• Sweden edition
 
Northern Sweden Dispatches
'I love it when Swedish stereotypes fall apart'

'I love it when Swedish stereotypes fall apart'

Published: 18 Apr 2013 10:26 GMT+02:00
Updated: 18 Apr 2013 10:26 GMT+02:00

With the sun finally showing its face in the far north of Sweden, ex-Londoner Paul Connolly debunks some of the common stereotypes about his corner of the country, and explains how some recent good news may help break the social barrier.

I love it when northern Sweden confounds stereotypes. I sometimes think back to the days before we moved here, when friends from Stockholm warned us that northerners were xenophobic and unfriendly and that the north was a very dark place. These stereotypical views were almost entirely incorrect.

The northern Swedes I've met have almost all been of a liberal, inclusive sort - they talk about how they welcome new cultures. One of my older neighbours, a retired engineer, recently said, "We need new blood here - new culture means freshness and vitality."

Another, a teacher, agrees. "A people cannot be strong without new people and new culture - diversity is good for us. Otherwise we just stand still." Of course, you can’t extrapolate from the views of a few but the fact remains: I have heard no derogatory comments about foreigners at all. Not one. So much for the racist north.

Another hoary old stereotype has also been totally blown out of the water recently. At the end of February, the days quickly started to become much longer and brighter. By the second week of March we were being awoken at 5.15am by the daylight streaming in to our room (we're mid-renovation and blinds are not yet an option).

At this time of year the days are already 35 minutes longer here than in Stockholm and more than an hour longer than in my old home town, London. Northern Sweden is an incredibly bright place to live for at least seven months of the year. Another stereotype bites the dust.

On to stereotype three; unfriendliness. I’ll admit it now - making friends has been difficult. "Ah, the unfriendly northern Swedes strike again," I hear some of you say. Well, yes, and no.

Our neighbours are very friendly. Already we’re quite close to at least two of our neighbours - we pop round to watch the hockey, they come round for fika. We've also become friends with the older couple from whom we bought our house. The local townspeople are very friendly too. We’re always greeted with a smile in the local Coop grocers or the hardware store. But we have not made many friends outside of those who live immediately adjacent to us. Indeed we have made only two friends who don’t live in our village or who used to live in our village.

Why is this? Are people put off by my size and brashness? Do they really harbour secret xenophobic thoughts towards us? Are northern Swedes essentially quite unfriendly? I can’t honestly say that any one of these reasons is invalid. You can never really know for sure. However, there is one very obvious factor that is hampering our efforts to make new friends. There are no pubs or bars up here, certainly not in rural areas.

There’s no central place for people to meet to socialize. Everywhere I've ever lived, from London to Ireland, the pub has been a social hub, somewhere you pop in for a quick drink on the way back from work or where you meet up with other local folk for a beer and a chat. Not up here it isn't.

Our nearest pub is a 50 minute drive away in a big town. There’s a local(ish) pizza joint in a small town but it’s shut by 8pm. Seriously, no wonder younger people (and I'm talking about those in their late teens and twenties) head straight for cities when they’re old enough. There’s no social life in the countryside - why would you stay?

We've even been told that dinner invitations are not "done", that they’re not very common up here. We've been informed that the only place to meet new people is at social events revolving around children, that kids offer people a chance to socialize. We don’t have kids, however. Not yet, anyway.

But a solution to our social isolation could soon be upon us. Donna is pregnant with twins. Our days as social pariahs may soon be at an end. Give praise for the little ones!

Paul Connolly

Read more from Paul here, including his Northern Dispatch column

Don't miss...X
Left Right

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
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 () »

Swedes open coffin of 850-year-old king
Erik the Holy's skull and the crown, believed to be Sweden's oldest. Photo: Bertil Enevåg Ericson/TT

Swedes open coffin of 850-year-old king

Swedish historians spent Wednesday morning readying for a high-profile exhumation. King Erik the Holy died 854 years ago, but scientists just unveiled his skull at Uppsala Cathedral. 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 () »

Swedish girls report more eating problems
Teen girls. File photo: Chloe Chaplin/Flickr

Swedish girls report more eating problems

A youth wellbeing report from Save the Children found that more teenage girls than in previous surveys reported having an eating disorder. READ () »

'Zlatan will be back for finals': PSG coach
Photo: AP

'Zlatan will be back for finals': PSG coach

Paris Saint-Germain coach Laurent Blanc said on Tuesday that he believed Swedish goal machine Zlatan Ibrahimovic will play again before the end of the season. READ () »

Sponsored Article
India flexes its food, film, and finance muscles
India Gate in New Delhi lit up at dusk echoes the colours of the Swedish flag. File photo: Ann Törnkvist

India flexes its food, film, and finance muscles

India Unlimited, the ambitious programme to showcase the potential for further ties between India and Sweden, on Thursday enters a week for foodies and film buffs, while Scania leads the charge for business seminars during "India+Sweden Week" from April 22nd-28th. READ () »

Swede fined for flashing birdwatcher from tower

Swede fined for flashing birdwatcher from tower

A Swedish man was fined on Tuesday after subjecting a birdwatching woman to an explicit sight she had not expected. READ () »

Two-year average wait for rental homes in Sweden
New-build balconies in suburban Stockholm. File: Daniel Mott/Flickr

Two-year average wait for rental homes in Sweden

Anyone hoping for a one-room apartment in Sweden will have to wait an average of 2.5 years, but the wait is far worse in Stockholm, new statistics showed on Tuesday. READ () »

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Features
Sponsored: Eastern Sweden offers Öland beaches and much 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
finest.se
Gallery
People-watching April 16
Politics
Who's the prime minister's heir?
Advertisement:
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
Finest.se
Gallery
People-watching April 11-13
TT
Politics
Swedes to give six-hour workday a go
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 »

712
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