Hej! Welcome to the blog about the cultural differences between Sweden and France. Before you leave for your work placement in Sweden, this article will help you understand what separates us from our Nordic friends, and you’ll be able to take it into account to help you integrate more easily during your work placement in Scandinavia. After all, it’s not just the work placement abroad that’s important, but also your integration into the culture of your adopted country and respect for its traditions and cultures. By the way, we’ve got a blog for that too: local customs in Sweden. Let’s get to grips with some of the cultural differences between Sweden and France before you leave on your work placement in Sweden.

Social norms and public behaviour

On this point, we have many differences. In Sweden, people tend to prefer a greater personal distance when interacting with others, whereas in France, it’s common to get closer during conversations. Also, in France, eye contact is often seen as a sign of politeness and attention during a conversation, whereas in Sweden, prolonged eye contact can be perceived as intrusive, and it is preferred to keep it to moderate levels.

Punctuality: In general, punctuality is more important in Sweden than in France. Swedes tend to attach great importance to punctuality in their daily lives, whereas the French can be more flexible when it comes to timetables. So you’ll understand that being early is an absolute must during your work placement in Sweden. Another major difference is that in France, people are more likely to be addressed in the formal manner and may be used to show respect, especially towards older people or in formal situations. In Sweden, the use of first names is much more widespread, even in professional contexts.

Queuing behaviour: Swedes are generally very disciplined and patient in queues, waiting their turn without jostling each other. In France, queues can sometimes be less strictly enforced, and people may be more inclined to sneak around. You note my extreme politeness here. Let’s speak French: people, when you get into the metro or tram and there are 15 people waiting in front of you, I want to shoot you.

Another social difference is that Swedes tend to be more reserved in expressing their emotions in public, favouring a calmer, more discreet approach. In France, it’s more common to express emotions openly, whether it’s joy, enthusiasm or frustration. Swedes may seem cold at first, but they’re very welcoming: and if you think they’re cold, wait until you spend a weekend in Finland, then you’ll understand. By the way, if you want to travel during your placement in Sweden, we’ve got lots of tips here.

Gastronomy: Sweden vs France

Of course you can! Here are a few differences between Sweden and France when it comes to gastronomy:

Swedish cuisine :

  1. Nordic influences: Swedish cuisine is strongly influenced by Nordic geography, with traditional dishes featuring local ingredients such as fish, berries, mushrooms and cereals.
  2. Fish and seafood: Due to the proximity of the cold waters of the Baltic Sea and the Atlantic Ocean, fish and seafood play an important role in Swedish cuisine. Salmon, herring and prawns are examples of popular dishes.
  3. Smörgåsbord: Smörgåsbord is a traditional Swedish buffet offering a wide variety of hot and cold dishes, such as marinated fish, meats, salads, breads and cheeses.
  4. Slow cooking: The Swedes are renowned for their tradition of slow cooking, particularly when preparing dishes such as köttbullar (meatballs) or pot-au-feu.

French cuisine :

  1. Worldwide reputation: French cuisine enjoys a worldwide reputation for sophistication and refinement. It has been recognised as part of UNESCO’s intangible cultural heritage.
  2. Importance of sauces: French cuisine is renowned for its elaborate sauces, which often accompany main courses such as boeuf bourguignon, coq au vin and veal stew.
  3. Cheeses: France is famous for its wide variety of cheeses, with over 1,000 different types. Each region has its own specific cheeses, such as Brie, Camembert, Roquefort, etc.
  4. Patisseries: France is also renowned for its delicious pastries, such as croissants, éclairs, macaroons and tarts.
  5. Wine and gastronomy: Wine plays an important role in French culinary culture. Each dish can be accompanied by a specific wine to complement and enhance the flavours.
  6. Multi-course meal: Traditional French meals may comprise several courses, including a starter, main course, cheese and dessert.

And for more detailed information on culinary specialities in Sweden, I invite you to read this blog! The culinary traditions of our two countries are very different, so be prepared to discover new things and adapt: that’s also the way to integrate into your host country.

The relationship with nature and the environment

Sweden :

  1. An unspoilt environment: Sweden is renowned for its wild and unspoilt nature, with vast forests, lakes and natural areas that are valued and protected by the local population.
  2. Outdoor life: Swedes have a strong culture of enjoying nature and outdoor activities, whether hiking, camping, fishing, skiing or berry and mushroom picking.
  3. Eco-responsibility: Sweden is a pioneer in eco-responsibility and environmental initiatives, with strict environmental policies and a commitment to sustainable development.
  4. Public access: The right of access to nature is enshrined in Swedish law, which means that anyone can move freely through nature, even on private land, as long as this does not cause damage.

France :

  1. Varied landscapes: France offers a wide variety of landscapes, from the mountains of the Alps and Pyrenees to the Mediterranean and Atlantic beaches, vast lavender fields and vineyards.
  2. Cuisine and terroir: French culture emphasises gastronomy and the use of quality ingredients, often produced locally (terroir), which underlines the importance of the environment in food production.
  3. Historical and natural heritage: France promotes its cultural and natural heritage, with numerous national parks, protected sites and initiatives to preserve biodiversity.
  4. Outdoor activities: The French also enjoy outdoor activities such as hiking, cycling, sailing and skiing, and have access to a variety of activities depending on their region.
  5. Environmental awareness: France is paying increasing attention to the environment, with awareness campaigns and efforts to promote eco-responsible practices.

These cultural differences reflect the way in which each society interacts with and appreciates its natural environment, as well as the way in which it views its responsibility towards nature and future generations. It is important to note that these generalisations may vary from person to person, but they represent general cultural trends in each country.

Style and fashion

Here too there are major differences. However, I find the difference even more marked with Finland or Norway, but all the same.

In France, style of dress is often associated with elegance and an innate sense of fashion. The French prefer well-cut, timeless and sophisticated clothes. They appreciate simplicity, with a taste for classic pieces that can be adapted for different occasions. Paris is a world reference for fashion, and French high fashion is renowned for its creativity and exceptional expertise.

Swedish clothing is characterised by Scandinavian minimalism and functionality. Swedes prefer simple, uncluttered and durable clothing. They adopt a practical lifestyle, with a preference for neutral colours and earthy tones. Their approach to fashion is often focused on comfort and adaptability to outdoor activities, in keeping with their Nordic environment.

These cultural differences in clothing style reflect each country’s own aesthetic values, with elegance and sophistication in France, and enduring minimalism in Sweden.

The cultural differences between Sweden and France are over! We’re not going to spoil everything for you either. If you’re convinced that you want to go and do your work experience abroad in Sweden, then contact us by registering on the website and the International Horizons team will soon be sending you on your work placement in Sweden!

For more general questions, visit the International Horizons Internships Abroad FAQ.