The Sh*t People Say When I Tell Them I am from Sweden.

stereotypes sweden.jpg

Stereotyping. I think we are all guilty of it.

After a very entertaining post I stumbled over in Wee Gypsy Girl's archive, on the most common things people say when she tells them she is from Scotland, I was inspired to copy the concept and write my own list. Being out in the world you do tend to hear a lot of the same phrases time and time again.

The following are the most common phrases I get when I tell people I am from Sweden:

"But... you do not LOOK like you are from Sweden!"

... That is funny, nor do you look like an unimaginative prick, yet here we are! Jokes aside, this is by far the line I get the most often. There is a very common conception that ALL Swedes are meant to be tall, blonde and blue eyed. Of course, you are looking at the complete opposite of this. One time I even got into a rather heated discussion with an Italian who was utterly convinced I was lying to him about my nationality.

Well here is something for you: the natives of Sweden are actually the Sapmi. And thanks to a, historically, open refugee politics the mix of backgrounds residing in Sweden are of plentiful. Starting already from the 14th century there have been hanseatic Germans and Wallonian iron smiths joining the party, along with asylum seekers during the later half of the 20th century. So unless you are referring to the vegetable, spare me your details of how a swede should look like!

"Is it not really cold/dark there? It must be so depressing!"

Indeed we do suffer from very long, dark winters. To be honest though, I find UK winters to be worse, as one is constantly frozen to the bone.  Do consider  the little phenomenon called insulation that makes our houses properly heated.

Sweden is a country of wide contrast. We have four seasons in a year and the darkness, albeit very challenging at times, is also made worthwhile for our extremely bright summer nights. While we do tend to hibernate in our cosy homes throughout the cold months; for the other half of the year we practically live in the outdoors. And why wouldn't we, I mean  - midnight sun, anyone?

 A wee black bear by the Baltic Sea... ?

A wee black bear by the Baltic Sea... ?

"Where in Sweden?"

Sometimes I wonder why people bother with this question when they only ever know of Stockholm... which brings us to the next question.

"So do you have polar bears in your backyard?"

I guess this is a more common one when I tell people just how far up north I derive from. Which is indeed closer of the artic circle than it is of the equator, but no, no we do not have any polar bears around. Only the common brown bears, the occasional deer family passing through and if you are real lucky, perhaps a glimpse of the coolest cat around - the Lynx.

There is also an abundance of forest treasures like blueberries (that actually TASTE of blueberries), wild strawberries and lingonberries that are free for all to enjoy under something called Allemansrätten.

"You have so many beautiful mountains/cheeses/watches!"

... Yeee, so that is the other Sweden. Namely, Switzerland! People confuse the two all the time. On my recent trip to Taiwan I met a Swiss guy who confirmed that this happens both ways. So we are basically the same country, we concluded.

 The Swedish forest is full of edible treasures. How about making  cordial out of Fireweed ?

The Swedish forest is full of edible treasures. How about making cordial out of Fireweed?

"Oh I LOVE *insert name of random football/tennis player of whom I have never heard, pronounced in a peculiar way*"

Ha, cool... Who?

"Hurdy Gurdy Gurdy!"

While the Swedish Chef has reached global fame from the Muppet Show, the way he speaks sounds very little like our language. It is, if I may be so bold, much more melodic.

"I love ABBA!"

Oh, ditto! Who does not? There are two types of people in this world; the ones who love ABBA - and the liars that claim not to!

Are you from Sweden, do you recognise any of these?
And if you are not, are you perhaps guilty of some of them?