Is it common in Scandinavian countries to not offer food to guests?

So asks a NY Times article that is itself based on a reddit post:

The piece is based on an anecdote of a child going to a friend’s house for a play date, then later on the host family and child sit down to their dinner while the guest child remains in the play room, playing and waiting. This is supposed to be not uncommon in Scandinavian cultures, attributed to food scarcity, and/or to not intruding on the dinner plans that the guest child’s parents may have made for them.

The comments are, as usual, as much fun as the article, saying that in other food-scarce societies, hospitality to a guest is a sacred duty; and/or what’s described in the article is a distortion of Scandinavian ways and almost never happens anyway.

Any HungryOnions with ties to Scandinavian countries who can say more about this?

1 Like

No ties, but I’m curious. I didn’t understand this part;

"“There has been a very strong urge of independence, to not rely on others’ good will for having a good and independent life,” Professor Jonsson said. “It was a very strong driver toward the welfare state, to create this impersonal assistance, where you did not have to rely on any other person.”

A driver toward a welfare state was…“impersonal assistance”…to not rely "on any other person? "

I have read that analysis in other places too. The preference is to rely on the state, an impersonal entity, rather than have ties of obligation with known persons, i.e. neighbors, family, etc.


I lived in Stockholm for several years, but I was not aware of this custom. As an adult, I had many generous meals at the homes of friends.


I don’t know about Scandanavia but that would certainly be the cultural view here in the UK. Throughout the 20th century, the state became a “cradle to grave” provider on which we relied. Without wishing to stray too much across the “no politics” line, the recent years of austerity (since the banking crisis) it has come as a nasty shock to families (including mine) who had expectations of what the state would do to help, to find that help was no longer there.

I read this thread and article with much amusement. We’re visiting Denmark for the first time in August. We’ll avoid asking any locals for a taste of their food!

1 Like

I have been to Sweden only once, and I didn’t visit any homes.

I know people who have immigrated from Sweden, and I have 4 friends with Danish mothers. They’re all generous people, who absolutely feed their guests.

1 Like

Note the article is about feeding someone’s kids when the parents are not around, not about feeding adults.

Most people here in France will do the same, either the host or the kids call the parents to ask if the kids can stay to eat, or to know the parents have planned a meal or have plans with their kids.


Were you invited for the meals, or were you visiting them for any other reason and then offered a meal because you were there at mealtime?
I think the NY Times article is talking about the latter situation.

Are casual visitors offered coffee/snacks in Scandinavian homes?

The article to me sounded like the custom was more about not feeding other people’s kids. I interpreted that as more about respecting the other child’s parents wishes. Quite frankly, that didn’t sound so different from my childhood in the U.S.; as a kid playing at someone else’s house, we were typically sent home when dinnertime rolled around. I don’t remember having dinner at another child’s house without permission from my parents.

As an adult, I have never gone to someone’s home uninvited (and that includes here in the U.S.). But certainly, on the occasions where I visited friends in Sweden there was never a situation where food or drink was withheld.

Sweden also has the whole fika tradition too. The company I worked for supplied cookies and coffee in the break area and there was always a group of people in there mid-morning and in the afternoon to socialize over a coffee. One of the teams I was on (where I was the only non-Swede) also had a special fika on Friday afternoon where we rotated around who brought in food.


That’s certainly my recollection of childhood in the UK.

1 Like