All Roads Lead Home, Copycat

22 things a foreigner can’t help but notice about Swedish people and culture

January 22, 2014 | No comments


It is time for the third installment of the copycat series, where I shamelessly copy posts someone else wrote, because he or she said it better than I ever could.

This hilarious (and scary spot on) description of Swedish people and culture, through the eyes of a foreigner temporarily relocated to Sweden, has been widely spread on Facebook and other websites since March last year with the heading “Truth about Swedes” and often without any mention of the original author. Using my investigatory skills (i.e. google) I found that it was originally written by Ben, a guy who likes fly-fishing (which explains why he has relocated to Sweden). He has a blog called The Grizzly Beard. It’s worth a visit even if you are not very interested in fly-fishing.

One of the things my friends tease me about is the fact that I eat spaghetti with ketchup. (I prefer it with a little bit of grated cheese, but only ketchup works too.) The first time I ate this for lunch, every single person in our lunch group looked at me like I was crazy. And I was just as perplexed. How did they never eat this as kids? Or as broke college students? Nothing I said could convince my friends that this was a common way of eating spaghetti in Sweden.

When I came across Ben’s view of Swedes, I had the irrefutable proof. So thanks Ben. My friends now thinks all Swedes are slightly crazy (which may or may not be an improvement to when they were convinced that I’m just weird).

Anyway, here is Ben’s list of 22 things a foreigner can’t help but notice about Swedish people and culture. (Take special note of #16. And #8.)

1. Swedish People Stare. after 2 months of constantly thinking you might have a gnarly booger hanging out your nose, toilet paper hanging from your pants, or that random strangers have a huge problem with you, you’ll slowly come to the realization…. It’s not you. Swedish people stare tenaciously.

2. Zlatan Ibrahimovic is God.

3. Speaking of God… Don’t mention him (unless you want to attract some pretty mean stares). He doesn’t exist in Sweden. You’re better off praying to Zlatan.

4. Swedish Pizza is a can’t miss. You’d never expect that the best pie you’ve ever tasted would hail from just outside the arctic circle. Kebab style. It’s amazing.

5. Swedish people love cooking shows. Master Chef Ireland, Master Chef Australia, Master Chef USA, Junior Master Chef, Master Chef Master Chef… On T.V. 24-7.

6. Swedes love their stimulants.
Caffeine: Swedish coffee is black crack. Swedes consume more coffee per capita than any country in the world besides Finland. If you plan on getting your Swedish residency be ready to drink coffee first thing in the morning, at breakfast, after breakfast, before lunch, at lunch, after lunch, at dinner and before bed. Java, Java, Java.
Nicotine: SNUS. Chewing tobacco. All the cool kids are doing it. Even the girls. Except unlike in America, it gets tucked under the upper lip. No spitters here.

7. Bruce Springsteen. Swede’s have a very special relationship with The Boss.

8. Black is the average Swede’s favorite color. Considering that black is not even a color, I guess that says something.

9. Sweden is one of the most fashionable nations in the world. Often preferring entirely black outfits, Swede’s throw down some serious cash when it comes to style. Don’t come to Sweden dressed like a slob. You’ll get plenty of stares.

10. Converses anyone?

11. 12 eggs will run you $4.32. Not the brown organic ones. The white Kentucky Fried Chicken version.

12. Swedes speak more better English than Americans. No need to worry about language barriers. Swedes are taught English since pre-school, which makes ordering food, asking for directions, and getting around a breeze.

13. Speaking of a breeze. Swedish public transport is as good as it gets. Super easy and convenient.

14. Most Swedes have never heard of a Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwich, let alone tasted one. The mere idea of PB & J is as repulsive sounding as fish egg mayonaise in a toothpaste tube.

15. That’s right. Caviar in a tube. It’s as commonplace as mayo or ketchup. It’s delicious. And is best served with boiled eggs. So I hear…

16. Swedes eat their spaghetti with ketchup. Spaghetti, frozen meatballs, and ketchup is the college student budget meal of choice.

17. It’s called a Semla and it’s amazing.

18. The sport you’ve never heard of… Innebandy (i.e. floor hockey) was invented in Sweden in 1970. Sweden has its own professional league. It’s a huge deal.

19. Allemansrätten: The Freedom to Roam or Everyman’s Right to the Wilderness. The greatest law ever created for the nature lover.

20. Speaking of nature, Swedes love the outdoors. Seemingly everyone has a summer cottage, cabin, or lake house. Multiple Flugfiske (Fly-Fishing) magazines can be found in almost every gas station!!!

21. The rumors are true. Swedish women are beautiful and they are everywhere.

22. Swedish people are very hospitable and have a great sense of humor. Once past the intimidating stares and Darth Vader dress code, it won’t be long before a Swede has you smiling and laughing over a fika (coffee & a sweet treat).

Personally, I prefer to think of #1 as “intensively studying people”.

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