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Restaurant visits and tipping

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This page includes some do’s and don’t's as well as general hints and tips for restaurant visits in Sweden, how to handle tips etc.

1. Tips: waiter and bar personnel in Sweden get proper salaries and do NOT live off tips as the situation is in the U.S. for instance. Many Swedes still leave a tip, but it is more as appreciation of particularly good service or meals than a mandatory thing. Rarely, the receipt might suggest you to leave a tip (especially in the tourist areas), but do NOT feel obligated to.

2. Service: reastaurant service in Sweden is generally less impressive than in other countries. The basic reason for this is that fewer staff are working than in other countries and the reason for that in turn can be found in the previous bullet: salary costs are significant. Hence, there are few waiters, and they cover a lot of tables. So, if you have to wait, it is rarely because the waiter dislikes you or has an attitude, they might just be very busy. If you do get really good service, it might be a good idea to leave a tip, although that is totally your choice.

3. Drinking age and alcohol laws: If you can properly identify yourself as above the age of 18, you can drink alcohol in Swedish restaurants and bars. However, as part of the alcohol laws you are NOT allowed to exit the premises with alcoholic beverages (not “just” for smoking either..) and you are not allowed to bring your own alcohol on to the premises. Furhermore, the serving staff can refuse to serve you if they judge you as being too intoxicated or suspect that you are going to give the alcohol to people below legal age.

4. Drinking and driving: Do NOT drink and drive in Sweden. First of all it is dangerous, but secondly it is a serious crime and the allowed alcohol limits are very low. (I have travelled to many countries and have yet to see a country with lower limits than Sweden.) For comparison, many states in the U.S. has a limit of 0.08. Sweden has 0.02 (at the time of writing this article). Do not be fooled, the regulations might say 0.2, but bear in mind that a different unit scale is being used. 0.2 on the Swedish scale equals 0.02 on the U.S. scale.

5. Pick pockets: Sweden has low crime, but at all times, be vigilant and take proper caution with your valuables. Especially in crowded areas or areas known for tourists!

6. Toilet visits: Many restaurants have uni-sex rest room areas, but don’t be alarmed, the rest rooms rarely have the type of stalls seen in other countries. Each toilet will be adequately separated from the others.

7. Smoking: All restaurants and bars in Sweden are non-smoking. Smoking is only allowed in specifically vented and designated areas or outdoors (which is normally the case).

8. Pricing and taxes: Prices presented to consumers are almost always including taxes unless you are buying a typical non-consumer goods as for instance a pallet of 2000 cans of tomates or similar. Same goes for Taxi trips, store items, visit charges and more.

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