I am starting an installment which will have 3 parts about the differences between Sweden and the United States. To be honest, living in Sweden, in general, is pretty similar to living in the US. Swedes have the same type of values and culture norms as we do. So, it wasn’t much of a problem for me to submerge myself into the Swedish culture. However, there were still some distinct difference between the two countries. Please keep in mind that this is just my opinion, it doesn’t mean that this is exactly how every one in Sweden and the U.S. are, it is just what I found to be different when I lived abroad. The first installment of Sverige (Sweden) vs USA will be on food and exercise. Most Swedes have a moderate view on this particular subject. Their motto is “not too little, not too much.” of everything! The first post of part 1 will mostly be about food and I will post about exercise later on this week.
First, I have met so many Americans that restrict their food intake so much to the point of starving or only eating one type of vegetable, etc my past self and my friends included. This often leads to binging and vicious cycles of unhealthy eating habits. On the other hand, I never saw a Swede restrict their food intake at all. Sure, they don’t eat a huge plateful of food at one sitting but I never saw them turn down a piece of chocolate cake either.
Swedish people eat very healthy during the workweek. They figure that if they had healthy meals during the week then they can stand to indulge a little on the weekend. If they are not indulging on Saturday candy then there is often a 3 course meal planned for Saturday. This is not a 3 course meal by American standards, their portions are seriously VERY tiny compared to ours.
Swedes use REAL butter, no margarine, no Smart Balance, just real butter. They use real butter on their vegetables, in their desserts, on their bread, etc. Also, they buy all of their dairy products with about 2-4% milk fat. Stuff like cottage cheese, yogurt, regular milk and things of the like nothing is ever nonfat. They think a little bit of fat in their diet is a good thing because smaller portions will keep you full for longer.
They always bake desserts that are meant to be enjoyed. Desserts with milk, butter and eggs. Never any “healthy” desserts. If they are gonna have dessert, then they want the real thing! I bake both indulgent and healthy desserts. I like baking real desserts for special occasions but I also like trying to come up with a healthy alternative to a normally high fat or high calorie dessert.
Absolutely no fast food on a normal basis. However, if fast food is the only thing around then they will eat it. This was kind of a problem for me because I just had it drilled into my head that fast food was horrible and their was absolutely no way that I was going to put any of that crap in my mouth. But, when we went on a road trip and fast food was the only thing available all of the Swedes ordered their meal at McDonald’s. However, instead of french fries they opted for fruits and vegetables on the side and I was left eating some homemade trail mix as a meal because there was nothing else around.
Restaurants are very expensive in Sweden. I am talking about the cheapest restaurant I ever went to there being in the price range of about $20 per person. The most expensive restaurant that I went to in Sweden was definitely over $100. None of the restaurants are chains (except fast food but I don’t really count that as a restaurant). The Swedish restaurants use the freshest ingredients to prepare their meals and most of the ingredients are local, if possible. Also, it takes about 2 to 3 hours to dine at a Swedish restaurant because they want you to enjoy yourself, the company and the atmosphere. Therefore, they just don’t go out to restaurants often. Probably about once a month, if even that.
Swedes enjoy Fika several times a week. Fika roughly means “to drink coffee.” Fika can also mean a break in the morning and afternoon from work to enjoy their coffee. Or it could mean just a time to enjoy each other’s company. Fika is sometimes accompanied by a smörgås or a kanelbulle, but not always. A smörgås is a tiny open faced sandwich and a kanelbulle is a type of small cinnamon roll without all the sugar and icing.
In general, Swedes don’t have to think about eating healthy and moderately, they just do. This helped me so much to learn that it doesn’t have to be an all or nothing thing!
Here is a photo of some food that I enjoyed at a high-end restaurant in Borlänge:
It was some type of fish but I can’t remember exactly what kind.
A photo of Hans’ meal at the same restaurant:
It was some type of meat (of course!) with potatoes and lingonberries.
**Hans and I are going out to a restaurant tonight to celebrate a recent happening!!! But, more on that later! 🙂 Have a fantastic afternoon!