Embracing the Swedish Culture: An International Student's Guide to Living in Malmö, Sweden

Explore the unique aspects of Swedish culture as an international student in Malmö. Learn about the traditions, social norms, and cultural nuances that will help you adapt to your new home in Sweden.

Embracing the Swedish Culture: An International Student's Guide to Living in Malmö, Sweden
Photo from Matador Network

Relocating to a new city, let alone a new country, can be an exhilarating adventure filled with new experiences and opportunities. Malmö, Sweden, with its rich culture and dynamic city life, presents a captivating destination for international students. However, integrating into a new culture can also present unique challenges.

Understanding the cultural norms and social etiquette of your new home can help smoothen this transition. This comprehensive guide aims to equip international students with an understanding of the key cultural differences in Malmö, Sweden.

One of the best ways to get familiar with and understand Swedish culture is to live with a Swede. If you're moving to Malmö and looking for roommates in the city, Hemavi provides a matchmaking service that will help you find like-minded individuals who share your same values.

The Swedish Concept of 'Lagom'

One of the most fundamental concepts deeply rooted in Swedish culture is 'lagom.' This untranslatable term loosely equates to 'just the right amount' or 'not too little, not too much.' It is a concept that permeates all aspects of Swedish life, from work-life balance to sustainable living, promoting a sense of equilibrium and satisfaction. As an international student, understanding and embracing 'lagom' can help you integrate quicker and smoother into your local community in Malmö, whether at university, among friends, or even at your job.

Punctuality: A Sign of Respect

Swedes place immense value on punctuality. In Swedish culture, being on time is not only expected but respected. It's an indicator of reliability and a sign of respect for other people's time. Whether it's attending classes, social engagements, or even casual meet-ups, timeliness is key. As you adjust to your new life in Malmö, it's crucial to develop a sense of time management that aligns with this cultural expectation.

'Fika' - More than just a Coffee Break

In Sweden, 'fika' is a cherished tradition. It is essentially a coffee break often accompanied by a sweet pastry, but it's more than that. 'Fika' is a social ritual, an opportunity to pause, relax, and enjoy companionship. It is common in workplaces, among friends, and even in homes. As an international student, participating in 'fika' can provide an excellent opportunity to socialize and understand Swedish culture on a deeper level.

The Swedish Stance on Social Equality

Sweden is renowned for its progressive attitudes towards social equality. This is reflected in their strong social norms and etiquettes. Swedes believe in egalitarian principles, where everyone is seen as equal, irrespective of their social status, gender, or background. This respect for equality extends to all aspects of life, including in shared living spaces. As a roommate, respecting each other's personal space, sharing household chores, and maintaining a fair living environment is crucial.

The Swedish Language

While English is widely spoken in Sweden, learning some Swedish can enrich your experience and make daily interactions smoother. Swedish people appreciate attempts to speak their language, and it can also be a great way to bond with your roommates and neighbours. Malmö, with its diverse population, offers a supportive environment for language learners.

Respect for Nature and Sustainability

Swedes have a profound respect for nature and sustainability, which is reflected in their lifestyle choices. From recycling to choosing sustainable modes of transport like cycling, these habits are deeply ingrained. As an international student, adopting these practices can help you fit in and contribute to the community positively.

Personal Space and Independence

In Sweden, personal space is highly valued, and this is something you might notice in public spaces as well as at home. Swedes appreciate a comfortable amount of physical distance and enjoy their independence. This respect for personal space is an important consideration when sharing accommodation.

Direct Communication

In Sweden, directness is a virtue. Swedes tend to communicate in an open, honest, and straightforward manner. This clear communication can prevent misunderstandings and create a transparent living environment, especially when sharing accommodation. Be prepared to discuss responsibilities and expectations openly with your roommates. While this may seem uncomfortable at first, it is an integral part of Swedish communication culture.

Celebrations and Traditions

Swedish traditions and celebrations also play a significant role in the country's culture. Midsommar, Lucia, and the Crayfish Party (Kräftskiva) are just a few examples of the unique celebrations that take place throughout the year. Joining these festivities can provide a great opportunity to bond with your roommates and immerse yourself in Swedish culture. You may even wish to bring some of your own cultural traditions to share with your new roommates, creating a rich, diverse living environment.


Understanding and adapting to the cultural differences in Malmö will play a significant role in your journey as an international student. Remember, every culture is unique and requires an open mind for successful integration. Embrace the Swedish concept of 'lagom,' participate in 'fika,' respect personal space, and you'll soon find yourself feeling at home in Malmö.

With these cultural insights, you'll be better equipped to make the most of your student life in Malmö, Sweden. Remember, the journey of cultural understanding is continuous, and every step you take towards learning about your new environment is a step towards a richer, more rewarding experience.

Good luck, or as the Swedes would say, "Lycka till!"