The Nordic Miracle. A phenomenon of the social, political, medical, educational, technological kind. The belief that the Scandinavian trio (Sweden, Norway, Denmark) can do little wrong, that their books are the ones the rest of the world should be dog-marking.
But is Sweden true to its utopian allure that it casts on foreigners, promising a happy society, sleek design, and gender equality?
A few days’ worth of trawling the travel blogosphere has shown me that many foreigners find it difficult to make friends in Sweden. Travellers and expats have recounted their shock at struggling to establish friendships with Swedes, while establishing friendships in their home or other countries comes more easily. However, this shock doesn’t occur because Swedes are unfriendly and probably stems from unfamiliarity with Swedish social convention.
An understanding of social protocols is essential to being able to make friends in Sweden.
Travelling to a foreign country often means having to behaviourally adapt in order to engage with the culture as a smart traveller. Sweden is no exception, where even a few weeks will cause one to see just how different Swedish decorum is to that of their own country.
As such, I have compiled an overview of Swedish ‘DOs‘ and ‘DON’Ts‘ to help you avoid making any potentially embarrassing or inappropriate mistakes… (you can thank me for it later):
Perhaps a land of tall blonde blue-eyed individuals, reindeer, Vikings, meatballs, smörgåsbords, snow, pitch-black winters and political neutrality? As a consequence of the media with which we are constantly bombarded, these are the stereotypical ideas which we all too often use to essentialise Sweden.
‘Stockholm – The Musical’ is an interactive tourism advertisement, humorously showcasing many Swedish stereotypes. Try it out for yourself!
Despite its complex name, one need not be a scientist to comprehend the splendour of the aurora borealis, perhaps better known as the ‘Northern Lights’. The aurora is a natural light phenomenon generated when air particles are collided with charged particles in a magnetic field, causing excitation and the subsequent light emission that we see in the skies of the Earth’s polar regions (for those of you interested in the scientific nitty gritty, I’ll leave it up to the experts).
Looking for a house beneath the stars? This just might be it.
‘Affordable solutions for better living’ – the catchphrase of Swedish furnishing giant Ikea. While not a tourist attraction or historical landmark, this mammoth enterprise is unmistakably a corporate icon of Sweden. Its budget, flat-pack furniture philosophy is popular in 43 countries, globally spreading both the Swedish name and design aesthetic (see this overview of the company’s ethic and financial success).