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Meeting your neighours, the Swedish way

Meeting your neighours, the Swedish way

Published: 24 Jan 2012 16:11 GMT+01:00
Updated: 24 Jan 2012 16:11 GMT+01:00

A few years ago, the show Hipp Hipp ran an episode called “Bli Svensk.” It featured a mock class for immigrants on how to act like a Swede, how to fit into Swedish society.

Here’s one of the many etiquette rules the teacher shows her class: she looks out the peep hole before stepping out of her apartment.

When she sees a neighbour going into her apartment at the same time, she instructs the class to wait until she is gone, “because we don’t want to risk meeting up with someone unnecessarily, right?”

Then, when the hallway is clear, they tip-toe out.

I think comedian Fredrik Lindström has also done segments on this theme. He peeks out the peep hole, waits until the hall is clear, double-checks with the door still chained and then sneaks out.

When, despite precautions, he does meet with a neighbour in the elevator, they don’t talk.

Whether it’s true or not, the stereotype is that Swedes avoid chatting with their neighbours.

And, at first, the stereotype felt true.

Before moving to our current house, we stayed in a small coast-side development of about 15 homes. The homeowners lived close together and governed the neighbourhood organization together, which made decisions about the shared waterfront and beaches.

But here’s what surprised me: the homeowner we stayed with didn’t know the names of most of the other neighbours.

He went to the yearly community meetings, participated in mandatory clean-ups and helped plan for the docks to be put in, but the relationship stopped there.

Even at the community’s little beach, he, like everyone else, carefully kept to himself.

Here are some of the explanations I got for this phenomenon: “We don’t want to invade anyone’s privacy,” and “It’s hard (jobbigt) to keep making small talk.”

A particularly gregarious mother offered the following explanation: “If you’re friends with a neighbour, they learn about your private life. But what happens if you have a falling out? Then you have to see them every day, and they still know everything about you. And they’ll talk.”

Interesting.

Of course, a few conversations can’t capture the mindset of an entire nation. I’m sure many other Swedes would adamantly disagree with these rationales, and many Swedes have strong neighbourhood communities.

Still, these sentiments gave me a starting point for understanding what might underlie what I had seen as a lack of community within this community.

As an American, my cultural habits lean in the other direction: I’ll talk to anyone.

From what I’ve heard, we’re generally known to be open, talkative, loud and curious. While I obviously can’t speak for each of the 300 million Americans, for the most part, we suburban families are known to chat with our neighbours.

On one hand, I like the idea of a home as an oasis from the demands of the outside world (although I have to note that, with two young kids, it’s not always the outside world that is the most demanding). I also understand the desire for privacy—there are certainly moments in our family life not made for public viewing.

On the other hand, working part-time from home and spending the rest of the time with the kids, the neighbourhood community is important to me. Without a community around me, I start to feel disconnected to the world.

But I have another reason, beyond simple companionship, to nurture neighbourly relationships: I never know when I—or they—will need support from the community.

Like when one of the four-year-old twins that lived next-door to us in California was rushed to the hospital, convulsing from a febrile seizure. Her single-parent mother could turn us, the neighbours, for the immediate care and comfort of the other twin as she left on the ambulance.

As two adults, my husband and I could probably find our way through most crises, but with two kids in tow, things get more complicated. I’d like our family to have a Plan B, one that our kids are comfortable with. I want to know that someone else is helping us watch out for our kids.

With all these things in mind, I set out to meet our new Stockholm neighbours.

At first, I thought it was going well. After sending our kids out on reconnaissance missions, we approached the neighbours. The response was great: everyone seemed friendly and interested. There were mentions of fikas. After each encounter, I thought to myself, another friendly family. What were you worried about?

Except that the fikas never happened. After that first, animated conversation, all further communication consisted of one word, “Hej!” with a quick smile. No stopping to chat about the weather or upcoming holiday plans or the recent string of burglaries in our neighbourhood as they walked by.

Nothing.

Was it me—did I come on too strong? Was there a more Swedish way I was supposed to be doing this?

Or was it true that Swedes just don’t regularly stop and chat with their neighbours?

But there was one family that seemed to be interested in getting to know us simply because we were their neighbours. But they could hardly avoid us—their house is attached to ours.

It started with the two girls in the family. Our kids would call over the fence and invite them to jump on our trampoline. Then they invited over for a few spontaneous coffees to enjoy the daughter’s freshly made apple cobblers.

Their kids tagged along with us on errands. They knocked on our door to play without calling first.

We then moved on to the next step in our budding relationship: we became their Plan B. I know this because when their nine-year-old was mistakenly sent home from school long before her parents got home in below-freezing weather, she came over. And when the mother was out of town and couldn’t get in touch with her husband, she called me to ask if I had seen him, if I could peek in their window for clues.

But it wasn’t until a few weeks ago that it really struck me that we have neighbours, the kind I was hoping for. On the last day of school before the Christmas holiday break, the mother next door called me to see when I thought school started for first graders that day.

It was 7.24am and she was not afraid to disturb us. Thank God.

I’m so glad that our family has found neighbours here. Living in country where the culture sometime feels so different from my own, a neighbourhood really helps me feel at home in my new home.

Although it’s the middle of the winter, low season for socializing here in Sweden, I’m ready for my first resolution: get to know one more neighbour this year. I’m taking it slowly, the Swedish way.

Hopefully some day, I can build a whole community.

Rebecca Ahlfeldt is an American ex-pat writer, translator and editor currently based in Stockholm.

Your comments about this article

17:01 January 24, 2012 by efm
It's prob. the same way in any urban America.

As a Hispanic American I first move to a middle class condo, & it took a while for neighbors to even talk with me. The lady next door looks afraid of me( they prob. think I'm a Mexican drug dealer??). It took a while and once they open up, they're OK. It tool over a year.

Now I live in a higher class neighborhood, and got mix results. The next door neighbor are friendly and wave, but that's all. The other don't even talk. The couple 4 houses donwen are very friendly and so is the young couple 3 houses away.
17:40 January 24, 2012 by metalhead
Took our Swedish Exchange Student out to the store a few years back, and I struck up a brief conversation with the clerk at the store just in passing. Our Exchange Student was noticably anxious and when we were alone, I asked her what was wrong. She said that if one were to talk to someone on the street/in a store that way where she came from (near Gothenburg), they would think you were nuts!
18:31 January 24, 2012 by Opinionfool
"But here's what surprised me: the homeowner we stayed with didn't know the names of most of the other neighbours."

How is that different from any other society? Back before I moved to Sweden in my native country I lived on the same street for more than 25 years. I didn't know the names of anyone more than two houses away .... and there were 200 houses within a 5 minute stroll of my front door; 150 of them on the same street.

This isn't a Swedish-only trait it is more wide spread than you think.
20:37 January 24, 2012 by teknowaffle
@Metalhead:

I had a guy start talking to my wife and I on the bus from Tungelsta. I was really weirded out, despite my being an american.

Turns out he was from Norway, so that explained it.
20:43 January 24, 2012 by AmusedMuses
This is pretty accurate. I've lived in both countries for an extended time, and I actually moved away from a suburban American neighborhood because I got tired of certain aspects of that type of living. To me, the talking was to show off more than anything. All they wanted to talk about was what their kid does, can, know etc. And another mom were saying that my son and her son play SO well that she didn't feel it necessary to look after them. (they did not play well, her son had serious discipline issues) and I really just got sick of it all. I think this is what many Swedes simply is trying to avoid. And more often than not, when Americans stop to talk to me it is about them, and what they know about something. It gets old.

On the other hand, i DO wish the Swedes could open up a little bit more! Would nice to have some sort of balance.
21:05 January 24, 2012 by acidcritic
When, some 20 years ago I and my family arrived in Sweden we did not spoke a word of swedish. It was difficult to make swedish friends just becouse we lacked words to communicate with swedes. When , after some nine months of intensive learning, we learned to speak swedish good enough to make us understood our relationships with our neiborghouds were normal. Our little dotter in exchange had almost no problem becouse she learned swedish with accent from Stockhol in less than two months. The receipt to make good friends in any conutry? : Learn as fast as possible the lenguage of the country and be polite and friendship
10:05 January 25, 2012 by skogsbo
Another stereotypical article, showing the USA's lack of acceptance that folk are different and it is the immigrants ways that are different. If a Swede wants to keep himself to himself why not, he doesn't have to be full of false $hit american, "have a nice day".

Making friends in sweden is no different to anywhere else in the world, you don't need special games with the kids, unless this was just made up to pad the article out. You talk to people. Because people are more mobile now, many neighbourhoods are not one big happy clique, because neighbours are fluid, coming and going. That's just the way of the world.

If USA was so perfect(if believe all the contributors here) with all these people who are your instant friends, better shops, better communicators, better xmas etc. why do they bother coming to Sweden?
14:22 January 25, 2012 by Rossminster
Oof! Touched a raw nerve there did she, Skogsbo?

Here's a good way to meet your neighbours: do something (however minor) that breaks some rule or other, like put your bin out a day early, or run your car engine for a few minutes to warm it up, or let your dog out for a pee at night. They'll be round knocking on your door in no time, or cheerily yelling at you across the street, to let you know what they think!
15:00 January 25, 2012 by skogsbo
ross, I just think it's about making mountains out of molehills, folk are the same in most countries, you can exaggerate a problem and make a whole story out of it, but it is often the originator who has the social problem, not those around them. At least in this article she has actually managed something that could loosely be described as a paragraph, rather than a page of bullet points like most article.
15:18 January 25, 2012 by Opinionfool
@ross (and skogsbo)

While I have not met every American the representative sample that I have appear to want, nay demand, friendship from the firs second they invade my personal space. So a Swede's or for that fact an Englishman's initial reserve flummoxes them. They don't know what to do in response. They perceive it as shyness and real reserve; whereas it's really a case of "who do you think you are!"

However, their notion of neighbourliness is in turn highly superficial, as AmusedMuses commented above. Now I haven't met every Swede either but once acquainted over a period of time the relationship deepens into friendship. In comparison the American version remains superficial.
16:03 January 25, 2012 by star10
Are you sure that, after a few years, you will not end up being like them? There is a reason as to why people behave like this.
16:53 January 25, 2012 by HYBRED
I have a nice little occasional chat with the neighbors and thats it, just the way I like it. However in a public setting most Swede's are rather rude, showing little respect for anyone elses personal space, and seemingly born with no shame whatsoever. Until I came to Sweden I never had to take a number to stand in que. In Sweden you take a number for everything, and always someone tries to cut in front. And always standing in the middle of a walkway having some sort of social convention, giving a crap less about anybody else.
17:10 January 25, 2012 by skogsbo
Hybred, is that because American's are more accustomed to invading countries, than personal space? ;)

Opinionfool, I tend to go with your thoughts, it's all about them. I've just moved to Sweden from the USA and nobody wants to talk to me, I can't a job because I don't speak the lingo, my neighbour avoids me and I'm paranoid, or at least that's I tell my analyst.. and on it goes. I have met some very nice genuine folk from the USA, but they have general already shared a common interest with me, so are more likely to be thinking along the same lines. But it hardly justifies me writing articles about it.
17:47 January 25, 2012 by MutedTempest
This woman's articles really make me sad that this is the opinion people are getting of Americans. Not all of us enjoy the fake friendship crap that's pushed so hard in the States, and at least in my case it's one of the reasons I left. I try to be as kind as I can in public, but I also try not to bother people. Seems to be common courtesy and I haven't experienced Swedes being "reserved" or "rude." Then again I'm one person, so I doubt I can change anyone's perceptions about Americans. Just please don't paint us all the with the same brush, and don't take this lady's word as anything more than her own opinion.
19:04 January 25, 2012 by HYBRED
@skogsbo

Nobody wants to talk to you? It's because your a immigrant. You don't have to be from North Africa or East Europe. In Sweden you are a immigrant and they love giving immigrants a hard time and look down on them. But then they look down on their neighbor if he has a nicer car, or bigger breast implants.

Yes they always talk about the USA invading some country somewhere. But whenever there is a disaster or crisis somewhere the first phone call is to the USA wanting help. Even Sweden called the USA wanting help to get those Swedish reporters out of jail.
19:20 January 25, 2012 by Opinionfool
@skogsbo

I have the advantage that I learned to speak and understand Swedish *before* emigrating. Plus I knew people here (from working with them earlier, hence my learning the language and culture in the first place) before moving so I started from a better position.

@hybred

Didn't Haiti specifically request the US *not* to help them when they had that earthquake the other year? Some countries even those covered by the Monroe doctrine prefer assistance to come from elsewhere. As to Sweden asking for help wasn't it calling in an owed favor because they had helped the US out in an earlier similar situation.
19:58 January 25, 2012 by HYBRED
@Opinionfool

I remember the president of Haiti complaining that aid fron the earthquake wasn't getting there fast enough. Which came from all over the world, not just USA. I don't remember his request that USA not help. But thats not to say it didn't happen. But in the end he didn't refuse it.

Sweden on the USA have been swapping favors for years. It may have very well been a called in favor. It's kind of surprising that it hasn't worked yet, considering all the financial aid the USA sends to Ethiopia. What are they paying for anyway.
20:13 January 25, 2012 by Opinionfool
@hybred

" ... considering all the financial aid the USA sends to Ethiopia. What are they paying for anyway."

You're choice of words is apposite, viz "...paying for...", and there in lies another major difference between Sweden and the US. Sweden gives aid to help the poorer nations. US gives money so those poorer nations can buy goods from the US. Aid money is ring-fenced so that only US products can be purchased. Every US$ given in aid is intended to go back to the US to increase the US economy. It is not given as real aid. (Although to be "fair" the US isn't the only nation who gives aid in this way; England does it too.)
21:42 January 25, 2012 by dizzymoe33
From an American point of view here the author of this story has her head up her butt. Not every American is all up in everyone else's business. You learn when to talk to someone or not talk to someone. But that social skill is not taught anymore due to most people having their cell phones and i pads glued to their faces. She (the author of this story) just has some unreasonable expectations about her neighbors running out to embrace her. Relationships take time to build it isn't going to happen in one day.
21:51 January 25, 2012 by Mrs Robinsson
Face it, Swedes really don't care much about their neighbors or other people that much. Jantelagen is so unnatural, the result of it having been the cause of Swedish selfishness and jealousy.
22:10 January 25, 2012 by Kitale
The longer I live here, the odder I find them. Especially in the workplace. All this discussion and talk about democratic decision-making, when they are the least democratic people I have ever met. They are truly autistic; self-centered - and just want to hear themselves spouting opinions. But when it comes to the crunch, they please themselves. Always. Shame, because it is a nice country.
07:51 January 26, 2012 by skogsbo
Hybred, I actually find that many Swedes want to talk to me because I'm not Swedish, but at their pace, they are interest in other places and people, don't have social insecurities that demand everyting has to happen there and then, if it waits a week until coffees, that's fine. You reap what you sow in Sweden, it's just a slow growing crop, you can try to speed it up, but it won't work.

Kitale, truly autistic, self centred and just want to hear themselves? you are describing the average USA resident aren't you? They please themselves, what nationality doesn't? Why shouldn't they do what they want to do? because some socially insecure immigrant from the USA needs fluffing up a bit?
13:13 January 26, 2012 by Mark737408
My neighbors are alcoholic twats lol And whoever wrote this needs to learn to spell neighbors.
13:53 January 26, 2012 by skogsbo
Mark, depending on if you spell with proper english, or US version, it ends in either; bour or bor respectively. Curious language cross over to the swedish for live, perhaps neighbour was original 'near live' or some equivalent in another language.
16:25 January 26, 2012 by stateohio905
God save us busybody, empty, illiterate people and thank you for Swedes!
17:22 January 26, 2012 by k2kats
The portion of this article that talks about a young parent wanting to network with neighbours for the sake of children is heart warming.

It's unfortunate that the rest of the article was posed as a cultural divide. Folks in the USA express community in different ways too. For example, while native Californians are generally thought of as extroverted, native New Englanders are reportedly reserved (at least, until there's a storm or you get to know them).

Perhaps all that's needed is patience and respect for neighbours' ways.
17:51 January 26, 2012 by stateohio905
@skogsbo

"proper english or US version" what version is this " neighours"???

LOL "Rebecca Ahlfeldt is an American ex-pat writer, translator and editor currently based in Stockholm."

I only hope her neighbours or neighbors or somebody to whom she translates/edits have not read this article.
20:46 January 26, 2012 by skogsbo
ohio, it is a typo, get over it.
21:48 January 26, 2012 by Opinionfool
Really the only retort to Rebecca Ahlfeldt is "when in Rome do as the Romans do". In other word stop comparing Sweden to the US. A more profitable comparison would the US to Sweden. See the difference in which is the more important there?
05:46 January 27, 2012 by Hunner1210
Well I'm American and I would say this is true. The American definition of "best friend" seems to match the Swedish version of "friend". There's just a higher level of community, society, key word soci- sweden is a more public minded socialist country than USA (not saying its 100% socialist or 100% capitalist). Therefore relationships in the community are stronger. You see, in America they will act all nice to your face- but they won't pay for your surgery. In Sverige they don't care how your day was- but they'll pay for your healthcare. Also I get it, if they're not friends with you, why act like it? Must you ask everyone on the street how their day was? Seems like it in USA or else you're "rude". Also, let's get the foreign aid thing straight. USA is much bigger than Sverige, so no dur it will give more money in total. But actually per person Swedes give much more than Americans- they may even be the #1 giver per capita (or Norway).
08:06 January 27, 2012 by Douglas Garner
It is booth amusing and sad to watch and experience interactions here in Sweden. Many opportunities to become friends and assist one another are wasted. On occasion, Swedes will even look past someone having a problem instead of offering help... as it is possible to offend someone by recognizing that they might need assistance!

When I moved to Dallas with my Swedish wife, our new neighbor brought over a plate of fresh baked cookies... after which my wife was always suspicious as to what she REALLY wanted!
09:15 January 27, 2012 by cogito
"Oof! Touched a raw nerve there did she, Skogsbo"? by Rossminster #8

@Rossminster: Skogsbo can be counted on to foam at the mouth at any positive mention of the U.S.A. Just wish he'd find something original rather than tired clichés.

Swedes dislike friendly conversation as an "invasion of personal space?"

I feel my personal spaced invaded every time a Swede crashes into me on the street because he walk in a civilized way.

Matter of taste: I prefer fake friendliness, whether Italian, Thai, Irish or American, I to genuine Swedish unpleasantness.
11:27 January 27, 2012 by abaeterno
sound like she's making a mountain out of a mole hill.

I used to find the swedish way of avoiding people annoying, but now I know a few people here (mainly immigrants) I just dont care. I would be nice to have a few more swedish friends but those swedes that I do know are just as friendly as my non swedish friends.

I think the article was written simply for the sake of writting an article
12:34 January 27, 2012 by mikewhite
"Then you have to see them every day, and they still know everything about you. And they'll talk." - erm, talk to whom ?!

PS it's expat[riate], not ex-pat (former Irishman ;-)
12:45 January 27, 2012 by cogito
Note to self: must remember not to post before coffee (my #32)

Meant to type: "...my personal space (is) invaded every time a Swede crashes into me on the street because he CANNOT walk in a civilized way."

and

"I prefer fake friendliness...to genuine Swedish unpleasantness."

@abaeterno (#33), your last line, ja. Has there ever been a more banal article in TL?

Wait a minute. Yes. Her last two articles.
13:43 January 27, 2012 by abaeterno
@cogito #35

if her last two articles are as pointless as this one, then I will take your tip and avoid the disapointment of waisting 5 minutes reading them.

PS... a little to much swed bashing here by some people. if the culture is not to ur tast then accept is quietly or move
14:01 January 27, 2012 by Oldcrofter
I speak good Swedish and have been travelling back & forth for many years. I've found it almost impossible to strike up any real friendship. And it's a real problem since in my experience, Swedes find it almost impossible to ask you any questions other than "When did you arrive ?" and "When are you going back ?"

So recently I've switched to starting in English., whether with younger people or with those of advanced age - like myself.

Wow - what a difference ! I can only explain it by suggesting that switching to English seems to release many Swedes from their inhibitions. Not all, of course. And if I meet them some time later and we talk Swedish, conversations seem to go quite normally.

My wife and I still find it really difficult to get to make new friends in Sweden, though.

Any ideas ?
14:27 January 27, 2012 by djmarko
It is perfectly normal for neighbours to be found dead in their apartments for up to 6 months due to the fact the next door neighbor did not even bother to enquire on the well being, find that a bit strange if you ask me!!
17:29 January 27, 2012 by jbkulp
I don't know which is dumber--the generalizations about Swedes here or the ones about Americans. All the prejudices do show through though quite easily, as do the various agendas. There is a reason the French--of all people--have a saying: "all generalizations are false--including this one. People are individuals people. Each one has their own characteristics, peculiarities, etc. etc. Try treating them that way and you may just find that there are a lot of commonalities as well as differences between them. Some you may want to be friends with, others not.

@Oldcrofter: my suggestion is to try to go to places where you have an interest--a ski club, exercise club or whatever. The easiest way I have found to meet people is those places where you are most likely to meet others with a common interest. This is really what the author did. Her common interest were the children. Swedes are very family and quality of life oriented, so most anything in that area should work, just as it did for her.
17:53 January 27, 2012 by Opinionfool
@djmarko

That isn't a problem unique to Sweden. Any western society with high population mobility has examples of the same thing happening.
19:25 January 27, 2012 by Koondog
Not been my experience at all. I chat with my neighbors ever time we run into each other and often with people I run into during walks. My Swedish stinks and sometimes their English stinks, but there is always communication, friendly communication. People here are as friendly as people in the U.S. in my estimation.
09:49 January 28, 2012 by ldsdbomber
What a great article, and what a shame that as usual the clowns on here feel the need to wade in and make it confrontational. I am English, have lived here for almost 3 years, have a Swedish wife and a 1 year old son. I'm fairly fluent in Swedish, speak swedish at work in a very technical job (hospital physicist) and have a good relationship with everyone there. But a lot of what this woman says rings very true to my ears too, and sorry but there IS a big difference culturally between just the UK and Sweden, people do tend to "kallpratar" with anyone, whether or not it's related to not liking the awkward silence. Anyone who tries to pretend that there is no difference is a) being stupid and b) has not lived in both cultures. This lady is not causing any arguments, or saying anything bad about Sweden, so calm the hell down. I thought it was a really nice warm article where she specifically talked about her need to fit into a community and try to find a little way to recreate the culture she is used to back home, by getting to know one of her neighbours. How is this a bad thing? Try walking round ICA then round a supermarket in england, one is like a George Romero zombie movie where people shuffle round in near silence and just creep up behind you to grab things from the shelf rather than say "excuse me", and in England for example the volume and general chit chat is a million miles away. No one is saying one is necessarily better, its just DIFFERENT. I don't know how anyone who's experience both cultures could argue with a straight face that there is a huge difference between Swedish and English culture for example, and it takes a lot of getting used to, even if you can and do "fit int" by learning the language and working here. Different countries have different problems, weird that almost all Swedes I talk to who've been to England say how charming it is that people are so talkative and friendly and all expats from England the US I've spoken to say the opposite, mostly that Swedes are friendly and nice once you get past the weird quietness, but in general people walk round in their own world, looking at the floor keeping out of each others way. That is weird to those of us coming into Sweden, no need to "fight back", thats just how a lot of us feel, but there are also good things about Sweden. Likewise, while Swedes might enjoy the chatty friendliness in England, there are doubtless lots of other aspects of English culture that would be annoying or difficult to adapt to for a swede

why can't we just accept that there ARE differences in culture, some people find it difficult to come to terms with, and we dont need to resort to stupid, puerile nonsense like

"if you dont like it, get lost"

"its no different to any other country"

"its your fault you're doing it wrong"

"thats not my experience"
10:40 January 28, 2012 by Opinionfool
'puerile nonsense like "thats not my experience"'

And yet you make the same puerile assertion yourself.

That said the problem with this article is not to be found in isolation but rather that Rebecca Ahlfeldt has written many articles for The Local that can be summarised as "Sweden isn't like the US that I know". Implicitly that's "Sweden isn't as good as the US" in whatever area she writes about. Her writings are also full of generalisations drawn from her limited personal experience. It would be like a Swede visiting Liverpool and saying all English people are Scousers. Some commentators here follow her lead trying to make out that Sweden is unique in some area. I was reminded of this last night as I'm visiting England at the moment and "the old people dead in their homes for months scenario" was joked about on TV as an English problem. 'The old lady next door keeps herself to herself; the milk bottles haven't been taken in for 2 weeks.'

This article and all its commissioned partners are no patch on the BBC World Service's "From Our Own Correspondent". The reports broadcast there are good models for how to write this cultural comparison stuff Ahlfeldt fails and fails and fails again at doing it. That is what I'm bitching about.
16:06 January 28, 2012 by Frogster
Well well well indeed, different country, different culture. Obviously not like "home". Sometimes good, sometimes even better,sometimes bad, sometimes just simply apprehended differently, habits, etc. When you live abroad, for whatever reason, you need to remember you are the guest and the one who needs to adapt to the country and culture, not the other way round. If it is too unbearable, then you either are not cut out to live in a different country but where you were brought up, in which case you 'd better move back to where you come from or choose another country more adapted to your expectations, or try to tackle what bothers you one step at a time and be patient. Acceptance to change or not. The essential is to work towards what makes you happy as life is too short to be miserable or bitter.Been living in France all my younger years then Spain, Scotland, then England for 18 years and about to move to Sweden to be with my future husband. I know it will not be a bed of roses, it never is wherever you go, but I will make dam sure that at least I will try to be happy! There is no such thing as the perfect country or people.
20:49 January 28, 2012 by MarkinBoston
So Swedes can recognize and comment on their own lack of friendliness, but if an American does the same, the only response is to talk about invading countries? Who has the problem here?
15:21 January 29, 2012 by Chickybee
Overfamiliarty breeds contempt. It's an old English saying.

I find the constant sniping against all things Swedish rather predictable and boring.

Just don't live in Sweden if you don't like it.
16:19 January 29, 2012 by Opinionfool
@markinboston

Try, as a foreigner, to comment on US society and the vitriol you receive is infinitely worse than anything expressed here. US people are blinkered by the belief that the American way is the only way. The last reason to get away with commenting was de Toqueville who died almost 2 centuries ago and even now the agreement on this foreign views is only grudgingly given.
22:07 January 29, 2012 by calebian22
If you want to be friends with a Swede you have to go after them. Think six grade dance, boys on one side of the auditorium girls on the other. Somebody has to make the first move and most likely it won't be the Swede.

Swedes are socially retarded and that is not just my opinion. The Local decided to publish a blogger's observations of dating in Sweden. Funny, pathetic and true.

http://www.thelocal.se/17566/20090216/
08:19 January 30, 2012 by djmarko
When people come out with the words, if you dont like it here, why not leave!! Then you surely know there an element of truth of the argument, guess people are different, we have to accept that but funny enough, all the Swedes I knew back in the Uk were so chatty, friendly, full of life, so it seems when they are out of Sweden, they don't feel the need to fit into what society demands from them, maybe I am thinking wrong, this is not a criticism anyway, just a mere observation, some foreigners or expats might seem at first that the native Swedes don't like them, but they soon find out they don't even speak that much to each other, Like I said I put it down to cultural differences, one has to accept this, maybe they don't want to invade your privacy, sometimes my building is so quiet, has its good and bad sides I guess
09:11 January 30, 2012 by cogito
"Try, as a foreigner, to comment on US society and the vitriol you receive...#47

@Opiinionfool,

That could be because most often the comments/opinions are based not on any personal experience of the U.S. but on indoctrination received in Swedish schools or from the state TV and radio.

"Swedes are socially retarded and that is not just my opinion" (#48)

@Calebian22,

Several long TL threads packed with the posters from more than a dozen nations with long experience in Sweden make the same observation.

@Chickybee (#46) "Just don't live in Sweden if you don't like it."

And just don't read the comments if you don't like them.

btw, The "old English saying" you (mis)quote is an old Greek saying (from Aesop).
09:51 January 30, 2012 by Opinionfool
@cogito

On the contrary that indoctrination is in the media output from Hollywood. Some of us see how the US perceives itself and say "no thank you" but when we express those opinions the cry is "indoctrination".
14:22 January 30, 2012 by cogito
If you don't like Hollywood, why not instead see some of those captivating Albanian

movies?
18:09 January 30, 2012 by Opinionfool
@cogito

I never said I didn't watch Hollywood movies --- how else would I recognise their attempts at US indoctrination. Subtley is not a common Hollywoodian attribute. On the other hand *you* should read Sardar and Davies books "Why Do They Hate America?", "American Dream; Global Nightmare" and "Will America Change?" all three of which are socio-politico-cultural analysis of the Hollywood behemoth. Think of these titles are the 21st century equivalent of de Tocqueville's "Democracy in America". Then take your red,white and blue colored glasses off and look at the world from other points of view.
21:53 January 30, 2012 by efm
I'm married to a Swedish woman. It took very long time for her to even open up. Her relatives--it will take forever!

They are just different, not as open & talkative as Americans.

It's How are you? and How long are you going to stay here?

My answer are equally short: I'm fine! and we're leaving soon!
21:56 January 30, 2012 by dendrobates
Being an immigrant from Latinamerica where community is even stronger, a little too much sometimes, it becomes somehow an extension of your own family (restrictions apply of course) however I acknowledged that things were very different before arriving here and that is how it is.

I had the opportunity to "meet" people before coming here and that somehow has helped me a lot to acquire new friends. The other thing is the personality, for example when I go into a place I always salute in swedish with a big smile, eventhough my pronunciation is still poor, I feel fine by doing it and it really doesn't bother me if I don't get the same reply.

Let's face it, the people from Sthml is "special", a very different story in middle Sweden were I live.
09:00 January 31, 2012 by skogsbo
you right about Stockholm being different to everywhere else, just like London has it's own attitude too compared to the rest of the UK.

I'm presuming you know Sweden / Swedish well enough to know what Swedes mean when they say people are 'special' ;)
09:56 January 31, 2012 by cogito
@Opinionfool (#53) Thanks for your suggestions, but I don't read paranoid rubbish from obscure publishers.

These nobodies are no Tocqueville.

btw, as you are posing as some kind of expert, get the names you drop right:

it is "Tocqueville", or "Alexis de Tocqueville." Not "de Tocqueville" as you keep typing. The French particule is dropped when referring to surnames.
10:04 January 31, 2012 by Alannah
Am interested to know if the Plan B is one sided. From my experience, Swedes are great at taking but not so good as giving. If they figure they can get things from you, they'll be your friend but they're not the ones to put themselves out to help others, from my experience living there for 7 years!
10:44 January 31, 2012 by Zombie
Best Local Article.

EVER!
12:53 January 31, 2012 by Opinionfool
@cogito #57

Always a good tactic to change the focus from the content to the cover. And of course all other authors started from out writing with their fame and reputations in the full blaze of glory. "There's none so blind as those who will not see."

Back when I read History at Cambridge it was always de Tocqueville. The French may drop their particules all they like, an Englishman never does.
11:46 February 1, 2012 by cogito
@Opinionfool,

The authorities you cite for your paranoid conspiracy fantasies are obscure writings by authors no one has heard of or reviewed--typical for the Hate America loons.

Need any more tinfoil to complete your headgear?
12:40 February 1, 2012 by Opinionfool
Well, of course, you're right. The City University in London, England --- a venerable and long standing seat of higher learning since 1894 and considered to be in the top 5% of the world's universities and acknowledged by the British government as a major research centre in the UK --- appoint any old Tom, Dick or Harry as visiting professors such as Sardar. And the BBC permits anyone to be one of their staff journalists. So yes these are people no one has heard of.

If you bothered to remove your fanatical US-centric blindfold you would see that these people are not obscure and that the only wearing tinfoil is yourself. Just because they challenge your views does not make them paranoid --- rather your refusal to consider other views shows you to be paranoid. No wonder that Swedes don't want to know you.
21:29 February 1, 2012 by sureiam
Aha aha, good lucky "Rebecca Ahlfeldt" , hope it lasts and give you a job too...............
18:33 February 3, 2012 by cogito
@Opinnionfool #62

Yes, anyone can be appointed "visiting professor." If you spend much time in academia you'd know that all sorts of clowns are named "visiting professor."

"BBC staff journalist"? And that's supposed to be validation of intellectual integrity.

"Venerable institution." Oh my.
20:03 February 3, 2012 by Opinionfool
@cogito

Really living up to your alias aren't you.
10:06 February 8, 2012 by cogito
@Opinionfool.

I certainly hope so.

Is it possible that you, who pretend to be the product of a "venerable" institution of higher learning, know neither Latin nor Descartes?
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