• Sweden's news in English
 

Online refugee greeting takes Sweden by storm

Published: 24 Jan 2013 14:54 GMT+01:00

Oskarsson's unexpected ascent to nationwide recognition began with a humble posting on the Facebook page of the Ica grocery store he runs in Kaxås, a small village in Offerdal, nestled among the hills and forests of the northwestern Swedish county of Jämtland.

"We welcome all those newly arrived from Syria and we hope that you'll enjoy beautiful Offerdal," read the post, published on January 18th.

According to Oskarsson, three families from Syria had recently moved to Kaxås, marking the first time the village had ever had refugees among its roughly 150 inhabitants.

The new arrivals are part of an influx of 17 Syrian families moving to Krokom, the municipality of nearly 14,500 residents where Kaxås is located.

Last week, Oskarsson met some of the newly arrived Syrian refugees in his Ica shop and felt compelled to do his part to make them feel welcome in their new home.

It didn't take long before the Facebook greeting went gangbusters on social media, garnering well over 2,000 likes and 1,000 shares on Facebook and spawning its own hashtag on Twitter, #ICAKaxås, which for a time was one of Sweden's top-trending hashtags.

"I thought we should welcome them to Kaxås. I arranged a picture with the Syrian flag in the background and a short text," Oskarsson told the local Östersunds Posten (OP) newspaper.

"I put it out on Facebook and it didn't take long for the comments to explode."

Oskarsson explained that he planned to add halal meat to the selection of foods available at his shop, as well as sweet potatoes and tahini, a paste made from ground sesame seeds common in Middle Eastern cuisine.

By Tuesday, Oskarsson had been featured in several Swedish newspapers, prompting comments from celebrities and commentators mystified over the fact that more Swedes seemed to be talking about a local grocery store than news that Swedish Equality Minister Nyamko Sabuni was stepping down.

"Every now and again you catch a glimpse of a hero. First time I've been proud to have an Ica-card," tweeted author and comedian Jonas Gardell along with a link to the story.

While most of the attention was positive, Oskarsson also found himself the target of criticism and threats from those critical of Swedish refugee policies.

"Someone wrote that I should be hung from a lamp post," he told the Aftonbladet newspaper.

After more and more racist comments began to appear on the shop's Facebook page, Oskarsson opted to remove the post.

But supporters of Oskarsson rallied their forces later in the week, with 22-year-old Stockholm resident Linnea Swedenmark organizing an online petition allowing people to send greetings to the shop owner.

Swedenmark told Aftonbladet she was blown away by the response.

"I hoped that maybe 50 would write, but now nearly 5,000 have written personal greetings," she said on Thursday.

RELATED: A list of The Local's past Swedes of the Week

She said she hopes Osckarsson is "surprised and moved" by the responses, which she plans to collate and pass along at the weekend.

Politicians have also expressed their support for Oskarsson, with Green Party leader Gustav Fridolin posting a picture on his Facebook page of him holding a sign, written in Swedish and Arabic, inspired by the shopkeeper's message.

"We welcome all those newly arrived from Syria and we hope that you'll enjoy beautiful Sweden," the sign read.

When reached by The Local, Oskarsson admitted the threatening comments were "unfortunate and unsettling", but remained upbeat about his efforts.

"It's been unbelievable. It's funny to see how things evolve on social media," he said.

He explained that he and his staff have received mostly positive feedback over his efforts to make some of Kaxås's newest residents feel welcome.

Oskarsson sees the refugees as a needed boost for the area's dwindling population, but remains baffled that his Facebook experiment has engaged people across the country.

"We only created the page to make it easier to publicize offers to our regular customers," he said before hastily drawing the conversation to a close.

"I've been doing interviews for four days and need to get back to work."

David Landes

Follow David Landes on Twitter

Your comments about this article

16:10 January 24, 2013 by Svensksmith
I wonder if Mr. Oskarsson moved to Syria, would he get the same warm greeting?
16:27 January 24, 2013 by jvtx3232
Comment removed by The Local for breach of our terms.
18:08 January 24, 2013 by icedearth
Svensksmith: The Levant Sea people are very hospitable, but you do not know. They will offer you their bed, when they will use the floor.
19:23 January 24, 2013 by deenforcer
Comment removed by The Local for breach of our terms.
20:09 January 24, 2013 by Svensksmith
@icedearth: I've heard about Arab hospitality being very warm....in some cases.
20:28 January 24, 2013 by Soderling Larsson
how much more are they going to take? i like refuges but we cant take anymore send some to Serbia or America. does anybody no when they will stop?
22:41 January 24, 2013 by k2kats
Bravo to Bo Oskarsson of Kaxås! He represents the very best of Sweden's heart and soul.
22:44 January 24, 2013 by deenforcer
Ahh, I won't want to waste my breathe with these stupid swedes anymore. Good luck destroying your country soockers!
23:35 January 24, 2013 by jvtx3232
"I wonder if Mr. Oskarsson moved to Syria, would he get the same warm greeting?"

Svensksmith: maybe only if he whole-heartedly converted to Islam. If he's a Christian he'd likely be s.o.l.!
23:36 January 24, 2013 by mafketis
Here's a thought. Syria has almost three times the population of Sweden and enough social, political and religious dysfunction to turn the entire country into refugees.

"we hope that you'll enjoy beautiful Offerdal"

If the past is anything to go by they won't. they'l see it as a den of inequity to be reformed by what they think is they're superior moral/religious system. And they'll conveniently forget that that system caused them to be refugees in the first place.
02:05 January 25, 2013 by HenryPollard
"Dear leeches! Please come and enjoy my delicious red blood!"
09:01 January 25, 2013 by deenforcer
Comment removed by The Local for breach of our terms.
12:46 January 25, 2013 by Redondo Beach
Why did I, and all other Westerners, never get a "Welcome to Sweden" greeting and my countries foods stocked in my local ICA? I guess only certain types of newcomers are truely wanted in Sweden and being American I must be from the wrong part of the world!
14:43 January 25, 2013 by rudolph
A very high percentage of Syrians are Christians
21:28 January 25, 2013 by jvtx3232
Rudolph, 90% of Syrians are Muslims. Look it up.
08:40 January 26, 2013 by deenforcer
Comment removed by The Local for breach of our terms.
15:41 January 29, 2013 by Emerentia
@ Redondo Beach Do you really mean that your local ICA didn't have any Coca cola, peanut butter, hamburgers, ketchup. marshmallows etc? Out of all different foreign foods Swedish store has the most from the US actually. a lot more than from Syria anyways.
Today's headlines
Armed robbers attack Stockholm money truck
Police investigating a previous raid in 2013. Photo: TT

Armed robbers attack Stockholm money truck

Police in the Swedish capital are investigating a raid on a van transporting cash in the city, with at least two robbers suspected to have made off with a bag of money. READ  

Swedes among least likely to die from cold
A woman stuck in snow in Malmö during the winter. Photo: TT

Swedes among least likely to die from cold

Cold weather kills 20 times more people as hot weather, according to a new global study, but despite Sweden's harsh climate its inhabitants are less likely to die in chilly temperatures than Brits, Spaniards or Italians. READ  

'It's good that Swedish defence is quick to react'
Swedish PM Stefan Löfven speaking to reporters on Friday. Photo: Wiktor Nummelin/TT

'It's good that Swedish defence is quick to react'

Sweden's Prime Minister Stefan Löfven has praised the Swedish Air Force after two Jas Gripen aircraft warned off a pair of Russian fighter jets that strayed close to Swedish airspace this week. READ  

Frozen berry sales up despite deadly sickness
Raspberries are a popular snack in Sweden. Photo: TT

Frozen berry sales up despite deadly sickness

UPDATED: Sales of frozen berries are rising at one of Sweden's biggest supermarket chains, despite the fruits causing a deadly bug outbreak at an elderly care home, which has led to other EU nations reviewing their safety guidelines. READ  

Interview
'Serious blow' to EU if UK leaves says minister
Sweden's foreign minister Margot Wallström. Photo: Janerik Henriksson/TT

'Serious blow' to EU if UK leaves says minister

Two months after one of Sweden's biggest diplomatic disputes in decades, foreign minister Margot Wallström is ready to look to the future. In an exclusive interview with The Local, she discusses Sweden's strong stance on the Mediterranean migrant crisis and why she wants the UK to remain in the EU. READ  

Refugees to Sweden left in six-month limbo
Sweden's migration officers face a huge workload. Photo: Maja Suslin/TT

Refugees to Sweden left in six-month limbo

UPDATED: Asylum seekers arriving in Sweden are now likely to face a wait of up to six-months before they can have their cases heard, as migration officers struggle to cope with the workload. READ  

Sweden's Eurovision star Måns through to final
Sweden's Måns Zelmerlöw is through to the Eurovision 2015 final. Photo: Jessica Gow/TT

Sweden's Eurovision star Måns through to final

Sweden's Eurovision hope, Måns Zelmerlöw, sailed through with his track 'Heroes' in a semi-final that was mostly lined with rock goth-inspired ballads. But will he nail his gnome fist bump in time for Saturday's final? READ  

The Local Recipes
How to make crispy Swedish asparagus
Crispy baked asparagus. Photo: John Duxbury

How to make crispy Swedish asparagus

Asparagus season is upon us. Swedes love this green vegetable, so what better way to celebrate than with some crispy asparagus baked with traditional Swedish cheese. Food writer John Duxbury shares his recipe with The Local. READ  

Russian bombers caught close to Swedish island
A Jas Gripen plane snapped in 2013. Photo: TT

Russian bombers caught close to Swedish island

Two Swedish Jas Gripen aircraft warned off a pair of Russian fighter jets that were flying close to the southern Swedish island of Öland on Thursday. READ  

Swedish 'whore' murder plotter faces charges
Police officers in Kalmar in 2013. Photo: TT

Swedish 'whore' murder plotter faces charges

A 20-year-old man alleged to have written notes about his plans to kill a "whore", an "unfriendly" person and an "immigrant child" has been charged with three counts of conspiring to murder in a gruesome case that is gripping the Swedish media. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
National
How two million Swedes are designing a 'house of clicks'
National
What's on in Sweden this week
Sponsored Article
Kristin Amparo: 'Swedes are afraid to be proud'
National
Five facts you need to know about Sweden's Eurovision entry
Bupa
Sponsored Article
Healthcare: Nine questions every expat should ask
Blog updates

22 May

Editor’s blog, May 22nd (The Local Sweden) »

"Greetings from Stockholm, The hot topic in Europe this week is whether or not the UK will..." READ »

 

8 May

 (Joel Sherwood) »

"Daycare called today. They ordered me to drop all activities and come pick up my child...." READ »

 
 
 
Sponsored Article
What it's like to be a student in Malmö
National
Why do one in three Swedes want to join Nato?
Sponsored Article
'No one tells expats about unemployment benefits'
Features
What to do in Stockholm this summer
Sponsored Article
Why expat women are choosing Swedish natural birth control
Gallery
People-watching: May 20th
National
How Sweden and Saudi Arabia got back on speaking term after row
Gallery
Property of the week: Västra hamnen, Malmö
Sponsored Article
'There is no such thing as Swedish values'
National
Why is support for the Sweden Democrats at a record high?
Sponsored Article
ConnectSweden: Examining Sweden's place in the world
Gallery
People-watching: May 15th - 17th
National
VIDEO: Swedish man's roar scares off charging bear
National
'Gang conflict' linked to latest Gothenburg attack
National
RECIPE: How to make Panna cotta with cloudberry jam
Sponsored Article
'Educated immigrants get stuck in limbo in Sweden'
Gallery
IN PICTURES: Your May sun snaps
National
Sweden backs migrant sharing plan
National
Swedish boozing on the rise
National
Why Sweden's deputy PM was forced to apologize for Auschwitz analogy
National
End of the road for Julian Assange's arrest appeal?
Features
Booked to go to one of Sweden's sizzling music festivals yet?
National
Is Avicii set to play at Sweden's royal wedding?
National
Meet the Swedish boy who used to be a girl
Sponsored Article
How to change the world: Malmö to Mogadishu
Gallery
IN PICTURES: Princess Estelle through the years
National
Why is obesity ballooning in Sweden?
National
VIDEO: The bizarre Swedish nurses song that's gone viral
National
Ecuador stray dog Arthur in Swedish charity race
National
UK expert: 'Sweden's current military state is alarming'
National
Elfdalian: a real language spoken in central Sweden in 2015
National
Is King's love for house tracks behind new military music?
Gallery
Property of the week: Hjortnäs, Leksand
National
Sex-crazed grouse terrorizes Swedes
National
IN PICTURES: Sweden's King Carl XVI turns 69
National
Dolphins spotted in Baltic
Gallery
People-watching: May 1st-3rd
Sponsored Article
'Never waste a good crisis'
National
Road trippers flock to 'The Bridge'
National
Why are Swedish supermarkets banning paracetamol pills?
Gallery
People watching: April 29th
National
"In many ways Swedes and Americans are kindred spirits"
Politics
Did you know four Swedish party leaders are women?
National
Swedish rescue team stuck on way to Nepal quake zone
National
Why Sweden's brown bear population is in danger
National
TIMELINE: Julian Assange sex allegations in Sweden
Gallery
Property of the week: Forshaga
National
Here's how a Swede became the world's boxing champion
Swedish Hasbeens
Sponsored Article
Is the world wrong to connect Sweden with sex?
Sponsored Article
'Impossible' to run Skanska without Bromma Airport
Sponsored Article
Want to study in Sweden? Read why Stockholm is the best choice
Sponsored Article
'Sweden must embrace openness and diversity'
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

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 Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

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

3,376
jobs available
PSD Media
PSD Media is marketing company that offers innovative solutions for online retailers. We provide modern solutions that help increase traffic and raise conversion. Visit our site at:
psdmedia.se