as the end of the year is generally a good time for reflections and consolidation of all your thoughts collected throughout the last 365 days, in this post I would like to share my observations and opinions about Swedish people and their culture. At this point I would also like to point out that Swedes are a very diverse group of people with many different distinguishable features, anyway at this moment I will focus only on general characteristics that might be attributed to Swedish society, especially from the foreigner’s point of view.
Swedish people are almost always very happy to help you in the difficult situations, mostly ones regarding formalities and administrative staff you may encounter at the beginning of your adventure in this country. They perfectly understand that international students can be overwhelmed by documents exclusively in Swedish, therefore translating endless and long sentences is not a big deal for them. Personally I cannot even remember the number of occassions my Swedish friends were translating text messages or other statements for me. Swedes do not like to criticize people either, they prefer to remain silent and close their mouth rather than say something that may sound negative and harmful. Likewise, do not expect to hear tons of criticism from your tutors, they are very soft with this sort of feedback. I was extremely surprise to receive a following comment:
You did a tremendously good job, Radek.
when, to be honest, I was not really satisfied with my performance. I dare to say that Swedish kindness may have its reflecrion in the country foreign policy, that grants asylum to many people from countries affected by civil wars and other conflicts and provide them with accommodation and other benefits.
Swedish people are proud of their country, their history, traditions and culture. They are always very happy to tell you about their holidays, such as Santa Lucia day or Midsommar. Swedes are also proud of their official historical neutrality and their withdrawal from any conflicts and wars over the last hundreds of years. Swedish people also are very satisfied with their national cuisine, even if it is not the most refined and sophisticated one you can encounter, at least on European continent. Once I witnessed a heated and interesting discussion regarding Italian and Swedish cuisine:
I don’t understand Italian obsession with their food served abroad. It’s modified to comply with Swedish tastes. In turn, almost all of Swedish traditional dishes are served at IKEA restaurants and we, at least, keep our good food quality around the whole world.
Boredom / Calmness
This point is more about the Swedes who believe they are not very interesting people for international students. I thought that I am the person not interesting enough to chat with Swedes until the conversation during one of the MF pubs with two Swedish guys:
– Why do international students hang out only with the other international students?
– (Me) Because we think you don’t want to talk to us.
– No. We think we are just boring.
– I don’t think so.
– Don’t lie. We are.
Apparently Swedes are more critical when it comes to them than the other nations. It’s perfectly true that Swedish people are very calm and, over the last 4 months, I have never heard Swedish people shouting (sic!), arguing or fighting, what for me was very strange at first. Moreover, Swedes are very self-controlled and never panic. During a power cut in the underground nobody is shouting and asking a god for help, people instead happily continue to play games and read Aftonbladet on their iPhones.
Swedes are not as extrovert as Mediterranean nations. In tunnelbana most often nobody is speaking or chatting to each other. Swedish people prefer short and direct messages without unnecessary orations attached to it. That does not mean they are not sociable, you just have to get closer to them to reveal their witty and sarcastic sense of humour, which is purely adorable. After some time spent with Swedish people you will notice that they even tend to criticise their own country, which was quite surprising to me since I thought only Poles are so critical.
That would be all for now. Finally, I want to wish you all a pleasant Christmas holidays and all the best in the new year!