(Due to technical difficulties this was originally posted on January 31st, 2015)
In honor of my birthday party which was this afternoon (perhaps I will have another next weekend, as I really love my birthday), I decided to write about how to be a good party guest in Sweden. Swedes in general are an understanding bunch so if you don’t know the rules and make a mistake they will usually let it go, often without mentioning it. But I am sure everyone wants to know what is considered polite. Disclaimer, this is written from my experience in Sweden, and confirmation by asking my Swedish family.
Step 1: Show up on time.
What on time means varies depending on the event. A dinner party, a wedding, a christening, or any sit down or formal event, being on time means being 5 – 10 minutes early. Being 5 minutes late is just rude. However, an evening party where a group of friends are getting together casually to have a good time, one can be up to 20 minutes past start time without being “late”. However, more than say 20 minutes and you should certainly text (sms as it is called here) your host/ess to let them know. It is appropriate to blame the trains or buses even if you are entirely to blame for your tardiness.
Step 2: Ask if you should bring something
This one is optional, but it is thought of being polite to offer to bring something. you might bring a dessert to a dinner party, or chips to a party, but most often your host will say thanks but no thanks. However, if you are asked to bring something, do remember to bring it.
Step 3: Bring your own drinks
This is especially true of anything alcoholic, but bringing your own soda is often done. This does not apply to Weddings, Christenings, or other formal sit down affairs. Dinner parties sometimes apply to this and sometimes do not. A dinner party where you sit down, have a nice meal, and then go home, you probably do not need to bring a cocktail. However, a dinner party with friends where you might watch a movie, or crank up the music and have a party afterwards, then you should most certainly bring whatever your drink of choice is. Hosts might supply a bottle of wine to share, or a punch bowl, but don’t expect them to keep the drinks flowing all night long. If you want to get drunk, you’re going to have to bring it yourself.
Step 4: Bring your own snacks
The host will usually have some chips or pretzels, maybe a candy bowl. However, you are never amiss to bring something to share, and if you have food allergies bringing your own snacks makes it easier on your host. Again, this isn’t true of formal events, but casual a get-together. In the event of a dinner party, follow step 2.
Step 5: Take off your shoes at the door
This is pretty self-explanatory. Don’t forget to check your socks for holes before you head out though.
Step 6: Which bathroom to use?
Many Swedish apartments have a full bath (tub or shower as well as toilet and sink), and a half bath (just toilet and sink). The half bath is for guests, and the full bath is for the family. Some swedes won’t even clean the full bath if they are having company, and might be embarrassed if you just help yourself. Of course if the small one is occupied and it’s urgent, then it is of course okay. But use the small bathroom whenever possible. It is also polite to use the hand towel on the Gäst (Guest) hook to dry your hands.
Step 7: When to leave?
This is about knowing when to go home, more specifically when the last bus runs. You should know the last time for all of your transportation home. If you take a bus to a train to another bus, then make sure you know how late all three run. Don’t force your host into inviting you to stay over, and save yourself the expensive cab fare. Know this before you leave the house preferably.
These few steps will help you attend a Swedish fest (party) and act like a natural. Coming to a new country can be daunting but a few simple guidelines of what to expect and you’ll be right at home in no time.
I hope everyone had a great weekend, I know I did.