Swedish discrimination exposed in bus video

Emma Löfgren
Emma Löfgren - [email protected]
Swedish discrimination exposed in bus video

A social experiment exposing class discrimination in Sweden has called the Nordic country's image as a tolerant nation into question. The Local spoke to a member of the duo behind the viral sensation.


A video by the small team at STHLM Panda shows an actor dressed up in smart clothes asking to board buses in central Stockholm without a ticket. The drivers laugh and let him on, every time.

But when the actor puts on a different outfit, wearing ragged clothes and carrying his belongings in plastic bags, the result is shockingly different.

STHLM Panda's Olle Öberg, who stars in the video, told The Local that he got the idea when he saw a homeless person being refused to board a bus.

“From experience I know that sometimes you've forgotten your ticket and the drivers are usually decent and let me on anyway. I wanted to know if the bus driver who had refused the troubled person was an exception,” he said on Wednesday.

He turned out not to be. While drivers were happy to take pity on the sharply dressed 'rich' person, the above clip (which has English subtitles) shows that not a single driver was prepared to let Öberg's 'poor' persona travel.

“We suspected that the way I was treated would vary, but not by this much,” he told The Local.

“The worst part was how I was treated when I asked to go on the bus wearing worn clothes and bags. Several of the drivers saw an opportunity to in a rather unpleasant way tell me that I couldn't travel. My sense of dignity gradually fell as I kept being refused to travel and wasn't respected,” he added.

The video has been viewed more than 200,000 times on YouTube in less than two days and has stirred debate in Sweden, a country with a reputation for being egalitarian and open which has also seen a surge in people sleeping rough on the streets in recent years.

READ ALSO: Begging ban rejected by Swedish government

“It's sick that we treat people so differently depending on what they look like. Why?” asked one appalled Swede on Twitter.

“I'm sure Sweden is a very equal country by international standards, but that doesn't mean that there are not people with different preconditions. There are many outcasts and poor people in society who are not treated with dignity and in this clip we trying to convey the message that we have to start seeing each other,” said Öberg.

“The clip has mostly had very positive reactions. Several bus drivers have written to us with suggestions of more things we should try and thanking us for what we're doing,” he said.

It is not the first time the STHLM Panda group has explored class and racial divides in Sweden. The group has previously hit the headlines with social experiments including a video investigating if richer or poorer areas are more likely to give money to beggars, and another showing a woman being abused by her partner while onlookers stood by and did nothing.

“Our goal is to get people to start seeing each other and create some kind of unity in society. There's still a long way to go,” said Öberg.


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