'I didn't realize Norwegians were so cool!' Swedes on hit show 'Skam'

Tilly Olsson
Tilly Olsson - [email protected]
'I didn't realize Norwegians were so cool!' Swedes on hit show 'Skam'
A scene from Norwegian show Skam. Photo: NRK

Skam. It's everywhere – on the internet, ads on public transport and the hot topic at work and school. But could this Norwegian teen drama even end the age-old rivalry between Sweden and Norway? The Local took to the streets of Stockholm to find out.


If you haven’t heard of it already – "Skam" (which directly translated means "Shame") is now Norway's most successful web-series ever with more than 200,000 viewers per episode. Set in the posh district of Frogner, West End Oslo, Skam follows a group of teenagers through their daily lives. While the pilot episode aired in September of 2015, the show has more recently taken its home country by storm – and abroad. 

And as it turns out, it has made the Swedes view their Nordic neighbours in an entirely new light.

Categorized by Sweden's public broadcaster as a "youth series about friendship, love, sex, parties, and betrayal", there seems to be much more to the show than meets the eye. Since its airing it has broken boundaries – even its own. Although the show's creator, Julie Andem, has said Skam's target audience is 16 year-old girls, it seems to be catching the attention of all ages and genders.

Julius, a 17-year-old male from Stockholm, disagrees with the target audience, arguing that "every teenager can relate to the show. It's a reality for all of us. I’ve talked to some adults who watch the show and even they love it too."

"I've watched the show with my mum and my 25-year-old sister," Clara, 18, tells The Local. "I think it can be for most ages actually." 

Axel Hammar, a 17-year-old, believes that "in our modern society, people are now more open and accepting. This is not just a 'girly' show."

Perhaps it is Skam's dense and pertinent themes which promote the show's popularity. In just three seasons, it has transcended the mere title of "teen show", featuring issues such as feminism, homophobia, islamophobia, eating disorders, and mental illness. Problems that can be relevant to anyone.

Mathias Olsson, a 52-year-old Stockholmer, says that after watching the show he feels included in such issues. "It helps you understand what is important in today’s society."

"The problems really are fascinating and interesting," Julius adds. "That’s why it's so popular."

Sussie Wernersson, 50, says her "Skam addiction" comes from the show's tendency to focus on "real life issues."

Others argue that Skam's specific Nordic influence is the key to its success. "The show – and all the problems in it – are for everyone, especially those who have grown up in Sweden or Norway," says 19-year-old Kattie.

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Daphne, a 19-year-old female, agrees that the show's spotlight on Scandinavian teen culture is completely unprecedented. "It's also relevant for older people because it shows an interesting side of teenagers' life in a part of the world that no one has seen before. I haven’t heard of any other shows in the Scandinavian area about teenagers." 

'Skam' has even been hailed for making Norwegian culture more popular in other Nordic countries, as it was awarded the Nordic Language Award on December 5th, 2016. Is this possible in Sweden, where the "Sweden vs. Norway" rivalry is the source of many common jokes? 

"I had no idea how Norwegian teenagers had fun, how their social hierarchy worked, or how their perspective was towards foreigners," Daphne notes. "I definitely know more about Norway now then before."

However, when asked about Skam's ability to end the friendly rivalry between Sweden and Norway, she exclaims: "No! That’s forever."

Others believe that the show can be the start of something new. Alva, 14, jokes: "I think I'm more into Norwegian guys now."

Carina Mårtensson, age 59, thinks that "it could certainly be a bridge between our cultures".

Whether that is true or not, Skam has definitely changed Swedes' opinions of Norwegians. Kattie confesses that before watching the show, she thought Norwegians were "boring". "I didn't realize Norwegian culture was so similar to Swedish culture," she tells The Local. "I didn’t realise [Norwegians] were so cool!" 

Julius comments on how the show has changed teen language in Sweden: "Now, many kids who watch Skam start to speak Norwegian, like the word "hooke" (meaning making out). Everyone says that now."

Whether viewers are Norwegian, Swedish or from any other country, it is undeniable that Skam's fearless plots and relatable storyline sheds light on social issues for some and serves as a mirror image for others. Axel Hammer says: "Despite any label or stereotype, I think most people can see themselves in Skam."

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