Culture Shock: Eye Contact?

In general, Swedes don’t talk to each other in public. I mean, they talk to their friends but strangers generally don’t greet each other. In passing on the street or on the bus, they don’t make eye contact, say hello (Hej!), or smile. If you go up to one to ask a question, they’re very friendly and helpful. But if you just try to make small talk on the train ride home they might think you strange. Yesterday Erin and I went to the mall and out of the 5 or 6 stores we visited, in only 1 were we greeted by an employee. But he was so outgoing and friendly that he made up for the rest of them. He asked where we were from, asked us about getting jobs in America, and told us about his tattoos. In restaurants, the servers would come off to Americans as unfriendly. That’s because the servers in America are trying to earn a big tip. In Sweden, you can just round up to the next Krona. 5-10% is the most they tip if anything.

So far the people have been nice and everyone has been able to speak English (except one old guy). But Erin and I think we’ll probably never get used to the differences between Swedes in public and Californians in public. I don’t think we could ever live here for very long. It’s too bad because everything is so old and historic. The Party City near our apartment is in a building that is older than my country!

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