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Five things you didn’t know about Sweden’s diversity

The Local · 13 Aug 2012, 15:54

Published: 13 Aug 2012 15:54 GMT+02:00

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These topics spark intense discussions that often bring out valid debaters with solid points and condescending trolls alike. So much so that The Local actually created a resource – The definitive guide to diversity in Sweden – dedicated to furthering these complex discussions, and the Swedish government created a “myth-busting” website to answer, or rather debunk, widely held prejudiced views about diversity in Sweden.


Let’s face it. Sweden has evolved past stereotypes of blondes, Ikea, Abba, and Volvo that have defined the country for decades.

While these idealized icons are still integral to its historical core, Sweden is changing and will continue to do so rapidly.

A quick glance down topics on that diversity guide and you’ll see just how complicated and conflicting issues surrounding diversity are – from studies praising Sweden’s integration policies to articles showing just how far Sweden has to go in terms of integration.

“Sweden doesn't get everything right, but my experience has been positive,” shares Adrianne George Lind, 2012 Maishagalen Entrepreneur of the Year.

Lind runs several businesses that cater to women of colour and expatriates.

“The government has given me the opportunity to learn the language, and the process of setting up my own company was easy.”

Granted, Lind admits her Swede helped her with the paperwork which also harkens to another significant barrier for integration – learning the Swedish language itself as an adult.

“Without his help, it certainly would have been a huge task for me,” she notes.

Sweden is a richly diverse country with roughly 15% of its population having a foreign background, and the country is much more than Thai take-away kiosks and kebab pizza joints run by PhD holders and medical doctors that many would like to reduce its diversity to.

With a steady in-flux of highly skilled foreigners, Sweden has the potential to tap into this experienced workforce that can help lunge its economy and society further ahead.

According to Statistics Sweden (Statistiska Centralbyrån, SCB) which pretty much tracks everything that can be counted in Sweden - probably including how many college students like food brands Felix versus Findus - there were roughly 96,500 immigrants in 2011. It’s one thing having open arms when receiving immigrants.

Story continues below…

It’s another thing directing those immigrants regardless of skill level and background into specific “boxes” to park their lives for decades once welcomed in.

The headlines are full of negative press, Lind notes, where immigrants are not doing well in the job market, but that story is being played out across the European Union (EU) and not just Sweden.

So before jumping to conclusions on certain aspects of Sweden’s diversity, here are five things I didn’t know – and maybe you didn’t as well.

Lola Akinmade Åkerström

Related links:

The Local (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

17:57 August 13, 2012 by weballergy
WOW "Swedes are the largest immigrant group." no wonder. Depressing weather 80% of the year. That's why people in the rest of the world suspect that Sweden has the gold medal in suicides (I know, its a myth), but I wonder what would happen if swedes weren't be able to get the hell out of their country several times a year...
18:28 August 13, 2012 by Uncle

Immigrant. Not Emigrant. It is RETURNING swedes.

What I loved, is the idiotic fact that Arabic is not an official language, but Yiddish is. Who in the hell assumed that arabic is an official language here? How is this one of the facts that I "didn't know"?

Jews (the 20 thousand that are still not kicked out by the religion of peace members and neo-nazis) live here as long as swedes do, whereas arabic speaking guests started to come in the past 50 years.

Like comparing Thor's hammer and IKEA logo as traditional symbols in Sweden.
19:03 August 13, 2012 by playmobil
Gold medal of suicides is partly due to the fact that Sweden were among the first ones to get statistics on the subject and the rest of europe so happy to discuss the poor depressed Swedes.. until they start having statistics themselves, but too late for the myth.

Same with alcoolism statistics..

Just like in reverse, the Stockholm so called "gold medal of rape" in europe stated fews weeks ago by one of the bunch of neo nazis flooding the local with their obsessives comments is due to the fact that an estimated 10% only of the rapes are reported to the police in France for exemple..

So statistics sometimes doesnt say much if you dont know how its done, or if you cant compare equally.
19:19 August 13, 2012 by towns
"Sweden is changing and will continue to do so rapidly."

No? You mean Sweden is changing like it has been for the last thousand years?! Who comes up with these conspiracy theories, get out of here!! lol

Anyway, kudos to the Local for making the ink in these comment sections sharper :)
19:41 August 13, 2012 by Svealander
Re: Swedes are the largest immigrant group

If they are "returning home" as the article says, then it implies they were born in Sweden. Therefore, they wouldn't be immigrants. No?

Re: Arabic isn't an official language, Yiddish is

Anybody who doesn't understand why Yiddish is official and Arabic isn't clearly has a poor grasp of understanding of the last 300 years of Swedish history and in my opinion is unfit to write an article such as the one I am commenting on.

Re: Sweden is more socially inclusive than the United States

Again, another one of the flawed and favourite comparisons people like to make, the inevitable comparison of the USA and Sweden. Not saying the statement is false, I'm just annoyed with this constant comparison authors on the Local seem to be so enthusiastic about.
20:53 August 13, 2012 by dizzymoe33
Hey just people coming into the United States they all think we Americans that have been here for over 230 years need to speak all of their languages instead of them learning to speak our language which is the only official language of the United States and that is American English. So I sure hope you Swedes keep Swedish as your main language and not bow down to the immigrants that are wanting you all to speak their languages!
10:02 August 14, 2012 by playmobil
Yeah Dizzymoe! why dont you write in Swedish? performative contradiction isnt it?
13:05 August 14, 2012 by coldjava
Reminds of me when i when i applied for visa for exchange studies at US embassy in stockholm.. You need to see how many young swedes want to get out of the country asap... and the funny thing was, majority of them were applying to study California lol
15:48 August 14, 2012 by wasserball

So true, as host of high school exchange students in the past in CA, those Swedish kids who got selected to CA thought they just won the lottery. Because wanting to go to CA is in such high demand for Swedes, and Norwegians too, exchange students must pay a premium for that privilege.
18:07 August 14, 2012 by skogsbo
This article clearly proves that if you know nothing about a subject, you can't write an article based purely on a few stats and 10 mins internet research. I grade it F- , now go back to your social studies class. :)
18:38 August 14, 2012 by Emerentia
"Point me towards Sweden's equivalent of Oprah Winfrey and I'll think twice about this particular statistic." We don't have any talk show host as famous as her, naturally, but I dont' get how she can be used as an example of immigration and integration. As far as I know she is an American, born there, her parents was also born there wasn't they? Does any of the most famous American talk show hosts come from another country or have parents from another country? Larry King, David Letterman, Jay Leno, Conan O'Brian, Jimmy Kimmel, Jon Stewart, Jimmy Fallon etc are all Americans, born and raised, aren't they, just like Oprah? The most famous talk show host in Sweden right now isn't Swedish at all, Fredrik Skavlan is Norweigan. Kristian Luuk, who is another rather famous talk show host in Sweden is Swedish, but his parents are from Estonia. So is the parents of on of the most popular sportsjournalists in Sweden, André Pops. Nour El-Refai and Gina Dirawi who has hosted one of Swedens most popular shows have their roots in Lebanon.
18:42 August 14, 2012 by cogito
Does this Maishagalen Entrepreneur of the Year recipient understand that the "15% of its population having a foreign background" number that they throw at you at SFI classes come mainly from Finland and other Scandinavian nations?

Hardly counts as multi-culti....

Now must go back and try to figure out what the writer (a sociology student?) means by "idealized icons"

Dear TL, where do you find these people?
16:25 August 15, 2012 by w_t_f
If i did not live in Stockholm, I would believe what is written ....

Swedes love living in their own limited world so let them do it ...yea yea you are the best guys :D ... no worries ...
16:44 August 15, 2012 by Marc the Texan
There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.
17:53 August 15, 2012 by Spuds MacKenzie
I don't want ANY diversity in Sweden! Sweden should be for ethnic Swedes and those with Northern European ancestry ONLY!
15:11 August 16, 2012 by philster61
Spuds. You need to get out in the world more. Leave that backwater for awhile and travel....Must be kinda lonely in that hick town you live in....
03:07 August 19, 2012 by Trebla
Comment: Sweden & diversity. Compared to Los Angeles, about the same size with a metro population of about 9 million, Sweden is barely trying. Think 45% Latino, 30% Anglo, 20% Asian + a bunch of others. THAT's diversity. Favorite suburb, San Pedro,is famous for one's ability to sit on your back porch and hear family arguments in four languages.
23:00 August 20, 2012 by VicTaulic
Sweden is like the frog that is being cooked so slowly it doesn't realize it....until it's too late.
15:33 August 23, 2012 by TheWatchman
There's absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to keep Sweden Swedish. I'd like to argue that someone who is trying to change Sweden to be more Arab and "diverse" is a fascist of sorts. Importing angry foreigners from the Middle East doesn't suddenly make your country diverse, it makes it a white majority with a hostile minority. There's nothing diverse about that.

True diversity would be encouraging PEACEFUL AND RESPECTFUL Korean, Jewish, German, Japanese, Chinese, Filipino and so on immigrants. It would actually be MORE diverse, and the Swedish society would be a lot more peaceful and efficient, but that's not the case.
16:29 August 23, 2012 by HungarianAmerican1975
Swedes are lovely people, but the most of them are terminally liberal and welcoming, and by the time they realize this fault it will be too late! Stockholm and Gothenburg already resembles Mogadishu. Third-world gangs looting the city and raping ethnic Swedish women... Good luck with your multiculturalism!
20:04 August 25, 2012 by VicTaulic
"evolved past"? More like "devolved".
00:30 August 29, 2012 by nathan45
The other day i was reading an article on the BBC that said that white people are going to be a minority in the U.S by 2040 due to immigation and the high birth rate of non whites. Im not a racist but i hate to think that some day the same may be true for white people in Europe.

The percent of white people keeps going down and the immigrant population keeps going way up because they often have familys of 5 or more and the governments let in way more than needed.This can be said for most of the E.U. I just think it would be sad for our unique ethnicity to dissapear. All the other races have brownish hair, eyes and skin. It would be a shame for the only race with any color to disapear in just 100 years after shaping the world into what it is today by inventing virtually every thing from the car to the phone.
12:58 August 29, 2012 by Swedishmyth
Fundamentally it's not about white people, but Western culture. There just happens to be a significant overlap, meaning white people founded and propagated that culture.

The issue of the preservation of Western culture is the issue of the longterm preservation of human prosperity on earth.
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