20 Ways to Annoy a Swede: Part I (#1-10)

We’ve all been there, right? That terribly awkward moment when…

… you look up from your plate and see that the whole table is staring at you, their once-friendly faces alternating between looks of disgust and disbelief.

… you suddenly realize that a hush has fallen upon the train, and the only sound that can be heard is your own voice, echoing throughout the cabin, and your friend is hiding her face against the window.

… you say, “Hello!” in a big, cheerful way to a passerby on your street, and she flinches, noticeably surprised, then picks up her pace as she walks by.

Oh, please! Say it’s just a dream! SAY IT’S JUST A DREAM!!

(It’s not a dream.)

All three of these things have happened to me during my time as an expat in Sweden, and this is one of the facts of expat life: you are going to make a few false steps here and there. There’s no avoiding it—the best you can do is just be ready to laugh at yourself (and possibly apologize).

Last Friday, the Local (Sweden’s news in English) published a list called “How to lose Swedish friends in just 10 days,” and it got me thinking. Swedes are pretty forgiving of foreigners and their faux pas in general, but a few do’s and don’ts might be appreciated for future expats in Sweden!

After all, I’ve done so many embarrassing and awkward things in my time here… it would probably do me good to stop repressing gigantic chunks of my social mishaps Sweden and at least put those memories to good use.

So here it is, courtesy of my own and my friends’ most awkward moments as foreigners in Sweden: the first ten ways to annoy a Swede.

1. Speak at an American volume (loudly) in public places, especially on public transportation.  

I don’t know why this is, but we Americans are just louder than most Europeans. I’m willing to bet even that we are among the loudest people in the world. We don’t realize how loud we are in our own country because, well, we’re all speaking at the same volume.

In Sweden, however, we sound like gigantic, trumpeting elephants, recently escaped from the zoo and on our way to trample some villagers (just as soon as we pick up the cheeseburger and fries we’ve been longing for during our time in captivity). Seriously. And do you think an elephant can help that it’s just bigger and louder than all the other animals? No. It can’t.

When confronted with an unintentionally bellowing American, Swedes tend to make like a possum and play dead. They’ll shift their body to turn slightly away from you, as if to signal to others, “Oh this girl? Never seen her before. Probably a hobo. I’m just listening to her ramble on to humor her.”

Sometimes, when you’re sitting next to them on the train or bus, they’ll turn to the glass and put up their hand like they’re shielding their eyes from the sun. In reality, though, it’s not the sun they’re warding off… it’s you.

2. Walk inside with your shoes still on.

The dust! The dirt! The grime! My beautifully-preserved original wood floors!  Oh, the humanity!

I just wrote a the blog post about it, so if you want to know the full story, follow the link. Otherwise, just take it from me. You’re probably going to want to take your shoes off at the door.

Turn down coffee, go to jail. Do not pass Go, do not collect $200. Photo: Kate Reutersward

3. “I don’t like coffee.”  

Saying “I don’t like coffee” in Sweden falls somewhere between “Puppies aren’t cute” and “Dolphins are tasty with noodles” on the offensiveness spectrum. You don’t like COFFEE? Are you even HUMAN?

Coffee might very well be the glue that holds Swedish society together. Fika dates (coffee + sweet things) play a critical role in finding and keeping friends and potential romantic partners, and if you’re marrying into a Swedish family, let me tell you: you will make or break your relationship with your future in-laws over coffee and cinnamon buns.

If you really hate coffee, I would suggest that you (a) change your mind and start loving it (b) concoct a very elaborate medical excuse for not drinking it or (c) get pregnant (only works for 9 months at a time, usually only works for women).

4. Tell Swedes who are not from Skåne that Skåne is the real Sweden. 

Alternately, tell Swedes from Skåne that Skåne is Denmark with an identity crisis.

The rest of Sweden seems to think that we who live in Skåne (AHEM) are little more than country bumpkins, that we talk funny, and that WORST OF ALL we’re really Danish. (See point 6 below.) I OBJECT!

Yes, I’ve lived here for less than two years, but there’s something infectious about Southern pride regardless of what country you live in. So I like watching the effect when people turn the tables on non-Skåne dwellers and tell them that the South is the true heart of Sweden. It doesn’t sit well.

5. Criticize Midsummer.

Midsummer is like the Holy Grail of Swedish holidays. Longed for! Much talked about! And when the day finally comes, it starts raining the second you sit down to your beautifully-decorated picnic table to eat some pickled herring.  Oh, Midsummer. Why must you be so fickle?

If you’ve ever pined after someone playing hard to get, you know exactly what effect this behavior has on the poor Swedes. The other’s person’s distance only makes you want them more. And that’s exactly how it is with Midsummer: an entire nation of sun-worshipping Swedes wanting nothing more than a day of eating, drinking, and dancing around a giant phallus maypole without having the heavens open up and rain all over it.

All this pain, and then you go and criticize Midsummer.

I would start running now if I were you.

Alternative 1, say that it’s nice, but nothing special.

Alternative 2, spend the day muttering about godless heathens.

Do you know how this man is going to feel if you criticize Midsummer? Angry. Sad. Confused. Despondent. I could go on. Photo: Kate Reutersward

6. Compare them to Danes.

“You’re just like the Danes! Tall athletic blondes, biking around cobblestone streets with a fascinating if bewildering sense of style!”

7. Compare them to Norwegians.

“You’re just like the Norwegians! Tall athletic blondes with a fascinating if incomprehensible dependence on dairy products and herring!”

8. Compare them to Finns.

“You’re just like the Finns! Tall athletic blondes living in the forest with a fascinating if unusual level of reserve.”

9. Compare them to Germans.

“You’re just like the Germans! Tall athletic blondes with a burgeoning economy, a strong interest in environmentalism, and a fascinating if unnerving love of order.”

Ugh, ENVIRONMENTALISTS. Trying to save NATURE and stuff. Can’t STAND it anymore. Photo: Kate Reutersward

10. Complain about environmentalists.

I’m kind of cheap in certain areas, and one of the ways that my cheapness manifests itself is waiting until it actually looks like a mop is sprouting out of the top of my head before getting a haircut. When the hairstylist is confronted with this mass of hair, he or she inevitably asks when I last had it cut. And when they hear my answer, they suck their next breath through their teeth, raise their eyebrows, and shake their heads.

That’s the sort of reaction you would get in Sweden if you were to complain about environmentalists or environmentalism (a pretty common punching bag in the US at least). I think it’s partially because people in Sweden view environmentalism as more of a “you’re expected to maintain this Earth so that it lasts for our children” thing rather than a “you people are standing between me and my fossil fuels” thing.

Not sure how to make it real awkward by complaining about environmentalists? Here are a few I’ve seen work (from a bystander position) in the past: Say that recycling is too much effort, or talk about how public transportation isn’t worth it. Share your “global warming is a hoax” conspiracy theories for extra awkward party fun.


UPDATE: Part II of 20 Ways to Annoy a Swede is now up! The second ten are even more hardcore…

  • Anonymous

    Funny stuff! And agree on all fronts except one! -> Skåne as the “heart” of Sweden? Bah! :)

    • http://www.transatlanticsketches.com Kate Reuterswärd

      Haha oh yeahhhhh! You heard me! :)

      • BunnyOle

        I wonder if it was the heart of Sweden when it was part of Denmark ? ಠ_ಠ

  • Cecile Pham

    so guilty of number 1. :) BTW the german from my SFI class came to visit me in the states. and Apparently of all the middle eastern guys in the class, half of them hated me cuz i was loud and independant and opinionated, the other half loved me cuz i was strong, emancipated and confident and the women hated me for the same reason. Oh snaps! I find this out a year later. hahaha.

    • http://www.transatlanticsketches.com Kate Reuterswärd

      Too awesome! I love this. I can’t believe one of your SFI classmates visited you! It’s so funny to hear the before and after impressions… I met up with some of my old classmates and they thought that I had given up on Sweden and gone back to America. Haha. Nope!

  • Alice In Actionland

    I am so DOOMED on the coffee front – and I’ve actually been worrying about this for my future-fantasy escape to Sweden! Does herbal tea count??? I’ll eat any pastry in the world… but does it literally have to be accompanied by coffee??

    • http://www.transatlanticsketches.com Kate Reuterswärd

      I guessssssssssssssss herbal tea will do. If you really must.

      No really, you’ll be fine. :)

  • Kelly Darby

    i cant stop giggling at the Swedes are just like Danes/Finns/Norwegians/Germans

  • Sharon Lannfjall

    Very humorously written, but I don’t totally agree with you on all points. I’m American and have been living in Stockholm for almost 32 years. Yes, Americans are loud, but we’re no longer louder than a group of teenage girls, or certain other ethnic groups, gabbering on the train or subway. The shoes thing was very easy to adapt to – when you think about it, walking into a house with outside shoes on is actually pretty disgusting! My husband, who is Swedish, does not drink coffee and this has never hampered any social event in his/our lives. Herb tea, water, saft – anything goes. We have never been big midsommar celebrants -in our opinions, it is simply overrated. And it is very seldom that a passerby will flinch when I say hello to them – granted, you have to pick your place. I wouldn’t say hi to people in town, but in my neighborhood, when walking the dog, 99% of people are happy that someone dared take the initiative.

    • http://www.transatlanticsketches.com Kate Reuterswärd

      Hi Sharon! I totally agree with you that while saying hi to strangers is often a welcome gesture, even if it takes them by surprise… It’s sad that it only takes a few frosty responses to start feeling totally weird about smiling at strangers. I think the dog is a big icebreaker. People around my neighborhood make a lot of contact when they’re out and about with their dogs.

      Thanks for the comment and for reading! :)

      • BunnyOle

        All the Swedes I know own cats instead. The area I live, in a suburb of Linköping that has been jammed full of immigrants, is pretty dog free as well, because muslims aren’t allowed to own dogs as pets, and the one dog I saw being walked by an arab immigrant, when I stopped to pet it – he screamed at me. So. I haven’t had any luck with the ‘dog’ socialization.

    • http://avpixlat.info/ Morningstar

      Hi Sharon. I’m a native swede, skåning even. Since you have lived here for over 30 years you must know both countries very well. So you must be aware about what some swedes say, things like Sweden has become too much americanized and that Sweden has become the 51st state of US. Personally I don’t think so. Maybe some minor and more superficial things. But it would be fun to hear your opinion about it though.

    • BunnyOle

      I finally realized my Swedish husband was sticking his fingers in his ears about half the time when I spoke. Rather than tell me he hated how loudly I spoke, he would do things like turn the TV up real loud.

      Americans are MUCH LOUDER THAN SWEDES. As a matter of fact, what he thinks about me, the opposite is true for me when it comes to him. I think he speaks too softly and it irritates me that half the time I can’t understand what he says because of it.

      When I first came here I thought his grown, but still young, sons were like weird super quiet freaks. They were 18-20-22 when I got here, so your comment about loud teenagers is meaningless as well. They basically whisper when they speak, all of them. I can’t stand it, but, compared to them YES, we are VERY LOUD.

      32 years? Maybe you forgot what America is like, maybe Stockholm is so full of NON Swedes you don’t know what real Swedes sound like anymore. Large cities in any country are rarely indicative of the people OF that country, because they are a conglomeration of many races and cultures. Personally I wouldn’t set foot in Stockholm because of the immigrant population there, it sounds horrible.

      • Simon B

        This is a really old post but whatever, I want in in the discussion!

        I don’t know about the loudness but I lived in Dalarna up until this August when I moved to Uppsala to study, and whenever I came to Stockholm I saw the true swedish social rules in action. Because in Dalarna where I come from, everybody knows everybody, so it’s not the same typical swedish things there as in the cities, and when I tried to greet people in Stockholm they didn’t even flinch. Just walked past me. And me and my friend enjoyed ourselves one night after a gig (we had no place to stay during the night) and we wandered about and tried to make time pass.

        So we try to talk to people and comment on stuff and nobody replied to us. Only the guards who kicked us out from T-Centralen in Stockholm. BUT we met somebody who shouted “Älvdalen!” at us, and that’s because she also came from there and “knew” us. But, that was it. Nobody else would speak to us unless we actually had bussiness with them.

        And I had a neighbour called Jack from California. He had to move back this year due to him getting old and he has no real insurance here and he had to move back so he could live off his pension and get his insurance through his union. He was VERY loud and a typical redneck american before he came here. He hated EVERYTHING. Everything was shit and this and that and America sucked and the president was an idiot… But after a few years he got softer and he really liked it here. He called us a few days back and he was really sad about the fact that he’s over there again and he misses us. He was a good friend to my family in Dalarna. He came here because his grandparents’ grandparents came from Sweden.

        Ops I was only supposed to comment, not tell a story… or two.

        Anyway, I hope to go to America for real sometime! I’ve only been in New York for 2-3 hours while I was waiting for a change plane.

        And signing in with Facebook didn’t work.. Anyway, loved the post! It was fun to read!

  • http://shazzerspeak.com/ Shazzer

    I think your list is much mnore accurate than The Local’s! And I’ve always been doomed as regards #1. I come from a very gregarious, theatrical family … so I was considered a high-volume talker even when I lived in the US!

    • http://www.transatlanticsketches.com Kate Reuterswärd

      Haha uh oh! I was never loud by American standards, but I had to suffer through people’s pained looks for the first couple of months of living here. Now I’m fine except for when I laugh… but I’m not giving up my loud laugh :)

  • Michael-James

    Great article, but only an American (or an Albertan! ;) ) would ever complain about environmentalists! Love the Dane/Finn/Norwegian/German bit, I tease exchange students with that all the time…

    • http://www.transatlanticsketches.com Kate Reuterswärd

      Guilty as charged. You’re so right! Glad you enjoyed it :)

  • Kseniia

    I mostly agree with the previous comment. Although, absolute truth about attemps to say that Swedes/Danes/Norwegians/Finns/Germans(?) are same. But it’s smth I never did, as I find all these nations distinct (and, yes, I easily see the difference even in the way they look).

    On the other side, making friendly jokes about Norwegians/Danes/Finns is the ultimate way to become “more Swedish” :) . Same goes to friendly jokes about the way people from Skåne talk.. at least, in Stockholm it seems to be the must.

    • Anonymous

      To joke about the Skåne talk works fine in all original Swedish provinces and the ones taken from Norway, I would probably avoid it in all of the ones taken from Denmark (apart from Skåne itself thats Blekinge and Halland) and while talking to poeple actually from Skåne.

      • http://www.transatlanticsketches.com Kate Reuterswärd

        I never heard that before! Interesting.

  • Meow

    whats sweden’s national dish?


    • http://www.transatlanticsketches.com Kate Reuterswärd

      Haha! Haven’t heard that one before, but I can just imagine the reaction… :)

    • Anonymous

      Isn’t it Kebabpizza? Kebab you can get in most countries but Kebabpizza I been told are more uniqly swedish.

    • BunnyOle

      Bollox – and not even close. That’s just an immigrants dream, and if I see one more gross and boring kebab pizza I’ll vomit.

      From what I can tell, Halles Caviar on hard bread is MUCH more commonly eaten. KEBAB is nothing more than ‘fast food service’ it’s not something people prepare at home so how can it be a national dish?

  • Sara Jeswani

    Haha, wonderful and on the spot! As born in Sweden I can confirm that turning down a cup of coffee is a big thing. During my journalist studies we were even told to always say yes if a person we were going to interview offered us coffee.
    Do I need to say that I am a tea-drinker..?

    • http://www.transatlanticsketches.com Kate Reuterswärd

      Haha too funny that you were instructed to drink coffee during your studies! I have some friends who are police officers and one who is a former real estate agent… all of them are coffee drinkers, but they said that they are forced to drink it (and eat pastry!) so many times a day that it gets to be horrible!

  • Rachel

    American in Stockholm here! I recently discussed the coffee point with a pregnant Swedish colleague, who informed me that in Sweden, pregnant women ARE allowed to drink coffee (up to five (!) cups a day.) I guess anything less would be torture!

    • http://www.transatlanticsketches.com Kate Reuterswärd

      Up to five cups a day?! What?!?! I’m amazed. Hahaha, guess we’ll have to take that out of possible solutions :D

  • Anders

    Denmark Skåne Sweden

    • http://www.transatlanticsketches.com Kate Reuterswärd

      Haha. I see what you’re saying here. Don’t know if I like it. :)

      • BunnyOle

        What’s not to like when it comes to TRUTH.

  • Monica-USA

    Wow another fantastic post Kate! Thanks for the laughs and as far as the thing about the Germans you were right on I speak from personal experience with the love of all things in a neat and orderly fashion. My mom is German-enough said!!! Thanks for the giggles couldn’t stop laughing. :o )

    • http://www.transatlanticsketches.com Kate Reuterswärd

      Thanks, Monica! :D

  • Saauerbach

    Haha. Love it! Looking at it from the opposite side if the ‘ditch’ I can be rather tough.
    Swedes don’t like it if my husband talks to me in his usual way in public. They don’t seem to appreciate our language. Sweet but nasty. So to Midsummer – still think it’s a big thing! But it’s gard to explain the need for it…Regarding global warming etc – my Mom blames me for it every time we talk. “Americans’ she says with a tone that’s pretty annoying. Wonder what she’ll say when I become a citizen later on this year. I’m sure she’ll want to have a saying about my future voting. Kaffe, yeah. I’m down to coffee in the morning only and that’s good för me…the coffee that I make is just as strong as the Swedish so you really don’t need more. I like to tease my old Swedes – they’re pretty stuck in some things and would benefit from some big laughs and accepting life and people for what they are. After all, no one is perfect.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Karlis-Streips/675389607 Karlis Streips

    I’ve always thought that the fact that it always rains on the Summer Solstice (which is just a big a deal here in Latvia as it is in Sweden) signifies what God thinks about pagan festivals. :)

    • http://www.transatlanticsketches.com Kate Reuterswärd

      Hahaha love it! I think you’ve got something there… :D

    • BunnyOle

      Why wouldn’t it rain in the spring? HOW RUDE, and as far as that goes it does not ‘always rain’ on summer solstice, not here and not anywhere does ALWAYS occur.

  • Anna Schröder

    I’m Swedish born and bread and I don’t like coffee either. Nobody in my family does. But yeah, I get strange looks too from my fellow Swedes when I don’t bow down and praise the black caffeinated beverage. But I wouldn’t go so far as saying it’s offensive to Swedes, claiming you don’t like coffee. Most will probably just think it’s weird. And they might forget you don’t like it and act just as shocked and surprised the next time you’re having a fika with them. But maybe they’re more hardcore about their coffee down south?

    • http://www.transatlanticsketches.com Kate Reuterswärd

      What you wrote there sounds like about the level of coffee obsession down here, too. And it’s so true that about how people will “act just as shocked and surprised the next time”… I’m guilty of that too! Thanks so much for reading :)

    • Randal Piersons

      I am involved with environmental type people. Tea is very accepted in these circles. Maybe you should get more environmental Kate?? lol

      • http://www.transatlanticsketches.com Kate Reuterswärd

        Hmmm. Now there’s a thought!

        • Abbasnidal

          I’m sorry but I have to ask you for an emergency service
          I am the father of a family of six and there lies the tragic country in which I live and ask you for your application for asylum llengati I and my family, thank you. ”

  • Pingback: 20 Ways to Annoy a Swede: Part II (#11-20)

  • Anonymous

    I’m with the Swedes when it comes to wearing shoes inside. It’s just cleaner to take them off at the door. It must have something to do with coming from a snowy country, you think road salt does a job on your shoes, you should see what it does to hardwood floors and carpets!

    • BunnyOle

      Yes it is cleaner, but, in their minds they think Americans are crazy, insane, and disgusting for wearing shoes inside. All my husband and his friends talk about when it comes to that is ‘walking around with dogpoop shoes’ but in more explicit terms.

      So there is still very harsh condemnation towards americans for this trait.

      • rocknolla

        and of course you as an american typically thinks that US culture is the fucking norm which can neither be questioned or critisized. i bet it was both a shocking and traumatic experience for you to discover that there actually is a world outside US.

  • Roni Leopard Scholz

    OMG sa javla sant. Good stuff, Ima share it nao!

    • http://www.transatlanticsketches.com Kate Reuterswärd

      Tack! So glad you liked it :)

  • Reinaldo

    Yeap!…I´m a “legal allien” as well and on top of that, i come from “that communist island” in the Caribbean,so “to insert” into the skin of Sweden and its swedes it´s been a “job”.I´m married to a local,her family is great and,so far,i feel “i fit in the picture.A key point to my succes has been to avoid “the too much of everything” i brought from my island,from hugging anybody,kissing everydanmed chic you meet,express happines,sadness,laughing etc.
    I once read this “Swedes love “different” kind of people…but only if they behave “iquals”(as them)

    • Randal Piersons

      It is so very important to behave as a Swede to be accepted. I always remember how Swedes praise their decendants in USA who keep the Swedish traditions, while saying immigrants to Sweden must take on Swedish traditions.

      • Karin olsen

        I’m 1st generation American of Swedish descent,so was raised bi-culturally.English was our language,& to be American was the prime culture.My parents were citizens,& politically concerned.They did belong to a Swedish church,& belonged to a Swedish lodge,to keep up with the holidays,food,& culture,as did the many other cultures in Brooklyn.The difference is the USA has so many cultures,you can’t compare the two.Unfortunately,I didn’t learn the language as well as I could have,as they insisted we be American,& speak english in the home. I hope each country keeps their different cultures,as it makes our life so much more interesting.If you move to another country,it’s your obligation to fit into their culture,not for them to change to accommodate you.All this should be done with respect,& appreciation of one another.Viva la difference!!!!!

        • BunnyOle

          OL-SEN is Danish. I am married to an Olesen, his father is Swedish citizen, but born in Denmark.

          OL-SON is Swedish. Therefore, your ancestors are Danish, not Swedish.

          SO see how important it is to fit in? They were Swedish in every sense of mind, only the spelling of the name gives it away.

          My husband has Danish ancestors, but is a Swede in every sense of the word.

    • BunnyOle

      It doesn’t matter how you act Reinaldo, or what color your skin is. Swedes are just cold all around.

      • Eplovejoy1

        That’s just silly Bunny — you need to get out more.

      • rocknolla

        with that logic in mind, does it mean that all americans are rude like you are?

      • Guest

        They would be, if your attitude around them is anything like the attitude of your posts here.

      • Garaad30

        Wow you have some seriously, unhealthy obsession with Somalis, and just to correct your ignorance it is “Somalis” in the plural sense and not “Somalians” as you called it, you would think at least you would know the English language. By the way you have so much hatred for immigrants in Sweden but do you even realise you are an immigrant yourself, or does your pale face exclude you from your unhealthy perception. But, then again you are just a troll. Swedes are lot more educated and worldly then your average overweight, motor mouth, greedy Americans.And Somalis are not louder then Americans, we are skinnier then you YES but not Louder then You!!! Swedes seem cold to you because they saw your ignorance and they doing what most intelligent people would do STAY AWAY FROM THE IGNORANT LOUD FAT AMERICAN!!

  • http://misslyckande.wordpress.com Misslyckande

    We are better than America in hockey

    Your economy sucks!

    • BunnyOle

      Yeah? Well consider the fact that one Swedish community just spent 8.5 million kronas to purchase a luxury resort villa to HOUSE unaccompanied immigrant minors. Consider that age 65+ people who immigrant to Sweden receive higher pensions than many Swedes retiring after 40 to 45 years of work AND free dental care. That they are scrambling to build HOUSES for the newly arriving Somalian immigrants. MY POINT?? Swedish economy is going to start sucking REAL BAD and REALLY soon. So I would’t be pointing fingers at America’s economy.

      • Abbasnidal

        thats true

      • rocknolla

        clearly that was sensitive to an american! interesting. :P

      • rocknolla

        what a bull. like the swedish economy would solely balance on the expenses for immigration. right. i bet you wish the downfall of sweden as the jealous american you are can’t take that some other country would do better than US.
        and clearly you’ve no clue about either economy or how pension planning works in sweden. it’s partly dependent on one’s own choices and investments in bonds and funds. learn the facts before you speak next time.

  • Anonymous


  • http://avpixlat.info/ Morningstar

    I guess I’m typical swedish in as much as I love coffee and prefer to be silent during train and bus rides. I started drinking coffee when I was maybe 5-6 years old. Always the Zoéga’s brand which is very popular here in Skåne. Started with black and three lumps of sugar which went on for many years. Then pure black for a few years and then with milk in it. About 10 years ago I added half a spoon of chocolate to the mix. I couldn’t even think of stopping drink coffee. I’m a real java-junkie.
    About public rides, I’ve always been introvert, Perhaps more than medel-svensson even. I just love the few moments of peace all by myself. Daydreaming while the landscape is passing by outside the window. It’s very relaxing. I’m sure I would start a conversation if I met somebody I already knew.
    I have thought about the thing with the shoes. I’m sure it would feel strange if I ever came to the other side of the pond. At least for a while before I got used to it.

    I haven’t been to US, not in this incarnation at least. But I have made a couple of observations from movies and television series. You often have sliding windows which is not so common over here. And loads of door knobs. We have handles.

    • http://www.transatlanticsketches.com Kate Reuterswärd

      Started drinking coffee when you were 5-6 years old?! Whoa!! I’m impressed.

  • Amanda Fristrom

    Loved this post and the next ten! I posted about it (with links) on my personal traveling blog: http://www.circumambulatetheworld.blogspot.com

  • http://twitter.com/culturebroker Sanda Ionescu

    I concur with your ‘not talking to strangers’ bit in Sweden, but in Italy? Are you sure? Because when I went there while I was pregnant (and this was Milan, so positively cold and Germanic), I had people offering me seats, chatting to me about my belly, guessing whether it would be a boy or a girl etc. etc. The fact that I barely spoke 5 words of Italian didn’t put them off at all!

    • http://www.transatlanticsketches.com Kate Reuterswärd

      Hmm! Maybe it was the belly? Or maybe people in my university town had already had it up to here with Americans. I don’t know!

      • BunnyOle

        Italy is usually a very open warm friendly and physically touching each other society. Maybe it was because it was a University town – usually full of people from all around, even other countries, and a bunch of pseudo intellectuals.

        I find it hard to believe being pregnant alone would make everyone around you become chatty and kind. I think it’s just the town you were in.

  • Guest

    hahaha I was really laughing when reading this even if not all the swedes are behaving like that. I’ve been living in Sweden all my life and I would be happy if someone says hi or if someone says that they don’t like coffee cause I don’t even like it ether or when someone would criticize Midsummer cause seriously ppl how fun is it to dance and eat when it’s raining outside, it would be a whole other story if it was sunny and warm and if they could skip the dancing at least the women and men, but let the children dance :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/caryseganwyer Carys Egan-Wyer

    This is one of the funniest yet :-)

    • Abbasnidal

      i see that funniest too

  • Axel

    Haha, Burn!

  • Ale hjortmar

    I DO take offense when people critizice midsommar! What’s there not to love about it!? Great picture tho, and I’m grateful to be included in your awesome blog :D

  • BunnyOle

    I am from the Southern United states and I take offense to your ‘southern pride’ commentary, like people from the southern parts of any country have some kind of pride peculiar to them.

    I also now live in Sweden, and American people who learn to speak Swedish while living in Skåne, or simply from people who are from there – often cannot even be UNDERSTOOD by Swedes in the rest of the country. It’s DIFFERENT.

    They speak a related dialect on Bornholm, that Danish island there southeast of Skåne, where the language is called “East Danish”. Skåne was part of the kingdom of Denmark until 1658. HOW could it be THE REAL SWEDEN then? Ridiculous. It’s like if the northern part of mexico was part of the united states, would that then be THE REAL AMERICA? NO!

    You say you live in Sweden? Then how can you not realize SOMALIANS are 1,000X louder than Americans? They live all around me and their speaking level is a SCREAM…the first time I head some guy talking outside the apartment i hurried outside to make sure everything was OK, as I thought somebody was screaming at someone else – turned out he was leisurely speaking on the mobile phone, leaning against a post & very relaxed – at a volume I would reserve for ‘threatening’.

    Americans ARE NOT EVEN CLOSE to the loudest people on earth, and they are not louder than ‘most europeans’ – you are in Scandinavia, dear, that is not the same as ‘most Euorpean’. Swedes are quiet, very very quiet – my husband and I do argue about this – he thinks I speak to loudly and I think he speaks too quietly, so I get you on that part – but I think it’s wrong and not funny to call Americans SO LOUD as compared to ‘MOST EUROPEANS’ and it propagates stereotypes against Americans.

    Yes my husband and all of his sons gulp coffee like it’s some life saving air and they had been drowning, but, I hate coffee and nobody I know cares. They find it more humorous that I like iced tea – all year round.

    Swedes either make no response whatsoever if you smile and nod at them or say hello or good morning, OR they do visibly wince, tense up, or even look angry at you for acknowledging their presence. I got so angry about it the other day I did what amounted to a stand up comedy skit in the kitchen that made my husband laugh so hard (albeit SILENTLY) that his face turned red and he was almost crying. That is VERY true, I can’t stand it either – seeing as how I’m from ‘the south’ where people all smile at each other and talk to strangers all the time. I believe they think I’m insane.

    • Marky Mark

      You even shout when you type, love. What’s with the majuscules? Tone it down. Also, stop picking on the Somalians.

  • EPLovejoy

    I’ve found the following also garanteed anoying to Swedes: Ask them why they’re always talking to each other about how much each and everything costs?

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  • Deebisan

    Somebody has never been around German tourists before…get on a bus with them if you want to hear loud.

    • Eplovejoy1

      Ja! Sadly German on tour buses can be annoying. Brits too when drunk.

  • http://gateway-villas.com/stlucia_villas/details/20/ Irine

    Ah you are so right with some of these. Am not a swede nor am i american, but i have encountered seems to be mainly women who can be loud. They are not aware of it themselves. It’s all fun though learning other cultures. But i have not met a loud German,French or Caribbean person. Though i was the only one who realised that.

  • Emelie

    Every year I get excited when midsommar are just around the corner, and almost every year I get disappointed because it rains just on that specific day.
    And take it easy, what she has to say about sweden is just funny, nothing to get irritated at :)

  • Tammi

    Im just looking for some insite here,so this is my issue. I am a 46 yr old American dating a Swedish 46 yr old man in America. Things are going really good for us. He wants to move back to sweden in 5 yrs when his kids graduate from high school.This meaning that i would possibly be going with him if things continue to work out as well as they are now.
    How do Swedes look at Americans that marry their own and enter their territory. Will I be excepted or looked down on. What’s the likelihood of things working out for me?? Just trying to get some feedback from someone who would know, Thanks

    • http://www.transatlanticsketches.com Kate Reuterswärd

      You know what, I think this varies extremely widely. My husband’s friends and families could not have been more open and loving. I had other American friends living in Sweden who did not have as easy a transition into Swedish families. It depends on you and him and your family and a million other variables. With this game plan already in place, you might want to start learning Swedish – that will GREATLY ease your transition into both the job market and your partner’s social sphere.

      One thing that can be really good during this time though is to join international or American expat groups in Sweden. It’s really wonderful to have a support group to lean on that will understand the difficulties that will arise regardless of whether or not it’s a smooth transition.

      Good, good, good luck!!

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  • 1939393

    Wow, obviously someone has not only decided that being in Sweden for 2 years makes them Swedish but also that they are no longer American and are in fact superior to Americans after 2 years in Sweden. Get over yourself,

  • Julia Ericsson92

    I must say you wrote very entertaining, maybe a bit stereotypical on both sides but that where also the fun of it. Don’t you like coffee? are you even human?! lol! also the part how Americans are like big loud elephants to us Swedes haha
    Very well written and entertaining
    From a native Swede :)

  • Jonna


    I am Swedish down to the bone, but have grown up in some multi-cultural surroundings and travels. So I think (might not be true) that I know Sweden, but can at the same time look at it from the outside.

    There are some ways to Very Much Annoy the Swedish. Think of them as methods to guarantee you make no friends.

    1. Say that you think the baby Crown Princess Estelle does not look like the most beautiful baby in the whole wide world. While you’re at it, state that you think the whole Swedish royal family looks a bit daft. Then don’t hold your breath waiting for that employment/invitation/call.

    2. Say that you think it’s every woman’s duty to stay home, clean, cook, care for the children and wash her husbands clothes. Oh nooo… You will now be officially known as “That person who is incredibly backwards and stupid.” Same goes for any employer that does not recognize the right for a father to take paternal leave.

    3. When you see a friend unexpectedly scream “Oh my god it’s you!”, run towards them, try to hug and kiss them. I can guarantee you that you in an instant will have propelled everyone surrounding into acute embarrasment.

    4. Stand close to anyone without it being very crowded.

    5. Hug someone the very first time you meet them, instead of shaking hands.

    6. Don’t recycle, or even say that you always throw your light bulbs and batteries in the trash.

    7. State that you hate midsummer.

    8. This won’t annoy people, but rather make them feel very awkward.
    Say, at any time, “Let’s take a moment to hold hands and pray for this.” Eeeh, do what? Eeh, I don’t want to insult anyone’s religion, but… There are lot’s and lot’s of churches in Sweden. You go there to get married, or buried. That’s it. If anyone else wants it any other way that’s fine, just don’t ask me to pray or whatever it is you do.

    As always, these are generalisations. As such they can never be correct for every situation or person. (Although I have never met anyone from Sweden that does not look forward to midsummer.) Still, it can’t hurt to check what is and what is not polite in any country you will have contact with. It’s fun to compare, too. As a teenager visiting Morocco with my father I once complained to a waiter in a restaurant that there was no ham on my pizza. Well, you live and learn.

  • Kiki_p

    I am a first-generation American, but I completely understand all of this.

  • http://www.facebook.com/alfred.beronius.5 Alfred Beronius

    I´m a Swede, and I´d better start drinking coffee right away then xD otherwise most of them except comparing us with Danes and Norwegians are true, don´t know about Finns though I´ve never compared us with them, Germans I really don´t care.

    • http://www.transatlanticsketches.com Kate Reuterswärd

      This is an AMAZING list! Love it. Be nice to the immigrants, though – I was one, remember? :)

  • Alexander

    And being raped left and right by Arabs and other asylum seekers isn’t one of the items on your list.

    I am perplexed.

  • Alexander

    To the moderator/author:

    I realize that my comment was deleted and was expecting so. Perhaps it was out of place and you believed it was marring the overall quality of other posts. At any rate, my comment about the rape epidemic in your country was based on an objective view, statistics, and viewing how non-Swedes–particularly of non-European descent–behave themselves toward Swedish women.

    I believe this situation to be VERY serious and I am surprised as to why many Swedes don’t react with proper action. I think that your Viking ancestors would be rolling in their graves if they would see what is happening to your society, but that’s the way things turned out.

    I hope that Sweden will not suffer from the deadly Dodo bird syndrome.

    All in all, your article is humorous, but I would actually enjoy it when there wouldn’t be serious matters to address first. Just think of all the female victims out there. Their lives are ruined, and the perpetrators did not have to be in Sweden in the first place. Blame your government, but please think about this. This is not racism, extremism or whatever. If anything, the Swedish women (young and old) are the victims of non-white brutality that is so inherent in their religious ways. However, the televisions, and other sources will keep talking about how peaceful they are. If they’re so peaceful, why did they have to leave their countries in the first place? Think about it.

    Sweden WAS a peaceful and prosperous place.

  • Raymond

    You article’s hilarious. You can easily do comedy

  • Mullan Road

    I have been invited to come to Sweden by my Cousin, Ingemar.
    I hope I don’t embarass him by upsetting his family and friends by saying or doing to offend them. He has been a special friend to me over the years, I’ve never met him but he sounds like a fine man.
    I want to be a good visitor to his country. I’m trying to learn a bit of his language, it’s sad we Americans have a world wide reputation of being (we think) God’s gift to the world.
    Wrong, As I said, I hope to be and act properly as not to offend. I am part Swedish but have forgotten the wondeful memories of being a Swede.
    Wish me luck