Culture shock sets in during study abroad semester in Sweden

For the last couple of weeks, I’ve dedicated myself to integrate into the Swedish culture and came to the realization that the U.S. is quite similar but different in multiple ways.

One of the biggest differences I noticed immediately was the European style.

Being someone who loves fashion and a good smoky eye, I’ve noticed that when I stepped off the train to enter Karlstad City, there was a limited amount of colors on people. A majority of the people wear black, white or neutral colors. I also noticed when I went into the famous Swedish stores, including H&M, that sells majority dark colors and if they do sell other colors it’s in pastel pinks or reds.

So, I asked one of my new Swedish friends why everyone dresses so dark and she replied with, “it goes with everything; if you’re happy, sad, or mad it’s the same color no matter your mood.”

As I listened, I thought, this is brilliant because I am so used to dressing depending on my mood, which means in sweatpants and hoodies due to my laziness, but she made a valid point.

People here look like models walking out of a runway show. The women wear heels to class with a full face of makeup and perfect hair.

This was a culture shock because I know for myself that dressing up at Clarion is wearing jeans and a casual shirt. So, when I got here, I realized that every day I started to get up and dress my best.

I now live for the mantra: If you look good, you most definitely feel good.

Another observation I made was the term “fika.”

I had no idea what a fika was coming into Sweden, but on day one of my orientation, every Swedish person was excited about it and pressed the issue.

A fika is described as “more than a coffee break” and as “a moment to enjoy life in a hectic day.”

When a fika break is announced, people go for their coffee break and take from 30 minutes to an hour to talk and drink coffee or eat.

Now, I know it sounds similar to lunch; it is not. This happens throughout the day at numerous times and during classes as well.

In my first class, my professor taught for 30 minutes and said, “Wow, I just hounded that information for a half hour. I think a half hour of fika is what we need.”

I wasn’t complaining, because the lecture was a little boring, but it surprised me how happy some Swedish people were, calling the lecture long and ridiculous.

I’ve had three-hour psychology classes with a 15-minute break and seemed to get through it but here it is considered “rude” for professors to not have fika. This also goes for jobs, group projects and even meetings.

This is one tradition I would love to bring back to the U.S., but I believe if I try to ask my professor in the middle of class for a coffee break, he might believe I lost my mind while traveling abroad.

More is on the way!

You May Also Like