• Sweden edition
 
NORTHERN SWEDEN DISPATCHES
‘Are they devil-worshippers looking for their next sacrifice?’

‘Are they devil-worshippers looking for their next sacrifice?’

Published: 04 Sep 2012 15:57 GMT+02:00
Updated: 04 Sep 2012 15:57 GMT+02:00

Shocked by the warm welcome he received by the natives, ex-Londoner Paul Connolly finds that the friendliest neighbours come from northern Sweden.

As we pulled into the deserted recycling area at dusk, I checked the rear view mirror again. The blue Volvo was definitely following us.

It had only been doing so for the last mile or so but I was a little concerned. After all, we were new in the village. I’d already been told we were not only the first English people to move into the neighbourhood but the first non-Swedes full stop.

Some southerners had made dark insinuations that northerners were xenophobic and unfriendly. The unsmiling faces in the Volvo as it pulled in behind us seemed to suggest that these notions may have been grounded in truth.

I resolved to climb out of the car and walk towards our pursuers. I’d already learned that Swedes hate confrontation. I’m a big chap and this, combined with my generally grumpy demeanour, can often intimidate people. It was time to take control. Donna put her hand on my arm and whispered, “Be careful.”

As I strode towards the Volvo, the occupants also bounded out of their vehicle. I braced myself. I’d had a couple of similar episodes on American road-trips and had prevailed. I was going to face these people down.

In the misty half-light, my imagination had framed the previously unsmiling faces as menacing twenty-somethings. My imagination had been rather overactive.

“Welcome,” the person on the passenger side said, in a decidedly non-threatening manner, evidently not in the least bit intimidated by the oncoming lumbering oaf.

I stopped mid-stride. As my eyes became used to the mix of mist and headlights I could see that the young thug of my panicked delusions was instead an attractive fifty-something blonde.

“Hello, I’m Katrine,” she said, smiling broadly. “And this is my husband, Torgny.”

The rangy gentleman offered a friendly handshake and smiled an equally warm smile.

“We saw you driving up here and decided to follow you to welcome you to our village. We’ve heard a lot about you and wanted to say ‘hi’. You must come round for fika soon.”

With that they got back into their car, smiled and waved again and reversed out of the recycling area. They hadn’t even had any recycling to deposit. They had pursued us merely to say “Hello”.

As former denizens of London, Donna and I are not used to friendly neighbours.

We had tried in London, really we had. When one set of new neighbours moved in next door we even invited them round for dinner. They not only did not reciprocate the invite, they had pretty much snubbed us since. As far as I know we had done nothing to alienate them - we'd both had a shower that week.

As is pretty much common in London, we knew the names of only the neighbours immediately adjacent to us. We only came to learn the name of the man who lived opposite us because he appeared in the local paper having been charged with grievous bodily harm.

Swedish friends who live in Stockholm and Gothenburg have reported similar experiences. Southern Swedes, it seems, are every bit as wary of their neighbours as Londoners. Few people bother talking to neighbours they don’t know, let alone going out of their way to greet newcomers.

Here, up north, it couldn’t really be much different. Our immediate neighbours, Randy and Irene, have not only had us over for fika, they’ve drawn us a map of the village, complete with the names of our neighbours. We’ve had two dinner invites and countless impromptu chats with other residents.

Cynical to the last, we’ve tried to find ulterior motives for these acts of kindness and sociability. Have we stumbled upon a coven of devil-worshippers looking for their next sacrifice? Maybe this is a swingers’ commune, and we’ll be expected to get down and dirty with other villagers.

Or could it just be that these northerners are really, really nice and welcome friendly, outgoing new people to their community.

Just yesterday, I was thanking Randy for the use of his ride-on lawnmower (and gently ribbing him about the Swedish obsession with pathologically manicured lawns). He told me that I was welcome and then, out of nowhere, patted me on the back and said:

“You know, Paul, I am really, really glad you moved here. You are very nice, friendly people. You can’t have too many of those as neighbours.”

Paul Connolly

The Local (news@thelocal.se)

Don't miss...X
Left Right

Your comments about this article

17:48 September 4, 2012 by GraceBee
I love, love, LOVE this writer, he's sooo funny. And he's right. We are very friendly up here as long as you don't moan about the cold!!
22:03 September 4, 2012 by shiraz
Swedish swingers! woohoo! if they were then they would be the best and prettiest in the world ! but alas the villages in the north are not swinging communes :(

Wish all the world was like Sweden : with the same snow and beauty (in people and outside people) and even more loving customs!
19:10 September 7, 2012 by Dahlia83
I've been to the north quite a few times and found the people to be standoffish at first. But once you get to know them they're real friendly. This is damn funny article, though!
08:54 September 8, 2012 by jason_jkpg
Hi Paul, nice story. Tell me, were you speaking Swedish or English with your neighbors? For the record, this kind of greeting would never happen in Småland. Glad you're getting on well.
09:30 September 11, 2012 by Mikeb63
Hi Paul, I´ve just moved to Nordanstig from the UK. I read some blogs on here suggesting that the Swedish people were stand-offish and a lot of commenters were (quite miserable). I have found the local people here to be warm and every time I am out with the dogs I get a wave (news speed quite quickly about ´The Englishman´). Fantastic article look forward to hearing more of your experiences outside Stockholm !!
13:41 September 11, 2012 by dunx
Our experiences in Västerbotten have been the same. Neighbours offering to mow our lawn for free while we are away for a few months, helping us with house repairs without even being asked, and inviting us round for fika with seemingly no ulterior motive. The only thing they want from us is to know why we would want to move there. They are happy that we do, but they always ask why.
17:36 September 22, 2012 by alecLoTh
Glad to hear it Paul. News shouldn't always be bad.
Today's headlines
Elections 2014
Most Swedes lack info ahead of EU vote
The Green Party is one of only two parties devoting their websites to the EU elections. Here campaign manager Emma Rung presents the party's posters. Photo: Leif R Jansson/TT

Most Swedes lack info ahead of EU vote

The majority of Swedes feel the country's political parties are not doing enough to inform them about the upcoming European Parliament elections. Only two of the eight parties have dedicated their homepages to the May 25th polls. READ () »

Fatal Norrköping Brawl
Local church tried to stop Norrköping murders
Swedish police on the scene following Monday's fatal brawl. File: TT

Local church tried to stop Norrköping murders

The Syrian-Orthodox Church in Ektorp had tried to quell tensions between two rival families just hours before bad blood spilled into a massive brawl and two brothers lost their lives. READ () »

JobTalk Sweden
'Foreigners don't need to show banks Swedish ID'
The bridge that connects Sweden to the European continent. File: L.E. Daniel Larsson/Flickr

'Foreigners don't need to show banks Swedish ID'

The Swedish agency that helps Europeans fight impediments to the EU principle of free movement has revealed an increase in complaints, including one from a foreign citizen unable to open a bank account in Sweden. READ () »

Eurovision 2014
Pig heart shatters in Sweden's Eurovision clip
Sanna Nielsen in the new clip. Photo: YouTube (screenshot)

Pig heart shatters in Sweden's Eurovision clip

Sweden's Eurovision hopeful Sanna Nielsen released the official video for the song Undo on Wednesday, a clip featuring leather, slow motion destruction, and a frozen pig's heart and some violence. READ () »

Software robot pinches Swedish flats in seconds
Swedish apartments. File: The Local

Software robot pinches Swedish flats in seconds

A Swedish landlord suspects that a property fixer has set up a software robot to sign up for new flats on the market within seconds, and is charging house hunters to use the service. READ () »

Swedish zoo fire 'kills only the spiders'
Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

Swedish zoo fire 'kills only the spiders'

Twenty-five fire fighters were on hand on Wednesday night when a fire broke out in a southern Sweden animal park. The vast majority of the animals were unharmed, but the cluster of spiders wasn't so lucky. READ () »

Sweden Investor group posts sharp profit drop
File photo: Simon Cunningham/Flickr

Sweden Investor group posts sharp profit drop

Swedish investment giant Investor on Wednesday said its first-quarter profits slumped by a quarter, underlining Sweden's vulnerability to international instability. READ () »

Florida 'mystery knight' dies in Sweden
Michael Boatwright (R) and Medieval knight re-enactors.

Florida 'mystery knight' dies in Sweden

The "motel mystery" American who baffled US authorities by only speaking Swedish when he woke up from a coma last year has passed away, Swedish media reported on Wednesday. READ () »

Swedes open coffin of 850-year-old king
Photo: Bertil Ericson/TT

Swedes open coffin of 850-year-old king

UPDATED: Scientists pried open the 850-year-old casket of King Erik the Holy on Wednesday, hoping to find out more about the king, his crown, and his eating habits. READ () »

TeliaSonera announces first-quarter profit drop
TeliaSonera CEO Johan Dennelind. File photo: TT

TeliaSonera announces first-quarter profit drop

Stockholm-listed telecom operator TeliaSonera on Wednesday said profits had fallen in the first quarter, but hoped offering customers more data solutions in the future would turn things around. READ () »

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
finest.se
Gallery
People-watching April 23
TT
Gallery
Inside the 850-year-old king's coffin
Features
Sponsored: South-eastern Sweden offers Öland beaches and more
Gallery
Swedish underwear shop puts staff in front of the camera
Gallery
IN PICTURES: The Local's Property of the Week - Täby
Sponsored: India+Sweden Week - India Unlimited
Features
Sponsored: India+Sweden Week - A film, food, and finance feast
National
University applications rocket to record high
finest.se
Gallery
People-watching April 18-20
TT
Society
Kids in Victorian garb mark Swedish Easter
Shutterstock
National
Swedish MP ordered chemtrail probe
Society
Swedish supermarket Ica pulls contested Easter commercial off air
Kungahuset
Society
Swedish royals set baptism date for princess
Advertisement:
finest.se
Gallery
People-watching April 16
Politics
Who's the prime minister's heir?
Alfie Atkins
Society
Are children's books the key to families integrating in Sweden?
National
'Sweden Dem protests cater to party's martyr image'
National
'Swedish research grants were fantastic, but now it's like Australia'
Society
Only in Sweden: The ten problems you'd never encounter elsewhere
National
Swedes stopped to take my picture, but didn't look me in the eyes
Business & Money
A swipe of the hand replaced cash and cards in Lund
YouTube
Features
Video: Oliver Gee finds out how to embrace The Swedish Hug
TT
National
Abba duo hints at reunion
Private
National
Flash mobs hug it out across Sweden
Stockholm School of Economics
Sponsored Article
Why a bachelor's degree is no longer enough
Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Blog Update: The Diplomatic Dispatch

28 October 15:16

The Green Growth Group Summit »

"Today on the 28 October in Brussels, a large group of key EU Ministers and business people, including UK Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change Edward Davey, and Swedish Environment Minister Lena Ek, will meet to discuss green growth. They all have a stake in resolving a challenge which, although it is crucial..." READ »

720
jobs available
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions is an innovative business company which provides valuable assistance with the Swedish Authorities, Swedish language practice and general communications. Call 073-100 47 81 or visit:
www.swedishdowntown.com