This Is What College Food Looks Like in Sweden

published Sep 9, 2017
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(Image credit: Christine Han)

In the U.S. college campuses offer an array of dining options from all-you-can-eat buffet-style dining halls to trendy fast-food restaurants at the student union to late-night greasy bites that fuel students through long evenings of cramming for exams. But in Sweden, the college food experience is much different. Students meet their friends for a daily fika (coffee break), cook most of their meals at home, and get their junk food fix with snacks like “creamy taco”-flavored potato chips and salty octopus-shaped licorice candies.

Dining Out

At Swedish universities like Uppsala, rather than having a central campus, buildings are spread throughout the city. And instead of on-campus dining halls and student unions, undergrads have the option of dining at privately owned restaurants spread throughout the university or at Nations.

At Uppsala, students are required to be part of a Nation, which is a co-ed club for students. Each Nation is student-run and has a restaurant and bar that serves food and drinks at discounted prices, offering co-eds a more affordable dining option than eating out at restaurants. Nations serve snacks and beverages for fika, along with lunch and dinner, and for club nights, they offer drink specials.

University restaurants, which are privately owned, serve tasty and healthy dishes like roast pork with cider and applesauce, wok-fried rice noodles with beans, or crispy baked fish fillet with fried roots and coriander dressing. (See an example of a university restaurant menu here.)

For a more affordable meal, students eat out at fast-food chains like Max Burgers, which serves up burgers, shakes, and fries. Although Max Burgers’ food may sound like a greasy indulgence, the fast-causal eatery food boasts no GMOs, trans fats, antibiotics, or growth hormones. In lieu of beef patties, you can opt for chicken, fish, or veggie alternatives. And, you can sub your fries for salad or fruit.

With fika as an integral part of Swedish food culture, stopping for a cup of coffee and snacking on a baked treat like a vetebullar (cinnamon and cardamom buns) or knäckekex (crisp bread crackers) is part of the college experience. Wayne’s Coffee, a coffee chain like Starbucks that can be found throughout Sweden, is a popular place for students to meet up for their daily fika.

Cooking and Packing Lunch

Since dining halls and student unions don’t exist at Swedish colleges, students mainly cook in their apartments and pack lunches to bring on campus, as that is a more affordable way to eat. Most university buildings include break rooms where students and professors can warm up their meals and eat in between classes.

For breakfast, beloved dishes include musli (granola) and filmjolk (sour milk), or toast or knäckebröd (crisp bread) topped with preserves like lingonberry. And for lunch or dinner you might find a student enjoying a bowl of Ärtsoppa (a pea soup traditionally served Thursdays); kottbollar (Swedish meatballs), potatoes, and falukorv (sausage); or a smörgås, an open-faced sandwich topped with yummy cheeses, meats, and veggies.

Snacks and Treats

Students get their junk-food fix with snacks like potato chips, which in Sweden come in an array of bizarre and delicious flavors. Brands like Svenska LantChips come in dill and gräslök (chive), gräddfil (sour cream), and lättsaltade (lightly salted), while OLW chips offer intriguing flavors like “creamy taco” and “sour cream with sweet chili.”

At the grocery store, the bulk section is a preferred place to create trail mix and goody bags with an array of godis (candy), nuts, and dried fruit. Aside from the ubiquitous Swedish Fish, other candies include Salta Blackfiskar (salty octopus-shaped licorice), Citron-Apelsin Klyftor (lemon- and orange-shaped hard candies), Ahlgrens Bilar (car-shaped chews), and Marabou chocolate.

Beloved beverages to wash down all these tasty treats include Ramlösa flavored sparkling water, beer like Omnipollo, or hard fruit cider from älska, Kopparberg, or Rekorderlig. While grabbing a beer at a bar is a nice way to unwind after a long day of studying, alcohol in Sweden is very expensive, and college students typically purchase liquor and beer at the Systembolaget, a government-owned chain of liquor stores.