Be honest – How to be Swedish

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.

But there are some benefits, if everyone complies to the rules of honesty: 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.

Swedish honesty

Be honest

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.

All this is great and you will experience lots of benefits of the Swedish honesty. But remember this system only works as long as all stick to the rules.


Consequently, you dear soon to be Swede, expect honesty from the people around you and return the favor.


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