear glass, metal, paper, cardboard, and trash bags (two types, green and white, one for food and one for the trash that is left.) We also don’t throw away any water bottles because if we return them to the store we get money back.

When you buy water bottles, you also have to pay for the price of recycling them so when you return them, they give you that money back; it’s normally one Swedish krona per bottle.

For our waste from the garden, we have a compost so we can use our own soil. Food is not allowed in the compost in order to prevent a large amount of rats from being around houses and garden. Swedes make sure that everything has a place and that everything is in its correct place. They actually have to import waste from Norway, since they use it to heat the homes in the winter but don’t produce enough of it themselves, another way they reuse waste. I think the whole world could learn a little something from Sweden about energy conservation.

4. The Roads:

One big difference I have found here is that almost all the cars are manual, not automatic, like in the States. Even though some people do have automatic cars, it is very rare and way more likely that a person will drive a stick shift. The amount of roundabouts here and where they are used was also quite different. You barely ever come across a stop light here because it is always a roundabout.

In neighborhoods, on small streets, on busy streets, even entering and exiting highways, there will be a roundabout. There are not as many cars on the roads here since most people use public transportation so I think that allows them to have more roundabouts and less lights. The lights that we do have are also very different. When you are approaching a red light, most of the time it will turn green before you stop. I have never been stuck at a light for more than thirty seconds and you never see people waiting at a light unlike America where you can wait at every light for 5 minutes.

Sweden actually has a law to where you cannot have your car sitting still and running for more than a minute, this just shows their short light times and their environmentally friendly attitude. Something else I have found interesting, and also shows the small amount of traffic Sweden has, is that as well as speed bumps, they will put objects on alternating sides of the road, reducing it to one lane, so the drivers must slow down. Sometimes this is created by extending cement further into the road on the left side, then the right side, then the left again.

They might also put boxes on the sides, most of the time with flowers inside in order to make it nicer. I remember the first time I saw it and I thought, “Who left boxes in the road??”

These flower boxes are a typical example of what they will put in the road to make people slow down.

Experiencing the life of other cultures and adjusting to the differences along the way is what traveling and living abroad is all about. Some differences are funny like how pigs say “Noff, Noff!” instead of “Oink, Oink!”

Others I have come to admire, like their concern for the environment, and it showing in every aspect of life. There will always be things you don’t like in new places and things you like more than back home, but just being open to them is what it’s all about. Nothing is better or worse, just different.

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