The Local List

Six things Swedes get tired of hearing abroad

Six things Swedes get tired of hearing abroad
Someone probably sang Dancing Queen to her again. Photo: Janerik Henriksson/TT
The Local's Swedish Editor Emma Löfgren moved back to her home country in 2015 after years abroad. She's so happy she doesn't have to hear any of these things any more.

1. Does the Swedish chef actually speak Swedish?

You're kidding, right? Bork, bork, bork? Of course that's not real Swedish. Oh, the number of times my countrypeople and I have been shown YouTube clips of the Muppet Show, being asked to translate gibberish along the lines of “yorn desh born, der ritt de gitt der gue”. Just so you know, and don't say I didn't warn you, one day Swedes are going to turn on you and just make up something ridiculous.

Also, doesn't he sound more Norwegian than Swedish?

2. You must be used to the cold!

Yes, of course, because Swedes are completely immune to cold. Like the Ice Hotel in Jukkasjärvi, the cold just makes us stronger. I grew up in southern Sweden, which is on the same latitude as Edinburgh in the United Kingdom, but all my British friends still seem to remain convinced that I keep a polar bear as a pet and that my garden is in a constant state of permafrost. Listen, it's Sweden, not Disney's 'Frozen'.

This is how we normally dress in winter. Photo: Helena Wahlman/

3. How can you be Swedish, you're not blonde?

I tried typing “Not all Swedes are…” into a well-known internet search engine and it automatically came up with “… blonde”, so clearly someone, somewhere must have had a hunch at some point that the stereotypical blue-eyed Viking image does not fit every single Swede. Yet, it is by far the most common reaction I get when I, as a natural brunette, make claims to Swedishness abroad. Do I need to carry my birth certificate, kanelbulle and Dala horse around wherever I go, just to prove my heritage?

4. Abba!

We're happy you know of Abba. No, really, we're pleased. But did you know Sweden is the world's third biggest music exporter and that numerous other Swedish acts have graced world stages since, without dressing up in spandex and singing cheery disco pop? I would perhaps be prepared to let it go, if only people would use the band's name in complete sentences instead of just shouting “Abba!” whenever I open my mouth. “I'm from Sweden.” “Abba!” That's not how conversations work, folks.

ABBA puppets at the ABBA museum in Stockholm. Photo: Jessica Gow / SCANPIX

5. Meatballs and Ikea

“I love Ikea meatballs!” That's great. Swedes get particularly proud when Swedish brand names get recognized abroad. But you do know that Ikea did not invent meatballs, right? (also, the Swedish flag was blue and yellow pre-Ingvar Kamprad, but that's a different story) There are as many meatball recipes in Sweden as there are families, and each one claims that theirs is the best. When we make meatballs for you, and we will, do not tell us that they're “almost as good as Ikea's”. You may think that sounds like a compliment. We don't.

Ikea meatballs. Photo: Heiko Junge/NTB scanpix/TT

6. I love your cuckoo clocks and chocolate

I… okay, you know what, I can't do this any more.

Sweden is not Switzerland. Sweden is not Switzerland. Photo: AP Photo/David Azia