If you’re a Swede in America, you’ve definitely heard your fair share of comments and misconceptions about Sweden, which probably just makes you want to bury your face in your hands and cry (but you don’t, cause you’re Swedish).
We’ve compiled a list of 11 things that every Swede in the U.S. hears on a regular basis. Let us know if we forgot something!
1. You’re not blond. Are you really Swedish?
If you happen to have another hair color than blonde (naturally or not), you’ve definitely heard this comment. Or some variation of “aren’t all Swedish people blonde?” But just like Americans, we don’t all have the same hair and eye color. Although many of us are born with light hair, it turns darker, to a color we Swedes like to call “råttfärgat” (translates into rat-colored or raw-colored). So yes, most blondes dye their hair, even in Sweden.
2. Why are you cold? Aren’t you supposed to be a Viking?
Newsflash people: Being from somewhere where it’s dark and below 40 degrees most of the year doesn’t mean you’re immune to the cold. There’s a Swedish saying that goes “there is no bad weather, only bad clothes”.” but sometimes we forget, and then we get cold. Just like any other human being.
3. Oh yeah, I’ve been to Switzerland! I love it there!
Swedes know the difference between Canada and the U.S. and they’re closer in distance than Sweden and Switzerland.
We have no words for this. Just please stop thinking we’re Switzerland.
4. Oh, I love your chocolate! And watches, right?
Again, unless you’re talking about Marabou or Daniel Wellington, we’re not that country.
5. I hear Sweden is really dangerous nowadays
Yeah, no. Sweden is still one of the safest places in the whole world. We also live until we’re 82.73, as we wrote about in this article so we’re fine, thank you very much.
6. Why do you speak English so well?
According to the English Proficiency Index, Swedes are the second-best in the world at speaking English for countries where English is not the first language. After the Netherlands, probably because no one understands the Dutch language including themselves.
In all seriousness, the real reason is that we start learning English when we’re really young, we don’t dub our movies and everybody watches American TV-shows and films.
7. Is it true that people are nude everywhere?
Swedes are known to have a liberal view on sexuality and nudity, which stems from Sweden being one of the first countries in the world to openly show nudity in films. This is usually referred to as The Swedish Sin, and you can read more about it here. Being naked is a somewhat different concept for us, as the body is just not as sexualized in our culture as it is in America.
For example, you will absolutely see a mother breastfeed her child in public in Sweden, and even though we like to skinny dip in the summer after a nice session in the sauna, we don’t walk around naked all the time. Mainly because it would be too cold.
8. Where are you from? “I’m Swedish” Oh yay, so am I!
As a Swedish person in the U.S., you most likely encounter Americans, who will also say that they are Swedish when you mention where you are from on a regular basis.
We think it’s wonderful to hear that you have Swedish ancestry, but please make sure to mention that you’re not actually Swedish as in, born and raised there, or speak the language before we excitedly switch into speaking our native language with you.
Because Sweden isn’t the same melting pot of a country, the way the United States is, we tend to not identify our nationality with where our ancestors came from, the way Americans do. Which leads to major confusion for us.
9. You’re from Sweden? I know Sweden! IKEA! ABBA!
Yes, we are proud of our Swedish exports such as ABBA and IKEA, but there’s more to Sweden than a multinational furniture company and a famous band from the 70s. For example, did you know that the three-point seatbelt was invented by a Swede, that Skype and Minecraft are famous Swedish companies as well? If not, check out our weekly article series #Swedishmade, where we feature things that many might not know are Swedish.
10. Oh wow, aren’t the taxes really really high?
Yes, they are high, but not the highest in the world. If you compare Sweden with the U.S., we get a lot more for our taxes including entirely free education, starting from daycare all the way up to university level, free healthcare and one of the most generous parental leave in the whole world
11. “Flurgy durgy hurdy” – the Swedish chef
Yes, we know about the Swedish Chef from the Muppet show. No, that’s not actually Swedish. It’s not actually a language at all. However, we must say that it’s vaguely similar to Norwegian….our little brother next door that we love to make fun of.
This article was originally published December 7, 2018
I’ve heard almost all of them!
One I will never forget is when someone said “so… do you have polar bears walking around everywhere…”
All of the above is very true. I am a Swede, born, raised, and educated there. Moved to the US in 1989 and I am now a dual citizen.
Born and raised in Stockholm area. Been living in the US for 30 years plus. All that is true and I still watch “Bertil Johnssons julafton every year.