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Can these cartoon Swedes help foreigners blend in?
One of the cartoons in the new book. Copyright: Julien S. Bourrelle

Can these cartoon Swedes help foreigners blend in?

The Local · 4 May 2016, 15:22

Published: 04 May 2016 14:45 GMT+02:00
Updated: 04 May 2016 15:22 GMT+02:00

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Are you a foreigner struggling to adapt to living in Sweden? The core secrets to feeling comfortable in Scandinavia might just be found in a series of simple cartoons, according to the man behind a new book designed to help Sweden's growing international community.
Set for launch on May 18th, the project's Facebook page has already been causing a stir since launching a week ago. Its picture-based posts include tips on how not to talk to strangers in public, learning to cope with Swedes' often minimal conversation and explaining how they can have a preference for getting to know future partners in the bedroom before heading out for dates in public.

The Swedish dating timeline starts in the left hand corner. The top part of the image shows how the rest of the world usually does things. 
"Sweden has been accepting a lot of people from foreign countries from different backgrounds, including refugees. And I believe the book could be a very easy way (...) to promote cultural understanding through humour," Bourrelle told The Local on Wednesday.
He said his favourite picture in the collection, titled The Social Guidebook to Sweden, focusses on how Swedish emotions can be hard to identify.
Swedish emotions. Can you tell the difference?
"The first thing that many foreigners coming to Scandinavia do is misinterpret the emotional feedback of Scandinavians. You interpret this using your own cultural background and that very often leads to people feeling rejected or feeling that they don't get the feedback they are wanting, either positive or negative," he said.
Born in Canada, Bourrelle has not actually ever lived in Sweden, but says he has come across many Swedes in Norway, where he is based, and put the book together following a year's research travelling between the two Scandinavian nations.
His last project, The Social Guidebook to Norway, was the bestselling foreign language publication in his adopted country in 2015. About 70 percent of the cartoons in both texts are the same, while 30 percent of the Swedish publication consists of new, unique content.
"Scandinavian cultures seem rather different when you're from Norway or Sweden and you deal with Norwegians and Swedes. But when you come from a place like the Middle East or Asia or South America, the cultures will seem very similar. The challenges you're facing are very similar," he said, reflecting on of his decision to re-use some of his existing material.
The author insisted that while his work is clearly based on cultural stereotypes, he has mostly received positive feedback and has already had hundreds of pre-orders for his new Swedish book.
"The goal is to have Swedes reflect on their self image and so of course I am making fun a little bit, but if you read the articles carefully they are always about finding the good side of things."
Swedes might get scared if you approach them in public
Bourrelle is also adamant that it is immigrants and expats, rather than Swedes, who should be adapting their behaviour as the Nordic country becomes increasingly international.
"Foreigners should behave in a way that does not conflict with the local norms. I have lived in six countries in my life and every time I have adapted and fully integrated."
And his own favourite Scandinavian trait?
"In terms of social behaviours, I very much like how it is quiet and peaceful and that things just work. If you sit in a restaurant, a cafe or a library there is silence and a politeness that is about not disturbing others. I just love it."

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