Host a foreign exchange student from Sweden

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It’s impossible to sum up the essence of a nation, but typically Swedes are polite and innovative sun worshippers with a love for exploring the world that can be traced back to their Viking ancestors.

By understanding more about our Swedish exchange students’ lives back home, it will help you gain insight into their culture and background and prepare you for a successful hosting experience. Let’s start by learning about what’s typical in Swedish communication, home life, education and food, as described by our program participants.

Educational system

The government spends more money per student than most other countries and there is little variance in quality between schools. Illiteracy is virtually unknown in Sweden. The Swedish teaching style emphasizes discussions and independent thinking. Multiple-choice tests are almost never used. The relationship between teachers and students is informal and most students address their teacher by their first names. Schools do not offer many extracurricular activities, so most after-school activities are offered through private clubs and organizations.

Tip From EF: Swedish students may no be aware of options that are available to them in American schools such as electives, classes of varying difficulty and extracurricular activities. Encourage your student to sit down with a counselor or registrar prior to the start of school to help them understand options and expectations in class. Talk with your student about the importance of tests and homework as the impact that both will have on their grades may be unexpected.

Communication style

Friendships take time to develop in Sweden and the people tend to be more reserved. Swedes are generally very punctual. Eye contact is important during conversation. When speaking, Swedes avoid excessive hand gestures. When speaking to another person, it is considered impolite to have your hands in your pockets, chew gum or yawn.

Tip From EF: Swedish students may not express themselves as colorfully as we do in the US. Be aware of this to avoid disappointment or misunderstandings of their reactions. Help your student by explaining American norms for expressing concerns and appreciation. Share expectations clearly and directly with your student to ensure that they are understood.



Hur mår du?

How are you?

Food habits

Swedish diets are heavy in fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Common dinner items include potatoes, meat, seafood, cheeses, vegetables and other fresh foods. Daily mid-afternoon breaks called “Fika” are common with friends. This involves drinking coffee, tea or soft drinks with a pastry or light snack. During a meal, leaving food on your plate is considered impolite. Declining second helpings offered by the host is okay, but guests may take more if they would like.

Tip From EF: Invite your student to go to the grocery store with you! While shopping, encourage your student to share what they prefer to eat and discuss what new foods they are willing to try. Schedule a few meals together as a family each week to help the student feel welcomed and at home.

Home life

The social welfare system is incredibly valued in Sweden. It provides health, education and retirement benefits for its citizens, including famously generous paid parental leave. In addition, Swedish working parents are given at least 25 days off each year. This time is generally spent vacationing. Sports are popular in Sweden and favorites include soccer, horseback riding, ice-skating, skiing, tennis, golf, swimming, ice hockey and other winter sports. Orienteering races (using a map and compass to traverse an area) are also popular. Swedish teenagers are often more independent than their American counterparts, with fewer household rules and more access to public transportation. Some Swedish teenagers may be accustomed to helping with chores around the house, while others may not have responsibilities around the home.

Tip From EF: Shortly after arrival, make sure to explain rules and expectations around plans with friends and chores. Your student may not be used to having chores or may be hesitant that they will not do chores the correct way. You may need to teach them how you prefer to do things around the house so they feel more comfortable. Talk openly about a chore schedule and how they can help.

Jag ser fram emot att träffa min svenska studenter!

I am so excited to meet my Swedish exchange student!

EF är ett svenskt företag!

EF is a Swedish company!

Hosting advice from our Swedish exchange students

“I wish my host family knew that a lot of Swedish students are not used to having a lot of chores, so I will want to know about rules and chores right away.”

Tip From EF: It is helpful to be clear and direct with household rules and expectations early on. If there are any misunderstandings or issues that come up, communicate with your student and IEC to ensure everyone is on the same page. Additionally, Swedish students may not understand suggestive communication. Instead of saying “your room is looking a little messy today,” it will be easier for them to understand “please clean your room.” It is helpful to review and reiterate the rules every so often.

"I wish my host family knew that the relationship between adults and teenagers is different in Sweden.”

Tip From EF: In Sweden, teenagers are treated as equals to their seniors, so they have a more casual relationship with authority. This dynamic might come across as disrespectful to adults here in the US. This will be an adjustment for them. Remind them about the importance of authority figures in their American life so they don’t run the risk of hurting someone’s feelings or coming across as rude.

“I wish my host family knew that I want to be active during my time here and experience all that the US has to offer.”

Tip From EF: Encourage your student to see what extracurricular activities are available at school, such as clubs, theater or even joining/managing sports teams. Ask your IEC about any local events for your student to participate in. Also, discuss the student’s bucket list and establish realistic expectations on what they will be able to do and see while on their exchange year. Discovery Tours are a great way for your student to see more of the country on an EF guided and chaperoned adventure!

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Talk to us directly: +1 800 447 4273

Send an email: [email protected]

© EF Education First 2011-2021. EF High School Exchange Year is operated by EF Educational Foundation for Foreign Study, a non-profit corporation designated by the U.S. Department of State to operate a J-1 student exchange program. Note: Featured photo/videos do not include prospective students, and are representative of program participants.