Ask anyone in the world to describe a typical Swede, and there’s a safe bet you will soon be hearing about blonde, beautiful women, passionless and perhaps Vikings with big beards and pointy helmets
While it is true that Sweden has not been at war for 200 years and that most of their political debates lack the passionate arguments and conflict of many of their Anglo-Saxon counterparts – is it true that Swedes are less keen to argue with one another or to start a fight?
Anyone who says Swedes lack passion is wrong. They’ve just concentrated it in very specific areas, like the minimalistic home decoration, drinking games, midsummer celebrations and practising silence.
Yes, Swedes may come across as shy. If in the subway or on a bus in Sweden, you will notice it’s rare for two unfamiliar Swedes to sit next to each other as long as there is at least one unoccupied double seat. Swedes really don’t like to be close to strangers, or even establish eye-contact with them, certainly not on their way to work. This is just one example of when Swedes may come across as distant or even antisocial.
But don’t mistake this behaviour as rudeness. What’s often perceived as coldness is actually a way Swedes behave because they don’t want to bother others. “I don’t want to interfere with your stuff. And I will take care of my own.”
Swedes take care of their own agenda. They don’t want others to comment on it. They also won’t comment on yours. It’s your life and they tend to respect your personal integrity.
So you shouldn’t just sit down next to a Swede in any public transport and start telling them your life story, or ask them where they’re headed.
Sweden didn’t start or join any war for more than 200 years. It’s a war-free country since 1814. Pretty cool, eh?! Look at that likes of the Germans or Americans or, well, most other nations on this planet.
Swedes take care of their own agenda. They don’t want others to comment on it. They will also not comment on yours. It’s your life and they respect your personal integrity
Swedes hate wars so much that they even send some of their own people to conflict countries to tell them about the benefits of not having war. Those diplomats have achieved international success and recognition. And when you speak with Swedes about politics (which is unlikely to happen, unless you’re a politician), you will see a shine in their eyes when you mention names like Dag Hammarsköld or, well, I haven’t talked so much about politics since I moved to Sweden…
One way for Sweden to stay out of conflict has for many years been to remain free from alliances like NATO. They also considered it unnecessary to make investments in a strong defence. Why buy arms if there’s no one to shoot at? Now that the geopolitical climate has got a bit rougher, Swedes decided it might be good to join the side that appears to be stronger – it’s a political path they already traversed successfully in the past.
Although Swedes have been strictly sticking to their “free from alliances” policy, political discussions about joining NATO arise as regularly as foreign planes intrude into Swedish airspace or submarines occupy Stockholm’s archipelago.
Swedes try to avoid confrontation, and you will barely recognise if they are angry. They make almost exactly the same facial expression when they are enraged as they would if they’d just won the lottery.
When they feel that they have to express something that could be perceived as confrontational, they skilfully wrap it in soft words and phrases.
Shouting Swedes are rarely heard in public as well. Pass a construction site or walk through the main shopping street of any Swedish city and you will find that nobody is screaming or shouting. To hear them raise their voices, you have to go to a football match or a night club.