Swedes Are Honest People (Most of the Time)

Swedish culture
Sweden – (Photocredit: Susanne Walström/imagebank.sweden.se)

Surprise: Swedish culture is different from yours. But you probably already expected that.

Something I particularly like about Sweden and the Swedes, is their honesty. Or, at least, their attempt to be as honest and possible.

If you come from a culture where it’s ok to take something, if the owner didn’t take care of it carefully enough, you’ll probably interpret Swedish behavior as naive.

I have head people from other countries say: “If he leaves his stuff unattended, it’s his own fault” justifying ones own thoughts of theft. That is certainly not the way a Swede would approach it. Swedes tend to say “Ah, he shouldn’t have left his stuff lying around when going to the bathroom while working in the library. But let’s have an eye on it make sure none will steal it.”

Book about Sweden - How to be Swedish

Honesty in Swedish culture

If everyone complies to the rules of honesty, it has some major benefits. For example, you don’t have to buy expensive fences or property surveillance systems and you have a realistic chance your wallet or mobile phone will be found and returned to you if you lost it during a hike or when you ordered a latte in a Swedish café.

A few examples of honesty in Sweden:

  • Shop assistants have told me that the product I was asking for was cheaper in a store a few hundred meters down the street. That didn’t only happen once.
  • If you drop a glove in winter or scarf. Walk back the way you walked. Some Swede probably put the scarf around a lamp post or the glove on the branch of a tree, so you can more easily find them.
  • Or, if you forgot your wallet in café, there is a big chance that you can pick it up at the cashier later because probably some honorable Swede handed it in there for you.
  • If you drop money in a store or on the street, unnoticed by you, most Swedes walking behind will pick it up and give it to you with a smile on their face.
  • If you apply for a job and you claim you have a certain qualification, you don’t necessarily have to hand in the proving document as well, because your boss will believe you really went four years to Oxford and three to Uppsala university although you’re only 24 years old. The only thing your prospect boss may do is calling your previous employers to have a chat about your working performance at McKinsey and McDonalds.

Sounds great, doesn’t it?! :)


Want to learn more about Swedes and Swedish culture? Check out my new book:

“How to be Swedish – A Quick Guide to Swedishness – in 55 Steps”, here

What are your experiences with Swedish honesty? Please write your comments below!



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