• Sweden's news in English
 
app_header_v3

Swedes: Please let us speak Swedish with you

The Local · 11 Jun 2014, 10:30

Published: 11 Jun 2014 10:30 GMT+02:00

Dear Swedes,
 
Why do you always speak to us Swedish learners in English? 
 
I know you're very, very good at English, and I know my Swedish is far from perfect. But surely if I could only practise my Swedish a little then you wouldn't need to be doing me any more language favours. 
 
I remember when I was new to Sweden and I'd prepared all night for a shopping exchange. I had my eye on some red trousers and I was going to buy them - in Swedish - from a hipster hangout in Stockholm. My accent was questionable but my grammar was flawless.
 
I went in and said "Hello, I'd like to buy these trousers, please".
 
"Splendid choice, young man," the shopkeeper responded in English, twirling his moustache. "They're a dashing pair indeed."
 
The trousers were splendid, he was right, but why was he talking about them in English
 
Upon more than three years' reflection, I've decided on three reasons why Swedes answer foreigners in English.
 
1: Efficiency. Why mess around when you can get to the point?
2: You like speaking English and want to practise.  
3: You're showing off. 
 
Whichever way, it's no wonder so many many foreigners in Sweden never master Swedish, or never bother trying. You Swedes sometimes don't give us a chance. 
 
So what can we do when Swedes refuse to speak Swedish? Again, three things:
 
1: Be stubborn and respond in Swedish.
2: Chuckle inwardly, continue in English, and write an article about it one day.
3: If it's someone you won't see again, pretend you're Polish and say you can't speak English anyway*.
 
*If they can speak Polish you might be in trouble.
 
I decided to bring up the subject with Sweden's etiquette queen Magdalena Ribbing, who has penned 15 books on manners and writes a regular column for the Dagens Nyheter newspaper. I asked her whether Swedes were in the wrong when they answered foreigners in English.
 
"If they do that then they're being very rude indeed," she responded without even a second's thought.
 
"Swedes think they're helping by showing off that they've done their homework, and what's more, they want to seem a little cool and 'urban' by speaking English. And we absolutely don't want to come across as being from the countryside," she continued.
 
"But it's not helpful. Much more so as we don't speak half as good English as we think we do."
 
Story continues below…
The rules, she said, were simple.
 
"You should always use the language of the country you are in unless someone explicitly says they can't. I don't walk around London saying ursäkta," she says. "And just the same, I shouldn't be walking around Sweden assuming people are from an English-speaking country."
 
Well fancy that, I have the etiquette queen on my side. 
 
Now what's your excuse?
 
Tack
 

The Local (news@thelocal.se)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Brexit vote
Sweden opposition cools talk of 'Swexit' poll
Anna Kinberg Batra, of the largest opposition party, the Moderates. Photo: TT

"This is a sad day for the British and for Europe."

Brexit vote
Swedish PM swats aside calls for EU renegotiation
"Sweden will now lose an important partner in the EU," Löfven said. Photo: TT

Left Party calls "totally irresponsible."

Brexit vote
'Devastated' - Brits in Sweden shocked by Brexit vote

Expat Brits in Sweden have reacted with shock, despair and uncertainty to the result of the EU referendum in the UK which was won 52-48 by the Leave campaign.

Brexit vote
'A morning of sorrow': Sweden reacts to Brexit vote
Photo: TT

The former Swedish EU minister, Birgitta Ohlsson declared that it was 'a morning of sorrow', after British voters opted to leave the European Union on Thursday.

The Local Recipes
How to make Karin's delicious Midsummer cake
Karin's cake. Photo: swedishfood.com

"We are very tolerant of other cultures except when it comes to strawberries."

Sweden named the world's 'most reputable' country
The flag of the world's most reputable country – at least according to one report. Photo: Fredrik Sanberg/TT

Sweden has been ranked as the most reputable country in the world by a new report. Find out why.

Why most students don't finish Swedish for Immigrants
More students are taking Swedish for Immigrants classes, but completion rates are low. Photo: Pontus Lundahl

Only four in ten students finished their courses at Sweden's state-funded Swedish for Immigrants classes in 2015, according to new statistics from a national agency.

Swedish police nab drunk-driving lawnmower man
Lawnmowers: dangerous, in the wrong hands. Photo: Hasse Holmberg/TT

A man in southern Sweden is at risk of having his licence revoked after drunkenly driving a motorized lawnmower.

Sweden has EU's second highest food prices
A shopper prepares for the inevitable fleecing. Photo: Fredrik Persson/TT

If your loaf of bread seems ridiculously expensive that’s because it is.

Here's how much alcohol Swedes drink on Midsummer
Systembolaget is a busy place around Midsummer. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

Swedes are known for letting loose on Midsummer, but the most recent figures from the country's state-run alcohol monopoly may surprise you.

Sponsored Article
How to find student housing in Malmö: 5 tips
Culture
How do Swedes celebrate Midsummer?
Sponsored Article
'Sweden gives artists the space to follow their dreams'
Culture
Coming soon: Sweden’s smelly fermented fish
National
Assange lawyer: Sweden should recognize UN opinion
Blog updates

17 June

Queen’s Birthday Stockholm 2016: 9th June. 90th Birthday. 900 Guests! (The Diplomatic Dispatch) »

"What do you do when you read that the Queen’s 90th Birthday in London will be…" READ »

 

10 June

i lördags, på lördag – time phrases for present, past and future (The Swedish Teacher) »

"Hejsan! Swedish time phrases can be difficult to master. It takes a lot of practice to…" READ »

 
 
 
Sponsored Article
5 reasons you should try dating with The Inner Circle
Private
The Local Voices
Why is this Syrian dentist who hugs like a Swede worried about undies?
Sponsored Article
The man behind Sweden's biggest music festival
Swedish nationalist 'shot and ate' lion and giraffe
Analysis & Opinion
'Sweden's residency revamp is harmful and inhumane'
Photo: The Local
The Local Voices
UNHCR boss: 'It's hard to start your life without your family'
Sponsored Article
US expats: Have you met your tax deadlines?
Politics
VIDEO: Brits in Europe say why UK should stay
Sponsored Article
Education abroad: How to find an international school
Photo: Marko Risović
The Local Voices
World Refugee Day: Searching for safety in Europe - in pictures
National
Is Swedish nationalists’ foreign food ban bananas?
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Gallery
Property of the week: Söråker
Sponsored Article
Malmö: Home to the best food in Sweden?
International
Poll shows huge support for EU in Sweden
The Local Voices
How a Syrian scuba diver mobilized Sweden's biggest asylum centre
Sponsored Article
Avoid hidden fees when sending money overseas
Sport
Zlatan: 'If we'd been fighting for real, he'd be in hospital'
Sponsored Article
VIDEO: Why Malmö is the world's 6th best city for biking
The Local Voices
Orlando reflections: Is it possible to be gay and Muslim?
Sponsored Article
5 reasons you should try dating with The Inner Circle
Sweden to go ahead with migrant age tests
Sponsored Article
US expats: Have you met your tax deadlines?
Gallery
People-watching: June 17th-19th
Sponsored Article
Stockholm school celebrates Nepal Project success
National
Will you be hit by changes to Sweden's residency laws?
Sponsored Article
6 simple travel hacks that will make your life easier
The Local Voices
Why an Iraqi who won Swedish lottery won't quit his restaurant job
Gallery
People-watching: Midweek revellers
National
Why this pizzeria is giving elderly Swedes free meatballs
3,341
jobs available
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:
psdmedia.se