sweden explained For Members

Why are so many rural Swedes obsessed with the American South?

Becky Waterton
Becky Waterton - [email protected]
Why are so many rural Swedes obsessed with the American South?
Power Big Meet in Västerås, the world's largest meet for vintage American cars. Photo: Pontus Lundahl/TT

Residents of Sweden's major cities who have not spent much time in more rural areas of Sweden may not be aware of the 'raggare' subculture, with key elements including American cars, Confederate flags and Swedish rockabilly music.


Raggare culture is an extremely Swedish phenomenon, existing mainly outside the larger cities. There are some small pockets of raggare in Finland, and in Norway, where they are known as rånare.

Although there are many young people who would identify themselves as raggare, it is by no means a new subculture, having been around in Sweden since at least the end of the Second World War, inspired by American 'greasers'.


One of the reasons raggare are found mainly in rural Sweden is that raggare culture centres around owning a car. This can be anything from an old American car from the 1950s or 60s, to a vintage Volvo from roughly the same time period.

Younger raggare (who might not have the funds to buy a swanky classic American car) are more likely to be spotted driving an a-tractor, a small cut-off car with an orange warning triangle on the back which is limited to a top speed of 30km/h.

A Norwegian 'raggare', referred to as 'rånare' at a meet in Strömstad. Photo: Thomas Winje Øijord

Many of these a-tractors are hand-built or hand-altered from standard cars, meaning that they are often personalised to the owner, with colours, decorations or decals reflecting the owner’s personality.

Another aspect of raggare culture - both among the classic-car raggare and the a-tractor raggare - is listening to American-style rockabilly music (not always in English - one Swedish example popular with raggare is Eddie Meduza, who wrote the unofficial raggare anthem, appropriately titled Raggare).

This music is most often played through a pumped-up car stereo system, like this example of a teenager suspected of stealing a Hesa Fredrik warning signal and hooked it up to the soundsystem in his a-tractor car.

Prejudice towards this subculture is based partly on the fact that locals often get tired of their drinking, allegedly dangerous driving and loud music, and partly on the fact that historically, raggare had questionable morals, loud mouths and often archaic attitudes towards women.

A raggare car decorated with the Confederate flag. Photo: Thomas Winje Øijord

Raggare often attend meets together, usually in the summer, where copious amounts of alcohol are drunk while wearing American-inspired clothing such as jeans, leather vests or denim jackets, pomade in their hair, leather boots and often a large number of Confederate flags.

Former Social Democrat minister for public administration, Ida Karkiainen, who is from Haparanda, a small town with a large raggare population, was in hot water back in 2021 after pictures surfaced of a Confederate flag in her partner's band practice room which she dismissed, saying she "had no influence" in the band's choice of decoration.


One raggare showing his backside next to a Confederate flag. Photo: Thomas Winje Øijord

The Confederate flag, known in Sweden as a sydstatsflagga or “southern state flag”, was the flag used by the pro-slavery southern American states during the American civil war. It is a symbol commonly used in the USA among right-wing extremists and white supremacists.

In Sweden, it is instead generally connected with raggare culture, often used as a nostalgic symbol for the American south – although its racist connotations have been increasingly debated in recent years here, too.


Join the conversation in our comments section below. Share your own views and experience and if you have a question or suggestion for our journalists then email us at [email protected].
Please keep comments civil, constructive and on topic – and make sure to read our terms of use before getting involved.

Please log in to leave a comment.

See Also