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Swedes still keen on finding love abroad

Ben Kersley · 14 Feb 2011, 12:28

Published: 14 Feb 2011 12:28 GMT+01:00

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The Viking conquests of yesteryear were often undertaken by the fierce Nordic warriors to "make contact" with new cultures and warmer climes.

And when Alexandra Axelsson, a native of Linköping in central Sweden, set off to Thailand several years ago, her aims were much the same.

Indeed, Swedes are no strangers to adventures abroad, although there are a few differences between how Swedes today and the infamous Vikings behaved in other countries.

Upon arrival, the marauding Vikings would often set about on an orgy of drinking, pillaging and, to those familiar with Old Norse, bad language.

And once the Vikings had exhausted themselves, double-checking that all monasteries had been successfully razed to the ground, they would grab the most beautiful women by the hair and drag them back home to spend the winter in the sweaty act of making more Vikings.

Today, however, Swedes have ditched the unkempt beards and longboats in favour of designer sunglasses and budget airlines. In addition, women like Alexandra now make up a significant chunk of the Swedes now seeking love and treasure in other countries.

And apart from brief behavioural relapses on Thai package holidays and the Finland ferry, Swedes today are a lot more refined than their marauding Viking forbearers.

However one thing still remains the same: Swedes are still quite skilled at convincing unsuspecting mates (both male and female) to journey back with them to this cold and dark outpost on the fringes of Europe.

Alexandra is one modern-day Swede who managed to entice her partner to give up the beaches of southeast Asia for the snow-filled streets of Sweden.

And, if recent statistics are any indication, she is not along among the increasing number of Swedes who bring their overseas love conquests back home.

According to recent statistics from the Swedish Migration Board (Migrationsverket), the number of Swedes who have brought a partner back from another country has increased 30 percent in the last four years.

In 2009, more than 22,000 people were granted Swedish residency permits because of "newly-established ties".

Another study carried out by Thomas Niedomysl at the Institute for Future Studies (Institutet för framtidsstudier) also indicates that ever more people are moving to Sweden for love.

The study found that the number of international marriage migrants to Sweden increased by 37 percent between 1990 and 2004, while international migration to Sweden in general only increased by 17 percent.

Alexandra met Noi Loungvixa in Thailand in 2008 and the couple lived together there until relocating to Sweden in the summer of 2010.

Now they are looking forward to spending their first Valentine's Day in their new flat in Linköping where, after the initial culture shock, they have found their feet in the cold new climate.

The shift was hard for Noi at first, as he was unprepared for quite how different Sweden would be.

"I remember seeing old people walking their dogs and thinking, 'Don't these people have any family to walk with them?'" he recalls.

Noi is one of an increasing number of non-Swedes who have ended up in the country with a Swedish partner and find themselves struggling to adjust.

He was surprised, for example, at how hard it was to chat to strangers, something that people do naturally in Thailand. And of course nothing could prepare him for the first snowfall.

Increased international travel and the internet have helped many Swedes who live in rural areas marked by shyness and a lack of potential partners to have an easier time finding and choose a mate.

Chat forums and Facebook have led to matches being made that span the globe. Not to mention the pop-up banners that shout ‘MEET SWEDISH GIRLS NOW!’ on select websites.

Generally speaking, Swedes these days try to convince the object of their desire to accompany them to Sweden by pointing to the allure of the healthy lifestyle, the inclusive social system, and the great outdoors.

While foreign women may no longer be dragged back to Sweden by the hair, some men who come here might argue they nevertheless made the journey kicking and screaming.

Interestingly enough, Niedomysl's research points to some gender-specific trends when it comes to the geographical origin of these so-called marriage migrants which concur with many preconceptions people have about where abroad Swedes find their partners.

"The majority of female marriage partners (in Sweden) come from southeast and other Asia, Eastern Europe, Russia and South America," he writes.

"Male marriage migrants were found to originate mainly from Western Europe, Africa and Middle East, Northern America and Australia."

However, Niedomysl was surprised to find that, while the media focuses on young female migrants from poorer countries marrying Swedish men from rural Sweden, in reality, the largest proportion of marriage migrants in Sweden are males from relatively affluent countries.

Story continues below…

While Noi and Alexandra may not adhere to the common view of an international Swedish couple, Alexandra's story mirrors the arc of the stereotypical Swedish beach bum who travels to Thailand with plans to go backpacking round Asia.

But Alexandra's plans changed when she met Noi, a successful climbing instructor, originally from Thailand's lesser visited neighbour Laos. Alexandra and Noi fell in love and enjoyed life together on the tourist island of Phi Phi.

Alexandra visited Noi's village in Laos, learned to speak Thai and began working as a dive instructor. It was perfect, but perhaps too perfect.

Although she thought she had found paradise, Alexandra wanted to see if their relationship could survive away from the warm beaches, fresh fruit and tropical sun of Phi Phi.

While Noi had never even considered coming to Sweden, he was ultimately willing to make the shift in order to stay with Alexandra, who wanted to continue studying in Sweden.

Noi's positive attitude saw him through the first few weeks without work and through his charm and enthusiasm he has now got himself a full-time job and is working hard at learning Swedish at evening classes.

While Alexandra and Noi are happy in Sweden for the moment, there are already indications that the relationship's trajectory will also differ from the usual one-way trip facing the objects of Viking conquests.

"Who knows?" ponders Alexandra when reflecting on what lies ahead for her and Noi.

"We might go back and live in Thailand or end up in Australia."

Ben Kersley (ben@speakup.se)

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Your comments about this article

08:00 February 15, 2011 by EP
Typical ...
09:35 February 15, 2011 by nyh2o
so true. thank you so much for writing this. kicking and screaming says it all.
10:59 February 15, 2011 by Ballercom
I have been here three years and I disagree with swedish nature. I come from Oregon and the nature in Oregon puts Swedens flat land to shame. Oregon has four seasons, but they are 10 degrees warmer. Oregon has snow but it doesn't have to get -20 to have snow. The thing I miss most are the mountains though how can you say sweden has nature when the whole thing is flat, what you swedes call mountains we call hills! Not much I can do though I am a refugee of love and now have a swedish american baby just venting to no one I guess.
13:35 February 15, 2011 by bow290
ballercom... ur in europe mate! moutains and snow everywhere just pick ur destination! all on ur door step now. Sweden does seem flat but big deal! dont get me wrong, i get ur point! i come from Australia and miss the all year round motorcycling weather the most! then theres the beaches, sun, pubs .......... can go on forever!

we have our selves a little 7 wk old "swaussie"

.... been here for about 4 mths now :) i like it here but hard to get a decent job
14:07 February 15, 2011 by mchl
We are all refugees of love but thats not what the article is about. This is not the first or second time that I read an article like this. I am also in love with a Swede because of her great attitide, believes, customs and of course those beautiful blue eyes. Anyways, its sad but true. I am front Miami, Florida and I too miss my wonderful weather, talkative people and the fact that you can meet very interresting people just by saying hello. Its also true that finding a decent job is very hard. I have seen myself back and forth from Sweden to the U.S. just to work for a few months just to make ends meet.

This way of living is not cool in my opinion but its accepted because of other qualities that Swedes have.

For one, they are mostly honest and loyal people and they have a transportation system that takes them everywhere and anywhere, therefore long dintance relationships are very common here. I never thought I could live apart from someone and love and miss them so much, but it happened. Swedes just take it to far but who can blame them.

Sweden is a bit boring, solution travel. I can´t find a partner that I like, solution take a vacation.

Swedes have it made in my opinion, but its true not their fault.
14:07 February 15, 2011 by zooeden
They will find booty allright... And then... the horror... the horror...
17:35 February 15, 2011 by martiancat
I can't get my Dutchy to come to Sweden... how strange.
01:53 February 16, 2011 by marcelj
Have you heard of the 3 rings of marraige? First the engagement ring, then the wedding ring, then the sufferring. Then drag that person kicking and screaming to a foreign land and see how it gets really complicated. By the way sweden is the most beautiful land in the world in everyway. Anyone that comes here is lucky to be here.
07:50 February 16, 2011 by VicTaulic
Blond hair and blue eyes are trophy material for all other peoples....or am I a racist/Nazis?
14:41 February 16, 2011 by Roy E
This enfatuation with novelty and the exotic is just a result of the boredom that comes form a life devoid of any meaning . All of which has a shelf life and an expiration date. Poor Alexandra is probably just trying to fill the void in her own soul with distraction and escapism.

There seems to be a lot of that in the contemporary pop culture. It's quite sad.

I think we know how this story will end.
14:46 February 16, 2011 by EP
The beginning of the end when you (especially a male) move to Sweden following your Swedish blonde. I think the guy's days are numbered now ...
16:18 February 16, 2011 by HYBRED
I'd rather be here than Oregon anyday.
20:19 February 16, 2011 by mikewhite
Typo in article: ' she is not along ...' should be 'she is not alone ...'
23:53 February 16, 2011 by Ivan Juric
@Vic Taulic...that is a stupid generalistion. I was in Europe last year and Sweden was no way near what I expected....yes there are attractive people there but it in no way lives up to the general perception people have that have not been there. There is a far higher ratio of attractive women along the coast in Croatia and they are nowhere near as wealthy as The Swedes...it is not trophy material it is about ecenomics pure and simple.....
03:23 February 17, 2011 by bira
Sweden's flat? While that's true for the south, I guess you must not have ventured very far north. Being Swedish myself with an American spouse, I must say I prefer America.
15:13 February 17, 2011 by andersonking
The positive thing I read into this article is that the men and women of Sweden are taking it upon themselves to expand and grow the population of this vast (mainly empty) land, by trusting themselves with the simple criteria of "is this person good enough for me to fall in love with" the swedes are doing much more than the government is to bring skilled, talented people here.

Meanwhile, the Swedish government still takes in far too many unskilled, uneducated, poor refugees who don't integrate into society, plus the only schooling they have is the SFI (Svenska För Invandare) programme which is compulsory! Take for example the Afghanis that arrived by taxi from Paris!! You can be sure they will have a swedish passport in a couple of years!!

What would be interesting as an addendum to this article is the amount of "love migrants" who end up divorced but still living in Sweden because they have offspring who were bron here!
03:18 February 19, 2011 by polin
love is a nature of life. let it happens with its natural tendency. interfered love won't be as beautiful as before.

may be the positive part of this artical is real, while the lasting life is beatific for all of us!
05:04 February 22, 2011 by Maler1971
why are swede woman going to Asia? I dont understand that!!
09:42 February 22, 2011 by Purple_Rache
The one thing I thought as I read this article was 'okay, they both had jobs in Laos, why take the risk of moving to Sweden, where it could take him years to find work?' He's got to be the luckiest person (or she's very highly connected) in Sweden to already have a job, and it will hopefully help their relationship's longevity. I wish them both luck (and myself a little bit of the same)!
02:16 March 3, 2011 by cattie
She wanted to go back to Sweden to STUDY. Neither of them have a job, they have only been in Sweden less than a year. This story will probably not end well for Noi. Long-term underemployment, racism and living near the margins of a society do things to a person.
14:25 March 4, 2011 by buschmann
Maler1971, Perhaps swedish women want mixed race children, because they think that their children will have a better future in sweden.
15:35 March 10, 2011 by Sloppy
I guess that would make me "loot pillaged from Canada" :)
16:21 March 18, 2011 by tolerance
I hope someone in the right place reads all these interesting views by the new swedes. The job issue is crucial and growing. Can the swedish government starting thinking of atleast using us! Or lets work together to build sweden.

If you permitted us to live in sweden, why is it so hard for most of us to work ? If i say work i mean. I have been to school, atleast univesity level or college level. Lets celebrate diversity,by alteast appreciating the different swedish accents we have. Lets us english in workplace. If all new swedes work in the garden, then in the next 10 years we will only make forsakringskassa and tax payers busier. lets solve this before its too late. ..
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