The Love Hate Relationship With Stockholm

19 May
2011

I’ve come to the point in life where half the time I love Stockholm and half the time I hate Stockholm. Okay, maybe there are days when I hate Stockholm more than I love. But hey, no one said I was a lover not a hater.

After nearly three years here, I’m finally making a pros and cons list of living in Stockholm.  As I was naive when I first moved here that Stockholmers are Swedish (Stockholmers are Stockholmers and no one wants to touch them with a 10 foot poll); I can now tell the difference between a Stockholmer and a Swede.

Anyway, at least I think I know why I love Stockholm and why it drives me to bits.

Here it is, let the loving and bashing begin:

Pros of Living in Stockholm

  • It’s the capital of Sweden AND Scandinavia. Boo-yah! We kicked your ass Oslo and Copenhagen.
  • Walking to work is awesome. No longer do I have an one hour commute by car but rather an 18 minute walk to work.
  • Springtime in Stockholm is beautiful. Spring time is beautiful everywhere, but still a win for Stockholm.
  • I live on an island! That is so cool telling my friends that I live on an island in Sweden!!! Nevermind that 500,000 other people live on the island.
  • There are 14 islands that makeup Stockholm. That’s a lot of islands.
  • Being able to walk five minutes to the grocery store.
  • Finding cute nooks and crannies of the city where you can buy great cheeses, Italian specialities, or shoes.
  • Meeting friends anywhere in the city afterwork.  I love that after owning a car for 11 years, I can walk or take the train to meet friends.  And nothing’s far; Stockholm is so cute and small you can walk the city in an hour or so.  Yipee!
  • Hanging out on the water during the summertime.  I’ve never lived near the water so being able to walk to the water and hang out a park nearby is awesome.  I just wish people wouldn’t be such dipshits and dump trash into the waterways and parks.
  • Watching the city empty out during the summertime.  So nice to see less cars, less people, more peace.

Cons of Living in Stockholm

  • Beer is expensive. Martinis are expensive. And for some unknown reason, Josefine’s on Djurgården charges 94:- for the world’s shittest glass of rosé wine (jacob’s creek).
  • Drivers suck. I like drivers from Gothenburg; they don’t seem to be in a rush to run over people. Drivers in Stockholm look like they’re on crack for the Indy 500 gone Fast and the Furious.
  • Rude people. I’m small. I’m smaller than Swedish kids who are 12 years old. That means, I get the honor of having doors slamming my face, elbows whacking my head, and the occasional bag hitting me from the side. You know, you could say “excuse me” and it wouldn’t kill you.
  • For being the largest city in the Nordic region, there are few places that are cheap and delicious to eat at. Please, no thai or kebab.
  • Stockholmers believe they’re awesome. I understand the complex. Stockholm barely makes it in the top 100 capitals in terms of population. Most people think it’s in Switzerland.   And people in DC, Paris, Toyko, Delhi, don’t really care about Stockholm as a city or a capital.  The best Stockholm can do then? Pick on its little sister Gothenburg.
  • Stockholm fashion is poser. See above for the runt complex.
  • Stureplan is not cool.  Posers. We’re so impressed that five ferraris and three lambourginis are registered in Sweden. We’re even more impressed that you can park them on the sidewalk and throw champagne down the drains (vaska). We love that somehow everyone goes to New York to shop and in desperate times, to Paris and London.
  • Dating your coworkers is weird. Dating your boss is weirder. I don’t know if it’s a Stockholm thing or a Swedish thing, but dating managers and having affairs at the office is not conducive to a good office environment.
  • Getting shit-faced at the office party and puking on a coworker is rude.  Some companies would have an intervention for alcohol problems.
  • It’s miserable to find an apartment in the city and in any reasonable suburb.

I’ll stop for now and try to be a lover of Stockholm with the summer coming around.

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51 Responses to The Love Hate Relationship With Stockholm

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Erik

May 20th, 2011 at 09:20

Well I always disagree with you when it comes to fashion, but everything else is pretty accurate. Oh, and we’re awesome, I don’t see how one can think differntly?

And Josefinas is a joke, I went in to chock when they asked me for 100kr for a glass of whine that costs 70kr/bottle on Systemet. But I guess that is like when you pay 100kr for an ice-cream at the leaning tower in Pisa or 200kr for a cup of coffee in Venice, they know people will pay up. It is however located on a perfect spot, love sitting in the sun there after a long walk on Djurgården (with a glass of water instead of wine..)

I think you need to take Stockholm for what it is, yea it is a pretty small city with what you, as an American, would consider rude people and it is expensive. And that goes for everyone, it’s like when Swedes move to the US and complain about not having “free” healthcare. Well, that is not the way it works in the US so there is no need to go crazy about it, make it work instead. I know that is easier said then done though!

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Tony

May 20th, 2011 at 10:00

Props for giving (almost) equal billing to pros as the cons. I’m a professional complainer, so, RESPECT. And I guarantee you’ll be able to add to the PRO list in no time if you get on a plane to just about anywhere else – it’s so easy for all of us to take for granted what we really enjoy, only to realize how amazing it was once it’s ripped away.

That being said – I love lists – I’ll read just about any kind, no matter how positive or negative. Keep them coming!

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John

May 20th, 2011 at 14:53

I’ve worked in Stockholm and I’ve lived in Stockholm. 20 years now.

I remember being so happy that no longer needed to own a car – or pay for car insurance. Walking to work, walking to meet friends – awesome.

On the other hand I remember my very first Sunday in Sweden. I said to my girlfriend “It’s Sunday, lets do something”. I was of course thinking, “hey, this is the capital must be oodles of things to do”. I was thinking, San Francisco Pink Section – that Sunday paper about an inch thick with stuff to do in San Francisco and northern Ca.

My Girlfriend’s response was of course “What would we do?”. I should have moved back to the US then. Instead I ended up having kids and staying here. But I’m leaving, now, finally.

Stockholm is an ok city – but as you pointed out – unfortunately people are extremely rude, people drive not just poorly – but they drive like assholes. And, also as you pointed out a bit – people think Stockholm is some cool major capital or something when really it’s just embarrasing. I totally agree with you that Fashion in Stockholm (and Sweden in general) sucks – what is worst about it is that people don’t think for themselves – they just buy whats there. Everyone dresses the same more or less.

This may be for another thread but the following is something that is at the core of the “rudeness” aspect. I’ve spoken to so many people here over the last 20 years about how rude people are and contrasting that with the way people treat one another in public in other places, US among that list.

For some reason – the Swedish mentality simply cannot, or will not, accept the fact that (in other countries ) strangers may wish each other well – with no strings attached. A swede cannot accept, for some reason, that a person they don’t know who might utter “Have a Nice Day” actually means what they say.

A swede always considers such behavior (being nice to strangers, saying “excuse me” or “sorry” or “have a nice day”) as something superficial and false – they ‘re argument most often being “They don’t really mean that. They don’t even know me”.

This is oh so frustrating. Because, as an American knows, the point is not whether you know one another or not its about being a good person, and making others happy, and making this whole society a nicer place to be in. Sure that stranger perhaps does not spend any energy worrying later if I have a nice day or not – but when they say it – they actually mean it. People can be – plain and simple – nice to each other. And it rubs off on you. You can be nice to others.

Why Swedes cannot accept that I still do not have an answer for – after 20 years.

The really scary thing about the Swedish reasoning however is what it might say about Swedes themselves. It follows to reason that if a Swede cannot grasp the concept that a stranger might ever wish him/her well for no other reason than being nice – then it is most likely that Swedes simply do not wish others well. It has certainly been pointed out on other places in this blog – in comments for example that “swedes are selfish – only think about themselves”.

Maybe that is the truth about it. Maybe Swedes are rude, not because they are ignorant, but because they really are thinking “fuck everyone else, me, me, me”. I’m not saying that is the way it is, I sure hope not – but Im running out of possible explanations and if a swede cannot accept that a stranger can wish him well, then he is probably saying (indirectly) that he never wishes strangers well.

I’m counting the days now anyway and will be out of here soon!

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Judy

May 20th, 2011 at 16:37

uh, i wouldn’t exactly call health care here free…or decent by any means. it’s only free for children afterall this country only caters to children. i moved here slightly over a year ago from nyc to be with my swedish fiance and have been to FIVE doctors all of which were incompetent and a few were flat out racist. one let me know that said he wouldn’t treat my eye problem because i didn’t speak swedish (i just arrived in the freakin’ country and am learning!), another implied that he wouldn’t give me a physical because i wasn’t swedish, 2 simply did not care and the last dr. carin gillberg was a crazy psycho bitch. sorry i didn’t now how to say pap smear in swedish and she freaked out on me! i’ve never faced the fear that if i really needed heath care that i just wouldn’t get it here. really scary thought.

after dealing with incredibly rude swedes that stare at you relentlessly, racist doctors, rotting produce that grocery stores throughout stockholm think is edible, crazy overpriced EVERYTHING -nyc has nothing on sweden, crappy government whose goal is to privatize everything, shitty weather, the corrupt black market apartment rental ‘system’, weekend warriors puking in the subway every single friday and saturday nights, all stores except 7-11 closing crazy early, etc, etc. i’m out of here! my swedish fiance keeps talking about how things used to be good here but i don’t know if i believe him. also, swedes need to stop coming up with excuses why they’re rude…they just are! rude is rude theres no excuse for that. i think that swedes need to re-take that course we all learned in kindergarten on how to be nice polite people! perhaps everyone here is rude because the quality of life here is so poor. at least i get to leave!

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Erik

May 20th, 2011 at 19:13

Ha, this was a wonderful post John. First of all, I find this view to be very representative of Americans (not Canadians), they try to “play nice” but then after a while it’s just “people are rude, boring and ugly and this is not the great US where we fight for democracy and freedom, it’s just a shitty village in Sweden that is a part of like Russia or whatever, buhu” after a while. Many of the Americans moving here doesn’t even bother to learn the language cus it’s “too hard” and get annoyed when they don’t get a job. And I’m pretty sure that if you ask anyone outside the US, they would consider most US citizens and politics being pretty much “fuck everyone else, me, me, me”.

I’m sorry to say but, if you don’t like it here then why did you live here for 20 years? I know many people that like it here and they choose to live here, and for the people that don’t like it (which I can totally understand, this is not ideal for everyone), why do you live here, it makes no sense?

And really, how does not greeting another person in the street translate in to “me, me, me”. The town of Södertälje, south of Stockholm, received more Iraqi refugees then North American did 3 years ago, I’d say that’s not very “fuck everyone else, me, me, me”. But then again, it’s all about the greetings in the street *sigh*. Pretty shallow not being able to see past that?

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Judy

May 20th, 2011 at 20:01

hey erik, how warmly received were the Iraqi refugees in Södertälje? yeah, thought so. swedes are incredibly selfish, arrogant and rude & we’re not the first ones to point this out. someone even went so far to make a site about it: http://swedenson.com/

i pity swedes for being such miserable rude people. so sad.

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Sapphire

May 20th, 2011 at 22:32

First, think we need to tone it down a notch.

Second, just because Sweden accepted tons of immigrants, doesn’t mean it is doing a good job in integrating them. I see that the lack of integration means it’s still a “me, me, me” country (however you want to define me).

But what I’m really curious is that so many people complain that Swedes are rude (mainly Stockholmers), yet many Swedes say they’re not rude, they don’t want to interact with others. Isn’t that a breakdown of society? When people have no connection to each other? Or am I missing something?

The Sweden’s On blog is hilarious but he/she is really pissed off. Could never figure out their angle.

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John

May 21st, 2011 at 07:32

Erik – you ask some relevant questions, thank you for your reply.

I’m so sorry if you have experienced many Americans the way you describe in your comment. And you are right about the fact that the United States, as a NATION does have a certain “f%%k everyone else attitude. You are not wrong there.

Just a short note about me and answer to your question. Ironically, I did learn Swedish – to the point that I got rid of that laughable american “RR” and many Swedes don’t realize I am not Swedish at first. I say ironically because I have discovered that if I had purposely NOT learned Swedish, I would have experienced people as a bit friendlier towards me. I’ve tried it out recently, it works. I have also held great jobs the whole time I have been here. I have done quite well there – there is no bitterness on my side about making a living (except that I feel people don’t work very hard here but thats another topic). I also happen to look rather Swedish so I have not experienced the racism aspect that many speak of here. Hey I look Swedish more or less. The reason I did not move back earlier is because I have two children here and there just now coming into adulthood and starting their own lives. I wanted to be close to my kids – so I stayed here and tried to “gilla läget”.

I did not bring up democracy or Russia or call Sweden “Small” or anything – I assume your reaction is based on unfortunate experiences you have either had with Americans personally or something to do with Politics in general.

What I was attempting to point out – and asking about – was the fact that this gap between how Swedes and Americans define “rude” seems to be so large and more exactly, why do Swedish people seem to be unable to understand the concept of “being nice to people you don’t know”.

You of course have your right to rant as you wish – but what I’m saying is I’ve been here over 20 years and nobody has been able to answer the question I pose in my above comment.

What does that comment that all Swedes seem to say about things Americans consider being polite and nice (opening doors, not walking into one another, smiling, saying hello, making EYE contact, saying I’m sorry, excuse me, and just generally wishing someone well) – what does that comment say about Swedes.

“Det är så ytligt, jag känner inte honom, han menar inte det” (“its so superficial, he does not even know me, he does not care if I have a nice day”).

I am saying that he DOES actually wish you well. He DOES actually hope you have a nice day. He is simply spreading good feelings instead of sour ones.

My question is, what is it about Sweden, or Swedes – is it your upbringing, is it something you learned.

Why are random acts of kindness towards a stranger consider strange here and why do Swedes think that a random act of kindness towards them is not a genuine act?

Finally, I did not mean that Sweden as a country is selfish (me, me, me), I mean to say Swedes, as individuals are selfish (me, me ,me). As a country, the US of A is much more “selfish”, as you pointed out.

Please Erik – or some other Swede give some frustrated Americans an answer to this question I’ve been asking for 20 years.

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Nkosazana

May 21st, 2011 at 09:07

As always it turns into a Sweden bash with Americans leading the bash. Am I the only one in the country that is happy and content with my life?

Maybe because I’m African..

And the blunt of racism is directed towards me wherever I go on this planet, I don’t let it bother me, it’s not worst that any other place in the world. Certainly not worst the in southern Europe, Asia or the racism in America..

Love it how some persons who gained from white privilege all their life get a little taste of how it is to be a black person in their land.

Oh and about immigrates, I might be bias here because I made a big effort to fit in and learn the language (I speak better Swedish that most immigrants who have been here 20-30 years, but with a thick African accent). I did not come here thinking that the country owed me anything, It’s the swedes country I’m adapting to them. Just like I expect immigrants to SA to do. While discrimination is a problem, it’s not thing that cant you can’t overcome.

Maybe it’s because I don’t live in Stockholm that I’m happy…

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Ravi

May 22nd, 2011 at 10:44

Did you have this opinion of Stockholm when you first moved there 3 years ago?

I think, once you start living in any city, you realize the pitfalls of the city, people, style etc. In Americans say New Yorkers are rude. European say French are rude. In India, Mumbai people are rude.

When you visit a city/country, every city is beautiful. Once you start living there, it is painful.

Hey you know what you should do: visit/live one month every city, from 1st through 30th. Then go to next city, restart the whole thing. I bet you will never find any city rude. They will be all fabulous.

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Erik

May 22nd, 2011 at 11:59

@ John: Yea, I’ve had bad experiance with Americans, however, of course not all Americans are like that, don’t get me wrong, I’ve met plenty of nice Americans! But what I meant is that is the general view of what many Americans I’ve met have, is that they are really not intrested in learning. And I find that sad cus then you can’t really be part of society. It’s like I would move to the US and only speak Swedish (sure everyone can speak English here but still it’s not our first language) and complain I don’t understand US culture.

I guess since I’m born and raised here I don’t really think about the greetings in the street and stuff like that since I’m so used to it. However, I haven’t really experianced the greeting in the street thing anywhere really, just in smaller towns. And I don’t really think there is an answer to you question John, it’s just in the culture I guess. Like the expressions “ensam är stark” or “tala är silver, tiga är guld”. I’d myself like to find out the reason.

I think this “rudeness” is very representative for Stockholmers though, I find going down to Gothenburg for instance, they are much nicer there. Or just pretty much everywhere that is not Stockholm.

@ Judy: I’m sorry you don’t like it here, as I wrote, this is not paradise for everyone (although you seem to be one of the Americans I wrote about). The US, your country, is a great country in many aspects and I love to visit it. However, if you go down to south central LA, or the black ghettos of DC or Harlem/Queens in NY and ask them what they think of the government, racism and free capitalism in the US, I’m pretty sure not everyone would share your point of view. Every country has problems with racism and discrimination as Nkosazana wrote and I’m sorry if you’ve experienced it here.

And I guess the immigrants of Södertälje gets the same welcome (probably better) as the Mexicans working slave jobs cleaning other homes for close to no salary, flipping burgers in the middle of the night at a random truck stop or end up on the street in the friendly all loving US? But hey, at least people smile at them!

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John

May 22nd, 2011 at 12:01

blah!

Today I thought I’m going to do my gosh-darndest to be positive and give people the benefit of the doubt. Maybe it’s “me” I thought.

Walked to store. On the way a woman about 45 years of age was out walking her dog and smoking.

I gave her a great smile and eye contact – just a passing being-nice-in-general-we-are-all-in-this-together-afterall acknowledgment. Just being human basically.

My God. She gave me a horrid look. A combination of anger and how-dare-you (smile I guess), fear, suspect. I didn’t give in – I smiled again anyway. She looked like she wanted to spit on me.

I can’t blame it on racism because I look Swedish.

Seems like I’ll never get an answer to my question (above comments) either. Seems Swedes will forever go into defensive-mode. Put a bunch of swedes around a dinner table and discuss Swedish politics and all is well.

One foreigner points out that Sweden might not be the greatest place on earth and the whip comes down.

Returning to Sweden after being abroad feels like what I would assume it feels like to be a broken horse – when a wild horse is tamed.

The wild horse has spirit, maybe a bit crazy and spontaneous and has dreams. When tamed he loses his spirit, gives up. The only thing he is sorta happy for is that someone else is providing for him.

Thats life in Sweden – the state more or less provides for you – but people have totally lost their spirit. You notice it most as an American when you travel back to the US or other place for awhile..and you get your spirit back… then on returning to Arlanda before getting out of baggage-claim you feel the whip coming down again, you feel your fellow citizens whipping the spirit out of you.

“I mean, God forbid you try to SMILE at me. Shut up and be miserable like the rest of us.”

Only a few days and you’ll never have to hear from me again you great Swedes – you can keep your “worlds best” country for yourself.

Maybe I’ll check in a few weeks after leaving and let you know how many days it took me to see someone puking on a friday night drunk of his/her ass or how many weeks its been since someone spit on the sidewalk in front of me.

Blah!

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John

May 22nd, 2011 at 12:03

Erik, my above post was not in response to yours. I actually didnt see your response until I posted this one. Thank you for your reply.

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zenobia

May 22nd, 2011 at 15:49

wow, so much emotion and frustration here… can it be that we call as cultural shock? :)
I always thought that my little Central-European country is the best best best in whining and complaining, but now I see that americans do it far better than we do…
Honestly, I really don’t understand why can’t YOU as a foreigner in a country accept that these people live in a different culture, they have an other way of thinking and they see the world from an other aspect than you do.
Why do you think that only your opinion is right and only your values are real?
I’m sorry, but who are you to tell others what is good and what is not?
Just because something works in a certain way in US, it can be totally different in other countries. Please, try to accept that there are other opinions and cultures, and yes, they are just as good as yours.
It’s just the same in my country, we are not smiling and talking to strangers in the street or on the bus, don’t say “have a nice day” to them, etc. but I’m sure that we are still nice people and no, you are not better than we are at all.
Btw, telling that they are racist, ignorant, rude, so on,then throwing so many shit on them and judge the whole nation becauese of some bad experience – it’s a little bit double standards and hypocracy, I say…
last, but not least, according to what people write here, most of you have a swedish wife/husband/fiance, and probably you love them, how is it possible? are they not rude and selfish? well, they must be exceptions…but hey, so many exceptions, so maybe your theory is wrong from the beginning…:))

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Nat

May 22nd, 2011 at 16:25

brilliant post sapphire, made me chuckle! I am a Londoner, only been here 6 months, but this is so true!

For the swedes who say why live here then, its just a bit of fun, we do not hate it or you :)

Fashion does my nut in though, girls please ditch the white converse, and guys and those stripy T shirts/skinny jean combo, its like the ‘cool uniform’, find it so odd everyone is so content in looking the same? Weird!

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Jacob

May 22nd, 2011 at 19:37

While Saphire wrote about Stockholm, it seems like Sweden’s been put on trial in the responses. Again. I’ll start with my impression of the USA and it’s people for comparison. I’ve only been to the US once, though I’ve met American’s elsewhere. My general impression of the US is that it’s a nice country with nice people. I didn’t much like the experience of getting through customs – but I figure American’s probably go through much the same thing crossing an EU border. Apart from the finger/thumb-printing. Great sence of humour on behalf of the customs officer though! I asked him if they’d keep my finger print “forever” and he replied: “Oh, of course not! Only until the next time you come to the US”. Great humour that. And he said it with a staight face too!

One of the things that stuck me about my visit to the US was the complete absence of “where are you from?” It took me a while to realise that noone actually asked me where I’m from even though I speak English (magnificantly) with a clear accent. I talked about it with an American friend I was with and she seemed to think that it was simply a matter of there being a lot of international business in the area, hence lots of different nationalities there. I think it was about something much more significant. EVERY other nation I’ve been to has resulted in a “where are you from?” question. When I went to Australia I got that question. Even in Sydney. When I go to London, I get that question. Same in every major international city I’ve been to. Except the USA. And I spent most of my time in the USA in smaller cities.

Anyway…

I like the US. I like it’s constitution and I like it’s people. But I don’t want Sweden to be like that – even though I wouldn’t mind our constitution to be a tad more like that. And I wouldn’t mind our constitution to actually be protected a bit more like the US protects it’s constitution.

I also don’t want Swedes to be like Americans. I LIKE being able to be “private in public”. Smaller towns (like where I live) is rather different from Stockholm though.
I say “hej!” to just about everyone I meet going to work and then to the people I work with. And I say “hej då” when going home. Or “ha en trevlig helg!” (have a nice weekend) when going home on Fridays’. I also say “hej då” (good bye!) when I leave a grocery store etc. And I’m not the odd one out with all this. But I’m not offended by people not meeting my eye in public. When they don’t, I will respec their privacy. And I expect the same courtesy in return. In my book, the one that refuses to accept someone elses implied request for privacy in this way is the rude one, not the other way around. I also don’t like it when someone but a VERY close friend or family asks me how I’m doing (e.g. “hur är läget? Allt bra?”)
Am I supposed to say that things are great no matter what? Fuck that. Asking a question like that invades my privacy in a way that only people very close to me are allowed to do. Only people that actually CARE about me on a very personal level are allowed to ask a question that is THAT private.

I don’t know what questions the above answered so I’ll end with this:

Swedish body language is much more subtle than most other peoples body language. If you’re not grown up around similar body language, you probably won’t pick up on the signals that people here gove off. Also, foreigners quite often stant WAY to close when talking to you. If you’re standing close enough for me to touch you with an outstreched hand when addressing me then you’re either trying to hit on me or you intend to punch me (trying to pick a fight). I find that very aggressive – Don’t do that!
Unless it’s the first and you’re an attractive woman.

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Jacob

May 22nd, 2011 at 19:40

Oh, and “magnificantly” is a word. It’s magnificent in a very significant way.

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John

May 23rd, 2011 at 08:56

Jacob, very, very interesting points. Thank you for taking time, and for expressing it in much more sane manner than my last post ;) I

The lack of “where are you from” thing is interesting. I have an idea what it might possibly be due to, but who knows. When reading your experiences regarding this USA contrasting London and other places it struck that it may be due to a type of indifference on part of Americans.

Sounds terrible I know but there are two sides to that coin. It is both encouraging and frustrating to consider that Americans don’t “care” where you come from. It is sad if you see it as Americans not being interested in you who you are/where you are from. Its is great however, if you consider that Americans care less about WHERE you are from (and what your father did for a living for example) than who YOU are as an individual.

I thought of this because when I was in London I realized (or grew to feel anyway) that I was often being probed about my background due to the British Class system. I remember being asked a couple times “What does your father do?”. “My father?” I thought – why is that one of the first 10 questions Im being asked. The answer of course is the British needed to class me somehow, in order for things to make sense to them, they needed to know what class I came from.

So, if you consider that maybe part of the reason that – of all the things an American may ask about you – “where are you from” might not be not in the top-ten list of questions – if you think of it as that person saying/thinking “I dont care where you are from, or if you are from money or not, or what religion you have – who are YOU?”, maybe that sounds/feels better? Hey, I could be stretching it now but who knows. I know that “Whats your father do” question in London is not because they are curious about my father ;)

How funny about the “don’t stand so close to me” aspect. I say funny, but mean interesting. If you are saying that American’s who are socializing with you stand too close – I cannot help but point out that the opposite applies in other situations. The most obvious is when paying for something in the grocery store and the next customer in line is breathing down your neck practically looking at your wallet. Same goes for automatic teller (bankomat). The latter has gotten better over the last 20 years though – when I first moved here there was NO space between you getting your cash and the next person in line.

Anyway, I find this interesting, because what we are basically saying then (if we are both right) is that in Sweden you don’t stand too close to people you want to be talking to (socializing with) but there is no consideration for private space when it comes to persons you have no intention of speaking with.

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Judy

May 23rd, 2011 at 12:06

hey erik, have you been to south central la, harlem or queens lately? gentrification and they’re becoming desirable neighborhoods to live in. yes racism exists every where but in sweden while you all refuse to acknowledge that is rampant here yet everyone is soooo shocked when the Sweden Democrats made it into parliament…everyone that is except for all of us non-Swedes. i like how in debates like this that the swedes always try to turn the tables away from themselves and steer it to America or England. i’ve seen this topics on so many blogs and discussion groups with so many people bewildered about why swedes are so rude, why things are so horrible in sweden yet swedes try to use the ‘its our culture’ card whatever that means &/or ‘what about america or england’. yes things aren’t perfect in the america but living there is a hell of a lot more tolerable then here. just look at the flocks of swedes dying to move to new york and when they arrive there they only hang out with swedes, haha! case in point: http://rodeo.net/niotillfem/

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Erik

May 23rd, 2011 at 13:30

@ Judy: Yea, I’ve been to those places, and no, they aren’t that upscale and trendy (or well, maybe NY is starting to be). Not south central LA though, natives don’t even wanna go there cus they might get shot or robbed. Hell, a police officer even told me never to roll down my car windows and don’t ware anything valuable! And “gentrification” as you put it is not really a way of solving any problems, you just move the problems to another part of the city that’s not “trendy” yet. I’m sure both the Crips and Bloods are a constellation of friendly guys feeling a part of society, buying up-scale apartments and throwing coctail parties every weekend. To cite John Lennon: “Living is easy with eyes closed”.

And yea, sure, a lot of people might think that Swedes are rude, I might even agree with you sometimes. But then again, a lot of people have a lot of opinions about Americans as well, don’t they? Rude, arrogant, greedy, war mongering and ignorant. Do you feel that describes you as a person? It’s no surprise that Americans have been voted to be one of the worst tourists. Why do you think that is? Cus you are polite, intrested to learn and willing to share? And I have nothing against the Brittish, I’ve never met a Brit that would act like you are now, they are very polite, a lot more polite than both Swedes and Americans combined.

You know why it always turns in to the Sweden/American comparison? Cus you always compare it with the US when you say things are bad. You just want us to be like you. We’re not, we have our own customs and culture and that is not American. It’s always “people are rude, it’s not like the US”. And then when I answer “well yea, but clean up in your own back yard first cus the US is no paradise, before starting to complain” you start referring to blogs that hate Sweden and Swedes. We get it, you are bitter and hate Sweden and are one of those “America first woho!”-people.

Have you EVER stopped to think what we migh consider to be rude? Or are you just too busy feeling sorry for yourself? You don’t think that you coming here calling us ugly, rude, having a crappy government and are racists is, as you put it, rude? Or should we just agree with you and be like “Yea you know you’re right, we are racists, our government that we have voted for sucks since we are obviously stupid. Come to think of it, we dress really bad as well and hate other people”. Is that the answer you want? We know that Americans might concider every Swede to be cold as ice, we know that you hate socialism, we know you only like fashion that has an expensive price tag, bright colours and looks “girly” and we know racism exists here just like everywhere else. Everyone is welcome to come and live and stay in Sweden, but don’t come here just to insult us and our way. Then this is obviously not the right country for you and you are free to leave anytime you want, we wont force you to stay.

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Nkosazana

May 23rd, 2011 at 14:23

Judy…

It was you who started comparing. I feel obliged to defend my new country, Sweden is not worst than other countries. It got it’s problem with mostly xenophobia. But it’s getting better, I’ve felt it the 10 years that I have been here. At least I haven’t had men grab my ass and making sucking noises like I have in Italy. People leave me be here and don’t bother me with stereotypes about oversexed black women like they do in America and in other parts of Europe. And being black here does not make me the first person to get fired and the last person to get hired like it does in America in my experience, my work speaks for itself.

http://abagond.wordpress.com/2010/09/25/black-people-according-to-white-people/

Oh and this is how my brothers and sisters in the New York are looked upon by white people your racist free and nearly perfect city.

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Isabel

May 23rd, 2011 at 18:40

Nkosazana:
All that stuff in that link are stereotypes that all groups in the US have. A lot of ignorant people believe it but there are a lot of us that see through it but remember some things are based on true facts not all of them.

And about the issue that Sweden does not have stereotypes about oversexed black women…you are soo wrong. In America as you said, white americans are not dying to get married with a black woman as they are in Sweden…why is that do you think?. Why do Swedish men go to Thailand/Brazil in vacation?..oh yeah right, they go to visit museums, get real, they go for the cheap sex with black and thai women.
And in America, we all get fired and hired at will. It is not like Sweden where you cannot be fired at all. In the US, you get hired at will and you will be eliminated regardless of color..I do not know where you get your facts but senority at your workplace counts in some companies in other you get fired/hired at will – it is the law in the US!
And I am defending my city – New York – as well and if you have never been to the US (NY) you do not have a clue how this city is and how many people live here…and before you tell me that I do not know about Sweden and swedes..well I lived in Sweden and I dated a swede and believe me, I know that swedes view black women as sexual objects as well…and many want to marry one for that and other reasons.

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Sapphire

May 23rd, 2011 at 21:50

Okay haters and lovers, I’d like to keep the hating and loving restricted to Stockholm. After all, that is what this blog post is about.

But to satisfy our senses, I’ve written a new post on Love Hate Relationship with Sweden. Feel free to debate there (be nice though!).

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Matt H.

May 24th, 2011 at 22:59

John,

I wish I had known you when I lived in Sweden! I’ve been back a few years now, and have such a better life. In Sweden, I learned the language, made myself adapt. My friends were mostly expats and Swedes who had lived abroad and somewhat broken the mold of “rudeness and treating each other like crap”. I had the feeling that they would play both sides, act one way towards me and another towards their more provincial countrymen. Still there was something obviously lacking in the Swedish mindset. Why all of this jealousy and negativity? But it’s at such a transparent level. I realized this was no way to live life, and no place for raising children, = we moved.

I’ve had a few ideas about the rudeness – there can be some correllation to immaturity. Most 5-10 year old children are pretty self centered, they need to be taught manners, they don’t automatically have selflessness. Manners are how adults have a more meaningful life – projecting kindness to others (one type of love) is not the easiest thing in life, but it the result of a mature nature.

Many people consider Swedes to not really grow up spiritually(Peter Pan syndrome), or develop anything but the least complex communication style.

Why don’t Swedes grow up in terms of personal responsability, spirituality, communications, manners? I’d probably start with the fact that living in a society where these things are not needed because the government provides them. You’ve also don’t have the slightest influence of true Christian morality (love, selflessness, do what’s right for mankind even if need to sacrifice), instead governmental greed for control of every person from birth.

John, Let us know if there is anyway to contact you.

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Daniel

May 25th, 2011 at 19:40

Matt now you are just being rude. Not grown up? I think you will find that most of our Swedish partners are grown up.

Wow bible bashing. Teabagger anyone?

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Jacob

May 25th, 2011 at 21:16

John, being an American you would certainly know American culture better than me. I wonder though, could it not be about culture rather than indifference? The not asking where someone’s from, I mean? Now that I think about it, I’ve actually experienced how some immigrants here – a case of a Lebanese shopkeeper comes to mind – became defensive when I asked that question. I wonder; could it be perceived as rude to ask someone where they’re from in the US? Something about people being American even though their accent say that they clearly immigrated from somewhere else?

I can’t say that I’ve ever been asked about what my father does for a living. Not unless I actually brought up my father in a conversation that encouraged such a question. Not even in the UK. But I may just not have been around that sort of crowd when I’m there. Or maybe it’s changing? I know that my father sometimes talk about when he went to school, how what his father did for a living mattered. That their teachers list of their pupils included not only their names and their parents names but also what their parents did for a living. My father grew up in a military town here in Sweden though so it might not have been quite a the same else where. But where he grew up, someone who’s father was e.g. a colonel had it easier in school than someone who’s father was low rank. My father went to school in the 1950’s – 1960’s

Culture codes are tricky though, and quite often hard for outsiders to decipher. Swedish cultural codes are particularly hard to decipher I’m told. Largely because the official line is that there is no specific Swedish culture and thus their is no specific culture to understand and integrate into. Except that of course there is.
In the case I mentioned above with the Lebanese shopkeeper I’m still wondering a bit why he got defensive and didn’t want to say where he was from. Maybe I implied somehow that he was Arab? I don’t think so. And he’s not, apparently (He’s Armenian from Lebanon). Only in the last few years have I realized that Christians from “Arab” Countries often find it offensive to be considered Arab. A few years ago I was talking to a Syrian Christian that I know about a Lebanese Christian girl that was in my class all the way through primary School. I can’t remember I can’t remember what where were talking about, but whatever it was resulted in him saying “Yea, but that’s because her Mother is Arab”. It took me a while to get what he was saying. I mean, we were talking about someone who was an Arab Christian so why would it be notable that her mother was Arab? It took me quite a while to realize that what he meant was actually that her mother was of a Muslim background.

Similar codes exist elsewhere. My best friend is a Serb from Bosnia. One day a few years ago when we had already gotten fairly close he was telling me this story about the war. He told me of the day when the Arab Mujahedin came to drive him and his mother away from their home. His father hear about it and deserted and brought his Kalashnekov with him – resulting in him ending up in a camp. He and his mother also ended up in camp before being exchanged. I was a bit confused about the story because apparently his father served in the Bosnian Muslim/Croat army. A Serb? My friend grew silent, then he told me that his father’s Catholic. I got that one quicker, even though I’d never made any mention of it. He’s a Serb, his father’s Croat. Easier then to say that his father’s Catholic so he doesn’t have to say it outright. Later I’ve gotten to know people of the exact same ancestry, except for being Croats with orthodox mothers.

I’ve wandered a bit so I’ll get back to your questions.

I’d not say that American’s as such stand extremely close when talking to you. It’s probably that Swedes prefer a larger private sphere then most people do on a global scale. “Southerners” tend to stand rather close though. Sometimes with their faces no more than a foot away from your face it seems. I bet that Sapphire likes to have her face ‘real close to someone when talking to them?

Breathing down your neck? I think that when standing in line e.g. it’s not perceived in the same aggressive manner as being in your face from a Swedish cultural perspective. I don’t accept people people breathing down my neck when I’m withdrawing cash at the ATM or putting in my pin while paying at the grocery store though. I simply turn around turn around and look the backpack in the eye until the person gets the point and backs off a couple of steps. Most do instantly.

For your last sentence I would say: Yes, I’d say that’s pretty much correct. We may be standing close; but we’re private in public so the other person doesn’t really exist in a way, so it doesn’t matter. Unless I’m putting in a pin code in which case I force the other person to acknowledge my existence by looking him/her in the eye.

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Erik

May 25th, 2011 at 23:13

Matt: Ha! This must be like the funniest post ever. You are the reason people laugh at Americans abroad, I really feel sad for the sane ones. True Christian values? Are you seriously referring to the the Bible 2011? We did that in Europe for the last 2000 years and it didn’t work out that well, but maby you’ll learn soon.

“Love, selflessness, do what’s right for mankind even if need to sacrifice”. If you’d ask anyone (really, just anyone) outside the US I don’t think anyone would say “oh, hey, that sounds like the typical American!” Probably the opposite. You are fighting two wars, started the financial meltdown cus of greed and are denying that the climate is affected by man. In what way is that “love, selflessness, do what’s right for mankind even if need to sacrifice”?

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John

May 26th, 2011 at 13:33

Erik – I have to say I think agree with Matt anyway. Even if I won’t comment on any Christian comments – I think Matt is just expressing (in his own way) the obvious.

The obvious being that from an outsiders perspective Swedes have a long haul ahead of them to get up to speed with the rest of the world when it comes to thinking and acting responsibly.

Say what you may, but people are extremely selfish (only think of themselves) here. Just look at what Jacob pointed out

Jacob points out:

We may be standing close; but we’re private in public so the other person doesn’t really exist in a way, so it doesn’t matter.

Doesn’t exist? Does not EXIST?

Well that explains a lot. You cannot get much more selfish than that. “Not only do I not care about anyone else in my path – they don’t even exist”.

Americans can be a royal pain in the you know what – I’ll admit it. But regardless of what you might want to think – they actually give a hoot-n-annie about one another.

I asked my swedish girlfriend yesterday what her long-time (swedish) BEST FRIEND thinks about her (my girlfriend) moving from Sweden. You know what she said? She had to think about it ….and said…”Hon är ….glad för min skull…tror jag”. (She is …uh…happy for me… i guess) .

You guess? Even her BEST FRIEND in the whole world cannot get herself to simply say “IM happy for YOU”.

Time and time again Americans step up to help each other out during terrible times. Towns destroyed by tornadoes, hurricanes, wildfires. An immediate reaction is that people come out in hordes to help. Often there are more volenteers than can be dealt with.

In Sweden, when something happens, what do people say? “Någon måste ansvara för det här” (Somebody has got to be responsible for this). Not ME of course, someone else.

The ONLY time I’ve seen that happen here in Sweden is when the girl Engla (who was later found murdered) was missing and people came out to help look for her. (Including me – I drove almost 3 hours to get there). I’ll admit, that experience gave me some hope – people really did step up. I’m sure there are other instances when this has happened and people here have managed to consider that other people actually “exist”. I can’t think of any other examples but I’m sure they are there.

An american parent helps out her kids school by driving a car-load of kids on a field trip. She does this because she wants to – because she wants to help out. Parents have to be turned away “we have enough drivers- but thank you.”. In Sweden? A Swedish parent will do it IF they get reimbursed for BOTH gas money and for a certain amount of money for “wear-and-tear” on the car. Isn’t that just so sweet? My god.

Matt is simply pointing out (in his own way I’ll admit) that Americans try to at least “love thy neighbor” or whatever its called. Swedes don’t even “talk to thy neighbor”. Why should they, they don’t exist. ;)

And yes, I know what I am talking about is not consistent with American policy abroad and the countries history of very many unfortunate things (Vietnam etc). Yes, there is a descripency there.

That does not change what Matt was trying to say – that it wouldn’t hurt for Swedes to try to think a little bit more about others.

You can’t just send a 100 kr SMS to Rädda Barnen or Red Cross, act like a jerk the rest of the time and sleep well at night.

Or wait – that’s where I am very wrong. You DO seem to sleep well at night despite it.

peace out!

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Erik

May 26th, 2011 at 15:10

@ John: Well you are certanly making a lot more sense and valid points. I’ve never heard of the reinbursment thing though, my mom and my friends parents happily drove us around to different activities when I was a kid and they never got any money for it, they just took turns.

I’ll admit the neighbour thing though, I have no idea who my neighbours are! So awkward saying “Hi!” when you bump in to them and you don’t even know their name! That’s what I like about the US, at least then you know who you say hi to.

And well, we don’t really have extreme wildfires, tornados and floods that affects thousands of people here in Sweden. We have stuff like Engla, and that obviously engaged a lot of people. I agree though that a lot of people (including me) is often acting like you described, someone should do something, just not me.

I guess that’s like when there were a protest in California about raising taxes to cope with the budget deficit, and someone had written “Don’t tax you, don’t tax me, tax the man behind the tree” on a big sign. It sounds like a great idea with taxes/helping someone/get engaged in something, as long as I don’t have to get involved.

And yes, Swedes could definently be more friendly (especially during the winter!).

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Jacob

May 26th, 2011 at 17:16

John, I’m glad that leaving Sweden and returning to the US. I believe that people should live where they’re the most content. And yes, whatever you think of us Swedes, I myself at least, do wish everyone well. Even people that do evil things. Now, I do think that you misinterpreted what I said when I said that we’re private and public. Obviously, to allow someone else to be private in public, we have to ignore them to an extent. You know, kind of the same way that you may pretend not to notice when someone does something embarrassing in order to save them from the embarrassment? Now that I think about it I’ve realized a second reason why people don’t so much mind someone “breathing down their necks”: Trust. We generally trust the people around us so we don’t automatically feel threatened when someone is standing close behind us.

It’s nice that you helped out in the search party in the Engla case. It rather astounds me that you seem to think that this was the only instance people ever tried to help out in this manner in Sweden though. In fact, it happens all the time, whether it’s searching for some old couple that’s gotten lost or some tourist. From a personal experience I recall being told about all the times that the whole neigbourhood were out looking for me when I was little. Apparently I was quite the escape artist. One time though, it turned out that the whole neigbourhood was out looking in vain. I was hiding in the fireplace the whole time. Who’d make the fireplace the first place to look for a missing kid? :) I looked like a kid from a Charles Dickens novel after, I imagine. As an adult I do my best to help keep a watchful eye over my neigbours kids.

Another thing that comes to mind that’s somewhat similar albeit not quite is how lots of adults make sure to be out and about during the “big drinking holidays” here. The kind of weekend where teens may get drunk, perhaps for the first time, I mean. My own parents used to get in their car with blankets in the backseat and drive around for kids that were and drive them home e.g. They weren’t and aren’t the only people doing that sort of thing here in Sweden. And oh yes, I do know my neighbours. I know most of the people living in this building with 40 apartments. Several old ladies live in this building and none of them would hesitate to ask a younger neighbour four help changing a light bulb e.g. And I can’t think that any of my neigbours would hesitate in helping out if asked.

Now, I was rather annoyed before writing this post so if you’d like to respond by rudely pulling quotes to misinterpret, using them as fodder for your insults yet again, I’ll probably read it but I’ve said all I want to say on this matter and I will not reply again.

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Jacob

May 26th, 2011 at 17:48

John, I’m glad that leaving Sweden and returning to the US. I believe that people should live where they’re the most content. And yes, whatever you think of us Swedes, I myself at least, do wish everyone well. Even e.g. people that do evil things. Now, I do think that you misinterpreted what I said when I said that we’re private and public. That’s the thing with cultures that are foreign to us, isn’t it? Words and meaning change within different cultural contexts. Obviously, to allow someone else to be private in public, we have to ignore them to an extent. Do you really think that there is something universally rude about allowing people their privacy that goes beyond culture?

Now that I think about it I’ve realized a second reason why people don’t so much mind someone “breathing down their necks”: Trust. We generally trust the people around us so we don’t automatically feel threatened when someone is standing close behind us.

It’s nice that you helped out in the search party in the Engla case. It rather astounds me that you seem to think that this was the only instance people ever tried to help out in this manner in Sweden though. In fact, it happens all the time, whether it’s searching for some old couple that’s gotten lost or some tourist. From a personal experience I recall being told about all the times that the whole neigbourhood were out looking for me when I was little. Apparently I was quite the escape artist. One time though, it turned out that the whole neigbourhood was out looking in vain. I was hiding in the fireplace the whole time. Who’d make the fireplace the first place to look for a missing kid? :) I looked like a kid from a Charles Dickens novel after, I imagine. As an adult I do my best to help keep a watchful eye over my neigbours kids. And I had a stranger (a hot dog seller) call me in the middle of the night once because he had come across my brother in a rather drunken and not very happy state and was worried that he’d not be able to get himself home. I didn’t much like being woken up in the middle of the night as it was on a Wednesday and I school the next day. But I did appreciate that the guy cared enough about a stranger to make the call.

Another thing that comes to mind that’s somewhat similar albeit not quite is how lots of adults make sure to be out and about during the “big drinking holidays” here. The kind of weekend where teens may get drunk, perhaps for the first time, I mean. My own parents used to get in their car with blankets in the backseat and drive around for kids that were and drive them home e.g. They weren’t and aren’t the only people doing that sort of thing here in Sweden. And oh yes, I do know my neighbours. I know most of the people living in this building with 40 apartments. Several old ladies live in this building and none of them would hesitate to ask a younger neighbour four help changing a light bulb e.g. And I can’t think that any of my neigbours would hesitate in helping out if asked.

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Jacob

May 26th, 2011 at 17:48

And both posts went through…damn.

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Matt H.

May 26th, 2011 at 19:01

Erik,

Read your history books. Europe has been the continent of death for the last century (millions of innocents killed by the Nazis and Russian Communists) carried out by Hitler and Stalin (BTW non Christians). I didn’t mention the bible and couldn’t quote from it if I wanted to, but I do know about the golden rule. Reminding me of the pseudo-intellectual elitism one can encounter . .

Daniel: I’m not a big religious person or “teabagger”, but thanks for the bigotry.

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John

May 26th, 2011 at 19:51

Im sorry if you think I recklessly used your quote irresponsibly. I realize that people actually understand that a person standing next to them exists. I just meant your insight is actually very telling. I wish someone had explained it that way to me years ago. I mean, thats what you said right, in a way people don’t really acknowledge others really in public.

That was nice of your parents to help out the young intoxicated teenagers. That great! You’re right, not that I think of it, people, church groups etc to have little “stands” in town late at night to help out the intoxicated populace. Say goes for home-less shelters. A lot of organizations help out. I hadnt really thought of that.

Anyhooz… now you say people are trusting here and thats why they stand close. Up before you said that when people stand within an arms length you feel threatend and think someone wants to hit you or pick a fight.

Anyhooz – anyhooz nothing. Enuf said.

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Erik

May 26th, 2011 at 21:17

@ Matt H: Yes, sorry, you didn’t quote the Bible, but according to you those three things are typical Christian values. I don’t understand what religion has to do with anything in the first place. All religions claims they are preaching love and understanding, that is nothing unique about Christianity. And those values have been around for far more than 2000 years, all advanced civilaztions have them, otherwise they would perish.

And I’ve never said anything about Europe being heavon on earth, I just said your beloved country wasn’t, as you make it out to be. But hey, guess why they have been fighting in Europe for the last 2000 years? Religion and “true” Christian values (Of course all were Christians, but obviously that is not enough, you have to be the right type of Christian). I mean one of those wars lasted for 30 years!

If anyone really cared (both in the US and Europe) what the different holy scrolls and books said from all the different religions we wouldn’t have any wars or famine on our planet. But that is obviously not the case.

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Tove

May 27th, 2011 at 12:14

I think this love-hate relationship has less to do with the place and more to do with you being an immigrant. At least that´s how it is for me in Greece. In homeland Norway I took everything for granted – and didn´t really think weather it was something I liked or not.

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Tove

May 27th, 2011 at 12:15

sorry for the spelling mistake…I meant whether its was something I liked or not…

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Kat

May 27th, 2011 at 12:37

I will not even attempt to read all of the previous comments. I just want to say that last weekend was my first visit to Stockholm and I had a nice time.

The friend we visited lives on Södermalm, so it was indeed easy to walk everywhere we wanted to go (pro); too bad I only brought one pair of shoes and they weren’t meant for walking on cobblestone streets, AND the friend walks 50mph (con).

I didn’t personally encounter any rude people (pro), although I did witness a few obsessive horn honkers flipping the bird (con), both of which I haven’t seen in Gbg.

Food was crazy expensive (con), but dang was it good (pro), thank you Råkultur, ThaiBoat, and Sushi Devil.

What I think I loved most that is so unique to the “Capital of Scandinavia” is that we almost always could see or were beside water. The Swedish bf said that he even appreciated being shown a different side of Stockholm; he previously never would have moved there if his life depended on it, but now he’d be happy to.

Looking forward to another trip back!

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Matt H.

May 27th, 2011 at 20:26

Erik,

Thanks for the social-democrat talking points that I’ve heard 1000 times by spiritless Swedes based on masive generalizations.

Back to the high school debate team for you! And a course in freshman college logic.

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Erik

May 27th, 2011 at 22:26

Well then Matt, I guess your arrogance just put an end to this discussion since you really didn’t even bother to answer. You can not even meet an arguement without making assumption about my political believes, which is not social-democratic by the way. And you really have no idea about my education. But I guess you don’t care. Who said Swedes were rude and arrogant again? All the post you’ve made has just proved my point about the Americans.

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Dano

May 28th, 2011 at 12:02

Ohhh i could kick some serious arse on this thread…but i’ve never been to Stockholm yet, so i won’t! :)

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zenobia

May 28th, 2011 at 13:37

uh….
I went through this blog to gain information about life in Sweden, beacuse I’m moving there to study in september.
well, now I’m a little bit scared of moving, but I hope the best :)

to Erik: you know what Woody Allan said about arguments… this whole conversation reminds me that:)

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OhioGirl

June 1st, 2011 at 12:20

Too weird – I just wrote a post about Swedes refusing to say “excuse me” to a stranger and then came across this blog! I dunno, I’ve met some friendly people some not – can’t we all just get along????

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John

June 2nd, 2011 at 14:48

Well, I am finally out of here – leaving Sweden after 20 years..in just a few hours. I am sure some of you Swedes may think “Yes, get out of here John”.

Imagine spending 20 years of your life, working, learned the language, did all you could do – and still both being considered an outsider and FEELING like an outsider.

For those of you like zenobia and others considering moving here, I’m sorry, as much as honestly would really like to be able to recommend Sweden, I simply cannot. For some of you the move may be tolerable – everyone is – afterall different.

If you don’t mind feeling invisible – if you really feeling like escaping into solitary meloncholy (hey it works for some people) Sweden may be ticket. If you are interested in Social progress, or if you simply are a “happy go lucky” person – Sweden will be a major downer for you.

My 20 years in Sweden have taught me a lot about myself and about Sweden and Swedes. The frustrating experiences of Swedish people not treating me respectfully never got any better really. I never came to any “understanding” of how people are here or why. If it was not for the fact that I had two wonderful children while living here (and could sort of “escape” into parenthood” I would have never been able to take it.

My conclusion – for what is worth (and I already know Swedes will not accept this but im not writing this for them)
1. Swedes are stubbornly, and absurdly “proud” which is just an overcompensation for low self esteem and a somewhat oppressive upbringing (jäntelagen). Swedes accept whining and complaining amoungt themselves but become childish when “outsiders” point out any of the many shortcomings of Swedish society. It is due to low self esteem and feelings of unworthiness. It is unfortunate because the first step to becoming a more likable place to live would be for this society to be able to maturely take a look at itself in the mirror.

2. Swedes may be”happy” or content but have trouble experiencing “the joy of living” (livsglädje). The concept of “spreading joy” is, if not foreign, it is not popular. If you are considering moving here and you value the every-day things in life, like smiles, easy-going people, a generally “positive” outlook, you may feel very lonely here. Swedes are very critical (which can be a good thing i admit – but it also drains on you”. I don’t think Swedes “suffer” from this lack of “joy of living” as it seems to always have been this way. For them I guess it is normal. I am just saying that if you are coming here from somewhere else you might not find it tolerable.

3. As this blogger already pointed out – Swedes are not much interested in giving good service. It is perhaps beneath them or something and partially stems from social democratic attitudes. If you value great food and great service, you will be dissapointed here.

4. This goes along with “1” perhaps but whatever – Swedes seem to think that Sweden is – at least in some way – the center of the Universe. Perhaps this is universal. I do find it comical however to watch a swedish TV program consisting of a panel of people discussing why in the world Sweden is not talked about more abroad. (boy if they only knew what people were saying). Malou Von Syvers of TV 4 told John Cleese in an interview that the Swedish minister of Finance is “world-famous” for his pony-tail. Uh, no. Sorry Malou – he is not world famous at all. But that is sorta the way Swedes seem to think this country is – world famous. It is famous for some things I’ll admit that – but not to the extent that people seem to think.

5. Alchohol. Boy, I could write a book. But why? Its enough to say that Swedes love and can not handle their alcohol. It is considered more or less “normal” for adults to get stinking binge-drinking drunk on a regular basis. And really, when you think about it, why wouldnt it? How else to cope if you are an emotionally and socially repressed individual, stuck up here while the rest of the planet as moved on with social progress. Have a couple drinks and then you too can talk and smile and be nice. Swedes think that the systembolaget monopoly of alchohol is somehow helping to keep people from drinking too much. UH..its not working!!!! I think it just makes people want to drink more.

Well, enough, I am out of here – didnt really mean to rant – just my honest feelings after giving this place a good 20 years of my life. I dont WANT to feel this way. If you think I like feeling this crappy about this place – after 20 years – you are wrong.

AS the cliche goes – “if I can just help one other person – it will have been worth it”. If just one of you who are considering moving here thinks twice about it I will have done something. You have been forwarned.

If you do move here- I wish all the best.

bye everyone!!!!! :)

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Niklas

June 6th, 2011 at 01:45

John

That must be the most self righteous, pompous mean spirited post on the internet. My god, have you ever stopped and think that YOU might be the one who is not perfect? No, why should you, you are after all an AMERICAN. Of course these 9 million people are all wrong.

The fact that people are more happy in Sweden than in USA is backed up by dozens of surveys. I know that must be mind boggling to you.

16 million Americans live in deep or severe poverty. Where is your kindness and compassion for them? You brag about how Americans are helping each others in times of crisis. Well, wake up pal, you have an ongoing crisis that stems from the very fact that you are GREEDY and dont give a **** about each other.

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Gabriel

July 16th, 2011 at 12:27

I”l just add my bit that after living in Sweden for over 15 years and also raising two kids here I cannot wait to leave. I completely agree with the posts above that describe Swedish culture as rude, arrogant, self-righteous, selfish, condescending, etc. Swedes are the living definition of the word schadenfreude (deriving pleasure from the suffering of others). Perhaps one day I will look back and pity them, but right now I just want to get the hell away from here.

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onlyme

July 21st, 2011 at 22:10

I found your blog by accident but its making for very interesting and sometimes funny reading :O lol

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Kae

July 27th, 2011 at 00:38

Man, this cracked me up. As a Swede and a Stockholmer I can’t help but not take this seriously.

It appears that John and Gabriel still haven’t moved past the the third stage of Culture Shock (link: http://www.deborahswallow.com/2010/05/15/the-classic-5-stage-culture-shock-model/)

Step 3: Re-integration Stage
During this stage, you start winging about your new home. You dislike the culture, the language, the food. You reject it as inferior. You may even develop some prejudices towards the new culture. You’re angry, frustrated and even feel hostile to those around you. You wonder why you made the decision to change. You start to idealise life “back home” and compare your current culture to what is familiar.

Sounds familiar… :D Seriously though, nothing wrong with a bit of constructive criticism when speaking of different countries in cities yet these rants have hardly been “constructive” – rather they’ve been pure bashing. :/

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Mattias

October 17th, 2011 at 23:56

I’ve been thinking of going back to Sweden (born there, moved to Brazil when I was 6), and the comments here really got me worried. But thanks to Kae for that last comment. It really helps put things into perspective. In fact, after 20 years here I feel like I’m stuck in step 3 as well sometimes :P

sorry for bringing this back after months… and love this blog! :)

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Sweet Lady

November 1st, 2011 at 06:48

Hmm.. From many posts above I learn many new opinions about swedes here. I never been there before but I just wonder why dont you guys just accept other cultures. We are not the same that is why we have many countries and cultures in this world. Maybe I’m very optimistic person and I never expected to get any smiles back to me when I gave my sweet smile to other. I just remind myself all the time that we are different in all aspects ( family back ground, culture, education, personality, etc.) and learn to live in everywhere with joy. I think to be happy or frustrated hmm.. it comes from our heart and mind. Cheers!

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jessica

September 27th, 2013 at 13:15

woowww a lottt is going on here !! i am Lebanese currently still residing in Lebanon but searching to immigrate, i came across this blog while searching how it would be like if i ever considered moving to stockholm. So apparently people on the street do not socialize with other people, actually that is not bad !! i get frustrated from how much everyone in lebanon knows everyone ! and how much attention people give to each otehr on the streets, you can’t really wear a skirt/shorts without hearing right and left side comments. you can’t get your grocery without the salesman commenting on what it looks like you are cooking tonight. oh i’d love me some privacy…

but my question is, as much as i thrive for this privacy, how do people meet each other? how will a stranger like me moving to stockholm make any friends if no one is willing to socialize with me? i think the main reason why americans find this anti-socializing attitude frustrating is because they felt lonely !

it kind of freaks me out to move to such a country, what if i lived there for 2 years and didn’t have a friend !! i guess i’ll have to search for the Lebanese shopkeeper Jacob was talking about earlier :p

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