Reverse culture shock

Reminiscing about the time when I first moved to Sweden, I am trying to think of the elements of life that came as a culture shock to me. I believe there were a few, however when you move to a country like Sweden where everything runs efficiently and is organized to excellence, adjusting to a new life gets much easier. I have to admit, what I wasn’t prepared for was the reverse culture shock. I went back home to spend the Christmas and New Year’s break with my family and friends. I realized I have been living for a long time in Sweden when I started noticing cultural differences.

First, the queue. In Sweden it’s a normal picture that of people standing in queues, waiting for their turn. Many places have queue number machines. Even in places which don’t have these machines, such as supermarkets, people stand in line patiently. Back home people aren’t so strict about standing in a queue and you can imagine my irritation when someone would cut in line ahead of me.

Recycling is taken very seriously in Sweden where waste is separated into 5+ categories. Sweden is universally known for its revolutionary recycling system. Mixing waste which I am used to separating meticulously was a weird feeling.

Personal space and distance. Being used to people maintaining some distance in public spaces (i.e. when waiting for the bus or the train) it felt awkward when people would stand close to me. Interaction with strangers in public spaces is minimal in Sweden. People are very friendly and helpful if you ask them a question but otherwise, everyone keeps their distance and are probably looking at their phone.

Public transportation in Sweden is one of my favorite elements of living here. Being back home where buses can run late and can sometimes be packed, I missed the clean, punctual buses of Lund.

There are other cultural differences I have noticed and experienced and I would be glad to write again about this topic. Until next time…

Take care!

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  1. Same here Joe, that’s why I keep taking a look on the old app.

  2. I’d personally counterpoint the public transport punctuality – buses within Lund nowadays tend to run annoyingly early, often 3-4 minutes ahead of the scheduled time. The old app used to let you know it was running early along the whole route, but the new one doesn’t. It’s a massive annoyance of mine. At least the trains between Lund and Copenhagen are a bit more reliably timed now that they’ve fixed some signals, stopped the airport passport checks and reduced the excessive waits in Malmo.
    Absolutely agreed on the recycling thing though, utterly weird and soul-destroying to go back to Scotland (quite a progressive place) and be forced to throw so much away unnecessarily.

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