What Is Sweden Gate?

In most countries, when someone visits another person, they expect to be welcomed into the family. However, as Sweden Gate has made abundantly clear, that is not true in Sweden.

Sweden Gate is a social media trend sparked by one person’s account of being excluded from a Swedish family’s meals.

Sweden Gate encompasses thousands of online posts debating Swedish hospitality customs and their unwillingness to provide food and other resources to their guests. 

Thanks to the Sweden Gate trend on social media, people worldwide are now aware, and often openly critical, of Sweden’s practice of keeping their meals private from their guests.

However, Sweden’s custom of withholding food from visitors is a manifestation of some of Sweden’s more respected customs. 

Keep reading to learn more.

Also, see Why Don’t Swedes Talk About Wealth? to learn more.

#Swedengate: Do Swedes Really Not Feed Their House Guests?

Swedes really do not feed their house guests. Unless a family or individual invites a guest over for a meal and agrees that the guest will eat with them, the Swedes will not include visitors in their meals. 

This feature of Swedish culture has gained much press coverage and become a trend on social media, taking on the name #SwedenGate.

Many visitors to Sweden and Swedish people have verified this custom. [1]

Cases in which a Swede would not allow a guest to eat with them include: 

  • If an uninvited guest visits
  • If a child comes home with their friend after school and the parents have not agreed to provide food
  • If a guest and the host do not agree that they will share meals beforehand

However, it is not quite as bleak as it seems. 

Swedes may invite house guests for dinner or another meal, and everyone will eat together. In these cases, it is typical for guests to partake in the meal since the family and guests have planned and agreed to dine together. 

Still, when guests and Swedish people eat together, the visitor should expect to pay back the host for anything they consume. 

Other examples of this hospitality custom come in many forms. 

For example, in Sweden, if one goes to a party, they are often expected to bring their own drinks or snacks.

If they take food or drinks from other people, they should pay them back or offer them some recompense. 

Also, if a person is an overnight guest in a Swedish household, they must provide for themselves.

That includes sheets, towels, toiletries, food, and anything else they might need during their stay. 

While this custom might seem strange to many people, it makes sense once they understand why Swedes are unlikely to share. 

Why Do Swedes Not Serve Food To Guests?

Swedes do not serve food to guests because of their cultural customs.

Swedes value independence to the point that they do not want to place a burden on their hosts or friends.

Thus, since food has financial value, it is customary to pay back friends and hosts any time they offer something. 

Let’s expound on some of these cultural norms:

Sweden Gate and Swedish Beliefs of Lagom

One of the critical cultural beliefs in Sweden is lagom, often seen as “taking the middle ground,” “moderation,” or “self-restraint.” [2]

This custom is closely tied to Sweden Gate, as the individual and family’s needs are always put before the group’s.

This independence and self-sustenance has long been a part of Sweden’s culture and was even a part of Viking civilization. [3]

Thus, according to Swedish beliefs, looking out for oneself and not taking things from others without recompense is a way of maintaining humility, respecting the resources of others, and never overstaying a welcome. 

Meal Planning Is Common in Sweden

Other ideas about the origin of Swedish hospitality customs include the notion that feeding guests could be an affront to the visitor’s ability to provide for themselves. 

Professor Hakan Jonsson of Lund University explains that feeding a child from another person’s family might come off as a “critique of the other person’s ability to support a family.” [4]

With lagom in mind, families often only have enough food for the number of people they plan to serve.

Without an abundance of leftovers and a well-planned weekly menu, serving an uninvited guest would genuinely burden the family

Likewise, if a child were to dine with another family, their parents would likely be waiting at home with a full dinner plate for their child.

Thus, the child’s family would have wasted their planning time, money, and energy preparing a meal that might end up going to waste. 

Family Meals Are Important To Swedes

In Sweden and many other countries, mealtimes are a family affair in which families can talk about their days and strengthen their relationships.

Thus, adding a visitor to the dinner table might detract from the value of the family meal. 

Due to this reason, Swedish people and families generally keep their meals private and do not often share food or other things, such as money, drinks, or toiletries with others. 

People Live Closer Together In Sweden

In many Swedish communities, homes are within walking distance of each other. Therefore, it is not uncommon for children to spend their time after school playing or hanging out with friends. 

Unlike in the USA, children may go to friends’ houses without asking their parents for permission, as it is also quite safe for children to be unattended in most Swedish communities.  

Hence, during meal time, a host family may not serve a child visitor, expecting the visiting child to walk home to eat with their own family. 

Do All Swedes Not Serve Food To Guests?

Not all Swedes withhold food from their house guests. Some Swedes, especially those in rural locations or people of other nationalities living in Sweden, do offer food to their guests.

In addition, as globalization occurs in Sweden, the custom of not feeding visitors has started fading away.

The Swedish custom of keeping meals private appears to be far less stringent than it used to be.

While some families still adhere to the tradition of asking guests to leave or wait while the family dines, some Swedes may offer guests food without expecting repayment. 

Native Swedes such as Richard Tellström, professor of meal science at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, note that the custom of not feeding house guests started becoming less common in the early 1990s. [5]

While the custom still persists in many households, other Swedish people may not hesitate to add another plate to the table for a visitor. 

[1] Source
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[5] Source

Christian Christensen

Christian started Scandinavia Facts to explore his family heritage, raise awareness of one of his academic interests as a professor, and civilly promote the region. Please see the About page for details.

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