7 Things I Don’t Really Hate About Sweden Anymore

Like anyone living in a foreign country, you eventually get used to things. Some things just remain a nuisance while others are accepted as cultural idiosyncrasies.

Now that I have been here for a few years, I have come to terms with a lot of things. Some aspects drive me crazy (more on that later) but overall, I am doing my best to take a laissez-faire approach to serious issues. If the people aren’t forcing and clamoring for change, why I should be the outspoken one to hate on things? And if people don’t hate it, should I really hate it?

On the positive side, Sweden is becoming more of a place with choices. More independent shops, more items at the grocery stores, and more ethnic restaurants. Nicer people with more international experiences. Sweden is becoming a real fondue pot of goodness.

So, in no particular order, my list of things I don’t hate… too much.

1. Fitted Bedsheets – There was once a time when you could only find poor quality cotton bedsheets at IKEA. In white. ONLY white. Now, a few more stores here and there are carrying them. There is not a huge selection but there is a selection nonetheless.

Finding Egyptian cotton color sheets at a reasonable price is still difficult. Maybe at Hästens or NK I can find overpriced sheets. Instead, I buy sheets in the US to bring back. I keep my sanity and comfy sheets!

2. Swedish drivers – Let’s replace all “Swedish” with “Stockholm.” Stockholm drivers are awful, Swedish drivers not really. So an apology to all Swedish drivers (not Stockholm ones) for thinking you drive like Stockholmers.

Seriously, when you see a car cut off a police vehicle, and the police does not do anything, you know it is a wild wild west.

3. Rude Swedish behavior – Again, let’s replace “Swedish” with “Stockholm.” Stockholmers can be incredibly rude. While we call say the same about New York City residents, the city has earned the popular/awesome cred to have rude citizens. Stockholm is no New York.

But, overall, Stockholmers have become nicer, especially store clerks and waiters. They are not as stuck up and aloof as they used to be. Yay!

4. Systembolaget – I still hate that place but I have to accept its purpose. And I have come to terms that many Swedes do not trust themselves, or others, when it comes to regulating alcohol intake. Systemet exists for the sake of Sweden and it is something I can live with.

Besides, road-tripping to Germany for beer is awesome.

5. America bashing – The US does so many “WTF” things these days (hello, Teabaggers!) that I can understand the America bashing. For example, take gun control. How do you support people who advocate *no* background checks or social security registration? That’s America for you.

But I do mind when Swedes compare themselves to the developing world with, “See you shouldn’t complain, we don’t have that kind of traffic in India. We have traffic but it’s not India, we do not need to worry about it.”

Comparing yourself to the developing world is like comparing Einstein to an Autistic child, of course Einstein will be superior on all levels. But that doesn’t give him the right to slack off or a be a douche bag. If Swedes want to compare, compare yourselves to the developed world or to the Nordic region. Not to Sudan or India or Zimbabwe. K, rant over.

6. The weather – It sounds whiney, and sometimes it is whiney but poor Sweden did get the short end of the stick when it comes to habitable places on Earth. The more I think of it, the more I believe complaining about the weather is some cathartic experience to make Swedes happier.

7. No one takes responsibility – Change is happening at a glacier pace to make people/companies responsible for their actions. I think it will happen one day that the government agencies that make decisions actually have the teeth to enforce them. And maybe some corrupt and dysfunctional practices can finally come to an end. Maybe, hopefully.

Overall, I love Sweden. I know I am harsh and rude to you at times. But I hold you to a higher standard than India or the US. I expect you to know better. And I expect you to be a role model to others.

But you’re proving your worth. Just don’t let lagom and jantelag pull you down to the status quo. Sweden, I hate you at times because I love you.

11 thoughts on “7 Things I Don’t Really Hate About Sweden Anymore”

  1. 3) Completely disagree. I have been living in NY city for 27 years and we are not rude…..Have you lived in NY??..we are getting better and better through the years!
    By the way, my swedish husband was surprised about how nice NYer are and could not agree more!…
    Visit NY more often and you will see how nice we are!

  2. 1) Finding coloured fitted bedsheets might be a problem, but you can get some decend fitted whites ones at JYSK.

    2) ALL swedish drivers are awful – actually ALL Scandinavian drivers are horrible. They drive too far into the intersection, so when the light is red none of the bikes can get thru! That really pisses me off everyday.

    3) I don’t really think that’s true at all. We are not as out-going as americans. I remember one trip to New York where a guy came over to help me find my way just because I was looking at a map in the middle of the street. Swedes can be very friendly – you just have to be the one to start the conversation and smile (but don’t try and talk to people who are just on their way home – they prefer to be left alone with their iPod or iPhone).

    And also, I don’t know how long you’ve lived here for, but if you sound swedish or “act” swedish, you will be treated better (it’s horrible, I know), but it’s true.

    4) Try road-tripping to Copenhagen for beer – you can buy the stuff when you are 16 (legally) .. 14 if you go it in a small grocery store instead of supermarked) … And all Tuborg and Carlsberg stuff is good – stay away from Royal. It tastes like cat piss. Also the Heineken is always a winner.

    5) I lived 1 year in Connecticut, and Americans bash us just as much! Whenever I opened my mouth is was always just : “Never mind. She’s from Sweden”.
    We do bash Americans alot, but America has fucked up plenty of times and I dare say that we know that we (Sweden) isn’t perfect either :) Next time you are overhearing a political discussion, try and count how many times we bash our own country – because it happens A LOT. We like to find flaws.

    6) I’ve always used it as a conversation starter – and just like Americans say “Hi” when they meet up with their friends. We say “My toes are freezing off! It’s so cold” .. or something like that.

    And it’s a very nice blog – I just “found” it today and have been reading most of your earlier posts. Really nice reading ! And I hope you survive the last couple of weeks (if we are lucky) of winter, before the wonderful Swedish summer starts – and that is what everyone I know lives for. Those warm light summer evenings where you can go for a bike ride and an ice cream at 11 pm and it’s still not dark.

  3. I had the good fortune to live in Sweden for three years, 1980-1982. I know, I know, the Paleolithic, but you youngsters don’t get to spear the mighty hedgehogosaurs like we did.

    When I got to Sweden, I was working on a scientific project for Lawrence Berkeley Labs, writing code. We worked at the bottom of an exhausted iron mine in Bergslagsleden, in deepest rural Sweden. I fell in love with the country overnight, and with a Swedish woman over the next few months.

    What I loved first about Sweden was its natural beauty. It’s one of the prettiest spots on earth.

    And then there was the language. When I left college, after a year of Reading Technical German, I thought I never wanted to study another language again, but Swedish reached out and grabbed me. I had never lived in a place where another language was actually spoken! Before the day was out, I had bought a dictionary and begun inflicting myself on native speakers. I fondly remember a patient restaurant owner who knew enough English to explain to me what att bruka means.

    What a beautiful language. I’ve since learned French and some Mandarin, but my heart will always belong to svenska. I was amazed at what it taught me about English. I was amazed at how regular the spelling is. I’ll never lose my accent, but relish the chance to speak it to this day, just to hear a native at work. Learning Swedish led me to Sjöwall and Wahlöö, to Ingemar Bergman. What stylists!

    This is getting long, so I will end by telling about the most amazing thing of all about the Swedes: they have a conflict-avoidance technique I’ve never seen anywhere else. When a disagreement becomes sharp, in a meeting, say, the Swedes start talking to one another in third person. “If the engineer will not work a second straight weekend…” instead of “If YOU will not…”

    So anyway, in days of yore, that’s some of what I liked about Sweden. I’d be there still if not for the climate.

    Oh, and no advertising! And no religion!

  4. Teabaggers is a pretty offensive term.

    Yes, there are many of us from all over the country (republican, democrat, libertarian, Tea Party, religious, atheist, gay, straight, men, women, old, young, rich, middle, poor, southerners, Yankees, black, white, etc etc. Wwho strongly support the 2nd Amendment, the right to bear arms. This is important to us because we came from a civilization in which government had control over its citizens. Maybe you Swedes like that control, but we do not. Therefore, we want the second amendment to stand, and it will. We are law abiding citizens who DO get background checks and DO have to register our weapons. Most of us take many hours of training so that we know how to handle our weapon. It’s not us causing shoot-ups a and crimes, it criminals. And they don’t register their weapons, they steal them. But I can tell you this; the baddies, punks and turdworms don’t rob houses in which they know is armed. They don’t bother women who have more than lipstick in their purse. They go after the weak, the victims and other punks. You will start seeing this in Sweden very soon, Your schools are already finding firearms in them and starting to train students and teachers school safety. It won’t go away no matter if you want to change it. The Sweden you know is changing fast, you better catch up!

  5. I’ve been reading some of the posts and comments on the forum and I find myself puzzled most of the time by what most people seem to think about our country.
    First of all, I can’t stress enough about the fact that Stockholm is just a bad city to compare the rest of Sweden by. In the rest of Sweden, Stockholm residents are often seen as spoiled, lazy, self centered, egoistic, vain and has the “we are better than you”-attitude that simply the rest of the country cannot compete with.
    Secondly, I myself does not believe the “Swedish way” is the best way at all times, simply because it just isn’t true. Take bureaucracy (spelling?) for example, in my mind it’s probably the slowest in the whole of Europe. Our legal system, it’s a joke quite frankly, which is also what most of the people who live here thinks too. We probably criticize our own country more than anything else, rightfully so at that. Young people all want to flee from here because the most frequently appearing encounters in everyday life are so fucked up nobody can stand it anymore.
    So basically there’s Stockholm and there’s Sweden, I would be completely unfair to hold this too firmly but from the rest of the text I because it’s generalizing quite abit.

    So unfortunately the stereotypical Swede lives on to tell the tale, but I can assure you that doesn’t mean this is the rest of the country.
    So the biggest problem with our country seems to be the things foreign people notices the most, which is kind of unfortunate, although understandable.

  6. @Avery! I completely agree! “Teabaggers” is a very offensive term indeed. You stated it well!

    As far as NYC is concerned, I have traveled there many times. Being a Southerner, I’m accustomed to our “Southern hospitality”, and I will say I found the people in NYC rather friendly every time I went! It’s simply a stereotype. I am sure there are many nice,people in Stockholm as well.

    As far as American bashing, is it political, cultural, both? I’m far from being ethnocentric, but how ridiculous to bash a whole society. Every place has it’s flaws and no government can provide utopia. I, myself am very fond of other cultures. I have developed some many great friendships with foreigners. :)

  7. I haven’t read much of your blog yet, but from what I’ve seen I think you seem to be a quite well-balanced person. And venting frustrations is fine and something we all need to do from time to time.

    The funny (or sad) thing, though, with expat communities and venting is that any connection with reality often goes out the window. I’ve been an expat myself in four countries on three continents and I can tell you that expats are the same all over the world. Complaining at any chance they get about the manners and behaviors of the locals. You often hear “Everywhere else in the world..” and then a story about what’s wrong with the locals. I admit I wasn’t much better myself
    on my first expat contract in the UK more than ten years ago. But I’m glad I realized half-way through my contract that the problem wasn’t the locals, instead it was my own mentality.

    And to be honest, do you think Sweden has changed that much over the four years since your original post? Maybe it’s not Sweden that changed, maybe you did :)

  8. About swedish beer…

    “Sweden cannot make beer. They produce filter pee with malt flavoring and call it beer. I find it nauseating. How can Swedes drink such nasty stuff. There are days I feel that Miller or Budweiser beer tastes better than all these nasty Stockholm City, Pripps Blå, Lapin Kulta, Spendrups, and other various disgusting concoctions of alcoholic beverages.”

    Well, why do you buy this piss? It’s just as bad as judging amercan beer by drinking completely tasteless beverages like BudMillerCoors Light. All european standard lager tastes this way, more or less like filtered piss. (Let’s add Spendrups, Kung, Sofiero, Åbro, Zeunerts and Smålands to tat list. Lapin Kulta is finnish, but it’s just as bad as any other “international pale lager” beer)

    The secret of buying GOOD beer and alle is buying products from microbreweries, just like in the USA. Comparing BudCoorsMiller Light to Lagunitas IPA or Northern Brewings’ Red Seal.

    Go for beers and ales from Nils Oscar Brewery, Jämtlands Bryggeri, Oppigårds, Dugges, Eskilstuna Ölkultur or any other local beer-geek-operated brewery. These guys can even make lager into something with taste and aroma…

  9. Hi Anders,

    Sorry, I just got around to reading/approving your comment. My bad, I’ve become lazy.

    I have to agree that one, a lot has changed with me, but also there have been some big changes in Sweden as well. I think the next decade will see large social changes in terms of immigration and social equality. Which will make for very interesting times.

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