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Are you worried about not being understood with English only? Not in Sweden & Scandinavia!

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Rene’s Points For Better Travel, a division of Chatterbox Entertainment, Inc. has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Rene’s Points For Better Travel and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.


sweden top english skills proficiency EPI score

Sweden does some things I think are just wrong. Like what? Surströmming! What is that you ask? Fermented herring. Yeah, it’s nasty (Google it for some videos if you want). Ask any Swede about it and you will get a “story”. What else? How about stuff like 25% sales tax or even charging for ice in drinks. Then there is the awful and oppressive depressing darkness of winter (not really their fault but still).

landing in GOT Gothenburg Sweden on KLM Skyteam RenesPoints blog

But one thing you don’t have to worry about when you visit that land of the midnight sun (in Summer, that is) and that is not being understood as an English only speaker. The recent results from “Education First” highlight that Sweden is just about the best place to visit outside of countries with English as their native language. The rest of Scandinavia takes 4 of the top 5 slots! (väldigt bra gjort – ie very well done).

harbor in Gothenburg Sweden RenesPoints blog

I often joke about being fluent in Swedish as a tremendously wasted gift (that is, being bilingual) as most Swedes speak better English that we do and that really is true on a bunch of levels. Sweden does so much right to foster this in the culture. TV programs have subtitles so folks grow up hearing English all the time. When you use technology there is, most of the time, the option to have whatever you are reading instantly translated to English. Heck, if you walk up to anyone under 50 years old and start speaking English to them you will be not just understood but also answered in English.

sweden vs italy

To be fair, in the major cites in most of the world you can “get by” with English but it is when you go outside the capital cites that things can get “interesting”. Visiting Rome I have had no issues and Paris is, well, Paris, but you can make it work. I could go on and on but the thing about Scandinavia is it does not really matter where you go you will be fine with all English.

SydKoster in Sweden summer RenesPoints blog

When I visit Norway I speak Swedish as the two languages are so similar that I am fine with either one (Swedes joke that Norwegian is just Swedish with a yo-yo stuck in your throat). However Danish is, to me, a horrible language (Swedes often call it a throat disease) and I speak English in Denmark. The smart half of Finland speaks Swedish so I am fine there :-)! But my point is that it is so nice to, without any stress, speak English and be understood.

Midnight in Sweden RenesPoints blog

I do try to learn a few phrases before I travel to non-English countries and have tinkered with language apps but have not found one I love (yet). I guess the point of today’s post is if you have not been to Sweden or the rest of Scandinavia please make plans to go next summer (there seems to be rather wide open availability of LEVEL 1 SkyMiles awards to be found btw). Enjoy the light, the amazing countryside and the kind people who are happy to have you ask for directions in English! – René

Rene’s Points For Better Travel, a division of Chatterbox Entertainment, Inc. has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Rene’s Points For Better Travel and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.


Responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

René de Lambert is a contributing writer and the founder of RenesPoints. He is an avid Delta and SkyTeam flyer who has held Delta’s top Diamond Medallion status for many years and flown millions of miles.

7 Comments

  1. I agree. I only speak English, with a few phrases in local languages and it is so fun to visit Scandinavian countries. It seems they love to converse with you in English to hone their already exceptional skills

  2. Maybe that’s why I love Sweden! When I go back to Gavle. in 3 weeks for the inauguration of ‘Gavlebocken’ the one thing I don’t worry about is language. It’s also part of the reason Amsterdam is the preferred connection and Paris is never first on the list. Well, Paris has other issues too. 🙂

  3. Rick Christman Reply

    HI, Rene’, I couldn’t agree more. I’ve worked with several Swedes on Construction Projects around the world and their English is probably better than mine with very little accent.

  4. dotti cahill Reply

    25% sales tax yikes what is the country income tax???? ouchhhhh

  5. I do wish that non-Europeans, especially Americans, would not complain about taxes in the, (mainly European), countries they visit. High taxes are part of a vastly different social contract, where the high taxes pay for vastly superior public services, non-decrepit crumbling infrastructure, and a much more eagalitarian society than you find in the USA.

    If you don’t like it, don’t visit, but please don’t whine about it if you do.

    • @Ed – I have family in Sweden and have spent much of my life there. I know their system well. I have earned the right to grip about the taxes. They are too high and, if you look, have cut many of the INSANE taxes over the past many years. Perhaps a peak at Swedish history before you comment would be wise. 😉

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