• Sweden edition
 
Swede of the Week
Online refugee greeting takes Sweden by storm

Online refugee greeting takes Sweden by storm

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

Don't miss...X
Left Right

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
Day-care rapist
Day-care rape suspect 'was mentally ill'
Photo: TT

Day-care rape suspect 'was mentally ill'

Social services have ruled that a day-care intern charged with molesting 14 children in southern Sweden was "seriously mentally disturbed". READ  

Surströmmingspremiär
Swedes celebrate first day of smelly fish season
Photo: Hasse Holmberg/TT

Swedes celebrate first day of smelly fish season

On the third Thursday of each August, Swedes celebrate the start of the fermented herring season. The Local finds out more about the worst-smelling food on earth, and collects some of the best reaction videos. READ  

Southern Sweden Floods
Dam overflows as flooding continues
Green Party spokesman Gustav Fridolin at the flood in Getinge. Photo: Anders Andersson/TT

Dam overflows as flooding continues

UPDATED: While rains have calmed somewhat in southern Sweden, now the central Swedish town of Kristinehamn has also been flooded. The rain is expected to continue on Thursday. READ  

Spotify founders win 'Expats of the Year'
Crown Princess Victoria and Spotify co-founder Martin Lorentzon Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

Spotify founders win 'Expats of the Year'

Spotify founders Martin Lorentzon and Daniel Ek won the International Swede of the Year award (Årets svensk i världen) on Wednesday for their work in making the world's music accessible to the world. READ  

Top ministers count cost of 'less secure world'
Photo: Maja Suslin/TT

Top ministers count cost of 'less secure world'

Foreign and Finance Ministers Carl Bildt and Anders Borg held a press conference on Wednesday to discuss how Sweden was being affected by a "less secure" world, and how it would foot the bill for a growing influx of refugees. READ  

Volvo profits saved by Chinese devotion
Volvo Cars chief executive Håkan Samuelsson. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

Volvo profits saved by Chinese devotion

The now Chinese-owned Volvo Car Group announced a return to profits on Wednesday - thanks to the Swedish brand's popularity in China. READ  

Ikea founder gives giant donation to hometown

Ikea founder gives giant donation to hometown

Ikea founder Ingvar Kamprad donated a gift to his hometown on Wednesday to the tune of 53 million kronor ($7.7 million). The cash is to be used for developing the area. READ  

Police hunt masked thief after Stockholm fire
Photo: Fanni Olin Dahl/TT

Police hunt masked thief after Stockholm fire

The Slussen tunnel in Stockholm began billowing out black smoke on Wednesday afternoon. Police believe that the fire was connected to an attempted robbery earlier in the day. READ  

Elections 2014
Parties duel as refugee costs rocket
Photos: TT

Parties duel as refugee costs rocket

Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt and opposition leader Stefan Löfven clashed on Wednesday after the Migration Board asked for more money to handle Sweden's influx of refugees. READ  

Introducing: Sweden's five minority languages
The Sami in northern Sweden. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

Introducing: Sweden's five minority languages

Did you know there are five official minority languages in Sweden? The Local's Isabela Vrba finds out what they are, how they're protected, and what rights their speakers have. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Finest.se
Gallery
People-watching August 20th
Society
Did you know the Bronx in NYC was named after a Swede?
Politics
"Iraq reminds me of the Yugoslav wars. It's the same story."
Society
Swedes slam Danes for 'racist' art
National
Majority of Swedes favour more or just as many refugees
Blog updates

17 August

Sea Fever (Around Sweden in a kayak) »

"I’m going to keep this post short and sweet as its not something I take any pleasure in writing. After much deliberation I have made the heartbreaking decision to abandon my trip after 1200km due to reoccurring injury. It is not a decision I have made lightly and it is one that has been truly devastating..." READ »

 

17 August

St. Louis strong (Blogweiser) »

"It’s typically a bad sign when my hometown makes news in Sweden. St. Louis was in the headlines here a few years ago when a tornado struck the airport. The city also caught attention after a politician talked about ‘legitimate rape’. Now, shooting and riots this week in Ferguson, a part of St. Louis, are..." READ »

 
 
 
Society
Lock your bathrooms: Swedish toilet invader on the the loose
Politics
'Assange will not leave until safe'
Gallery
See more images from the southern Sweden floods
Sponsored Article
Find out what gives this Swedish school executive appeal
Society
Serial chicken smuggler caught at Norway border. Again.
Society
This gold coin may be the key to solving a Swedish massacre
Shutterstock
Lifestyle
The Swedish mentor (and why you may need one)
National
Food agency warns girls: 'Don't eat stinky fish'
Politics
Reinfeldt calls for tolerance to refugees
Gallery
People-watching August 16-17
National
Sweden celebrates 200 years of peace
Society
Top ten literal Swedish words
Politics
'Terror training should be illegal': Liberal Party
Gallery
Swedes talk about 200 years of national peace
Politics
Islamic extremist shakes Sweden with TV threat
National
Teacher fined for 'Hitler salute' in German class
National
Swede asks for epidural and gets disinfectant
Features
Kiruna residents talk life in a town on the move
National
Swedish dad takes kids to Israel to learn about war
Skatteverket
Sponsored Article
Introducing... ID cards and permits in Stockholm
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

691
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
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:
http://psdmedia.se