There's this thing with Swedishness and stiffness.
The other day I lectured at a recruitment and education fair in Piteå and a regional development conference in Luleå in front of 1,000 people on the same stage as Integration Minister Erik Ullenhag, rap star Petter, and footballer Anton Hysén, among others – and I noticed one thing.
Northern Swedes are unbelievably nicer than Stockholmers, and warmer as people.
I was one of the main speakers at the conferences, and I noticed that the keywords of diversity, inclusion, and equality flowed through pretty much the whole discussion about northern Sweden’s development, as well as through each individual who talked about improving society.
The perception I took home from my third visit to Norrbotten County was that they take care of each other up there, see the possibilities in one another, and trust one another.
Guests are welcomed like royalty and each conversation ends with a "Welcome to Norrland". Perhaps it’s the lack of diversity, possibilities, and population that results in people being so welcoming.
But regardless of the reason behind their actions, there’s something that just feels good about ending up in these places as an outsider. For someone like me who fights really hard on social issues, I've very rarely found practical examples of how people can communicate and treat one another in Sweden.
Usually, people refer to cultures and countries outside of Sweden where the climate is warmer and the people, therefore, are too. I never would have guessed that my visit to the north would include a warmer human climate than any other place in Sweden, even though there was such a chill in the air. I thought I was going there to lecture, train, and educate northern Swedes.
It actually became quite the opposite.
When I looked lost, someone came up to me on their own initiative and asked me where I was heading.
There’s no way in hell that would happen in Stockholm.
I think many people wish this was the norm when it comes to how Swedes interact with one another – that we take care of each other and make each other feel like we were part of something bigger.
Unfortunately, the rest of our Sweden has a lot to learn about human relations, and even about our prejudices about the identities of northern Swedes when it comes to moonshine, incest, snowball fights, reindeer, and racism.
There is, quite simply, only one thing to say.
Northern Swedes are the real Swedes.
Milad Mohammadi is a 23-year-old columnist for the Nyheter24 news website, a public speaker, and a youth worker at Fryshuset in Stockholm.
This column was originally published in Swedish on Nyheter24.se. Translation by The Local.