How living in Sweden is different from the US: The convenience factor

November 4, 2013

in Cultural differences,Living in Sweden

As I was packing my bananas, salmon and yogurt into a bag at the grocery this evening, I had one of those funny, this is my life in Sweden realizations. I always bag my own groceries in Stockholm. It’s not even an option to have someone bag them for me. But if I even attempt to bag my own at the Kroger store near my parents, someone always hurries over to do it for me even if it is only for a few items.

In a similar vein, getting your order taken at a table for lunch in Sweden is more than likely not going to happen. Instead,  you need to go up to a counter to order your lunch at a cafe and even many restaurants. Then your food will usually  be delivered to your table, but not always. Where things get confusing is at dinner. Because often, if you go to that same restaurant for dinner, you are likely going to get table service.

But don’t get me started about takeout delivery. About a week or so after moving to Stoockholm, we’d been working hard all Saturday shopping and getting things organized in our new apartment. We were tired. So I said to the husband, let’s order a pizza. I pulled out a directory of local establishments that had had conveniently been delivered in our mail and found a place called something like Pizza Express. Sounded like a delivery place to me. I called and somehow managed to communicate in English that I wanted to have pizza delivered.

“How many do you want?” asked the helpful pizza guy.

Just one, I replied.

“We don’t deliver just one.”

OK, if I order two, can I get the pizza delivered?


Well, how many do I need to order to get you to deliver it?


Never mind.

That night, we ended up walking to a local pizza place and ordering takeaway. I only whined a little and made one or two remarks about living without basic human necessities. But in the years since, I’ve adapted.

Because while I’m from the land of convenience and customer service, Sweden is more of a take care of it yourself kind of country. I’m OK with that as I really am fully capable of bagging my own groceries and ordering my food at a counter. But every now and then on a rainy night when I’m tired, I would still like to have a pizza delivered.

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The Swedish conveniences I love | 59 North
November 20, 2013 at 22:55


1 Judy Petersen November 5, 2013 at 08:13

According to recent articles about building small increments of exercise into an ordinary day, I’d say Swedien is the right place. Weight training: carrying grocery bags. Cardio: walking to the local . Stretching: reaching across the counter/conveyor belt to pack our groceries. Now and then I’d appreciate more convenience and CS, but for the most part, I’m delighted that I have these “extra” opportunities to move my body . . . §;-D

2 Sandra November 5, 2013 at 08:34

Well said Judy. I don’t really mind doing it all for the most part either. I was just struck by how quickly the “baggers” jumped at me if I tried to do it for myself in the US!

3 Steve Short November 9, 2013 at 12:53

Getting your shoes shined outside of the US? Better pack your polish!

4 Sandra November 10, 2013 at 16:43

That’s true, Steve. But when I take my shoes in for repair, they always are very nicely shined in addition to being fixed.

5 Kea November 14, 2013 at 22:25

I soooo know what you’re talking about. I love the customer service in the US, even if it isn’t always necessarily as genuine and actually more about getting tips or whatever. A lot of Finnish people and probably Swedes too, have problems with overly eager waitresses and sales personnel – but I actually like all the small talk that goes with it. Anyway, my point being, in Finland at least you’re able to get your pizza delivered, Pizza Taxi or similar. I would assume they had such a service in Sweden too? It was nice meeting you last weekend, will have to start browsing through your old posts now… 🙂

6 Sandra November 15, 2013 at 10:23

Thanks Kea. In terms of service, it’s definitely a lot about what you are used to. I am going to have to research delivery again here!

7 Martin December 16, 2013 at 10:03

You should have a look at this website:

8 Sandra December 16, 2013 at 19:32

Hey that’s great Martin–thanks for the tip!

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