The Endless Dream on a Winter Night

I can be sometimes slow about catching up with all the blogs in my reader. Luckily though, a fellow expat, Giorgio Paoletti, from Italy, sent me an email about a movie on foreigners in Sweden.

You might be wondering, oh dear some boring moving about sad refugees. Far from it. Giorgio and his friend made a movie based on their lives (melded with others too) about work, academics, bar visits, parties, and Swedish girls. Oh, and how to make Swedish friends.

For us “immigrants” and Swedes, this is a must see. The movie is raw and emotionally satisfying. We can all relate. To how to talk to someone at a party to dealing with the winter misery, there is a little of bit of everyone of us in the main character, Alex.

Here is the video. Be sure to click on the button twice because it will turn from red to green.

Giorgio has also been kind enough to give a one on one interview (and the first official interview) with me by email. I asked a lot of tough questions of course.

Sapphire: Where are you from?
Giorgio: I am Italian, from Rome

Why Sweden?

I won a scholarship to be an Erasmus student in Stockholm; besides, my dad had lived in Stockholm in the early 60s so I was curious to go there because he had told me a lot about this place.

How long were you here?

More or less 5 years, 1 year as an exchange student in Stockholm, 1 year in Göteborg, and then other 3 years in Stockholm.

A long time in Sweden. What did you do?

During my first year I was an exchange student in Political Science; the year I spent in Göteborg I studied Swedish full time. In Stockholm over the last years I worked in different companies and fields, many jobs, none particularly pleasant aside from teaching Italian in schools.

Why did you leave?

I got a bit bored of Sweden, especially my last 2 years seemed to be the replay of the previous years, nothing particularly new and cool. Moreover, I needed chaos, to feel alive; peace and cleanliness around
started to create some anxiety in me.

What do you like doing?

I like writing, no matter if it’s a short story, a novel, a screenplay or even an article for my blog. It helps me point out concepts which are in my head but not completely clear yet.

At the university, was it easy to learn Swedish? Was it necessary and did it help make more friends?
Swedish is a language that is easy and hard to learn at the same time: easy because there are very few rules and after 6 months you can speak it. Swedish is hard because after 4 years it’s rare to speak much better than 3 and half years earlier; the risk is to reach a low–medium level and then stick to it, without improving.

I don’t think speaking Swedish helps make more friends but it allows foreigners to understand the society a bit better.

So, what inspired you to come up with this documentary? Why make one?

After a couple of year I was living in Sweden there were things about that society which were clear and others unclear. I decided to investigate, analyze and understand Sweden from my perspective. I started attending seminaries about subjects related to the Swedish culture and when I thought I had the answers I was looking for, I wrote an article about Sweden in my blog, which analyzed the main cultural aspects of this country.

I knew many other foreigners had similar thoughts and questions so I thought I could try summarizing my “guide” throughout a movie, which was partly a normal film and partly a documentary.

I was also curious to see if I could involve some Swedes in the project, to see how they would react to something critical towards their society. Those who have participated showed me to be much more open minded than I had thought, I was expecting reactions like “who the fuck you think you are to come to our country, judge us and be so critical?”; on the contrary, they have been very interested and professional.

Enjoying Sweden…no Germany with friends…
Giorgio with friends in Germany

Part of the movie deals with dating Swedish girls and meeting friends.
Personally, how was it for you to make friends/meet girls?

Making friends in Sweden is something appalling, frankly speaking. People are respectful and polite but when it comes to personal relationships it’s hard to find someone that let you get close. It’s easy to make acquaintances (I know loads of Swedes) but I have very few friends in the way I intend a friendship, without barriers and distances. Usually my Swedish friends have lived abroad and learned to live also (but not only) in a non-Swedish way: there’s no difference between boys and girls in that.

Swedish girls are usually very attractive, not my favourite in terms of beauty but almost my favourite; they can be the best or the worst as far as meeting is concerned: I love the emancipation they’ve reached which allows them to pick you up openly if they fancy you.

I never saw in any other country this freedom for women, which is great; on the other end they are quite narrow minded when it comes to knowing a person in a non standard way (parties or common friendships): I like to meet people in the streets, to talk to complete unknowns; this way I met the main Swedish female character of the movie we made. It means there are exceptions to the usual “Swedish rules”.

Who is Alex?

Alex is the typical foreigner who moves to Sweden without knowing what Sweden is.

Why do we never see Alex’s face?

Because it doesn’t matter what he looks like or what country he is from; what does matter is his thoughts and his feeling which are the thoughts and feelings of many foreigners who live in Sweden.

You moved now to Ireland, what do you miss about Sweden?

The beauty and efficiency of many things.

What do you not miss?

That in Stockholm I could talk to loads of people in a week but I was often feeling lonely; in Ireland I can been on my own most of the time but I never feel alone.

Alone in Sweden in the winter
all alone in Sweden
If there was one piece of advice you could offer a new foreigner, what would you say?

Don’t feel like a freak or a Martian; if you feel strange it’s not your fault. Furthermore, whenever you have a chance to enjoy Sweden, do it: it won’t happen again, at least for a long time.

Most importantly, what’s your thought on fika as an Italian?
I really like the fika concept, it something that we paradoxically don’t have in Italy.

And really how is the coffee in Sweden?
Usually the coffee you can drink in Sweden is not good, but it is not worse than the one you can find anywhere else in Northern Europe!

For more information about the movie and who is Alex check out: Who is Alex.

Fellow Americans and Brits and all my lovely readers. What did you think of the movie? Love it, hate it, laughed my ass hilarious, winter does sucks too.

74 thoughts on “The Endless Dream on a Winter Night”

  1. I didn’t see the movie but I read his blogpost and find it true in many ways, that is how Sweden works. And being a native Stockholmer, I laugh every time I read about “making friends in the street”. That is so true, if a person would come up to me in the street and try to make friends with me, I would probably think he’s a drunk or a tourist. Which is, in many ways, kinda sad.

    However, I find his analyzes that Swedes doesn’t have a close relationship because we haven’t had any wars to be wrong. And because we don’t have close relationships, we can have a well developed society. That essentially means that a country with close social relationships like, for instance, southern Europe, can never be well developed. And that just sounds like a bad excuse. And I’m half Finnish, and their “close relationships” are just like the Swedes, maybe even more so when it comes to being reserved, and they’ve had alot of wars.

    I also find it interesting that people think gender neutrality means that men aren’t men and women are calling the shots everywhere.

    Otherwise I find the analysis being fairly accurate, and I think you can apply it to both Norway and Finland. And one of the reasons for that is probably the weather, simple as that. Cold country, cold people. (And you cannot compare to like Alaska or Canada, since they are old Brittish colonies, which essentially means they still retain a very “English” way of acting. And that include being very polite and social.)

  2. Well Erik, I may agree with you on that, but to me it’s not so automatic that cold countries determine cold people. I consider Poland and Russia cold countries, but Polish and Russians are everything but cold people to me.
    Dont’ t you agree?

  3. I found the video really interesting, it scared me a little though since I’m planning on moving to Sweden in August! I’ve been to Sweden before but with a group of Americans and Brits, so I had a tight knit group of friends built in so I didn’t feel lonely. Of course, I’m interested to see how accurate this depiction will end up being!

  4. The coolest thing about this movie is, that is sums up things I have seen with my own eyes in Sweden and experiences that have kept happening in the exact same way as my friends and I have been discussing over the years. The insight is powerful, uncomplicated, straight to the point. In my opinion, it casts some light on a usually overestimated model of society and brings it down to earth, considering the difficulties in interaction with a quite remote, enclosed society, so to speak.

  5. Yes, there is a popup but it is only one. Since the video is hosted on megavideo, they have ads. Just let the popup open and then immediately close it.

    No no, it’s not 1.5 hours, some mistake on the megavideo side. It’s only 65 minutes. :)

  6. “You have watched 72 mins of video today.Please wait 54 mins..blah blah bollocks etc”
    So it’s more than 65 mins long…or they’re cheating me? (it stopped when he was talking to his cheating Italian mate who boffed his girlie!)

    As i’m just a very down to earth Englishman,i’ll be honest. It depressed me! It made me want to fly south for the winter. It made me feel dismal and cold and had i not already been living here and saw this..i wouldn’t have bothered coming!
    It’s what everyone expects Sweden to be i guess,but there’s so much more to the country as a whole. In summer it’s like a different world! I think it would have been better to have made this film in summer and maybe tagged a bit in later about the winter. Maybe because it was filmed in black & white it made it even more miserable i don’t know.
    Everything was so…strained and forced kind of. Where was the sense of fun,the jokes, the silliness? Maybe it’s just me and my way of meeting new people,but yes i understand it doesn’t always work here in Sweden.
    I just think if i saw this and didn’t know better,i’d have expected the title to have been “Why i killed myself in Sweden”!

    Sorry :(

  7. Dear Dano,

    had I made a movie about my Erasmus year in Stockholm you would have seen happy people everywhere, parties, picking ups, instant flings, hot girls and fairy tales.
    This is not a movie about what good things Sweden can offer, which can be appreciated mostly if you are on holidays or if you are an exchange student. I don’t know what you are doing in Sweden but I can guarantee you my feelings in the country changed drastically when I moved from being a student to when I became someone who was living in Sweden for real, working and trying to make ends meet.
    At that point you don’t measure yourself with exchange students, you confront yourself with routinized life which can be depressing in some ways.
    I do believe I have been associating with way more Swedes than all the ones who defend Sweden and Swedish people from the negative image that this film is supposed to give about the Swedish culture. Frankly speaking I know many more swedes than all the other foreigners I know.
    Besides, the majority of people who worked on this project are Swedes, and that should mean something.
    If you live in Sweden for real you should recognize sensations like the ones expressed by Alex like very common, you probably don’t feel like that if you surrounded by other foreigners like you most of the time; the problem is if you live in Sweden (and don’t spend just a period of your life there) you are not surrounded by many foreigners after a while. And then the real life begins, and the problems too.
    So to speak

  8. @ Giorgio – I have no idea to what Russian or Polish people you have been speaking to, but I find them being very rude and blunt (maybe not the Polish so much, but definitely Russians).

    And I understand that the life in Sweden, or in any other country for that matter, is not for everyone. But I do believe life is what you make of it. If you make a movie that is black and white and say “well Sweden is really depressing and it sucks”, then the life you’re gonna live here will reflect that. Or if I move to Italy and say, “well everyone is acting a certain way, this sucks”, then of course, everything will suck.

    I think you will have to be that “strange” foreign guy sometimes that asks people in the streets or ask your co-workers for an afterwork beer sometimes. You have to take chances, otherwise it will be boring. As a Swede, I don’t speak to people in the subway because I don’t feel I have anything to say to them, I have nothing to add. Or I don’t ask you certain things because I don’t want to be intrusive and bother you. Then you will have to be that person that asks or speak, people will mostly respond and be polite and talk with you or answer questions.

    It feels like a lot of people are like “well, no one smiled at me in the streets or spoke to me on the subway so this country sucks”. Then I don’t feel you have made an effort really. Isn’t it better if a smile means something instead? Like take London for instance, everyone is very polite and say “oh sorry” or “excuse me” if they slam a door in your face or step on your foot. That however doesn’t make them stop, they can still stand on your foot and say “sorry” a thousand times but still they don’t get off. Is that being polite? Does “sorry” really mean anything if you say “sorry” and don’t really mean it? Sure, I can walk around with a big grin on my face all day, but does that really mean anything then? Am I really happy to see you or is that just my standard face? (And of course not everyone is acting like that in London, but a lot of people are).

    I think a lot of people might think our way of acting is cold and rude, but it’s really just out of respect. Like if a person is lost and want to ask someone, they might think “well, that man seem to know what he’s doing but he looks kinda busy so I don’t want to bother him”. Of course, that is a “problem” for us, but you see, we do it out of respect, not cus we wanna be rude or we don’t care.

    However, I do understand that this might scare people and of course it’s not for everyone, especially if you’re not used to it. Everyone can’t like everything.

  9. Definately, Eric. I’ve pondered on it. Sweden’s alot about respect, making the disrespectful things also contrasts and makes a black-and-white mentality possible. The fact that it’s a big part of Swedish society can lead to great confusion(could it even be a culture crash as there’s a difference in psychology?). There are some conventions or norms in other societies which are failsafes to break these respect-standoffs as Erik mentioned before.

    Swedes don’t need these norms, or we have a more limited areal of situations where you may be little or more disrespectful. I do as Erik mentions, take initiative. It’s not difficult or anything, I think the thing with knowing Swedish culture and initiating is to do a balance act where you balance the act of breaking the norms and to respect the silence. You compromise; more written about it right below.

    I think Sweden’s partly called “the land of compromises” because we need them to balance out our behaviour with the norms in Swedish society. You could call it an idealistic society at some levels, with the new discoveries on human psychology show we’re still deep down egoistic the natural behaviour, I would say, is to ignore the norms and act as we wish. The cultural schooling counteracts that though, being quiet because of your cultural upbringing indirectly contributes to society with less frustration; helping someone because it’s rewarded with great respect.

    Another example is it’s quiet on the busses because you respect those who want it quiet. Could the respect-thing be an agreement between people to ease up the amosphere in this cold climate?

    Talk can lead to misunderstandings, silence doesn’t. Therefore silence is gold? Very blunt, yet I think it underlines the matter of talking.

    As usual this sounds very abstract and pretentious; I might be wrong.

  10. I couldn’t watch to the end, too depressing. It made me wonder why, if it’s really like this, anyone would stay? Luckily I have no plans to move to Sweden only visit again during the summer so I won’t have to worry about these things.

  11. I only watched about half an hour and then saw that it took 1.5 hours (Sapphire mentioned that it does only take 65 minutes) but I did find it very heavy going, especially due to the black and white. I could not believe how cold the documentary was, all that snow!! It certainly made me think twice about going there for my studies. I still want to go though, I have seen enough gorgeous photos out there of Sweden in the summer :-)

  12. to Jessica:

    even Giorgio wrote that life in Sweden is good if you stay there for a while; I think it can seem even too good, sort of misleading.
    You shouldn’t have any depression if you don’t decide to stay longer; on the other hand if you make up your mind about living there, only in that case those problems shown in the movie could arise

  13. @Mario – They could arise yes, but positive people also come out of here. We’re more positive than most people in certain way. If we weren’t why would we stay in a country(which i’m proud of, very unswedish) like this? And we’re friendly, many who meet a swede realize that in a very short time :)

  14. To be honest i think these problems can be found in any country in the western world, and definately all those that get snow!
    If you’re an outgoing happy go lucky kind of person,then you’ll struggle to make friends in other countries if you hold yourself back because you’re told it’s “just not right” to chat people up!
    Come to yourself…and what will be will be!

    I didn’t realise the film was MEANT to be gloomy and miserable and designed to give Sweden a bad “rep”. You could sell this to Migrationsverket who can show it to all prospective immigrants.It might make them change their minds and they’ll bugger off elsewhere!

  15. The movie is very, very well done!! I loved the storyline, the acting, the way it was shot…. basically everything. And I don’t agree it is depressing per se. BTW: it really is only 65 minutes.

    @ FV: Hi :)
    I think the problem with silence and lack of eyecontact is that it is also a type of communication. Outside Sweden it is a clear sign that you like to be left alone. It would be EXTREMELY rude to disturb someone if they so strongly communicate they don’t want to be bothered. Out of respect, non-Swedes will leave others alone in that case. Plus: they would probably be confused (and hurt) why they get this perceived ‘cold’ treatment. There would therefore not be a great desire to reach out to the Swedes.

    Non-Swedes among eachother don’t have to talk all the time. Silence is golden indeed, but only if it is a comfortable silence. The key to comfortable is that you acknowledge the existence of others and show that you are not hostile. After that, you can still chose to be silent with others around. That will not be considered rude at all, actually it would be a sign that you feel comfortable. I guess it’s all in the subtle nuances. Body language and eyecontact are very important to establish the context.

    On the other side: silence is definately not always appreciated. Opposed to the public space where you don’t know anyone and no-one has any expectations of you besides general curtosy, it would be considered weird if you meet with someone you know and then slip into introvert mode. In that case silence is seen as if you don’t appreciate the fact that someone is making time for you. So a quiet person in that case would either be a lunatic or an a**hole. :)

    But I have to agree with Erik that as soon as you know that others (=Swedes) have another ruleset of good behavior, I think you should try to adjust to it instead of imposing your own rules… If you can’t do that I think the only thing to do is to to hang out with non-Swedes or move to a place where you feel more comfortable.

    @ Erik: I agree with you that there are many false smiles given, especially in the USA. I can’t stand it if I get a ‘Have a nice day’ from a clerk while at the same time they have the most bored and uninterested look on their face.
    But still: the quantity of smiles given does not say anything about their quality. I like to smile a lot, but I can assure you that all my smiles are sincere. I think I would miss it a lot if people don’t smile back. You feel like you reach out to someone, and they don’t appreciate your effort.
    Like I mentioned to FV, reassurance is an important part of communication outside Sweden.

    Also, I think that you don’t know what you have to add to a conversation / what another person can learn from you, until you give it a go. I’ve never met anyone that was so boring that I would not like to talk to them on the bus for 10 minutes. But that may be different for other people.

  16. @Summer – Hello :) Hmm yes, I see your point clearly with the silence and how it can be perceived.

    Leads me to think that swedes have a wide understanding that even if you’re quiet you respect each other’s company. And if you’re quiet because you’re down you don’t need to get chatted up because everyone respects you being down(it’s a part of life after all, you see it as a second state equal to happiness), you don’t want to break the conversation to make it awkward(which makes it less awkward for the guy being down as well), you usually weave it into the conversation until it reaches it’s goal as the main part of the conversation.

    If it’s a heavy subject swedes weave it in in periods during the conversation, filling out with common talk as a fresh breath, then breathing back in on the heavy subject until it’s resolved. Then there are closer bonds between close friends which you tell while the others are listening, letting the other friends join in and help you or just listen.

    Reassurance is not a part of the swedish “cool” mentality though(cool being the positive cool). If you want to take something cheezy as the Fonz for example(little exaggerated example but still a symbol for “cool”); he reassured people in his own way, he didn’t exactly epitomize reassurance, but people knew “Everything’s all right” anyway when it was the Fonz..

    We’re not imposing many rules, we’re imposing less rules than we’re exposed to in foreign countries. I think we’re less complicated in social situations than you think, I could even dare at calling Sweden less socially complicated than most countries.

    Happy to see you’re joining into the conversation, Summer :)

  17. PS.

    @Dano – I don’t think so either mate, the movie’s made to contrast against the good image of Sweden, but it’s not necessarily the bigger part that’s bad impressions, not at all. Often you have a healthy low number of bad impressions, unless someone gets pissed off at some of our customs.

  18. I agree with Summer about the smiling part. I smile at people to acknowledge them, even if I do not know them and appreciate a smile back. That is just a common courtesy. If someone does not smile back, I find it rather rude and am a bit taken aback. I also mean my smiles, I do not run around smiling like an idiot. It is just to say hi to someone and then leave them in peace.

    About the weather… I am lucky I have had time to adjust to the cold and definite lack of sun here in Holland. I know that coming from sunny South Africa I was depressed as hell for the first two years in Holland and absolutely hated it. I have now come to enjoy the different seasons (though I really do wish it would rain less!) I think that it is especially difficult for people to adjust to a cold environment and ‘unfriendly’ people if they come from a place that is 180 degrees different. I think that this is something that influences their perception of Swedish people. If you live in a country long enough, then you do appreciate their differences and can see that what you first thought of as rude is just their way and not meant to be rude at all. In Friesland, the northern part of Holland where I live, people always greet each other in the street and say hi, even if they do not know you. I found this incredibly rude in the beginning as I did not talk to people I did not know. After 16 years, I now find it incredibly rude when someone does not say hi back ;-)

    Dano: I agree to just be myself when I finally get to Sweden :-D I hear such a mixture of things from people on this blog, I have decided to make up my own mind when I am there. A friend of mine studied in Uppsala for six months and loved the Swedes. Said they were very kind and friendly. Another friend of mine went to visit him for a long weekend while he was there and said he had a great time there with the Swedes. So I shall just be my happy, charming self and keep you all posted! Maybe I will start my own blog and you can all spam me there :-D

  19. Lol..i’m a “terminator” – “saving private Ryan” kinda guy.Never have been the type for the “best foreign film” at the Cannes film festival. As stated at the beginning i’m a “down to Earth” guy…a “trucker”! Whazza hell do i know?

  20. I am from Ukraine and was visitng Sweden last spring. Re. silence topic. You know what? I still feel very ashamed for being once asked to make the TV less loud while my staying at Sweden. Honestly, I just didn’t realize it as here we have different standarts of noise level. Plus I am living in the overpopulated capital and it has it’s influence. But since I do feel ashamed, I respect and accept some rules of the other society. After coming back I felt weird during next few weeks – people where “too much noizy” and girls where loughing out “too much open and loud”. Now I don’t feel it. But I always had some story to tell my Swedish friends after just going outdoors – some nice conversations, funny situations etc. Being asked: “But how are you doing this? Noone speaks to me on the streets or at the stores!”, I’ve answered: “Because you are not speaking.”. We can break our minds here on some small nuances but, being between Poland and Russia, I would like to add that people could be rude when they feel unconfident. My job requires a lot of contacts with foreigners and when running some conversations during coffee breaks, I often notice my colleagues’ “big eyes” = “How can you laugh at a German’s jokes? How could you discuss family topics with a Swede? How could you explain to the French our national cuisine?” What I want to say – please give us, ex Soviet-oriented people some time to get used there are other ways and life styles. Being open minded and warm hearted, one would be accepted almost everywhere.
    P.S. Sorry If I sounf a kind of “banal” or out of topic – also need to get used to such kind of communication :).

  21. @Dano – Not sure about the time issue. Unfortunate that megavideo is the only place to stream long videos. :(

    @Erik @Formica – I appreciate your discourse. That’s the point of the movie: to get you to be insightful and reflect upon your culture and people. Some may have found the movie antagonizing but it is the story of the faceless foreigner attempting assimilation.

    But I agree, the black and white and over-heavy score made the movie more depressing that it needed to be.


    Speaking of smiling, I love smiling to everyone. Maybe I’m a bit too bubbly, but that’s me. And the really sad part is every since I moved to Sweden, I’ve become so much more reserved and quiet (eyes staring at floor) in public spaces.

    I’m getting back to the smiling but the lack of human connection and emotion is draining. Human society is built on interaction and connection to other souls. Sometimes I find the trains and streets soulless; why be a society and pay taxes if you really don’t care to acknowledge other humans through smiling, holding the door open, lending a hand…

  22. @ Sapphire: I really do not get it – smiling is just about the only thing not taxed in Sweden :-D You would expect them to be grinning like maniacs! (Just kidding everyone)!!

    I am also a very bubbly person and generally always in a good mood and I love chatting to people. I hope you are still bubbly and enjoying your time in Sweden. If ever you feel the need to recharge your smiling batteries, hop over to Holland and I will buy you a round :-)

  23. This is based on reading the filmmaker’s article about Sweden. I haven’t seen the whole clip yet, but it seems that the movie’s intentions mirror those of the article on his blog. He doesn’t seem to understand Sweden because he doesn’t know enough of its history. Ideals of democracy, order and egalitarianism go back for thousands of years, and are not products of mere historical or political details like wars or welfare legislation.

    Writings by the Roman historian Tacitus confirm that women have had a strong position in Swedish society for at least 2,000 years, and that order and egalitarianism were ideals even then. Weapons in Sweden were locked up in a central location 2,000 years ago, so in terms of arms control, Sweden was further ahead back then compared to Texas now!

    Read all about it:

  24. @Sapphire, that’s too sad with the reservedness, if you’re ever in Malmö I’ll buy and your husband a beer :) I can just imagine the fascinating discussions we would have.

    It’s getting more and more loosened up, the tradition of set meetings. People crowd more on busses in this town and actually enjoy the company, although still a bit unused to it. I’m flustered at the Malmö laserman for instilling fear and division and I hope he gets what’s been coming to him.

  25. @ Sapphire: Well, then you could turn on the table and say “Why do you smile if you don’t care about people, since you don’t pay taxes to support free healthcare. Then your smiles gotta be fake smiles since you obviously don’t care about the sick and needy”. And we both know that is not true, so mixing in politics is just stupid.

    And I do acknowledge people around me, I just don’t speak to them. If they ask me something, I will politely respond of course. I just really don’t see the point in talking about the weather, where I’m from and what I’m doing with a total stranger, then I would feel he or she would be intruding. I don’t see what’s so strange about that, I guess Swedes are more keen to protect our integrity.

    And smiling has nothing to do with being polite or not, atleast not according to this article:

    Then you can see that countries and cities usually considered friendly is not, like Sidney or Amsterdam.

    I do however understand that our “customs” may feel strange to people that are used to a more “warm” reception when they are crossing the street or talking the metro. Even I would like more smiling sometimes, believe it or not! :)

  26. @ Sapphire: llllllove your blog! :)

    @ Erik: You don’t have to talk about the weather and boring crap like that. To give you a totally rediculous example: I bought an exotic piece of fruit on the market and hopped on the bus to my appartment. Two elder Indonesian women just started chatting to me about the fruit. Then they explained to me that I had not bought proper fruit and to which things I should pay attention to the next time I bought it. I also got some tips on how to prepare it. They enjoyed that someone really valued their culture and experience (I actually made their recipe) and I enjoyed that I learned something new from them that I would not be able to find in my cookbooks.

    But if you just stare down, and you don’t look at people and check out their fruit, you cannot have such conversations, can you? (And before Dano says something: the part about the fruit, I don’t mean it to sound as dirty as it does… LOL :D)

    Furthermore, politeness is not so easy to measure in objective measures like if someone opens a door or says thanks. It is much more a matter of subjective perception, i.e. about how the other person feels if you do or do not open the door for them.

    To give you another example that perception for humans is often much more important than objective measures:
    Numerous studies have shown that cancer patients are far happier than healthy people. Should you give everyone cancer to make them happy? I would not recommend so. But cancer patients value the small things in life. They have a different perspective on life which allows them to be happier, while objectively their situation is much worse than that of healthy people.
    A state of mind is therefore most important on perceptions of politeness and happiness. Outside Sweden people make much more effort to establish this set of mind, than in Sweden. At least, that’s what I suspect?

    @ Jessica: Hoi to you from almost around the corner! Whoop whoop for The Netherlands :D

    @ FV: another smile to you and thanks for making me feel welcome :) You know, you Swedes are far cooler than The Fonz. He still was very much an eye contact and a touchy feely kind of person. I actually think he felt up everything that walked, but never mind that.
    And about the reassurance: I have travelled all around the world for fun and work. Personally, I think the amount of rituals to show goodwill in Latin America and Africa is tiring and very much not how I would prefer it. But because it is important to me that everyone feels comfortable, I ‘up’ my politeness game to the local level. I constantly check if I am understood correctly and if not, I throw in another curtosy until everyone is okay. I also do that in Western-Europe with peope from non-Western-Europe countries and it is very much appreciated. I have to stress again that this would not be my own norm of good behavior, but I would adjust it anyways if it would make the other person feel better.

    Would Swedes not do that? And why?

  27. I have such a bad reputation! Blah. :( I would never pick on a girl for buying erotic fruit.Each to their own i say! :)

    (I’ve had cancer and radio/chemo therapy. I was NOT a happy bunny,trust me!!!

  28. @Erik –

    “Well, then you could turn on the table and say “Why do you smile if you don’t care about people, since you don’t pay taxes to support free healthcare. Then your smiles gotta be fake smiles since you obviously don’t care about the sick and needy”. And we both know that is not true, so mixing in politics is just stupid.”

    A little harsh I think, Erik :) I think she was obviously joking hehehe. Our healthcare is quite unique in that it works so well even though it’s a social institution, which, historically, has had a background of malfunctioning pretty quickly.

    @Summer – True, though we have the potential of all being genuine Fonzies ;) The travelling Swedes are living the life!(man, can’t believe I used that metaphore again)

    Until later *waves*

  29. To Jacob:
    probably I don’t know the entire Swedish history, however, when I studied the Swedish system at Stockholm University they didn’t show the roots starting 2000 years ago. I am not saying it didn’t have any role, everyone who is not an idiot knows that the explanation of any social phenomenon is never mono causal, but the thing is we need to identify which are the strongest causes.
    If we go back 2000 years I can tell you something interesting, since I am from Rome and I studied deeply the Roman Empire: Roman women 2000 years ago were way more liberal than what Italian women are these days. Why? Because in the meantime loads of things happened, just to quote some events: the Barbarian invasions, the arrival of the Church, the dominance of other States.
    It could be misleading to go back so many years.
    On the other hand I admit I only studied carefully what happened in Sweden from the Protestant reform onwards.
    The intention of the film was not to prove a point, it’s just the sum of different biographies; we decided to show something that really happened, but most importantly we underlined how many foreigners told me they were feeling, which was also how I was feeling sometimes.
    To conclude: Sweden is a very good country for many things and we all know that, I would never deny it; it’s a matter of fact.
    But for someone like me feeling strong emotions and develop friendships at a level which is deeper than a superficial acquaintance is more important than feeling safe when I walk home, or have the metro be very punctual.
    That’s why I left Sweden (which I always describe as one of my favourite countries to my new friends) and I am happy where I am living now; it will be pleasant to go back to Sweden on holidays in the future, but it was not my country to live.

  30. @ Dano: LOL :) This was the forbidden fruit in question (number 8, the Cherimoya)
    And very sorry to hear you had to suffer through cancer. :(

    @ FV: looking at the other threads it seems that you can indeed compare Swedish men to the Fonz:
    “The Fonz: You’re dreaming about a girl you’ve never met?
    Richie Cunningham: Come on, Fonz, haven’t you ever dreamed?
    The Fonz: Hey I’m not the dreamer! I’m the dreamee!”
    Hehehe ;)

  31. @ summer – Hmmm,if it wasn’t for the Lychee..which i love, i’d have said that was a joke site! Square melons indeed,meh!! :P

  32. I agree with what Summer said, although I do not understand the distrust that most northerners feel toward people that do smile. I say northerners as I have also heard Finnish people comment on this phenomenon. How can one be suspicious of someone who smiles and also hold it against them? As if they are trying to be fake just because they acknowledge you with a smile. Also the fact that they hold people at an arms length before they let them close enough to be friends, as though you have to know someone for ages before you can let them in to your circle of friends. Uggggg, this is not what I wanted to type anyway, while I was cooking i had such a clear line of reasoning. But somewhere from the kitchen to the computer, the line of reasoning got scrambled!

    Also just a question, is this based on Swedes in Sweden? I have noticed a huge difference in behaviour by Frisians in the villages here and Frisians in the larger towns. The ones in the villages have much better manners and are much friendlier etc…

    Anyhoo – this is really no critique on the Swedes or any other people from the north. Rather just trying to understand what makes you tick. I really love people, they are so interesting. And I could have told you Amsterdam sucks, I mean that the people there are rude. I may have held a rant bout that somewhere else on this blog. Come up the north of Holland. Much smaller cities but much friendlier people :-)

    Summer – are you also stationed in Holland? Hello to you anyway! I LMAO at your comment about the fruit, Dano would have been on that remark like flies on, you-know-what ;-)

    Dano, sorry to hear you were sick with cancer. Very glad that you are better (I hope!) And I get the impression you were never a happy chappy – I think you are (and take great delight in being) a grumpy old sod :-D

  33. I enjoyed the movie.
    Reading comments, most of the (swedish) girls liked the movie :-) while foreigners (boys) didn’t. Why is that (in your opinion)?

  34. I’m an American who recently ventured to Sweden for the first time this summer and I did not find Swedes to be cold people at all. Quite the opposite actually! I appreciated the ability to sit and listen to my ipod without being interrupted while on public transportation – it’s a nice change from being stuck in traffic all the time! During my random excursions, whenever I asked people for directions or help, they were always quite pleasant and kind. While on a train I was struggling with a heavy suitcase and a young man was kind enough to help me even without my asking. I realize that Swedes pride themselves on being self sufficient (it’s a trait I try to embody as well) so perhaps this is why I did not mind some of the things that others have mentioned.

    I think that I was also lucky enough to meet up with some really, seriously amazing people during my time in Sweden. Those lovely Swedes really made my trip something special!

  35. @Summer – On the distrust towards smiling, the fact that it’s not part of our social norms, but comes naturally, makes it awkward for Swedes when someone’s smiling just to seek contact.

  36. @ Jessica: There is nothing above ‘my city’. Now if you translate that into Dutch you should be able to recognize to which city this slogan belongs. :D I agree very much with your comments that there is nothing wrong with a smile to warm up your cold day.

    And I am very proud of The Netherlands, but we have our flaws too… and I think they are quite similar to the Swedish, although in a different way.

    I have heard quite a lot of complaints from my international friends that Dutch people come accross as inaccessible, although we are very friendly and open. Similar to Swedes, we are tolerant and like equality. At the same time, we secretly put ourselves a bit above other cultures because we feel ours is better.

    Our country has many benefits similar to those of Sweden such as equal opportunity for men and women, safety, protection of workers, good education, healthcare and infrastructure. But, if I may cite Johan Cruijff: “Elk voordeel heb zn nadeel.” = “Every advantage has its disadvantage.”

    I think our culture -similar to Swedish culture- is flawed: Being tolerant towards another person’s existence (=let them be, don’t harm them), does not mean that that person has equal opportunity and will be a happy part of society.

    First of all, tolerance does not guarantee equal opportunity in jobs. The Dutch for example will hire people who are/behave Dutch. If you don’t know the tacit rules of conduct, you won’t get the job.
    Contradictory to our individualistic nature and loud personal opinions, we distrust people who are a bit different, a bit unDutch so to say. This means that if you are quiet, not able to make and take rude comments, and don’t dress nicely, you are somewhat screwed. These standards of Dutchness are higher if you are foreign and want a good job- you have to compensate your differences by being even more equal.

    Second, you do not have equal opportunity in personal life.
    People need more than just food, shelter, and safety, check out Maslow’s hierarchy of needs if you like.'s_hierarchy_of_needs

    I think both Sweden and The Netherlands have focused on materialistic needs of people, which is very good and practical of course! Both countries have managed to secure basic physiological needs and needs for safety, but may be falling a bit short when it comes to love/belonging, esteem, and self-actualization. Foreigners who do not automatically have a local network will miss these components very much.

    Let me illustrate this for The Netherlands:
    It is easy to make initial contact in The Netherlands. People are curious and talk to strangers on buses, in the store, on the street, etc.
    As a result I think everyone loves Dutch people – even the Germans (of which we make the rudest jokes). Yet it is very hard to get into our inner circle. This leaves many foreigners disillusioned.

    Also, many Dutch people feel ‘together alone’. People here don’t like to get into each others business, out of tolerance for and respect of other people’s opinion. Unfortunately this means that if someone is really wasting their live, no-one will step in to offer help. But I think that most people would not know how to offer such help. We are used to the government caring for us and telling us what we want. Most people have never thought what we want ourselves, so most of us are unable to advise another person. If we tried, it would only painfully expose our shortcomings and we would have to think how we wasted our lives thus far and take responsibility for our lives from now on. Ignorance is bliss.

    Okay, I am depressed now. :D
    No, I think The Netherlands is great actually! But as in any other country, you should not expect to get everything you want without pursuing it. You just have to look for the people who are special: the non-conformists who like to think for themselves.

    @ FV: *still not breaking the silence towards you after my Fonzie comment. A Swede tought me that silence is golden. ;) *

    BTW: I am very curious what this ‘adult content’ is due to which “The New Questions on Swedish Dating ” has been shut down. Danoooooooo????!!! ;)

  37. @Jessica – I can almost sense this Swede is very intellectual and quite a catch ;P

    Speaking of swedes in general, that applies, but with me; having been born in a noisy big family I just can’t stand it ;)

  38. @ Jessica: I’m still not talking to FV, but if you see him, could you tell him the following?

    1. ‘I can almost sense this Swede is very intellectual and quite a catch’ …. LOL :D :D
    2. Reacting to your previous post about smiles: most smiles are not about making contact for the sake of contact / convention. There is always an underlying message, never serious, but nevertheless genuine, meaningful and a positive addition to the moment.
    For instance:
    * the smile someone who comes out of the dentist office gives you before you go in.. this would be the ‘I made it, it was not that bad. Good luck!’ smile.
    * the smile someone gives you when the weather is warm and you feel great….. the ‘life is good’ smile.
    * the smile your 82 year old neighbour gives you when she sees you coming home at 7 in the morning.. the ‘I remember similar days. I m happy you’re young and enjoying life’ smile.
    All such smiles are genuine and integer. All are about recognizing ourselves in the other, in a positive way.

  39. @Summer – Maybe I was a bit blunt in my earlier comment, I admit :P I didn’t mean it at all like that that smiles are nonexistant!

    Those smiles exist, they’re everywhere, and yes those are natural hehehe :)

  40. How come everybody starts yelling for me when problems with “adult content” or some such arises???
    As far as i know it was about some swearing..some of which i may have been involved in lol…and google ad’s told Sapphire she had to get rid of it or lose her advertising cash!

  41. to Summer:

    in your posts you proved at least 3 things: 1) you are smart 2) you are good at analyzing 3) you can recognize the advantages and drawbacks of living in your own country.
    It seems easy but almost nobody can do it and I am glad you appreciated our film.

  42. @ Giorgio: Flattery will get you everywhere! LOL :D
    And I think I proved two things more:
    4) I have too much time on my hands, and
    5) I’m overthinking as I’m not getting laid by a certain Swede and I wonder why.
    Hehehe ;) My hobby are movies btw, I’ve seen quite a lot. Your documentary is honestly really good!

    Some more things about culture and love crossed my mind today but I’ll save that for later. Now I promise to shut up, as I have to go to sleep and catch up for the work and friends I neglected today. :)

    @ Dano: From now on, just substitute f*** with fika. As in: “Go fika yourself!”. I think it works perfectly as an insult, and GoogleAds won’t catch it. :)

  43. @Summer – I have a problem with “fika”. On another thread a girl said to Sapphire..”we must fika sometime.”…and i got horny!! So yes,a passable substitute,lol.

    You’re not getting laid by your Swede because he probably can’t work out where you live from your cryptic clues! :P

    @Jessica – Forgot to reply to your earlier post sorry…yes i’m clear of the cancer now.It was a while ago thanks.
    And i am a quite happy chap! But you’re right,i do seem to enjoy portraying myself as a grumpy old sod! lmao.

  44. @Summer: I believe you are probably in a city up north here with me, probably the same city I study. Unless another city uses that slogan that I am not aware of?? I can tell you now that the more ‘oplettend’ readers will now know where you live ;-) I agree with everything you said about the smiles – that is what I meant about my smiles being often and genuine…

    I do not agree with you about the Dutch though. I am a foreigner living in Holland and while there are things about the Dutch that drive me crazy, Holland has become my second home. I do not find the Dutch inacessable at all! They are really friendly and curious and love to ask about foreign places (I am from South Africa) and have been interrogated by the Dutch (just kidding) about SA and the culture etc. They have always been extremely kind to me and although very different from my own culture, I can get on with them very well. I immigrated here when I was young so maybe I managed to get into the Dutch inner circle easier as I was a kid hanging with kids my own age. I must have also integrated very well to be able to get jobs here ;-)

    And if you live where I think you live, how did you manage to get your paws on a Swede???!? Do we have them up north here?

    @FV: thank you for apologizing to Summer ;-) I am sure that she will now be talking to you again! I am just not sure what you meant with your comment to me about a certain Swede being quite a catch. I haven’t caught anything!

    @Dano: You are capable of making totally innocent comments about fruit turn into something PG 18!! You are probably the sole reason that the Google feds are now cracking down on Sapphire’s blog :-D

    @ Georgio: I never meant any disrespect to your documentary. The little bit I did see I thought looked very professional – it just struck a very dismal chord with me! I still have to finish watching it; I am just a bit snowed under (pardon the pun) with homework at the moment. Are you back home now in Rome? I wish you all the best though!

  45. @ Jessica: “Swede happens.” I bumped into him abroad. No pawing has been done though. Thus far, we only played several rounds of “Let’s confuse the Dutch girl into insanity.” He’s very good at that. LOL ;)

    I agree with all you say about the Dutch being friendly. We are also very helpful people, but I find us lacking in asking ‘why’ things are the way they are. We just keep on doing what we do because life is not so bad and we feel we should not complain about anything.
    Oh and ofcourse we are far superior to the Swedish, the Brittish and any other nationality for that matter. But that’s such an obvious fact, I don’t need to point it out… :P :)

    I’m a student at the uni too, but in another department! :) (=I checked your profile.)

    @ Dano: I’ve drawn him a pretty good map… *insert swear words here* hahaha :D

  46. I had a Dutch fling once with a gorgeous girl from Veldhoven,Noord Brabant.She was VERY helpful! :)
    Taught me all about “Pinkpop” and a nightclub called “Vips”,where she came 2nd in the “miss Vips” contest. Apart from the more …sordid details…that’s the extent of my knowledge of the Dutch.(Although i always fancied that job of sticking my thumb into holes in dykes! :P )

  47. To Jessica:

    no worries about criticism, to me that doesn’t mean being disrespectful. Everybody is free to tell me “your movie is crap”, “it’s depressing”, “I don’t like it at all”, “it’s very low quality”. Personal judgments are obviously free and personal by definition. Besides it was the first experience for everyone: screenwriter, director, actors, actresses, editors; only the music authors is a “real” artist and it’s pretty obvious. What I do not accept is if someone says “you did that because you are the enemy of this country” or “your objective was to talk shit about Sweden”. Simply because it is not true, the intellectual honesty behind this project is unquestionable. Otherwise all the Swedes who worked in this film would be betrayers of their homeland, which I am sure they love.

  48. @ Summer: half the women on here are confused by these Swedes ;-) You are not alone! I must say that the Dutch I meet are always ashamed of being Dutch. They are not proud of being Dutch and only after some careful prodding and asking further questions do they ‘come out’ and admit to loving their country. I find it a shame. They are too scared of being called fascists or nazis, as that is what loving your country amounts to in their eye, which is a pity…

    @ Dano: I have never been to Veldhoven, I try and stay as far up north as possible! Sticking your fingers in dykes is practically mandatory ;-) The Dutch are very helpful, if you meet a cold Dutchmen that is really an exception and they are to be avoided at all costs :-D

    @ Georgio: yes, I agree. But from what I have experienced so far on this blog, with an exception of a few, the Swedes feel attacked very quickly when you offer your views on Sweden as an outsider, even though you are offering critique it doesn’t mean you hate the country. As you said before, few people can distance themselves from their country to accept critique about it and accept it. From what I have been reading on internet about Sweden so far, there are still way more positive things out there about Sweden than negative :-)

  49. To Jessica:

    I do confirm after living in Sweden for almost 5 years that there are more positive than negative things in that country.
    I just claim Sweden suits different people in different ways: it is perfect if you are a Swede doc, it suits you good if you are a typical northern European, it may not be the right country if you come from a different culture.
    Besides, Sweden is great if you study there, a little less (from my point of view) if you work there; to give you an idea my Erasmus year in Stockholm was probably the best year in my life.
    The problems for me started later. I still consider efficiency, respect of the rules and life security as important factors to be taken into account. But what is even more important to me is expressing my ideas out loud; not refraining from laughing or crying in public because those who are around you may find it inappropriate, showing your feelings openly. To me it was not enough waiting for the weekend to be free to get drunk and then do all the things I would have wanted to do all the time (in terms of social life). Since I didn’t suit all the written and unwritten rules of the country I thought the best I could do was packing my stuff and move.
    But I also respect those who accept all the rules of their society and are happy enough to be free to express themselves thoroughly only in the weekends and after several drinks.
    I just felt not so free to express myself, but I guess the concept of freedom is partly subjective.

  50. Hi guys. Some comments are off topic from the movie. Maybe we can cut that down.

    Let’s try to come back to the movie and cultural discussion related.

  51. @ Giorgio:
    I think that when humans meet, at first there is the initial recognition of common traits. We all have a nose, two eyes, two ears, etc. and we all want to be respected and loved.

    After a while, when people feel more at ease the differences become apparent. Paradoxally, it should be a good sign if someone feels comfortable enough around you to be themselves, but it can be interpreted as a bad sign if their standard mode is different from yours.

    If the differences in how we do and say things become too big, then automatically problems will arise as people grow closer. You had expectations that the other person understood and liked you, and now the opposite seems to be true. It is human nature to be hurt and become a bit defensive in that case. I think it is a natural self-protection mechanism. For thousands of years people lived in small communities that did not change. You did not have the situation that you met a lot of people that were different from you, and the people who were different usually were bad or crazy. I think it is pretty deep in all of us to reject those who do not share our norms and beliefs. In old times, it was a useful instinct, but it is not anymore.

    As long as we are conscious about such instinctive programming, we can make a decision about how we deal with eachother’s differences.
    One extreme option is to stick to your own and feel offended by others. In that case there is the danger that out of personal insecurity and fear of being rejected by others, we stop seeing people who are different than us as humans. Instead, we label them as robots or savages. In other words: we make them into ‘things’ whose opinion you do not have to take into account. We just shut them out and then they cannot hurt us.

    I think that is sad, nothing good has ever come from fear and distancing yourself like that (at least for me it hasn’t). I think you deprive yourself from a good learning experience, if not something more.

    I would plea for us to be a bit more forgiving towards the differences/perceived shortcomings of others and a bit more confident about ourselves. I know that both these things are hard to do, from my own experience.

    But I would definately plea for us to make that effort, for the sake of ourselves. Bear with me for a bit more, so I can explain..

    Eventually we look to recognize ourselves in others. That creates a feeling of being understood and feeling secure. These are all important conditions for loving and being loved by someone.

    I think in modern times, we are used to getting things fast. We want instant recognition of ourselves in others, we want the promise of fast love. It’s both a practical but also a very impatient and therfore rather unrealistic perspective on life.

    To draw an analogy: I personally am willing to make an effort and spend time in order to prepare a delicious dish, and I like to try out new foods. So why not spend the same patience and resources when it comes to human interaction? I don’t settle for junk food, I don’t eat the same food all the time… so why should I go for the same old interactions with people who are like me, just because I can immediately put a lable on them and because I confirm to myself that I must be a decent person as others are similar to me? Am I really that needy for security and approval of others?

    I think the key to understanding others is to be willing to put your own ego aside and recognize your own flaws. I think this is the hardest thing to do for a human. It’s a a very basic existential fear that we are not good enough, not worthy enough to exist.
    Although obviously I am rather perfect..*puke*, I personally am also facing such fears… but hey, I’m rather confident about myself and I think it’s worth taking risks in life. That’s living, isn’t it? For me, that is the only way of living my life free spirited and with the largest chance on happiness.

    To end: Giorgio, both junk food and junk relationships are widely available everywhere in Europe, but it does not mean that we have to settle for them. At least, I don’t.
    I wonder if your Irish experience is so much better than your Swedish. If I may use the food analogy again: are you not just eating the same old junk food there, but then covered with a leave of salad to make it look like ‘real’ food? That’s a genuine question btw, and not some kind of hidden jab towards your choice not to live in Sweden.

  52. Hahahahahaha Summer, made me laugh outloud and now the girlfriends pissy because she things it’s true! :))

    Lol FV mate,no,but i think it’d be a really good name for a club…for a certain “clientele? :)

    Sapphire – Sorry hun. :(

    Re film:
    I don’t think it’s a bad film,just one mans personal experiences of a different country..with a lot of snow and greyness!
    I think if you criticise a country then it’s automatically seen by it’s natives as an attack!
    You only have to say something remotely bad about America or the UK and hundreds of gun loving and overly patriotic lunatics will suddenly flood a blog/forum!
    So for me,it’s natural that some Swedes may be “up in arms” about this film.

  53. Thank you for sharing this film Sapphire and Giorgio! VERY insightful! I am learning many things. It did sort of make me sad though. I cannot lie about that, and for once humor is difficult for me to even think of or express. It just doesn’t resonate with me when I thought deeply about this film and it’s depiction.

  54. Well since I more or less spent two thirds of my salary on partying and the last part on the bills in the time frame of 5 days. I dont really have much to do this friday.

    So I just figured I’d come here and say. The movie is too long, and there is not enough nudity in it=P.

    Jokes aside, there was something more serious about all this that I was going to say but I cant remember what it was. So um…. have a good one!

  55. To Summer:

    It is very simple, I already knew what my life in Ireland would be, since I had already lived here a few years ago. I knew what I could have had: a proper job and many friends; and what I would have lacked: high standards.
    When I decided to return to Sweden I hoped I could keep the same good things I had in Ireland plus higher standards.
    I improved the standards by living in Sweden but I worsened the other two factors.
    I realized that the positive things I had in Ireland were more important to me than the good things I had in Sweden.
    That’s it, as simple as that.
    Obviously if someone prefers high standards to a dynamic working environment and friends from all over Europe, well, that person would choose Sweden over Ireland, no question about it

  56. Giorgiotto!
    long time no hear from you! And I get to know you moved to Irland through a blogg! (well, actually from Angelotto whos sitting next to me with a glas of (listen to this) Slovenian wine. haha!
    … a pity you left with no short movie with a title like “Midsummer in Onsala”. That would have been another hit.
    Take care and have it so good!

  57. Well I enjoyed the film- which was surprising considering that it’s a documentary and would not usually be my cup of tea. The appealing aspect of it to me was the personal interactions and the subject matter. Perhaps it struck a cord in me because of the interactions that I’ve had with a couple of Swedes recently. I’ve never actually been to Sweden but I felt like I was right there with him on campus- on the roller coaster ride to uncertainty.
    Psychology is fascinating in my opinion, whether it deals with one person or many, and in this case the film was more of a sociological experiment of sorts. It was a fascinating view into a society, that as an outsider seems like an impossibility to get accepted into or figure out. As Alex’s face was never seen it gave the viewer the sense of being in his shoes and seeing what life was like through his eyes. The initial melancholy and confusion then happiness and contentment to anger and disillusionment. At the end he just wanted to escape and be somewhere he felt safe and at ease. And you wonder- will he ever return? For me the same. I ran and went somewhere safe. Did I return? Yes I did. Only time will tell if I made the right decision.
    Thank you Giorgio for this film. Whether I got your point or not I enjoyed it- it spoke to me. The use of black and white film allowed me to focus on the characters and their facial expressions instead of being distracted by all the “pretty colors”. And it didn’t scare me away from going to Sweden, instead it makes me want to go there more than ever!

  58. @ Dano: if people are up in arms about being criticized about their country, it just goes to prove what Georgio said. That many people are not able to distance themselves from their own country enough to even consider what other people might be saying as true. People should not feel personally attacked when others criticize (or even just mention they they differ in opinion) to what they think of their own country. I would also be up in arms if someone was negative about my country, I hope i would at least listen to what that person had to say though and not just dismiss it out of hand.

  59. @Giorgio: Mmm… dunno. I don’t know how autobiographical the movie is… But didn’t the main character Alex mostly miss intimacy with the locals in Sweden and not so much frequency of interaction with non-Swedes?
    I totally understand your reasoning btw. I myself prefer big cities to small ones because there is more stuff to do there. But I am also naive enough to think the world is mostly what you make of it.
    One more semi-movie related question: Was that a Markov model I saw on the board? What is your scientific field? If you are in the exact sciences… how shall I put this… such people usually do not have the best social skills. So that may also not have contributed positively to your Sweden experience.

    @ Ana: I felt as if the main character was sentenced to death and going through the 5 stages of grief: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance. I wonder if Alex could have avoided this painful path by adjusting his view on how things should be done. Also, I think he didn’t do himself a favor by taking people’s word for face value. Negativity spreads easily, while positivity is precious and protected. It takes a while before people of any nationality open up about things that matter.
    I think because Alex was not able to live in the uncertainty of not knowing the rules of the society long enough to understand them, he bailed out too early. With too early I mean that it seems to be a decision based more on fear than on rationality.

    @ Dano, dad (LOL!), you’re slacking, man! Allow me:

    @ Björn: Full frontal nudity of Alex’ sister at 68:05min! Check it out! (just don’t blink too much as you may miss it)

    (sorry Sapphire… I hope that last comment is okay…)

  60. Interesting movie…and also a very good one. I had to watch it in sections, as it was too deep to see it in one piece.

    I have been living in Stockholm for one year. The atmosphere transported in the movie would have been the same as if it would have been taken in summer. It shows in a very good way the melancholic atmosphere there. The atmosphere created by the people, society… . And I don`t even think this is such a bad characteristic you may have…being melancholic. I always liked the way swedish people just cried about something without explaining emotions. This was very pure and very realistic and deep.

    On the other hand I may say that this is very far away from how I was grown up (I am half german and half dutch maybe this is interesting for someone at this point to know ; ) ). I am a very spontanous and open person. For example if I meet a friend in the streets and he looks very sad or ill, I would, when talking with him, at least after a while ask him, if he has a problem or if he is ill. And I assume many people of my countries (Germany and Holland) would do so…

    I am not living in Sweden anymore and I think that this was a very good decision. I want to be seen as an individual. I am not one of thousands I am what I am… If I look like shit I want to be asked: How are you?…. And not the American Way…

    What I learned from the Swedish people was, that you shouldn`t take yourself too serious. For example when you get to know to s.o.: Don`t always say what you possess, which goals you reached already in your life until now and don`t tell how good you are. Sometimes you get to know better to other people when more listening to them and leaving them the space to tell also something … Even a silent mouse which you get to know better can then develop into an interesting elephant. And… being “normal” and failing is not the worst…and also not so exhausting…

    PS… hope I didn`t talk too much about what I think ; )

  61. Bah I Watched this film again now that Im almost kinnda sober. And seriously, I dont know what the big deal is. You had some bad luck with the women here. I get the feeling that there is some biased rage behind this film. Here is one tip that will change your world. Stop trying to understand things you cant understand. Just go with the damn flow and things will come out okay. I speak out of experience here.

    Ive been to lots of places I dont understand, Ive met alot of people I didt understand. But I was just myself and things turned out great.

    Try that and I guarantee that things will turn out great.

  62. to Carlos:

    Hola Carlito!!!
    Well if I had made a move based on that Midsummer in Onsala it would have been a very happy and funny movie, I’ll never forget that day!
    I hope everything is fine in Goteborg and I am sure it is like that, I’ll come over and visit again, Sweden is still on top of my preferences for vacations

    to Summer:
    I was born and lived many years in Rome, I also lived in London, so I am quite used to big cities. But I am also accustomed to small cities (having lived in Cork city and Gothenburg) and medium size capitals like Stockholm and Dublin. I’d say I prefer medium size cities.
    Having lived in 6 different cities and in 4 different countries I can guarantee you the only place where I had problem to turn acquaintances into friendships with locals has been Stockholm.
    I do not know anything about engineering, I have a master degree in International Relations, and I worked as a journalist in Rome, and as a content editor for web sites and as an Italian teacher in Stockholm (here I am with one of my classes ).

    to Björn:
    The film is not an autobiography, the story is just a tool to give a personal photography of Stockholm, which is obviously subjective. I have nothing against the Swedes and nevertheless Swedish girls who are really appreciable for many aspects.
    I am just saying the Swedes are the hardest people I ever met to become friends with even though they are quite easy to come across and get along: a German colleague once said “they are always friendly but never friends”. That definition is clearly excessive but it gives an idea of what impressions foreigners can have when they happen to live there

  63. @ Giorgio: we are in semi-related fields then :)

    @ Björn (a.k.a. Super-Swede):
    1) About your PS: But you checked it anyways just to make sure, didnt you? :P
    2) Some flows just transport you right to the sewer. Sometimes you better start peddling against the stream. But I agree with your general line of thought that it is better to chill out a bit.
    3) Dude… what’s up with all that drinking? Why? Normal life is not good enough so you have to transport yourself into oblivion? You Swedes..

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