• Sweden edition
Obama's visit to Sweden
Five things Obama needs to know about Sweden

Five things Obama needs to know about Sweden

Published: 08 Aug 2013 09:00 GMT+02:00
Updated: 08 Aug 2013 09:00 GMT+02:00

Dear President Barack Obama,

Despite being your "second choice," Swedish policy-makers are thrilled that you blew off Russia to schedule America’s very first truly bilateral meeting with Sweden. Now, do not feel unduly pressured by the Swedish minister's excitement. Your trip to Sweden will be like a pleasant breeze before you head to the G20 summit in Saint Petersburg.

To help you prepare Mr President, there are five things you will need to know about Sweden:

1. You will be united in mutual annoyance over Russia's behaviour. As you express your irritation with Snowden's recent visa-approval in Russia, Swedish policy-makers will express their indignation over Russia’s unannounced bombing exercise over Sweden this past Easter.

2. Prepare for plenty of fika in between meetings. Swedes consume more coffee per capita than anyone else in the world. However, despite their perceived environmentally-friendly posture, it is worth knowing that only a very few trendy hipsters in the neighbourhood of SoFo actually care if the coffee is fair trade.

If you do get to glimpse of some fair-trade-coffee-drinking-second-hand-shopping environmentalists, do not be baffled when you see them all wearing Converse sneakers. This is normal. Swedes are obsessed with American chucks. Obsessed even though they run at an average price of $120 (compared to $25 in your home state.) There is a trade issue (read: opportunity) for you to discuss.

3. Swedes love to jympa, i.e. exercise. After some small talk about the Swedish weather (Swedes' favourite subject to discuss), someone will likely ask about your or Michelle's workout routine (Swedes second favourite subject). After comparing your split times in the 10K, the subject of obesity and diabetes will likely be addressed. Since obesity and diabetes is the biggest national security threat to American citizens, take the opportunity to learn what Swedish policy-makers have done to tackle obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases in Sweden. And don’t smoke while doing so.

4. Zlatan Ibrahimovic is God. (He plays soccer.)

5. During the fika breaks, ask about traditions during Swedish crayfish parties. Most representatives from the Swedish delegation will likely share how they celebrated one of their favourite holidays. Also, feel free to ask why Sweden has become the largest consumer of the cheaper, frozen, environmentally unsound Chinese crayfish rather than organically grown Louisiana Crayfish. (Read: another opportunity.)

Trivialities aside, there are also three foreign policy issues that you and your staff will not need to prepare for:

1. Do not worry about defending your drone policy, targeted killings or even the so-called signature strikes. Swedes have not taken a clear stand on this issue. Even though Sweden is a strong supporter of international law, Sweden is a lagom "neutral" country that tends to get uncomfortable during discussions like the War on Terror.

2. Guantanamo will be a non-topic. While Swedes dislike Guantanamo as much as Swedes dislike a neighbour who doesn't recycle, this is a topic that will not be brought to the Ikea-table. If it is, just ask if Sweden could accept a handful of the prisoners. Such a counter-question will likely lead to another fika-break, because

taking a stance on such a question would be political suicide for any Swedish politician.

3. Military cooperation is a special interest. Since the Swedish Armed Forces have been labelled as a "special interest", you will not likely get to chat about opportunities for co-operation between our armed forces in peacekeeping missions. Even though the Swedish Armed Forces have one of the best reputations in the world, the Swedish delegation will steer you away from this "special interest topic" to discuss matters of trade instead.

As Jan Joel Andersson, a researcher at the Swedish Institute of International Affairs, has argued, under the Obama administration and Sweden's current center-right government, U.S.-Swedish relations have reached an all-time high, with common views on "free trade, openness and quest for democracy in the world."

And while Sweden punches above its weight in the foreign policy arena, you, Mr. President, will very likely be met with lightweight topics during your talks.

Annelie Gregor is a political science Ph.D. candidate at the City University of New York. Her thesis looks at EU and US perspectives on "Limited Warfare within Coercive Diplomacy".

Follow Annelie Gregor on Twitter

Don't miss...X
Left Right

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Race to be scrapped from Swedish legislation
Integration Minister Erik Ullenhag meets children in Husby, Stockholm. Photo: Jonas Ekströmer/TT

Race to be scrapped from Swedish legislation

The Swedish government announced that it plans to remove all mentions of race from Swedish legislation, saying that race is a social construct which should not be encouraged in law. READ  

US aircraft 'violates' Swedish airspace

US aircraft 'violates' Swedish airspace

A mystery airplane that passed over Swedish airspace recently has been revealed as an American aircraft, sources revealed on Thursday. READ  

Elite schools stripped of 'special' privileges

Elite schools stripped of 'special' privileges

Sweden's three elite boarding schools can no longer charge tuition fees, the government announced on Thursday, in a string of changes following a two-year review. READ  

Bildt lays out four steps to Gaza peace
Photos: TT

Bildt lays out four steps to Gaza peace

Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt stated that there are four steps to achieving peace in Gaza, and that it begins with removing the blockade - which has "played into Hamas' hands". READ  

Malmström snags EU commissioner post again

Malmström snags EU commissioner post again

Cecilia Malmström has been nominated to be the European Commissioner for another five years, Sweden's prime minister announced on Thursday. READ  

Stockholm Pride 2014
In Pictures: Stockholm's Historic Pride Party
Conchita Wurst belts out a ballad. Photo: Rebecca Jacobs

In Pictures: Stockholm's Historic Pride Party

With Stockholm's Pride Week in full swing, The Local's Rebecca Jacobs heads on down to the traditional Historic Party to take in the colours, Conchita, and the community. READ  

Two to hospital after Stockholm fire

Two to hospital after Stockholm fire

Two people were taken to hospital in the early hours of Thursday morning after a fire began in their central Stockholm apartment. READ  

Salmonella prompts Coop hamburger recall
Photo: Jim Cole/TT

Salmonella prompts Coop hamburger recall

Swedish supermarket chain Coop has recalled its in-store brand of fresh hamburger meat after a routine check revealed traces of salmonella in the meat. READ  

What's On in Sweden
Photo: Roger Vikström/TT

What's On in Sweden

It's Pride Week in Stockholm. Find out more about the celebrations (including the biggest Pride Parade in Scandinavia) as well as plenty of other activities in Sweden's three biggest cities. READ  

Sweden resumes aid to 'anti-gay Uganda'
Hillevi Engström and protesters against Uganda's anti-gay laws. Photos: Maja Suslin/Ben Curtis/TT

Sweden resumes aid to 'anti-gay Uganda'

Sweden has resumed sending development aid funds to Uganda, after suspending payouts back in March due to "anti-gay legislation". READ  

Stockholm Pride bars Sweden Democrats
Gender neutral pronoun 'hen' enters dictionary
Top ten cafes in Stockholm
People-watching - Stockholm Pride
Photo: Henrik Trygg/Imagebank Sweden
Sweden worst in EU at getting foreigners jobs
Blog updates

31 July

Calling a speedo a speedo (Blogweiser) »

"There are a lot of speedos on Europe’s beaches. Some European males are evidently more comfortable sporting small, stretchy suits on public beaches than I would be. I accept it may be nice to have swimwear that’s not long and cumbersome. A speedo is maybe also good for tanning. But strolling around town in a..." READ »


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 »

Stockholm Pride kicks off
The top six ways the US and Sweden differ
Swedish youth suicides hit 25-year high
Politician reported for selling 'negro ball'
Police turn blind eye to Swedish 'slave trade'
Stockholm Pride: Allsång på Skansen with Conchita Wurst
Sponsored Article
Introducing... ID cards and permits in Stockholm
People-watching, June 26th - 28th. Get inside Stockholm's hottest nightclubs
Top ten Swedish taboos
Seven-year-old Swede cycles to Berlin
'Gaza conflict needs help, not empty rhetoric'
Swedes voted 'most beautiful' in the Nordics
Business & Money
Sweden demands EU clarity on Bitcoin tax
Swedish organic sales enjoy 'amazing' growth
Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT
What's On in Sweden
People-watching July 23
Swedish cops elect not to shoot 'angry elks'
Business & Money
New alcohol retail rules threaten micro-breweries
People-watching Båstad
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

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:
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.
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: