• 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

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
Stockholm Pride 2014
Stockholm Pride bars Sweden Democrats
Photos: Henrik Montgomery/Fredrik Persson/TT

Stockholm Pride bars Sweden Democrats

While a record number of ministers and party leaders will participate in the Stockholm Pride Parade this year, there are notable exceptions - including SD leader Jimmie Åkesson, who is not only 'uninterested' but banned. READ  

Gender neutral 'hen' enters dictionary
Photo: The Local

Gender neutral 'hen' enters dictionary

The ever-controversial pronoun 'hen' has won its battle and is set to officially become part of the Swedish language. READ  

Pines, polska and magic: Urkult Music Festival
Photo: Danny Chapman/The Local

Pines, polska and magic: Urkult Music Festival

The Urkult music festival in northern Sweden may be less sex, drugs and rock'n'roll and more family fun, chai and polska dancing - but Danny Chapman says it’s one of the most magical Swedish experiences he has had. READ  

Presented by Stockholm Business Region
Introducing... ID cards and permits in Stockholm
You want one of these. Photo: Skatteverket

Introducing... ID cards and permits in Stockholm

When it comes to data-driven life, from daycare to healthcare, Sweden is in a league of its own. Above all, your personal number is the key that unlocks life in Stockholm. READ  

In Pictures: The Local's Property of the Week
Photo: Fastighetsbyrån

In Pictures: The Local's Property of the Week

All aboard! We're off to the island of Gotland for our Property of the Week - a home right in the heart of Medieval Visby. Whether you're looking to buy or dying to look - this is the place for you. READ  

Stockholm Pride 2014
Stockholm Pride glides into seventeenth year
Stockholm Pride. Photo: Erik Mårtensson/TT

Stockholm Pride glides into seventeenth year

The largest pride festival in Scandinavia is back for the 17th year in a row. The week promises to be packed with activities - and a glamorous opening gala with Eurovision winner Conchita Wurst. READ  

Preschool teacher arrested for child rape
Photo: Hasse Holmberg/TT

Preschool teacher arrested for child rape

A man has been arrested on the suspicion of raping a child at the preschool where he is employed. READ  

Police arrest 17 people after fatal shooting
Police at the scene. Photo: Niklas Luks/TT

Police arrest 17 people after fatal shooting

Seventeen people were arrested during the early hours of Tuesday after a man was shot dead in central Sweden. Several of the suspects were already known to the police for gang crimes. READ  

Cops find 15kg cocaine stash in woman's car

Cops find 15kg cocaine stash in woman's car

A 35-year-old woman faces charges for aggravated narcotic crimes after police found 15 kilogrammes of unusually high-concentrated cocaine in her car. READ  

Opinion
The top six ways the US and Sweden differ

The top six ways the US and Sweden differ

Back home in the US and with a solid Swedish stint under his belt, contributor Steven Schier has listed what he thinks are the six biggest differences between Sweden and the states. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Skatteverket
Sponsored Article
Introducing... ID cards and permits in Stockholm
Gallery
People-watching, June 26th - 28th. Get inside Stockholm's hottest nightclubs
Gallery
Top ten Swedish taboos
Society
Seven-year-old Swede cycles to Berlin
Politics
'Gaza conflict needs help, not empty rhetoric'
Blog updates

27 July

Approaching Stockholm (Around Sweden in a kayak) »

"I woke up in the comfort of my own little cabin on Eva and Rolf’s boat, it was 7:30am and I was feeling a bit groggy after a couple of beers with all the lovely locals the night before. The previous day had really taken its toll on my body and I was very stiff and..." READ »

 

24 July

Sharing our Pride: Celebrating Love & the LGBT Community! (Stockholm in my American Heart) »

"It’s mid- July in Stockholm, and with much of the city on vacation, things can seem a little quiet – the streets, the bus, and the grocery store. One thing that has not paused for a summer break, though, is preparation for Stockholm’s Pride Festival, which will take place from July 28 to August 2...." READ »

 
 
 
Society
Swedes voted 'most beautiful' in the Nordics
Business & Money
Sweden demands EU clarity on Bitcoin tax
National
Swedish organic sales enjoy 'amazing' growth
Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT
Society
What's On in Sweden
Gallery
People-watching July 23
National
Swedish cops elect not to shoot 'angry elks'
Business & Money
New alcohol retail rules threaten micro-breweries
Gallery
People-watching Båstad
Business & Money
Sweden falls to third in global innovation index
Society
Swedish ornithologists keep webcam watch
Photo: Andreas Nordström/Image Bank Sweden
Gallery
Top ten Swedish beach hot spots
Tech
Swedish Wiki vet sets new content record
Photo: Fastighetsbyrån
Lifestyle
In Pictures: The Local's Property of the Week
Photo: Finest.se
Gallery
People-watching July 15-16
Photo: Ola Ericson/Image Bank Sweden
Society
What's On in Sweden
Photo: Lisa Mikulski
National
Hope springs eternal for expat pet shop owner
Gallery
Princess Estelle steals limelight at mum's birthday
National
Swedes risk infants' lives by covering up prams
National
Swede runs for office just using Bitcoin funds
Sponsored Article
Introducing... Your finances in Stockholm
Sponsored Article
Introducing... Housing 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

730
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
If you want to drink, that’s your business.
If you want to stop, we can help.

Learn more about English-language Alcoholics Anonymous in Sweden. No dues. No fees. Confidentiality assured.
AA-EUROPE.ORG/SWEDEN
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