Sweden has a constitutional monarchy for their political structure. While they have a royal family, most of the power lays with the parliament (Riksdag). Instead of having a president, like in the United States, they have a prime minister, who is selected by the political parties. 

Number of Political Parties 

Sweden has eight major political parties. You read correctly—eight. While I knew that European parliaments tended to have more major political parties, I was expecting two or three more than the United States, not six. These parties are the Social Democrats (the one you’ll hear the most about during your time here), the New Moderates, the Sweden Democrats, the Green Party, the Center Party, the Left Party, the Liberals, and the Christian Democrats. 

Unlike America, Sweden is a Welfare State 

Sweden is a welfare state. It has attributes of both socialism and capitalism. The government provides universal healthcare, regulates maternity and paternity leave, grants paid leave, and provides unemployment benefits among other things. While the government has a fair amount of power in the economic sector, Sweden is a capitalistic society. It is home to global corporations, such as H&M and Ikea.  

Opening Hours for Shops 


Shops aren’t open as for as many hours as in the U.S. Most stores, apart from grocery stores, aren’t open everyday, especially in Lund. In Lund, don’t expect to be able to do much shopping after 6pm. Apart from some stores in the mall that are open until 8pm, not much is open, especially downtown. Some places, like the Lund Accommodation Office and the university gift shop, are only open a couple hours out of the day. Keep track of government holidays because not only are almost all stores closed, the university also locks some of its buildings.  

Ice Cream Shops Aren’t Open Year-Round 

I found this incredibly disappointing but not shocking. For months, I walked by two closed ice cream shops every day, without seeing them open once. There were no signs on the door indicated when they might be open again, so it was difficult to tell if they’d ever open, or if they went out of business. One day in early April, I finally saw the shop open, catching me by surprise. I went in an ordered a cookie dough shake and my friend got a licorice one (Sweden really does have licorice everywhere). While the person was getting our shakes ready, we asked about when they’d be open. She replied, “we are only open when the weather is nice.” Since Lund only has a handful of sunny and warm days, I clearly had a different idea of what was considered nice weather. If you want ice cream, you’re probably going to have to get it at a store, unless it is spring or summer. 

 Swedes Are Classy Dressers 

The Swedish people I have seen dress incredibly well. It’s not like back in the U.S. where you just walk around in whatever is comfortable (even if that means pajamas at some college campuses). Here, everyone looks dressed to impressed. I didn’t include this point to worry you if you don’t care about fashion. No one seems to care here about what you wear. Rather, dressing nicely just appears to be part of the culture. Like many parts of Europe, but unlike America, the clothes they choose to wear tend to be dark neutral colors. For instance, most winter jackets you see will be black. This is the norm, but certainly there are exceptions. I chose to wear a green down jacket and a pinkish red beanie during the winter. Needless to say, none of my friends had trouble finding me around town. 

The Language of Movies 

If you don’t want to wait until you get home to see some of the new movies that have premiered, some cinemas offer movies in English. This surprised me. I was expecting the movie theaters to only show movies in Swedish, especially considering every movie advertisement I have seen in Lund has been in Swedish. There is one cinema called Filmstaden that offers movies in English in Lund. It located not far from Botulfsplatsen bus terminal on the south side of town. Be careful though, not all of the movies are available in English. Most movies are; however, the movies designed for kids, like Disney movies, tend to be in Swedish. If you check their website, it will tell you whether or not the movie is in English. I highly recommend going to the movies while you study in Sweden. Get there early because the ads are in Swedish, so it is entertaining to try to guess what is going on in them. When the company name pops up at the end, you’ll be surprised to see what the ad was actually trying to sell.  

Government Control on Alcohol 

Unlike in the United States, the government holds a monopoly on alcohol over 3.5%. Alcohol up to 3.5% can be sold in a grocery store. All alcohol over that amount and that is unopened must be sold at Systembolaget, a government run store. If you are 18 years old or older, you can buy alcohol up to 3.5%, and you can drink at bars or at the nations. To buy alcohol over 3.5% in an unopened bottle (i.e. not from a restaurant or club), you must be at least 20 years old.  

Environmental Regulations 


Sweden deeply cares about the environment. In your apartment, you will have three different containers for recycling plus compost bags. This will be sorted into 8-10 different containers outside your apartment. Your aluminum cans and plastic bottles can be returned to most grocery stores. There, they have a machine that you can insert the recyclables into and get store credit. Policies like this have helped Sweden recycles 99% of its waste. Some of that waste is incinerated for energy. When you think of burning trash in America, you probably picture smoke and a lot of pollutants entering the air—not in Sweden. The majority of the smoke is just water and carbon dioxide, and it is filtered prior to it reaching the atmosphere. 



Christine Pahel studied abroad in Lund, Sweden, in Spring 2017: