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Tea or Coffee? – How to Host a Swede.

I can tell right away that this is just the beginning. It’s like opening Pandora’s box, or piercing a tin of Surströmming (Fermented Baltic Sea Herring); there’s no going back once the expat floodgates are opened.

– Bemused and Amused By Swedes


”Tea or coffee?”

It might sound like a simple question.

But you’re NEVER going to get a straight answer!


”What are you going to have?”

And now you’re supposed to read minds!

There’s a little chance, they really don’t mind. The likelyhood is however that they really do, and they just want you to say it …Because it would be putting you out too much to actually just say what they want to drink?!


Are they shifting their weight from one foot to the other?

Looking slightly on edge?

Had a long day? A hectic morning?

Do they have young children?

Do they look like their mind’s about to turn to mush?

Is it morning? 3pm? 7pm?



Are they looking calm?

Is it possible they’ve very recently indulged on copious amounts of caffeine?

Have you ever seen them drinking tea?

Do they appear to be scanning your kitchen counters for a glimpse of a kettle (- not every Swedish home has one) or a selection of tea bags?

Is it afternoon? 4:30pm? 8:30pm?



Hesitation? …Change your mind!


And is any of it a hassle really anyway?

It’s not the point!


Nobody even ’makes’ tea for anybody. You just boil the water!

Your supposed to pass over a mug of boiling water, or even the whole kettle, an empty mug, a selection of tea bags/ pots of flavored tea leaves and an individual tea strainer, a teaspoon, and a little plate or bowl to put the tea bag/ tea strainer on afterwards, as well as the milk, sugar and honey – just incase.

So begins the botanizing.

Every pot of tea leaves should be opened and sniffed …With some oohs and ahhs. And every tea bag label read.



If you’re a (terrible) expat host(-ess) and only have black tea – albeit ’real’, imported British tea bags. You might want to reconsider how you ask the original question:

”Black tea or coffee?”

This can be a delightful, enlightening moment when just asking the ’wrong’ question warrants a decision.

Or, fail.

”I’ll just take some water thanks!”


If it’s ’even worse’ – and we’re talking instant coffee, a re-phrased question is definitely warranted:

”Black tea or instant coffee?”

The best follow on from this one is when your guest politely mentions later in the conversation that you could maybe meet somewhere else next time!


After 12 years in Sweden, I can tell you I’m as bemused and amused by Swedes as the day I arrived.


Linking this post with:

#MyExpatFamily #WeekendBlogHop #PoCoLo#ShareWithMe & #SHINEbloghop


  1. Shine Blog Hop #31

  2. SHINE Blog Hop #31 - The Deliberate Mom

  3. Wow. Steph, I had absolutely NO idea it was that intense.
    Now, I’m a boring American and only have one Swede friend, and he doesn’t drink either!

    *sighs relief*

    Sooooo, is it rude, lazy…or would you overly impress a Swede if you just came out and prepared everything under the sun for them to choose from? That’s kinda how we roll around here.

    Tea, coffee, varieties of cheese, fresh artisan breads…oh, and if there are any with a sweet tooth, we have home made chocolates (yes, REAL chocolates that all our brilliant Brit’s adore)….


    Sue me. I like happy people and both food and drink do that for us here.

    Gosh, with all this talk–I’m going for a slice of bread, some Stilton and 2 mugs.

    Tea AND coffee.
    Hey, I’ve been a good daddy blogger today =)

    • Haha, awesome! Are you kiddin’ not lazy at all… Totally perfect!! Because if you did miss putting anything out, they’d wait 10 minutes before asking …Or just not ask and be quite offended that you hadn’t considered that honey should maybe be on the table too!! 😉
      – Empty the cupboards! There’s no better way.
      You guys sound like a very hospitable family 🙂

  4. Seriously?! Wow. I usually reach into the cupboard an say: coffee or your choice of tea bag.LOL

    This was funny Steph.

    Thanks so much for sharing and for linking this post up to the #SHINEbloghop!

    Wishing you a lovely day.

    • Haha! Culture… SO funny differences.
      Loved your posts this year Jennifer! Not just for the reads sake, but the inspiration 🙂

  5. This blog post made me giggle a bit as my sister and brother-in-law are host parents to a Swedish foreign exchange student this school year. She is a beautiful girl inside and out but very particular about certain things that we here in America could care less about. Stopping by from the #SHINEBlogHop.


    • Haha! Yes! I understand it could be that way 🙂 …You might make her day if you offered her a tray of different tea bags!
      Oh yes… As long as you rinsed the mug out after you’ve washed it 😉
      Thanks for popping over Lysa, feels like I’ve met you on every social media platform this week!

  6. Hee, hee… I really laughed at this. I always have plenty of strong Swedish coffee on hand for visitors. However, I’m a tea drinker, which causes all sorts of head scratching and panicking amongst my Swede’s family and friends who are caffeine fiends. A person who doesn’t drink coffee? What are we going to do with her? Invariably they’d hunt in the cupboard and dredge up a 42 year old Earl Grey teabag that they’d once been given (that’s one tea variety that I don’t like) and offer it along with a mug of hot water.

    I drank it out of politeness, but after the first couple of times I asked for just a glass of water. That caused even more problems as they thought I’d meant Loka or Ramlösa carbonated water and couldn’t fathom why someone would want tap water. Who knew it could be a problem? After nearly 15 years here, they still offer me coffee. How many times must I say no thankyou?

    • Haha! They are just waiting for you to come around to the ’Swedish way’ …Which, let’s face it, is ’obviously’ the only way!

      That’s so funny they didn’t want to give you tap water 🙂 Well, a LOT of Swedes have their own carbonators now, so I guess you’ll be getting jugs of the bubbly stuff …But then, maybe that’s not ’the only way’ either 😉

      Thanks for popping over Marie. Loved to hear from you.

  7. I love this because this is how I feel when I moved to england and they kept shouting that they wanted white, one, black, none etc… WHAT??? I have been here 7 years now and I am still puzzle how the coding works for coffee and teas. I still can’t make a nice tea to save my life either. lol OOPS. that’s being an expat for you. Love this… Thanks for linking up to Share With Me. Sorry if you had any trouble commenting on my site today as the host is being transferred there are a few glitches to fix. Apologies. #sharewithme

  8. I love this post!! Who knew the Swedes were so funny with their tea!?
    That would totally blow my mind!
    Here people are very much tea drinkers, apart from the expat community! I just got mark a Nespresso machine for his birthday and I have a feeling we will be getting more coffee drinkers round for visits now 🙂 x

  9. Ooohhh when I have visitor I always just serve tea. We have coffee for the in-laws and those candarel sugar.

    I can see your dilemma though =P


  10. I think tea is a minefield full stop. I like mine strong with a little dash of milk and happily drink it black abroad, my Mum drowns hers in milk – yuck. I first experienced Lipton’s in Dubai years ago – never again. #PoCoLo

  11. I always dreaded being offered tea or coffee in meetings when I worked in Jamaica – it inevitably came with condensed rather than fresh milk. I once tried to get round it by taking up their offer of mint tea. Which then came with – you’ve guessed it – condensed milk already added.

    • Ooh no! Just reading that is CHURNING my stomach!! 🙂 …It’s those silly things that a person can also just start getting used to though isn’t it!! After 8 months or so in Italy I started drinking tea with lemon in it!

  12. Oh this made me laugh so much. I sympathise from the other angle I was never able to get to grips with the British Cuppa – blended tea with milk – I just can’t understand the attraction. I can’t make it either – it always ends up too watery or just milky. Everyone who knows me makes their own tea in my house if they want it.

    • Oh no, I know it! I’ve stopped making tea for English people! …And maybe it’s the company I keep but it just feels like a beautiful gesture to offer someone a mug a tea bag and the chance to make their tea exactly how they like it! 😉
      …Laid back hospitality AT IT’S BEST!

  13. This made me snigger, though I have no idea how I’d get through this minefield of indecision myself!
    Fortunately most Italians stick with espresso as they know nothing about tea. The adventurous few who have opted for the latter have been happy with my imported Yorkshire Tea (but no milk, obvs). And asked for it again the next time! Great stuff. And then tried to make it for me, very badly, when I’ve visited them. Not great (Lipton ew).

    • More Lipton – no! 😉
      And what about you & espresso? Do you drink it? Have you always drunk it? Or did it grow on you?
      I think it took about 5 months in Italy before I really started drinking and enjoying it! …Espresso that is!

  14. The Swedes might have something in common with the French on this one: tea is definitely a mountainous selection of different flavours (NEVER with milk) but coffee = espresso. Fullstop. Period! Again NO MILK! …Unless it’s a great big bowl of it at breakfast…it’s a minefield.

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