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How to lose Swedish friends in just 10 days

Rebecca Martin · 20 Jan 2012, 12:38

Published: 20 Jan 2012 12:38 GMT+01:00

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When arriving in a foreign country or meeting people from abroad, most of us worry about doing the right thing, not overstepping invisible lines, or inadvertently irritating the locals.

Visitors to Sweden often talk about the unspoken rules, the social codes and the little idiosyncrasies of Swedes that they find incomprehensible.

It takes years, we're told, for these little kinks to be ironed out and the social interplay to run smoothly.

Click here for the list of ways to lose all your Swedish friends in 10 days

However, it could be argued that despite spending all this time trying to fit in – one hasn't properly arrived in a country until aware of the best ways of doing just the opposite.

And that it's impossible to know a Swede until seeing him or her gets emotional – or, dare we say it - gets hopping mad.

So for anyone looking to see what happens when you rub a Swede the wrong way, The Local has put together a guide to doing just that.

Story continues below…

Whether you want to use the list to irritate your significant (Swedish) other or just annoy the Swede in the cubicle next to you – here's how to go about it.

Related links:

Rebecca Martin (rebecca.martin@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

14:51 January 20, 2012 by Tennin
This was pretty funny. Though you guys forgot some, like telling a Swede that Columbus discovered the Americas first and not the vikings. Or asking them how many polar bears are there in Sweden.
15:17 January 20, 2012 by rise
@ Tennin. The right answer for a Swede wouldn't be Columbus but the viking Leif Eiríksson (however Norwegian and not Swedish). :)

15:27 January 20, 2012 by calebian22
Why anyone would be proud of lagom is beyond me.
15:31 January 20, 2012 by jostein
Interesting concept, poor execution, imho. Only one of those 10 would annoy me (not accepting an indirect "no"). Seems like just a list of challenges to some childish jingoisms. And alot of these challenges are at least arguably correct. Maybe ignorance and jingoism is the norm in the swedish circles that thelocals journalists moves?

But still, a very constructive aproach to understanding national charachter. Maybe swedes are truly that childish and ignorant, by and large? Medontknow.
15:43 January 20, 2012 by amitchip
Kanel Bullar is not meat balls. Meat balls means köttbullar
15:48 January 20, 2012 by Åskar

Because people wrongly believe that only in Swedish it is possible to express the concept using only one word. Norwegian even have the same word. Very few people also know the actual meaning of it.
16:16 January 20, 2012 by fikatid
It doesn't take 10 days. Try to break up with your Swedish boyfriend or your Swedish girlfriend, you will lose all of your Swedish friends.
16:20 January 20, 2012 by glenquagmaire
Good article...
16:25 January 20, 2012 by BrittInSweden

I think that is what they tried to suggest rather than calling meatballs "kanel bullar"

Or in English. Tell them your country invented cinnamon rolls or meatballs.

Which for cinnamon rolls is possibly an accurate claim to make.
16:27 January 20, 2012 by Puffin
An amusing idea but perhaps needed an author with a better knowledge of Sweden and Swedish

- that the author thinks that a kanelbuller (cinammon bun) is a meatball is a basic primary school error so needs to return to SFI

- the question of the Vikings shows a lack of historical knowledge - Norway was not an independent country at the time of the Vikings! - but you could tell Swedes that they were Danish ;-)

- the lagom thing - was big in the 1980s but is more of a cultural myth these days

...... and the author missed the biggie - to tell a Swede that Skåne is Danish territory ;-)
17:03 January 20, 2012 by ulster1690
To befriend a swede simply ask "Why didn't Sweden participate in the seconed world war while the rest of europe and the world suffered" They don't like this topic too much.
17:33 January 20, 2012 by Wafson
This list is unimpressive to say the least. I thought the author would be more creative, following on from the rather appealing title. Clearly the author has much to learn from the Swedish culture. For those interested in a proper read on the Swedes and their cultural get yourself a copy of the "Xenophobe's Guide to the Swedes", 2011, Oval Books, London. This 80 page 'pocket' book is much more appealing.
17:49 January 20, 2012 by Gletta
YEs Puffin is right the best one is to tell them Skane is Denmark. Or when they say they are from there you say Oh you are Danish then. In Bohuslan I always tell visitors it was part of Norway as well.
18:06 January 20, 2012 by jan.petras
lagom = potrivit.
18:39 January 20, 2012 by calebian22

Lagom is fine the way most people use it, a personal level of satisfaction. However, Lagom is actually an acceptable level of "just right," from a societal point of view. Society can pound it when it comes to my level of satisfaction. ;-)
19:07 January 20, 2012 by zeulf
@ Ulster1690 for the simple reason that they have only been taught the "GOOD SWEDE " things at school and like the Germans do not for the most part wish to investigate anything negative about themselves. I guess that applys to all societies. A Happy bunch of People for the most part and I wish spend the Summers there again .
19:12 January 20, 2012 by Tanskalainen
Skane IS Danish territory. It is simply occupied by the International Swedish Conspiracy.
19:55 January 20, 2012 by janswed
Denmark is Swedish territory,so there !
20:03 January 20, 2012 by Lotus2035
This list needs only one thing:

Don't clean the filters for the clothes dryers in the laundry room. Not only will you lose all your Swedish friends but you will be exiled to the north pole until death.
20:13 January 20, 2012 by Bisting
None of the 10 things would annoy me, I would simply think the person is greatly lacking in grey matter. I had hoped it would be something witty, alas no.
20:13 January 20, 2012 by skogsbo
quickest way to lose your Swedish friends is to write an article full of errors about them! Perhaps after only living in the country 5 mins and 10mins google research.

I find that Swedes get annoyed about the same things as anyone else, it's the foreigners who struggle and get more wound up in life. Swedes just let it all wash over them, most things in life aren't worth the fight or the stress to the average Swede.
20:54 January 20, 2012 by acidcritic
Do you want to know how to lose ALL your Russiann friends in JUST ONE SECOND? Tell them that Moscow was founded, established as a settlement,by swedes.
21:09 January 20, 2012 by rise
@ ulster1690

"To befriend a swede simply ask "Why didn't Sweden participate in the seconed world war while the rest of europe and the world suffered" They don't like this topic too much."

And the answer is simply Sweden wasn't attacked whilst other countries were. And why should Sweden have started a war against a Germany that actually was helping Sweden's brother Finland against your allies, the Soviet invaders. If Sweden supposedly would have entered the war, chances are that it'd been on the same side as Germany. All the whiners from the allied countries would surely have liked that. But as it turned out, only German troops were allowed passing through Sweden on the way to helping the Finns.
21:20 January 20, 2012 by grr
How 'bout annoying Swedish Amercans. My Norwegian friends (and some who are not) never cease to annoy me with the song: "...a thousand Swedes ran through the weeds, chased by one Norwegian..." and other things like that. When some them become overbearing I ask when their (Norwegian) relative arrived in America. Most, of course, say it was in the middle or latter part of the 19th Century. I say: "Oh, so they were still Swedes then." If that doesn't settle it and they keep it up, I tell them this story, knowing most Norwegian and, for that matter, Swedish Americans really don't know their own history....I tell them...You see, a long time ago there was this big war between Sweden and Denmark and the rule was that the winner had to take the Norwegians. Of course, Sweden won the war. That usually sends them away for good, or to the library.
21:41 January 20, 2012 by skogsbo
a bit like give the Norwegians the chance to present the peace prize, otherwise they'll have nothing to be known for! But, it just means that half the world don't even know there are other Nobel prizes, or that he was Swedish.
22:51 January 20, 2012 by animal_politicum
Something more realistic would be:

10. Take a seat next to someone at a bus or train when there are free seats where nobody is sitting.

9. Don't clean the laundry room after use.

8. Look strangers in the eyes

7. Talk to strangers.

6. Take the last piece of some food without offering to others in the company first.

5. Insist on taking rounds at the pub.

4. Keep your shoes on when you visit a Swede's home.

3. Claim that some other country has a better welfare system.

2. Speak positive about the merits of hiring a cleaning lady and eating out.

1. Be posh.
23:16 January 20, 2012 by jostein

I DO like that topic. I wonder if you would thou after i expose you as a shallow sharlatan.
00:05 January 21, 2012 by Reason abd Realism
A very basic error that foreigners makes is this:

Interrupt a Sweden before he or she has finished speaking.

If you watch two Swedes speak, one will wait until the other has completely finished speaking, then wait 10 seconds, then begin to respond.

Interrupt this conversational dance with an American style interjection and you will probably be resented for life.
00:28 January 21, 2012 by Sarahfaz
Comments were more interesting than list. The two that amaze me are don't talk to strangers and wait 10 seconds before responding in conversation.

I thought introductions became outdated in the early 1900s. Over here, refusing to talk to a stranger can be seen as insulting. And no New Yorker I've ever met has time or patience to include 10 second waits mid conversation. Very interesting, good to know.
02:22 January 21, 2012 by LiterallySimon
On day 1 the Swede would probably tell you that you not only mixed up his country with Switzerland but also that cuckoo clocks are from the Black Forest, which is in Germany - not in Switzerland.
02:27 January 21, 2012 by jswede1149
Tell a Swede that they are truly not Swedish unless they understand Skånska lol.
05:02 January 21, 2012 by Dilia
Hahaha kind of funny especially no 7 on the cafe Americano..

I am married to a Fin living in Sweden, having to learn both languages at the same time, makes me mix up more than I should when it comes to certain food. What with mother in law and husband always communicating in that language...

I always refer to kahvia, especially after realising all dairy products from Finland are sooooooo good. I just love their yogurtia... the best in the world. The kahvia yogurtia....yummy
05:41 January 21, 2012 by Bushyblondehead
I thought everybody was blonde in Sweden! Ticks my (non blonde) friends off.
11:11 January 21, 2012 by Frank Arbach
"How to lose Swedish friends in just 10 days"

Thats assuming you have any, in the first place. LOL!
12:23 January 21, 2012 by Reason abd Realism
@ Sarahfaz

Further to my post number 28. During a heated debate between two Swedes, the pause can shrink down to about 3 seconds, but in any case the key is to make sure that one person has completed what they have to say before the other begins.

This conversation rule seems to fit best for Swedes over 30. Anyone younger has had their brains and attention spans scrambled and shrunk by X-Box, playstation, etc... so this rule may no longer hold.

The article and posts and meant to be funny, but what I've written here has a good deal of truth to it. A chatty and well educated American friend of mine married a Swedish woman, and made the mistake of interrupting some of his wife's friends 10 years ago when he had first stepped off the plane, and he says that to this day they still resent him for that, even though he stopped interrupting 9 years ago.
12:57 January 21, 2012 by Marc the Texan

I like your list much better. By the way I really like violating #4.
13:09 January 21, 2012 by PlanB
Translate lagom as mediocre

As in, "This article was a bit lagom"
15:33 January 21, 2012 by soultraveler3
Animal's list was much better than the author's list. More accurate and humorous as well. :)
16:45 January 21, 2012 by cattie

A better list written by someone who has lived among the Swedes in their homeland. I have never dared, but I have often been tempted to speak positively about the benefits of hiring a landscaper or handyman.

The published list seems to written for someone living outside Sweden who works or studies with Swedes.
18:32 January 21, 2012 by PlanB
Tell your friend to "Stop being such a Swede" and cross the deserted road while they wait for the red man to go green.
20:33 January 21, 2012 by animal_politicum
Sweden is a dark and cold Socialist country in Northern Europe where polar bears roam the streets. The country is inhabited by characters from Astrid Lindgren's books. The Swedes are suicidal blondes who practice free love and live in homes which look like the pictures from an IKEA catalogue.
22:16 January 21, 2012 by TheWatchman
@ animal_politicum

That was hilarious. :D
01:10 January 22, 2012 by Ludde Svensson

Well done. Your list is much more accurate than the lagom list published by The Local.
10:51 January 22, 2012 by PlanB
Who cares? It's handball.
23:27 January 22, 2012 by Sarahfaz
@Reason abd Realism Thanks for sharing the anecdote. Your American friend learned too late but I now know not to interrupt a Swede who is talking!
00:04 January 23, 2012 by edgarholland
@ulster1690. Nice to see a fellow Ulsterman on here, not that many Sweds know where Ulster is or care (Google it). I have had a really good laugh reading all the bitchy comments coming your way because of your remarks. I have lived in Sweden 14 years now and love the place and love the people that I have grown to know. However, many Sweds that I have met can be arrogant that think that I should be grateful for living in their country - which I am. When I find myself in that situation they always ask me what my family and friends think about me living here - and I tell them. More than one person said to me before I moved here that the Sweds are not to be trusted as the Sweds in power at that time collaborated with Nazi Germany during ww2 and made huge amounts of money and that some Sweds even fought along side the Nazis and are morally wanting. Needless to say it works everytime - the heads drop and become silent and they get back in their box. I admit that I get a certain amount of pleasure in puting these people in their place, just as i get the same amount of pleasure in putting people from my own country in their place when they say negative/arrogant remarks. I'm far from perfect myself, but at least I can laugh at myself - unlike a lot of Sweds that I have met!!
15:40 January 23, 2012 by rise
@ edgarholland

"More than one person said to me before I moved here that the Sweds are not to be trusted as the Sweds in power at that time collaborated with Nazi Germany during ww2..."

Well they needed all the help they could get, didn't they?

"Needless to say it works everytime - the heads drop and become silent and they get back in their box."

What works every time? You didn't care to mention that.
16:36 January 23, 2012 by VicTaulic
Boy, that was dumb. Who the hell is Helen Gar, anyway? Like Helen Bedd? LOL. Look, Local, just stick to photos of hot blond babes, OK?
20:34 January 23, 2012 by edgarholland
@ rise

The title of the article was "How to lose Swedish friends in just 10 days". You figure it out. By the way are you a Swed?
09:00 January 24, 2012 by Paule
I think that the author should start with "How to make friends with swedish people". That what is really impossible and more fun to read about:)
10:37 January 24, 2012 by nolikegohome
one very important thing that i would have liked to be mentioned is: When u talk to a swede it is always good to look them in the eye. Many ppl from outside sweden avoid direct eye contact. Swedes look you right in the eyes when they talk to you and expect the same. It is important to remove your shades or sun glasses when u talk to a swede. He will trust you more. I guess (smile)
16:40 January 24, 2012 by rise
@ edgarholland. Yes I am. As such, and from my point of view, I guess it is hard to make any friends at all to begin with in this country. For native Swedes as well. But if you, at last, really do get any friends then chances are that some of them will be loyal to you for life. With other words friends are hard to come by but when you finally catch one then he/she will probably stay with you.

By the way this article is only silly; if it'd be that easy to loose "friends", they aren't even any friends to begin with..!

@ nolikegohome Yes you should always look people in the eyes. If you don't dare to look into the eyes when speaking you're probably "not trustworthy and have something to hide". And you mention sunglasses... :) Some people here finds it plain rude if you don't remove the sunglasses when speaking to them (what are you trying to hide, having to hide your eyes in that way?).
18:03 January 24, 2012 by edgarholland
@ rise

thanks for giving me a really good laugh at your expence. Have a nice 2012.
18:13 January 24, 2012 by VicTaulic
I try not to look people in the eyes when I talk to them. My sheer power would make them into helpless enslaved zombies under my control. It is just not fair.
21:40 January 24, 2012 by Tanskalainen
I don't look people when I talk to them to avoid puking.
08:32 January 25, 2012 by jwlundgren
After finding out yesterday that my vikariat is not being continued and to add insult to injury, I must train someone else on what I have learned by the seat of my pants, I needed this. Both for the laugh and for the revenge. Thanks!
15:39 January 25, 2012 by Glorius

Going into a war you have no interest in dosent sound like the best idea for a country, and with the state the army was in...

1/3 of the airforce in Finland

The panzar division outdated

The airforce that was left was worse than Polands...

Not enough guns to equip the infantry. The army used broomsticks when they gaurded the coast to make it look like they were armed from afar;)

Trying to not stay neutral would have been suicide.
16:12 January 25, 2012 by rise
edgarholland, I should have known before wasting time: he's a simple bully.
16:56 January 25, 2012 by edgarholland
@ rise

thanks for the compliment!
18:17 January 25, 2012 by rise
You're welcome edgarholland!
22:04 January 25, 2012 by edgarholland
Does anyone ever get tired of Sweds who have to have the last word? Lets guess who will reply to this one!
19:30 January 27, 2012 by jack sprat
@edgar,You can always tell a Swede,but you can't tell them anything.

Take a tip from Basil Fawlty and don't mention the war.

Even the vaguest reference to it with no ill intentions brings down dark clouds and looks that could kill.

Sadly the fact that every trivial comment is taken so seriously, no matter how light hearted, makes Swede baiting a tempting pursuit in a country that is otherwise so drab and boring.
20:26 January 27, 2012 by edgarholland
@ jack sprat

Thank you for your kind and wise words. All the best to you.
15:12 February 2, 2012 by herrbraeu
refer to Volvo as a Chinese car brand
21:43 February 3, 2012 by efm
How I made my Swedish wife upset and kept quiet for a while:

So those Vikings they rob, rape, and killed all the people, they encountered with, How come Sweden claim to be so peaceful? You belong to the same tribe, right?

McDonalds is better than that immitation golden arch burgers we ate in Stockholm!

Can we please put spaghetti sauce and noodles in the Swedish meatballs you just made?

Volvo is the Swedish name for vulva!

No matter what, stop eating that stinking fish from the bloated tin can!
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