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This is how you use public transportation in Sweden

Even some of the keen cyclists choose to leave their bikes at home and take the bus/train/metro on their way to school when it’s freezing, snowy or icy outside. I don’t blame them – it is way too cold to walk as well. So, any method of public transportation is very welcome and people usually use it more in winter time (in towns like Lund especially, where you have a large corpus of cyclists).

Perhaps you’re new to Sweden. Perhaps you come from a culture where people are talkative even with strangers and perhaps you have no problem with strangers standing a little bit too close to you.

If so, welcome to Sweden. This blog post is for you, so start taking notes.

Without wishing to sound as if I am reiterating a stereotype, I feel like you need to hear this: Swedes worship their personal space and they are not very talkative in settings where they don’t know people. This applies to many spheres of life, but there is one I want to focus on right now – public transportation.

I’ve observed how this works for a year and a half now, and I can definitely say that I found a behavioural pattern.

Swedes, being very reserved, commute in a specific way. I will try to illustrate it below.

1. WAITING

You don’t just squeeze with everyone else while waiting for the bus. You stand at approximately arms-length from the next person. Or at least a considerable distance. Memes have been made about this:

bus like a swede

Source: imgur

 

And while it might not always be as extreme as the meme depicts it, it is no less true. Just keep your distance.

Raghu, August and I wait like this too! Gimmy shot a video of their visit to Lund last year and here’s an excerpt:

giphy

2. SITTING

This one is interesting. Let’s say you enter a bus and see this:

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You could just sit anywhere and you’ll be fine, right? Uhmm…. Here are some guidelines for starters:

A) There are seats designated for the elderly and they are usually in the front part of the bus. Unless you’re an elderly person, do yourself and everyone a favour and don’t sit there.

B) There are spaces designated for baby strollers, wheelchairs etc. Unless you use a stroller or a wheelchair, move along to the next part of the bus.

C) If there’s an empty seat next to you, do refrain from putting your bag on it – seats are for people!

D) Do free up your seat if you see a pregnant woman or an elderly person who has nowhere else to sit.

E) Unless completely necessary, do not make attempts of small-talk with the person next to you that you don’t know. Listen to music or read a book instead.

Now, where do you sit? 

For the sake of practicality, I suggest you sit like this:

12545705_10156486335205714_529742133_o

 

So, try to take any of the “A” seats. Most people will do the same until there are no more “A” seats and the other seats need to be used. It is smart to take the “A” seats because then you don’t have to get up/move when the bus is full and someone wants to reach the seat next to you. It is simply easier to sit there, if there is a free “A” spot. And ultimately, if you take the “A” seat you will be sitting alone at least for a portion of the ride.
This is actually how it works here! I like it – no muss, no fuss. 🙂

I stumbled upon a meme that depicts just this as well:

bus meme

Source: imgur

 

Lesson of the day: embrace the personal space bubble Swedes love so much. It’s quite awesome.

Dena avatar

41 Comments

  • Swede • 30 Jun 2016 at 7.45 pm Reply

    haha interesting!
    But sometimes Swedes just sit on a bus without thinking 🙂

    • Dena
      Dena • 5 Jul 2016 at 8.32 am Reply

      Well of course! 🙂

      / Dena

  • SaivenkatCherukuri • 1 Apr 2016 at 9.38 pm Reply

    Is it a scania or Volvo bus?

    • Dena
      Dena • 12 Apr 2016 at 10.58 am Reply

      Haha I honestly don’t remember!

      / Dena

  • Zohaib • 27 Jan 2016 at 5.51 pm Reply

    Unfortunately, i have got refusal yesterday on study visa. Please kindly tell me how appeal can be effective. I really want to continue my study in sweden as i spent almost 6 month process for visa processing also paid all dues. Feeling sucks as a moment please reply me

    • Dena
      Dena • 9 Feb 2016 at 2.05 pm Reply

      Hej Zohaib,

      I am sorry to hear of your refusal. I think it would be best to contact the Migration Agency for matters related to appealing.

      Dena

  • Tracy • 21 Jan 2016 at 6.54 pm Reply

    Love this! However, I have to say that your tips for how/where to sit on the bus are exactly the same as in the UK!

    • Dena
      Dena • 22 Jan 2016 at 11.21 am Reply

      Hej Tracy,

      You’re right – I’ve had the same experience in the UK. However, many other places I’ve been to/lived in are completely different. That’s why I thought it could be interesting to read this from a perspective of someone coming from a completely different culture. Glad you liked it!

      Dena

  • Marijke • 21 Jan 2016 at 10.37 am Reply

    Come to Amsterdam and experience the way How the Dutch use public transportation.

    • Dena
      Dena • 22 Jan 2016 at 11.21 am Reply

      Hej Marijke,

      I will make sure to observe that when I’m there.

      Dena

  • Hüseyin AYKAN • 20 Jan 2016 at 6.52 pm Reply

    Hi,
    I want to live to Sweeden. Can you help me ?

  • Tony Williams • 20 Jan 2016 at 5.48 pm Reply

    For example, you got A seat and bus was full. At next stop, one elderly people was boarding on bus and stood close to you. What should you do? I studied in Germany and I saw a lot of case like that but I am very disappointed about young German’s action. I wanna know what young Swede’s reflection is. Thank you!!!!

    • Dena
      Dena • 22 Jan 2016 at 11.23 am Reply

      Hej Tony,

      I’d offer my seat up to the elderly person. I think lots of young Swedes would do that too, at least where I live, in the South.
      Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

      Dena

  • Fernanda • 20 Jan 2016 at 5.39 pm Reply

    Meu deus, eu ri muito com esse post! Suecos são meu tipo de pessoa, também valorizo muito meu espaço pessoal. Certeza que vou me dar bem aí, hahaha. Adoro seus posts, Marina 🙂

    • Dena
      Dena • 22 Jan 2016 at 11.24 am Reply

      Hej Fernanda!

      Obrigada 🙂

      Dena

  • Jonatan • 20 Jan 2016 at 4.02 pm Reply

    As a Swede who has moved to Beograd, I can say that all of the above is something I really miss here. Public transport here is something I go to great lengths to avoid.

    • Dena
      Dena • 22 Jan 2016 at 11.26 am Reply

      Hej Jonatan,

      I hope you’re having a good time in Belgrade anyway! I understand what you mean, seeing as I come from Serbia’s neighbouring country – Montenegro. Mediterranean people have a different style, I guess. 🙂

      Dena

  • Doug • 20 Jan 2016 at 10.21 am Reply

    Coming soon? A video portraying how Swedes react if you sit next to them on an empty bus or stand right next to them on an elevator?

    • Dena
      Dena • 22 Jan 2016 at 11.32 am Reply

      Perhaps! Nothing to do but stay tuned and keep checking the blog! 🙂

      Dena

  • Dipendra Basnet • 20 Jan 2016 at 2.52 am Reply

    Enjoyed reading the article.

    • Dena
      Dena • 22 Jan 2016 at 11.26 am Reply

      Thank you Dipendra!

      Dena

  • tammaro • 20 Jan 2016 at 1.30 am Reply

    the second image is crazy, really funny and strange

    • Dena
      Dena • 22 Jan 2016 at 11.26 am Reply

      Hej Tammaro,

      Haha, it is funny isn’t it 🙂

      Dena

  • MM • 20 Jan 2016 at 12.01 am Reply

    Fine to give up your spot for an elderly person or a pregnant woman and to respect spaces assigned to wheelchairs and strollers, but what is your problem with having these absurd de facto rules on how to avoid contact with other people? We are all human beings after all, you should remember: no man is an island!

    • Dena
      Dena • 22 Jan 2016 at 11.28 am Reply

      Hej MM,

      Thanks for commenting.
      I wouldn’t (and didn’t) call them rules, these are just guidelines written based on my observations. You are absolutely free to not abide by them, of course. And I agree, no man is an island. I just believe that small-talk on public transport is not something that’s used (almost at all) here, hence my perspective on the blog.
      I hope you understand what I meant now?

      Dena

  • Jenny • 19 Jan 2016 at 8.53 pm Reply

    Can I please add the bit I love the most of the bus habits. Besides elderly and pregnant women, let young children sit. They are small so their little legs have to take many more steps in a day. Their balance is also not as developed. I was shocked when I moved to Australia and found that children were meant to stand up for adults. A teenager, sure, but an 4, 5 or 6 year old even…

    • Dena
      Dena • 22 Jan 2016 at 11.29 am Reply

      Hej Jenny,

      You have a good point. Thanks for that!

      Dena

  • Esha • 19 Jan 2016 at 8.39 pm Reply

    Excellent Article!
    But in my experience I have found that a swede can be as chatty as the all the chatty Cathy(s) we know :D, specially while waiting for the bus :p You just have have the courage to knock up a conversation 😀

    • Dena
      Dena • 22 Jan 2016 at 12.11 pm Reply

      Hej Esha,

      Glad you liked it! Well, I guess there are always exceptions to the rule. Or better yet, no big group of people can be put under the same umbrella – every individual is different. Glad you had that experience! 🙂

      Dena

  • Shoha • 19 Jan 2016 at 8.05 pm Reply

    Lol >.<

  • Arodas • 19 Jan 2016 at 8.01 pm Reply

    I love it. They seem just as socially awkward as me. Hope to go study there one day.

    • Dena
      Dena • 22 Jan 2016 at 12.12 pm Reply

      Hej Arodas,

      I too hope you will study in Sweden soon! 🙂

      Dena

  • eivor pace • 19 Jan 2016 at 7.32 pm Reply

    It is hilarious , but very true. I know, I was born in Sweden. Have lived most of my long life in the USA. On a recent flight in Dec., my husband and
    I sat next to a lady, and the three of us talked for the entire 3-hour-long flight. We ended up exchanging : names, phone nr, adress. Wouldn’t happen very often in Sweden. Too bad, you can get some real good friends that way.

    • Dena
      Dena • 22 Jan 2016 at 12.13 pm Reply

      Hej Eivor,

      Thanks for sharing! I guess one can find beautiful things in both methods. 🙂

      Dena

  • Gregg • 19 Jan 2016 at 7.31 pm Reply

    Of course, there observations apply in Swedish-populated Minnesota, too.

    • Dena
      Dena • 22 Jan 2016 at 12.13 pm Reply

      Hej Gregg,

      Is that really so? Haha, hilarious! Thanks for sharing!

      Dena

  • Yosi • 19 Jan 2016 at 6.25 pm Reply

    Love this information

    • Dena
      Dena • 22 Jan 2016 at 12.14 pm Reply

      Tack, Yosi! 🙂

      Dena

  • Daniel • 17 Jan 2016 at 9.17 am Reply

    Don’t forget that if you don’t get an A seat at first it is totally normal and expected of you to switch to one as soon as any frees up (i.e. both the A seat and the seat next to it are free) in reasonable proximity of your less desirable seat. You really don’t want to end up still sitting next to a stranger while the rest of the bus is empty…

    • Dena
      Dena • 22 Jan 2016 at 12.16 pm Reply

      Hej Daniel,

      Yes! THANK YOU for that! I totally forgot to put that in – it felt strange at first when it started happening, but now I totally get it. 🙂
      Awesome that you shared that 🙂

      Dena

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