• Sweden's news in English
 

Swedes: Please let us speak Swedish with you

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."
 
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
Stockholm airport to get fast lane into US
Photo: TT

Stockholm airport to get fast lane into US

Travelers from Stockholm will have an easier time entering the US in the future. The US has decided to make Arlanda a “preclearance” airport, meaning customs procedures will take place on Swedish soil. READ  

Swedish broadcaster sends porn to children
A child with a mobile device. Photo: Susanne Walström/imagebank.sweden.se

Swedish broadcaster sends porn to children

Sweden's tax-funded public broadcaster SVT has apologized to parents after it accidentally sent an SMS to 60 children which included a link to a pornographic site. READ  

The Local List
Are these the five worst places to live in Sweden?
Högsby has been named as the worst place to live in Sweden. Photo: Janerik Henriksson/TT

Are these the five worst places to live in Sweden?

Sweden is a great place to be, from its vibrant capital to cute, picturesque towns in the countryside. But even within this Nordic paradise, there are some real dumps. Here's our guide to the five municipalities that ended up at the bottom of an annual ranking of places to live in Sweden. READ  

Swedish dads told to take more paternity leave
A Swedish Dad with his children. Photo: Carolina Romara/Image Bank Sweden

Swedish dads told to take more paternity leave

UPDATED: Plans to introduce a third month of paid parental leave reserved for fathers are set to be introduced in 2016, the Swedish government has revealed, in a bid to further increase gender equality. READ  

Spring boost for Swedish economy revealed
Shoppers in Stockholm. Photo: Simon Paulin/TT

Spring boost for Swedish economy revealed

Sweden's economy grew by 0.4 percent in the first quarter of 2015, and was up 2.5 percent on the same period a year ago, according to figures released on Friday. But Swedes still appear to be holding back from swiping their cards at the nation's tills. READ  

Royal Wedding
Six facts about Europe's hottest power couple
Sofia Hellqvist and Prince Carl Philip announcing their engagement in 2014. Photo: TT

Six facts about Europe's hottest power couple

Move over William and Kate, Sweden's Prince Carl Philip and fiancée Sofia Hellqvist are causing an international stir ahead of their upcoming wedding with one Australian paper even calling them 'Europe's coolest couple'. Here are six facts you need to learn about these rocking royals. READ  

Real-life police drama on Sweden's 'The Bridge'
The Öresund bridge between Sweden and Denmark. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

Real-life police drama on Sweden's 'The Bridge'

Something resembling an episode of the popular gritty crime drama 'The Bridge' (Bron) occurred on Thursday night when Swedish and Danish police engaged in a car chase that ended with the arrest of four men. READ  

Swedish firm wins huge New York airport bid
Travellers at New York's LaGuardia Airport in January 2015. Photo: TT

Swedish firm wins huge New York airport bid

A consortium led by Swedish construction company Skanska has been picked for a $3.6 billion (30.5 billion kronor) project to modernize New York's LaGuardia Airport, regional transport officials have announced. READ  

The Local Recipes
How to make Swedish strawberry cordial
Strawberry cordial is a refreshing summer drink. Photo: John Duxbury

How to make Swedish strawberry cordial

Swedes love berries and enjoy putting them in both chilled cordials as well as hot drinks during winter. Here, food writer John Duxbury shares his favourite recipe for a raw strawberry squash (rårörd jordgubbssaft) that's delicious year-round but perfect for Swedish summer time. READ  

Swedish city apartment buyers in 'trouble' zone
Apartment blocks in Gothenburg: Photo: Simon Paulin/Image Bank Sweden

Swedish city apartment buyers in 'trouble' zone

One of Sweden's biggest banks has warned that too many potential buyers in Gothenburg and Stockholm are set to spend more than 30 percent of their disposable income on monthly mortgage payments and related costs, putting them in danger of potential financial problems in future. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Lifestyle
Five unmissable events in Sweden
Bupa
Sponsored Article
Healthcare: Nine questions every expat should ask
Business & Money
Sweden drops in leading global business rankings
Sponsored Article
Why expat women are choosing Swedish natural birth control
National
Royal princess couple to quit Stockholm for UK
Blog updates

29 May

Editor’s blog, May 29th (The Local Sweden) »

"Hi readers, Sweden has spent the week celebrating stealing the Eurovision crown (again), with even our most..." READ »

 

26 May

Vet, kan, känner eller känner till? (The Swedish Teacher) »

"Hej! It happens every now and then that my students mix up the words “vet”, “kan”, “känner”..." READ »

 
 
 
Business & Money
What to ask before buying your first home in Sweden
Sponsored Article
'No one tells expats about unemployment benefits'
Gallery
IN PICTURES: People-watching: May 17th
Sport
Fake quotes in Zlatan Ibrahimovic's Swedish memoirs
Gallery
IN PICTURES: Your May sun snaps
Education
Does Sweden mark down foreigners' children?
Sponsored Article
What it's like to be a student in Malmö
National
Russian veterans' Nazi attack on Ikea
Gallery
Property of the week: Lugnvik, Östersund
National
Avicii confirms royal wedding DJ gig
Sponsored Article
Kristin Amparo: 'Swedes are afraid to be proud'
Gallery
IN PICTURES: Eurovision winner Måns Zelmerlöw through the years
Gallery
People-watching: May 22nd-23rd
National
Why are Sweden's beaches among the worst in Europe?
National
VIDEO: Can you get your tongue around Sweden's word for 'nurse'?
National
How two million Swedes are designing a 'house of clicks'
National
What's on in Sweden this week
National
Five facts you need to know about Sweden's Eurovision entry
National
Why do one in three Swedes want to join Nato?
Features
What to do in Stockholm this summer
Gallery
People-watching: May 20th
National
How Sweden and Saudi Arabia got back on speaking term after row
Gallery
Property of the week: Västra hamnen, Malmö
Sponsored Article
'There is no such thing as Swedish values'
National
Why is support for the Sweden Democrats at a record high?
Sponsored Article
ConnectSweden: Examining Sweden's place in the world
Gallery
People-watching: May 15th - 17th
National
VIDEO: Swedish man's roar scares off charging bear
National
'Gang conflict' linked to latest Gothenburg attack
National
RECIPE: How to make Panna cotta with cloudberry jam
Sponsored Article
'Educated immigrants get stuck in limbo in Sweden'
National
Sweden backs migrant sharing plan
National
Swedish boozing on the rise
National
Why Sweden's deputy PM was forced to apologize for Auschwitz analogy
National
End of the road for Julian Assange's arrest appeal?
Features
Booked to go to one of Sweden's sizzling music festivals yet?
National
Meet the Swedish boy who used to be a girl
Sponsored Article
How to change the world: Malmö to Mogadishu
Gallery
IN PICTURES: Princess Estelle through the years
National
Why is obesity ballooning in Sweden?
National
VIDEO: The bizarre Swedish nurses song that's gone viral
National
Ecuador stray dog Arthur in Swedish charity race
National
UK expert: 'Sweden's current military state is alarming'
National
Elfdalian: a real language spoken in central Sweden in 2015
National
Is King's love for house tracks behind new military music?
Gallery
Property of the week: Hjortnäs, Leksand
National
Sex-crazed grouse terrorizes Swedes
Sponsored Article
'Never waste a good crisis'
Sponsored Article
'Impossible' to run Skanska without Bromma Airport
Sponsored Article
Want to study in Sweden? Read why Stockholm is the best choice
Sponsored Article
'Sweden must embrace openness and diversity'
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

3,279
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