Sexual Health Abroad

Sexual Health Abroad

Reflect on Your Sexual Health and Behavior

While you are living in a foreign culture, you may find that attitudes towards sex and relationships differ from your own culture. Therefore, whether you are sexually active or not, it is important to reflect upon your own sexual health and behavior before departing for your semester abroad. While you are abroad, being conscious of the cultural differences and taking proactive safety steps will be of the utmost importance.

Before traveling abroad, be sure to protect your own health as well as others by visiting your doctor, scheduling a sexual health check-up, and filling necessary contraceptive prescriptions. Read more about the rules of taking medicine to Sweden.

Cultural Differences

In general, Swedish people have a more liberal attitude toward sex than many cultures. Sex is discussed openly and sex education is a part of the school curriculum. There are Ungdomsmottagningar (Youth Clinics) where young people can get advice on sex and contraception.

Swedish teenagers commonly have their partner sleep over with the approval of their parents. DIS students are commonly surprised when their host sibling’s partner joins the family for breakfast in the morning after sleeping over.

In adulthood, it is common for romantic couples to live together, and have children, without being married. Marriage, partnerships, and adoptions are legal for same sex couples and well accepted.


The concept of consent may also be different. In the U.S., college students learn that consent means a very clear, enthusiastic ‘yes.’ In Sweden, a discrepancy exists between cultural norms and law. Consent may be commonly implied when you agree to go home with someone and engage in an act of a sexual nature. While you can, of course, say no at any point in a sexual encounter, most young Scandinavians would find it odd to go home with someone they just met at a bar who doesn’t intend to have sex. Being conscious of these intercultural differences, as well as explicitly communicating your own intentions, is important when navigating sexual relationships abroad. Legally, the concept of consent in Sweden is similar to that of the United States, and sex without explicit consent is criminalized.

Safety Tips

DIS recommends that students utilize a few simple safety measures while in Stockholm, on study tour, and while on personal travel in Europe. These tips are provided for proactive purposes only, and it is DIS policy that the victim/survivor never be blamed for their choices or actions surrounding sexual violence. No matter the circumstance, perpetrators are to blame for sexual violence and it is never the victim/survivor’s fault.

  • Have an open and direct discussion about your intentions and limits
  • If you are not sure what the other person wants, you must ask. Don’t guess and risk harming the other person or committing a crime.
  • Review the tips for staying safe in Stockholm
  • Don’t go out alone. Pairs or small groups can watch out for one another
  • Monitor your consumption of alcohol and don’t drink so much that your judgment is compromised
  • Before going out, know how you will get home
  • Travel home with your friends when possible, and don’t leave a friend behind
  • Watch your drink and don’t accept a drink from a stranger. If someone wants to buy you a drink, take it directly from the bartender
  • If you see a friend in a compromising situation, help them if you can do so safely, or ask for assistance from a bartender or the police. Learn more about bystander intervention in this video

Sexual Health and Contraception: Resources in Stockholm

Sexual Misconduct

DIS takes the issue of sexual misconduct very seriously. Sexual harassment, stalking, sexual assault, and relationship violence are not tolerated and are a violation of the DIS Code of Student Responsibility. Students violating local laws will face the local consequences and neither DIS nor the U.S. Embassy can interfere with legal proceedings or obtain release from jail. DIS will report any incidents of sexual misconduct to the student’s home school that will handle the report per their own policies under Title IX and other relevant laws.