• Sweden edition
Swedes nicer neighbours than Brits: study

Swedes nicer neighbours than Brits: study

Published: 12 Feb 2013 09:24 GMT+01:00
Updated: 12 Feb 2013 09:24 GMT+01:00

Swedes are more chummy and tolerant toward their neighbours than Britons according to a new study that pokes holes in the stereotype that aloof Swedes go to great lengths to avoid small talk.

While nearly half of all Swedes would be open to having a 10-minute chat when bumping into a neighbour in the stairwell or on the street, only 15 percent of Britons said they'd do the same, a survey by Swedish insurers Trygg-Hansa reveals.

The survey also found that 70 percent of Swedes think it's okay for neighbours to play loud music past midnight on a Friday or Saturday evening.

By comparison, only 6 percent of UK residents said they'd be as forgiving toward noisy neighbours,

"We Swedes have a reputation of being cold and aloof, a myth that this survey contradicts," said Trygg Hansa spokesman Johan Eriksson.

"These figures show we are considerate and open, and that we really enjoy talking to our neighbours."

The survey also asked what favours people thought were reasonable among neighbours.

One in three Swedes and one in four Brits think it's reasonable to ask neighbours to water the plants or pick up the post, for example.

More Swedes also expected reciprocity of their neighbours for their bonhomie.

While 91 percent expected their neighbours to call them if a house or car alarm went off while they were away, only half of Brits would expect the same kind of vigilance from their neighbours.

However, UK residents were a bit more lax than Swedes when it came to how long they expected neighbours to hang on to borrowed items.

While 70 percent of Swedes expected neighbours to return items within a week, eight of ten Britons expected it to take three weeks before their items were returned.

All this openness fell to pieces, however, once the survey focused on the expectations of city-dwellers.

The 10-minute conversation in the stairwell, for example, shrunk to one minute for residents of both Stockholm and London.

The results are based on responses to online interviews with 3,435 Swedes carried out in September 2012, as well as the responses of 1,000 Britons from June 2012.

David Landes

Follow David Landes on Twitter

Don't miss...X
Left Right

Your comments about this article

11:12 February 12, 2013 by djmarko
is this meant to be a joke?? it is not even close to April fool day!!! sorry this is pure garbage!!! In my old building, i hardly said anything than hi, there was only one couple that i had conversations with, back in London, i knew the entire neighbourhood, sometimes when anyone went on vacation, i will pass through their apartment to check all was ok, sometimes when my car broke down, i could easily ask my neighbour if i could use their car, sorry people dont small talk, even when i visit my girl parents in Angelholm, i have never seen them have a friendly chat with neighbours other than saying hej or bra!! this is not complaining, this is a fact!
12:23 February 12, 2013 by Programmeny
If by "nice" you mean never seeing one another, or if by a terrible mistake you run face to face and you're forced to say "Hi" - then yeah, Swedes are nice. Only problem is they never like saying more than "Hi" whereas if a Brit says "Hi" then you're going to have a conv. and he/she is nice. If not, then at least you know what's up, unlike here where everyone says Hi but nobody likes talking.
12:31 February 12, 2013 by rcullum
Swedes are absolutely nice people, but ultimately shy, particularly guys. There is a lot of looking at the floor to avoid contact whether walking on the street, passing in a block of flats, or at a shopping centre.

I have found the best place to get eye contact with a Swede is when driving up to a zebra/pedestrian crossing, they have to look at you to see if you are stopping. True and amusing.

Interesting to know who filled in the surveys, there is always more communication in smaller towns, and of course in areas with houses rather than flats.

Finally, Sweden doesn't have a pub (family) culture, pub landlords in the UK do a great job of breaking the ice - but again this is more effective in villages and towns rather than cities.
13:12 February 12, 2013 by prince T
Compared to brits we are better. U could live for 10 years with a british neighbour and may never see each other. I had to forcefully drop a christmas gift In my neighbour's box before we finally met after 2years of livin opposite each other. . Swedes make effort to be nice. Though it may not be the best. If u disagree go to germany or france. Swedes are still cold and aloof but better dan others.
13:28 February 12, 2013 by djmarko
this survey has so many flaws!! It is not entirely truthful, yes Swedes are nice, that is besides the point, makign small talk with neighbours, inviting new neighbours for tea to get to know them, no such chance, your kids might even go to the same kindargarten or school and the parents will hardly speak, seen this too many times over here, before anyone here accuses me of generalsiing, please dont bother, even my Swedish friends point this out to me all the time, there is more a friendly culture in the UK, cant count how many times i have ran errrands for neighbours, even done grocery shopping for them, maybe this happens in small towns in Sweden, big cities like Stockholm, Gotheburg, not a chance!!!
13:57 February 12, 2013 by oddsock
[i]"We Swedes have a reputation of being cold and aloof, a myth that this survey contradicts," said Trygg Hansa spokesman Johan Eriksson. [/i]

I didn't realise that Trygg Hansa were part of the Ministry of Truth

[i]While nearly half of all Swedes would be open to having a 10-minute chat when bumping into a neighbour in the stairwell or on the street, only 15 percent of Britons said they'd do the same, a survey by Swedish insurers Trygg-Hansa reveals.[/i]

I think the key difference here is putting your money where your mouth is. Those 15% of Brits probably follow up their promise with action. Whereas the 50% of Swedes who "would be open" don't actually follow through on their promise.
15:13 February 12, 2013 by Emerentia
@ rcullum I find it strange that people in cars believe that pedestrians can see their eyes when they sit behind the wheel inside a dark car. I cant see your eyes, you are not a cat. ;) I usually cant even see if there is a driver there or not so a just look into the car at the place where I guess they must be. Not much of a eye contact.
21:02 February 12, 2013 by pappabear
A survey by a Swedish insurance company?! Go figure.

I dread the idea of living of living here another 10 years never mind my retirement years due to the utter loss of general community spirit and, yes, the unfriendliness of neighbors...been in the same apartment for nearly 3 years and we don't know a soul...in fact they are down right creepy most of them.
22:11 February 12, 2013 by Flygger
Absolute nonsense !!

In Sweden I find only the older generation will speak to me and anyone under 55 will not even look me in the eye !!

2 notable exceptions were when a middle aged lady mistook me for my striking resemblance to a politician, I'm not that slimy looking surely !! and a very drunk guy balancing on a public bench asked me how was I doing !!

In contrast when my fiancee is in Scotland she gets unnerved by just about every one in my neighbourhood saying hello to her and she gets very flustered as this just does not happen in Sweden. Of course no-one even gives a sideways glance in the city.

What Tosh !!
22:48 February 12, 2013 by bagbas
they are nice people and nice neighbors_ if you like to feel as if you are almost the only one in the block! yes they are very distant, you cannot get the warm neighbor feeling. you just cannot dare to ring the door and chat or ask for sth or stop by for a tea... but ok, they are tolerant.. and actually they are much more "friendly and fun" neighbors during summer :)
08:19 February 13, 2013 by stupr
A load of rubbish! I love living in Sweden but to say that people here make nicer neighbors is simply not true.

To give you an example, whenever my wife and I visit Scotland, to the area I grew up in, we always take our running shoes (mainly to help with the extra pounds we seem to put on every time we are there!). When we go out for a run she is still amazed that everyone else doing the same thing will say hi to her as we pass by each other. To this day, if I meet my old neighbor whom I have not lived beside for over 10 years now, I would ask about his family and vice versa.

When I needed to change a tire on the car here in Stockholm, I needed a jack and the one in my car wasn't working. "I'll knock on the neighbors door and ask to borrow his, he has a car" I said to my wife. The look on her face when I said this could only be described as horror! Now in fact, he did lend me his jack and even came out in the cold to help change the tire..... proving that they are indeed good neighbors in Sweden, but the fact that my wife didn't want to ask just shows you what the norm is here and why people have the perception they do.

The whole 'myth' around Swedes being 'cold and aloof' has a large element of truth to it, I know many Swedes who check through the peep hole to check that there are no neighbors in the stair well before they leave their apartment. Of course, this is not to say all are like this but the figures this article talks about are not reflected in reality.
13:05 February 14, 2013 by adamhc
This is definitely not true!

I moved into a collective in Malmö about 2 years, and within 2 weeks of me being there, I had spoke to nearly all our neighbours and knew their names. My flatmates, who had lived there for 2 years before, had no idea who the neighbours were!!

This was also the case in the first apartment I moved into. Though it took a very long time for the neighbours to even look at me!! I felt very strange for a while after moving in, and having moved from England, I felt quite unwelcome! Little did I know that Swedes are just private and can be quite shy...
14:46 February 14, 2013 by uunbeliever
As a Canadian raised Brit, I find this very hard to believe... First Swede I met in Nogersund yelled at me because I couldn't speak Swedish yet. I will have to say, though, that after the initial breaking-in period of about two years I would trust my Swedish friends with my life. Just give them some time to de-thaw and you will see that they are honest and trusting.
16:55 February 16, 2013 by terriergirl
Swedes may be more tolerant of loud music after midnight because Swedish homes are properly built with decent soundproofing and insulation. Homes (flats/terraces/semis) in the UK are built so that you can hear your neighbour breathe, never mind play music. It is not unusual for flat-dwellers to know waaaay too much about the personal lives of their neighbours.

When I stayed in a flat in Stockholm I couldn't hear a thing from the neighbours despite many children and dogs living in the apartment block.

Homes in the UK are so badly built.
15:56 February 19, 2013 by Phillynilly
Swedes are the most socially challenged people on the planet....approach a swede out of the blue and talk to them you witness a near nervous breakdown. The only place I know where you could being a room full of people and still be lonely.....you would get more warmth from an iceberg than a Swede on the street....everything here is placed upon security but they are the most insecure people......Swedes will never ever develop the social skills of Brits or any other inter social society.. its not in their DNA....

Terriergirl. If one lives in a country of over 60 million people the size of UK, the proximity of noise is likely to be closer. Houses in the UK vary in quality.Some are crap some are amazing.
19:05 February 19, 2013 by terriergirl

The 'amazing' ones are probably detached.

Spend some time in an Edinburgh tenement or, indeed, any UK house with a party wall.

Much less 'amazing'.
00:06 February 20, 2013 by Phillynilly
I have lived in an apartment block in Sweden and I could hear the neighbors on the first floor every argument... And I have been in Edinburgh and the whole neighborhood was as peaceful as a Sunday... As I said, it depends what your living arrangements are....
Today's headlines
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 () »

'Imperfect EU better than revolting nationalism'
Fredrik Reinfeldt. File photo: TT

'Imperfect EU better than revolting nationalism'

Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt on Wednesday urged young voters to head to the European parliamentary polls on May 25th "to cure the European disease of nationalism". READ () »

Ericsson quarterly profit defies sluggish sales
Ericsson CEO Hans Vestberg at the first quarter press conference. Photo: TT

Ericsson quarterly profit defies sluggish sales

Swedish telecom giant Ericsson on Wednesday announced a drop in sales but posted a sharp rise in first-quarter profit, which nonetheless fell shy of analyst predictions. READ () »

Fatal Norrköping brawl
Four brothers held as cops fear brawl reprisals
Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

Four brothers held as cops fear brawl reprisals

Swedish police fear that several people involved in a brawl in eastern Sweden on Monday night may be seeking revenge after two brothers were shot dead. READ () »

Sponsored Article
Beautiful pearls of southeast Sweden
The town of Västervik.

Beautiful pearls of southeast Sweden

Ask a Swede, and they are likely to say that their favourite holiday spot is in the southeast of Sweden. Eastern Småland and Öland offer a smörgåsbord of all the things dearest to the Swedes - from the beloved children's book author Astrid Lindgren to deep forests, long sandy beaches, perfect spots for that all-important 'fika', and a surprising amount of space, peace and quiet. READ () »

Weekend weather to bring summer warmth
Swedes enjoy hot dogs and cherry blossoms in Stockholm's Kungsträdgården. Photo: Jessica Gow/TT

Weekend weather to bring summer warmth

The sun is set to stick around and temperatures could climb into the twenties over the weekend, Swedish meteorologists said on Wednesday READ () »

'Day-care rapist' admits molesting eight kids

'Day-care rapist' admits molesting eight kids

A 21-year-old man confessed on Wednesday to sex crimes against eight children at a day care where he was working as an intern. READ () »

Swedish cops nab man for having big muscles
An unrelated bodybuilder. File photo: Ann Törnkvist

Swedish cops nab man for having big muscles

Police in Sweden's south who hauled a muscular man in for steroid testing have had their knuckles rapped, after it was ruled that big biceps cannot be grounds for narcotics suspicions. READ () »

Inside the 850-year-old king's coffin
Sponsored: South-eastern Sweden offers Öland beaches and more
Swedish underwear shop puts staff in front of the camera
IN PICTURES: The Local's Property of the Week - Täby
Sponsored: India+Sweden Week - India Unlimited
Sponsored: India+Sweden Week - A film, food, and finance feast
University applications rocket to record high
People-watching April 18-20
Kids in Victorian garb mark Swedish Easter
Swedish MP ordered chemtrail probe
Swedish supermarket Ica pulls contested Easter commercial off air
Swedish royals set baptism date for princess
People-watching April 16
Who's the prime minister's heir?
Alfie Atkins
Are children's books the key to families integrating in Sweden?
'Sweden Dem protests cater to party's martyr image'
'Swedish research grants were fantastic, but now it's like Australia'
Only in Sweden: The ten problems you'd never encounter elsewhere
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
Video: Oliver Gee finds out how to embrace The Swedish Hug
Abba duo hints at reunion
Flash mobs hug it out across Sweden
People-watching April 11-13
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 »

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: