Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Immigration Issues in Sweden

Since the beginning of the Iraq war Sweden has accepted more Iraqi refugees than any western country. Last year alone one city in Sweden, Södertälje, took in more Iraqi refugees than all of the United States. It’s a noble cause. And something that Swedes are proud of. As they should be. However, as more and more refugees, not just from Iraq, but Afghanistan and Somalia as well, come to Sweden, a need for immigration reform has arisen.

With the influx of immigrants, mostly refugees, Sweden has cracked down on who and how many people get to come and stay in Sweden. The immigration board has cut down drastically on the number of people granted asylum in Sweden. According to the UN the percentage of refugees allowed to stay has fallen since 2006 from 80% to 70% to just 25% through the beginning of 2008. This has led to a large number of immigrants “disappearing.” They have gone underground. The new policy was obviously meant to curb the number of immigrants coming to the country. No matter the intentions, a country can only absorb so many people before problems arise. Social problems. Economic problems.

The economic problem has been receiving a bit of press lately. An opinion piece in Dagens Nyheter today by immigration minister Tobias Billström, social services secretary Ulf Kristersson, and Elisabeth Svantesson a member of parliament, is calling for even more changes. The Local has done a good job of summarizing the article in English. From the original article we see that the three are concerned about the Social Welfare system being taken advantage of. Sweden prides itself on helping people in need. That’s what the taxes are for. But sometimes cracks emerge. And when a large influx of people enters the country with no ties it stands to reason that they will be using the system for a while.

In the very first paragraph the group writes: “…ingen tjänar på en politik där alla invandrare ses som offer - och behandlas därefter.” Whether the group believes this themselves, that Sweden sees immigrants as victims and treats them as such, may be debatable. But it is important to note as the article continues.

The article says that one of the main problems is: “Sverige präglas i dag för mycket av några särdrag som försvårar framgångsrik invandring. Tydligast är den kravlöshet som accepterar att arbetsföra människor - oavsett etnicitet och ursprung - under långa perioder lever på bidrag i stället för att fullt ut ta ansvar för sin egen försörjning.”

Basically, there is a misplaced attitude of acceptance that people are living on the system for long periods of time instead of taking responsibility for supporting themselves. Perhaps it is here that the group believes the politics of treating immigrants as victims has become a problem.

The article goes on to say: “Av dem som får uppehållstillstånd och deltar i kommunal introduktion är bara var femte självförsörjande efter två och ett halvt år med uppehållstillstånd.”

After two and a half years, only 20% of those who have been allowed to stay in Sweden and are involved in an introduction to Sweden are able to support themselves. Of those who are allowed to stay, many flock to the same neighborhoods. People feel most comfortable around those they see as similar to themselves. So little communities of refugees arise. The Iraqi community in Södertälje for example.

Now, it may seem that this is a dig at the immigrants who are coming to Sweden. That they are living off the system. That they aren’t working. That they are lazy and taking advantage of Sweden’s benevolence. And maybe that attitude plays a role. Maybe it’s the same sort of immigration issues that can be seen in the US. But in all fairness the group also brings up Sweden’s desire for svenskhet. Swedishness. Which immigrants are often lacking.

The group acknowledges that Sweden is a bit different than other parts of the world. They point out that Sweden acknowledges: “… barns, kvinnors och sexuella minoriteters individuella rättigheter och ställer dem framför familj, klan, grupp och kultur.” So children, women, and sexual minorities are placed above family, clan, groups, or culture.

I’ll be honest; my first thought when reading this was that it reeked of underhanded racism considering the culture of the majority of refugees and immigrants coming to Sweden. That is up to you to decide on your own though.

Anyway, the group admits that the cultural mores that are easiest to adhere to are those that already fit what an immigrant believes. So if you come from a county where family trumps individuals, you might struggle to adapt here in Sweden. And here’s where it gets interesting. Swedes, as I have mentioned before, have a tendency to avoid conflict. It has served them well; one need only look at the fact that the country has been untouched by war for about 200 years. However, it is not just in the world arena that they avoid conflict but also at home. In the smallest of arenas. And so, Sweden struggles to communicate the rules, culture, and mores that Swedes live by to those new to the country for fear of insulting someone. However, if these ideas are not communicated, the group fears that serious conflicts are sure to arise.

So it’s a Catch-22. Immigrants come to this country and are treated as victims, allowed to live off of the state, with only 20% being self-sufficient after two and a half years. They are expected to be Swedish but never become Swedish. Not necessarily because they don’t want to but because they don’t know how. And because they are not considered Swedish enough they have less of a chance of getting a job because they lack one inherent quality – Swedishness.

The group suggests a few different things. One is making sure that those who come to this country understand the values, rules, laws, and cultural mores that Swedes live by. That takes care of the whole Swedishness thing. They want to make sure that various sectors jobbar vit, are working white. That is to say not black and under the table. The group wants to see a political attitude that accepts immigration and emigration as something positive and something that can benefit Swedish society as a whole.

And remember that whole economic problem where 80% of immigrants were still living off the social welfare system after having arrived in the country? And that they are living in the same areas? While the social democrats want to mandate where they live, this group thinks the best way to solve this problem is to find them a job. And of course, in a very Swedish way, they propose some sort of economic incentives. Now these incentives aren’t spelled out in detail. But what I see happening is more money being thrown around. Of course, if the amount of welfare that is paid out drops markedly then it all ends up for the better. I just find it interesting that the Swedes believe the best way to get people off social welfare in terms of economic benefits is to offer them economic benefits to get a job. It seems to me that welfare should be enough to live off of, but not so much that there is not enough of an incentive to want to find a job.

It’s easy to read between the lines here. As immigration continues, some inside of Sweden fear that a crisis is imminent. That the Swedish way of life must be preserved. I’m not really sure what will happen. But in the year that I have been here I have watched as immigration has become more and more of a national topic of discussion. Fewer and fewer immigrants are allowed into the country. More and more legislation is discussed that will curb immigration. I believe that immigration in Sweden finds itself at a crossroad. It is obvious that Sweden believes something must be done. The question is how far this country will go that for so long has prided itself on it’s openness. It’s acceptance. It’s social welfare system.

Welcome to Sweden. Kind of.

To subscribe to A Swedish American in Sweden for free enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner


  1. A very interesting post HS! I recall discussing the immigration topic with other foreign students when I was in Uppsala during summers 99 and 2000, and some of the heated opinions that arose. I also remember the Iraqi gentleman that ran the pizzeria near studentvägen and the Kurdish woman that cut my hair (I was a bit of a longhair when I first came to Sweden :). It was a hot topic then, and I can only imagine how it's developed since 9/11 and our little war.

  2. Discussions tend to arise with media and fall with media.

    About the war in iraq, i think alot of swedes in a way disliked it alot and didnt at all reason like americans. Regardless if most americans detest the war now and want an end to it, im sure they think differently.
    One reason why alot of people got prejudices against the american way of thinking when it comes to some matters, might be that media chooses to view the wrong americans. Either the rednecks or the religion freaks.

    Never forget that there is a huge difference between different "western" countries.
    Religion is a important topic in america even in politics, while in sweden its barely visible anymore.
    Taxes/healthcare/social systems differ loads between sweden and america. The latest i heard was that there was millions of americans who wasnt able to visit the dentist/hospital - things we take for granted in sweden - except if they were so severly ill that there was a risk they could die. Some people carried dieseases/illnesses/problems that you are used to see around in third world countries.
    Same thing about weapons in the US, ive never completly understood why nothing has been done about it. As far as i know its extremly easy to attain a weapon in the US. While sure it is possible to reach weapons in every country in the world if you really want to and got the means. But in america it seems to be taken to a extreme extend.
    America isnt all shit and sweden isnt a perfect country either, whatever laws your country is ruled with problems usually arise because of them or because of the lack of them. But still there is a huge difference.
    Like alot of european citizens surely disliked some of the ways of Usa.

    Dont even know what kind of conclusion to make but i just feel that some topics makes u abit frustrated, especially when someone else is describing the problem, who is an outsider.
    Just like this:

    Media really fucks some views up sometime. You could almost think we were in one of the ghettos in the usa. Sure there is problems like said above but this clip really is animated abit to much.

    this one is better

  3. @jd - it is definitely an interesting topic. especially considering that, for the most part, sweden was a relatively homogenous society until, let's say, WWII. It makes for some interesting discussion, and it seems like as time goes on, it is being discusse more and more.

    @anonymous - the media does play an important role in what is discussed. and you're right, it is easy to manipulate views by showing the extreme views. in your example the religious freaks or the rednecks.

    and again, I agree that here are huge differences between western countries. thats what makes discussions about issues like immigration so interesting. each country will have a bit of a different take on it.

    but I think it is interesting to note that you think it can be frustrating when outsiders are describing problems. in this case, outsiders are the heart of the problem and so have a prominent role in the issue. and I also wonder if I am considered an outsider in this situation? because at times I feel very much like an outsider in Sweden, but seeing as how I was born here, speak and read swedish, live here and work here, I also feel like I often times have a very good idea as to what is gong on. now obviously my interpretation of what is going on will be colored by my upbringing in the us, but that goes for anyone really.

    anyway, it will be interesting to see how this discussion continues here in sweden.

  4. It seems Sweden is facing the same problems with immigrants that Canada also tries to deal with. Our government seems to think that throwing more money to the immigrants will solve the problem. While the average Canadian struggles to get by we see immigrant families given everything for free that we have to pay for i.e schooling, housing etc. paid for by our government.

    Immigration reform is needed in Canada as well, but Canadians are too nice to change the policies that are already in effect.

    That being said, I hope Swedish government doesn't move any faster on changing it's immigration policy then Canada.. at least until after I've moved to Sweden! lol

  5. I couldn't help but contrast the social system you have described for the most needy of Sweden with a book I am reading by Muhammad Yunus, nobel peace prize winner and fellow Vanderbilt alumnus (thank you very much!). He is the founder of the Grameen Bank, a microlending institution based in Bangladesh, the book is called Banker to the Poor.

    Anyway, Yunus' microlending theory revolves not around state sponsored welfare—which he argues is well intentioned, but too bureaucratic, laden with disincentives, and lost before it ever reaches the truly poor—rather, he focuses on redefining the market to value both profit and social-consciousness.

    Through this model of capitalism, the poor, or in this case the immigrant poor, can work themselves out of poverty by contributing their inherent skills and manpower, often with something as small as a business loan of 20 dollars.

    It is truly fascinating reading, because everyone has doubts about this system, but he has proven time and again in places as diverse as Bangladesh, rural Arkansas, and inner city Chicago that the model can work. Granted I am not anywhere close to well read on the subject of the Swedish welfare system, but I wonder if these immigrants might not benefit more from a Grameen type institution in Sweden rather than a well-intentioned but mostly impotent and out-dated welfare program.

    Sorry for my tangent, but your post really fit with my line of thinking the past few days.

  6. I came to Sweden more as a foreign professional than an immigrant. Yes, I am not Swedish or American or western for that matter and I didn't leave my home country because of a war. I left my home country in search of a better job and a fun experience abroad.

    In a way, it boils down to mentality. I knew I could always go home but I gave myself the ultimatum of merging into Swedish society or considering it a failure...sink or swim.

    I can sometimes feel the racism here, but I can't say much about it directly.

    As an immigrant (I call myself for this moment), you have to immerse yourself and accept certain realities of a new culture, country, and people. If you don't, you will remain isolated.

  7. Its sad up here in Sundsvall. There is a 19 year old kid from Burundi who fled to sweden after someone close to his family killed both his parents and want to kill him too. And now sweden is going to send him back to Burundi. This is the nicest, most humble kid you'll ever meet. he has been here 18 months and knows more swedish than I do after living here 5 years. You can read about it on sundsvalldragons.se

  8. Very interesting post. I like openness and the fact that Sweden has been very liberal in the immigrations politics and accepted a lot more refugees than most other western countries that instead dominantly accept more wealthy and educated people but I think that the Swedish government for many years has exxagerated a bit on this issue. Sweden has accepted more immigrants than we can handle at the moment. At least with the immigration policies that has been reigning for a long time in Sweden. Let's face it , we have gotten pretty many problems due to the vast immigration to Sweden. Segregation, discrimination, crime, violence (By the way, I've got no statistics on these matters so don't go there...) etc.

    And then you've got to make some demands if people choose to come here. OK, a lot of the immigrants haven't really choosed to come here as they are refugees but if no demands are made and if the immigrants aren't pushed (gently, of course) to get a job and sort out their situations etc. it's not very good for the Swedish society or the immigrants themselves.

    I think it's positive that a Swedish government at last realizes this and wants to do something about it instead of just keep treating prettty much all immigrants as victims.

    Last but not least, I agree a bit with you hairy Swede on the economic-incentive-thing. You shouldn't have to "bribe" immigrants into working.

  9. @anonymous – it seems like Sweden and Canada probably have quite a bit in common when it come sto immigration issues. Two very welcoming countries that pride themselves on acceptance… and healthcare.

    But as you say, Canadian are too nice, and I think Swedes sometimes find themselves in that boat. Until a discussion about immigration reform can be had without it devolving into claims of racism, immigration will always suffer from a certain stigma.

    But it is interesting to think about when you plan on heading over somewhere and becoming an immigrant yourself isn’t it?

    @john – I’ve read a little bit about this guy actually. And a little bit about microlending also. It’s that business side of me, and my subscription to business week I suppose. And it would be interesting to see how it would work here. Or in any country that is considered to be first world.

    I don’t know much about it, but I have heard that there are pretty decent incentives for non-swedes who want to start business in Sweden. Like I said, just read something in passing about it so can’t really go into detail on that issue. That being said, those incentives might still fall under that beaurocratic problem that microlending is out to solve.

    Although, I did read an article (newsweek or business week) about microlending in mexico. Serious problems were arising because the companies doing the microlending were charging suh high interest rates. Coupled with the cultural attitude of Mexicans who will do just about anything to pay off loans, microlending was actually causing a few problems as well. I suppose it all boils down to how it is being used.

    @sapphire – I like the term foreign professional first off. Anyway, I think for a lot of people who do make a choice like you did, or like I did, it does boil down to mentality.

    And I couldn’t agree more with you in terms of integrating. In fact, as I’ve written earlier, I see it as damn near disrespectful to not try to throw yourself into the culture you find yourself in. it’s just important to not leave behind your own culture. It isn’t an either/or situation in my opinion.

    @anonymous – a sad story for sure. Interesting to see how this goes. Especially when it comes to basketball as work. The whole idea of artistskatten and supplying a talent that others in Sweden can’t necessarily supply. This applies to basketball players, usually american. Each Swedish basketball team is allowed two non-eu players on their roster. if he were to be moved up the team in basketligan he would qualify and have a paying job in Sweden that could support him. Now the question is whether or not that’s enough for migrationsverket. And if he came here legally and all that good stuff.

    @robban – I’m with you on this. I think we agree. Holy shit.

  10. You've got to be joking me. America's immigration policy is much better then any "open" scandanavian country. If it wasn't for the damn mexican border and the idiots who imported slavery, then America would be at peace, with little if any racial tension.

    it's sad how europe is turning into a mess, the more strict immigration policy is, the better.

  11. well some sort of immigration policy definitely needs to be put into place

  12. wow, anonymous, how bigoted. any pure country is a peaceful country, it seems, in your book.

  13. yeah I didn't really know how to respond to that one...

  14. The level of freedom of speech has gone way down since 2005.
    It is ok to criticize Swedes and
    America but if one criticizes Muslims or says that there are too many immigrants, one is called
    a racist or usually censored.
    Swedes have suffered. Homes for the elderly have been closed and
    some elderly who wanted to get into an elderly home were refused.
    Some people who are sick are being
    denied the welfare benefits that
    go to sick people who cannot work.
    The money being spent on immigration might seem just a theoretical problem to those who do not need the Swedish welfare money, but for some Swedes who have paid very high taxes all their working life just to be denied benefits, it is heartbreaking.

  15. it is interesting which groups of people you can criticize.

    and you bring up a good point about where the tax money is coming from, and then where that tax money is going. it will be interesting to see where this conversation within the government leads in regards to immigration and the benefits received.

  16. Of course Sweden has problems with the immigration politics, please name me one country that doesn´t. I don´t get the point of putting up numbers without comparing with any other countries.
    The debate in Sweden has for a long time been about the difficulties for immigrants to find a good job.
    In many other countries the debate is about imigrants getting a job- not a good job- just a job, to be able to eat. Sweden expect more for our immigrants, and also the immigrants expect more- thank god. I live in Italy, and I have NEVER seen a non-Italian doing a prestigious job. Actually I haven´t even seen an immigrant driving a cab or a bus, hell not even working in Mc donald´s . Most of them are selling stuff in the street, legal or not so legal. One day on the we met a Marocain. With a big smile on his face he showed us his arms, filled with wounds..."Look I have a job" draging carts on the beach. Yep he liked Italy, sure their were some restaurants he weren´t allowed because...they didn´t know him, once they get to now him it´s ok..

    Listen, Sweden has some of the integration in the world. It has to do with the politics but also because we are a small nation, so the issue is easier to cope with.
    Of course the firt generation is a hard one..You should remember that most people don´t come here voluntarly and they come straight out of tragedy. You can´t force people to adjust. However if they want to and feel strong enough to fight, at least they have the choice to learn the language for free and move wherever they want. In many countries you fight in vain as an immigrant. I also worked in France. Would you call it a coincidence that in one of Paris largest restaurants, 98 % of the kitchen staff were of african/ north african origin and 98% of the waiters white Europeans? Oh yeah, of course, the kitchen chef was white, French. And the thing is that in France it is not really the immigration itself that is an issue, since many are born there, or they are even third generation and still suffer from discrimination. A Tunisian girl I know, born in France,extremly friendly was fired from a bakery shop because the customers didn´t want to be served by an arab.
    And don´t even get me started on the states. I haven´t lived there but when there are whole villages where only black people live, in extreme pauverty- then you can not deny the excistence of segregation.

    I´m from Göteborg and half of my friends there are not 100 % swedish. My friends came here very young, are born here with foreign parents, mixed or adopted. I feel extremly lucky growing up like this, learning to accept all colours, cultures, religions etc. None of my second generation friends have any obstacles what so ever finding jobs. The problems stop with the second generation-they are integrated.

  17. Let me start out by reiterating the title of this post. Immigration issues in Sweden. In Sweden. Sweden. I did not write a comparative post. I wrote about immigration issues in Sweden. In fact it was in direct response to an article printed in Dagens Nyheter. So yeah, plenty of countries have immigration issues. You name France and the US. Yup. Both have immigration issues. Never denied that. Nor will I. But this was a post about Swedish immigration. Not Swedish immigration compared to the US. Nor France.

    So the point of putting up numbers was to quote the article. And to discuss immigration in Sweden.

    The article in Dagens Nyheter actually brings up the point about expecting more from immigrants. That was one of the main points of the article actually. When a large number of immigrants are living off social welfare years after having arrived in Sweden, the government would like to demand more from them. In fact I discuss that in the following: “So it’s a Catch-22. Immigrants come to this country and are treated as victims, allowed to live off of the state, with only 20% being self-sufficient after two and a half years. They are expected to be Swedish but never become Swedish. Not necessarily because they don’t want to but because they don’t know how. And because they are not considered Swedish enough they have less of a chance of getting a job because they lack one inherent quality – Swedishness.”

    There’s the discussion about getting a job.

    In terms of integration. I don’t know. I don’t even pretend to know what it is like to be a refugee. As you point out though it is easier to cope with in a small country. But as Sweden continues to take in a large number of immigrants, those issues will become more pronounced. I do know that people are getting concerned about the amount of immigration. And what some see as a lack of integration. That’s why the debate is heating up. That’s why politicians are proposing various immigration reforms. That’s why the various medias are taking up the issue.

    It’s an interesting issue. And one that I have enjoyed reading about and learning about here in Sweden. I don’t have any suggestions for solutions. But it is obvious that it is becoming an issue.

    And for the record I don’t deny the existence of poverty or racism or immigration issues in the US. There are plenty. But once again, this post was about Sweden. Not the US. The facts are correct according to the various sources that I cite. And in all honesty, I don’t even come with that much opinion. It is basically a response to the article, and what I believe is going on in the country.

  18. Even though you only commented on an article you still draw your own conclusion at the end.
    I understand it was about Sweden, Sweden and Sweden.
    And you being a rather smart guy, I think you would understand how people read your post. I mean people that aren´t Swedish, or Swedish but not very perceptive.
    Maybe all the stuff I brought up wasn´t relavant. I just think it´s very sad that you only bring up the problems in a country like Sweden, where I have an endless amount of friends who are mixed and genuinely proud of both their origins.Sweden, where I know that I could have a boyfriend of any colour, background or religion without never ever having to explain myself.
    I guess I just wanted to add the other side of the story, sorry if you didn´t find it relavant.

  19. my conclusion is that some people are worried about it. if people weren't worried about it these sorts of articles wouldnt show up in DN. and this sort of political action wouldn't be taken. Id say its a safe conclusion to draw. to be honest, its a very benign conclusion.

    your comments would have been very relevant to a post about immigration in general because they brought up some intereting points about immigration internationally. but this was no comparative study.

    and to ignore the problems in the country you find yourself in doesn't do any good. I have plenty of friends in the US who have some sort of immigrant background. Technically even I have an immigrant background. But that doesn't mean that I never discuss immigration or the problems the US is facing. if anything, knowing that I have friend with immigrant backgrounds makes me want to discuss those issues even more to get a better understanding.

    so, while in Sweden, I write about what goes on in Sweden. Very seldom to I veer out of Sweden in this blog. very seldom to I compare Sweden to other countries in the world, aside from my experiences in the US because, well, thats kind of the premise of this blog, my experiences as a Swedish American in Sweden.

    so while your comments were interesting in the issues they brought up on a international perspective, from a Swedish perspective they ran off course in my opinion.

  20. I am an American-born Swedish American and I love Sweden, and I love Swedish culture and language. I am in no way racist, but I do fear the permanent loss of Swedish culture. Estonia is a perfect example. Estonia's population is barely 65% Estonian, and they are in danger of becoming a minority in their own land. I know this is an "evil" thing to think, but I dread the same thing happening to Sweden. Immigration isn't as much of a concern to me for a larger nation like Italy who has tens of millions of Italians. There is no real danger of them becoming an "extinct" nationality, but the possibility is very real for Swedes. The same is true of Poland, where even if Polish people became a minority in their own land, there are millions of them scattered across the globe. The same doesn't hold true for Swedes. Swedes are a sparse people, there aren't many of them. And I would just hate to see them disappear.

    Perhaps its not right for me to fear this, as I don't live in Sweden, but I do regardless, and it has nothing to do with race or religion. To me it wouldn't matter if the immigrants were Muslim, Catholic, or other Lutherans, I just fear the loss of Swedish-ness as the Swedish people are overwhelmed by a large influx of immigrants.

    I understand to a resident of Sweden, the economic issues are most important, but to an outsider, of Swedish decent, the cultural aspects are important to me. I learned Swedish from my parents, I am a Lutheran, and we practice many Swedish customs. I hope to pass them on to my own children one day, and I hope to know that there is still a homeland of Swedish people out there. Nice article, and good day!

  21. you bring up a lot of things that I completely agree with. regardless of the issue of race, religion, or any of that god stuff, the loss of a culture is a very real threat when there is a large influx of immigration. there is nothing wrong about wanting to hold on to that culture. its important to keep that identity in my opinion.

  22. This is all very interesting. My husband and I have been to Sweden 5 times and are really wishing we knew how to move there. One thing I see as being an issue (aside from just not knowing how to gain citizenship) is that my husband works for himself as a music teacher and he supports both of us. Would that be an issue when applying? I'm so glad I happened upon your blog, its wonderful!

  23. There is now a large body of research that completely undercuts the view that diversity of race, religion, or ethnicity is a strength.

    “In ethnic conflicts, people seem to follow a similar behavior pattern across all existing developmental, civilizational, and cultural boundaries. The more the population is divided into separate ethnic groups, the more they seem to become organized along ethnic lines in interest conflicts, and the more often they tend to resort to violence in ethnic conflicts.”
    And likewise: “Ethnic nepotism belongs to human nature and … it is independent from the level of socioeconomic development (modernization) and also from the degree of democratization.”

    "Robert Putnam of Harvard did a large-scale study of 41 different American communities that ranged from the extreme homogeneity of rural South Dakota to the very mixed populations of such places as Los Angeles. He found a firm correlation between homogeneity and level of trust, with the greatest distrust in the most racially diverse areas. He was not happy with these results, and checked his findings by controlling for other variables that might affect levels of trust, such as poverty, age, crime rates, population densities, education, commuting time, home ownership, etc. He found that none of these had much effect on trust, and concluded that “diversity per se has a major effect.”

    In extensive surveys in these 41 communities, Prof. Putnam found that as racial diversity increases, there is a consistent pattern of lower levels of happiness, withdrawal from community life, and less confidence in local leaders and news media"

    "Dora Costa of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Matthew Kahn of Tufts University analyzed 15 recent studies of the impact of diversity on social cohesion. They found that every study had “the same punch line: heterogeneity reduces civic engagement. In more diverse communities, people participate less as measured by how they allocate their time, their money, their voting and their willingness to take risks to help others.”

    "A wide-ranging "global attitudes" survey of more than 45,000 people in 47 countries released yesterday by the Pew Research Center finds assorted populations are warm to the benefits of global trade. But they're cool — downright chilly in some cases — toward the toll it could exact on their national identities.

    Should each country guard their innate culture and lifestyle? The answer was a rousing "yes" — again in 46 out of 47 of the countries. In the U.S., 62 percent said we should protect our way of life. Those sentiments were more pronounced among Republicans (71 percent) than Democrats (60 percent).

    The number was just more than half in Britain, France and Germany, but 90 percent in Egypt, Indonesia and India.

    Perils of immigration concerned people in 44 out of the 47 countries, where the majority of respondents said immigration should be more restricted in their homelands.

    Only Japanese, South Koreans and Palestinians were comfortable with their immigration policies. Three-quarters of the American respondents wanted more restrictions; similar findings were revealed in Spain, Britain and Russia."


  24. @carrie - you know... I have no idea. that's an excellent question. Im not really sure how that works. check out migrationsverket english page:


    also I would check with a swedish embassy or consulate.

    the tricky thing as you point out is that he works for himself. obviously having a contract to work in sweden from a company is an easy way to get a visa. or easier at least. saying that you will set up your own business might be a bit tougher. unless you can find clients before you move in which case they can hire him as some sort of consultant and then once you get there a business can be set up. maybe. just kind of thinking by typing there.

    again, definitely check that website, but hopefully that was somewhat useful at least.

    @ben - very interesting studies actually. I hadnt seen those before. but the link you gave didnt work. anyway you can repost that link?

  25. I am an American that is in the U.S. Army and spent one year in Iraq and I am about to go back. I am interested in seeking Asylum in Sweden because if I refuse to go back they will put me in prison in the U.S. Do you think that it is a bad idea for me to do something like this?

  26. I don't know that Sweden will accept that as a reason for asylum.

  27. Hi. Thank you for this. I'm Swedish but live in London where I am doing my masters (Legal and Political Theory). I also did my BA in the UK (PPE).

    Your perspective is refreshing, and I think Swedes need to hear this from the 'outside' more than anything else. I have been thinking about how to raise the issue of Swedishness to Swedes and how we need to communicate what it means to be Swedish to immigrants. We cannot be afraid to say sometimes, needless to say in a diplomatic way, that 'this is Sweden. If you want to live here, you need to immerse yourself'. As you say and people have said above, this need not mean that you have to or should lose your identity. It does mean changing certain conceptions.

    What I think Swedes have a difficult time coming to terms with is that, call it secular-liberal or whatever you like, Sweden is basically lutheran Christian, shaped by its religion plus its prehistoric organic background as a basically non-feudal farmer society. Swedes refuse to think that there even is such a thing as 'Swedishness', or if they do, they do not want to think that it's something as basic as a certain way of seeing oneself as, say, independent individual rather than in terms of clan or place in society. I know of no other people who are so identified with their national history, yet fail so completely to realise this. Swedes project on the world: everyone is 'basically' the same, and to force someone to become 'Swedish' (whatever that means they think), must be racist. Especially if it means -- gasp -- in many ways historically Christian.

    In America it's much easier, because to be 'American' is associated with an ideal, whereas 'Swedishness' is something that has grown organically for a millennia in a basically culturally as well as ethically homogenous society, and, without a tradition of intellectualism, what this means has never been spelled out. Sweden didn't change in the same way with developments in philosophy as did say France or England -- and like the USA it certainly wasn't explicitly started in political and moral philosophy.

    So we need more people like you that can spell out Swedishness and have people face the reality of multiculturalism instead of simply closing their eyes and 'go on' as their forefathers did if the harvest was bad one year.

  28. I am absolutely enthralled by the immigration issues here in Sweden. Mostly because of this idea of Swedishness. So few Swedes seem to accept that Sweden has a long history of culture and tradition, much of it based on religion. But that religious history and culture of hard work and individuality has shaped the nation today.

    And the way the nation is shaped today doesn't always bode well for those who are moving here. Different cultures have different values. As they should. But where Sweden fails is communicating those values. And as you say, they fail horribly at realizing those values themselves, or just fear communicating them. But sometimes it might be as easy as just having a discussion about what kinds of right children have in Sweden as opposed to Iraq. Or how religion is treated in Sweden as opposed to Somalia. It is not something that needs to be force fed to immigrants but it needs to be communicated in an obvious and straightforward way. How to do that is the question I suppose. SFI classes seem like a good place to start.

    It's such a difficult situation because discussing any sort of immigration reform often times devolves into a pissing match where the term racist is thrown around. Which gets the country nowhere.

    The interesting thing is, that by doing so, Sweden is only hurting itself. Rather than fostering discussion that can bring forth the benefits of multiculturalism, while at the same time discussing the pitfalls, Sweden grasps to the idea that everyone is like them. In the end I can only see that attitude leading to true racism. A racism based on misinformation and lack of information as new groups of people come in without every truly understanding what Sweden is. What Sweden means. And what makes Sweden, Sweden. Because when it comes down to it Swedishness does exist. One need only leave the country for a year or two and return and see the differences in politics, religion, economics, and just social interaction to realize that. But it is something that should be celebrated and embraced, not something that should be pushed aside in fear of it being deemed racist.

    On a sidenote, I've loved your last two comments, very well thoughout, well written, thought provoking. These are the kinds of discussions I love.

  29. Well, I've very much enjoyed your views since discovering this blog. Bit tied up in course work at the moment, but I'll return to these discussions for sure. Perhaps a joint debate article in DN in the future? ;)

  30. glad youve enjoyed it and I look forward to your comments.

    and hell, if I could write in English Im pretty sure I could fill a couple pages of DN.

    the move back here to Sweden has been incredibly educational. in so many different ways. its taught me plenty of swedish culture, but also about american. and I suppose thats exactly what I was looking for when I moved back here.

  31. I am a recent grad. school graduate from the US. I met a man from Goteborg this summer and fell in love. I am in the process of getting residency in Sweden to live with him. I have read many negative things about any foreigners (even educated, white Americans) getting work in Sweden. I would like the Swedes on this bulletin to tell me their honest opinion about how difficult it will be for me, a woman with a masters in business to get valuable employment. Will I face discrimination? Will it help if I have an open attitude that I respect Sweden and its culture and hope to integrate as much as possible without trying to change Sweden? And should I dye my light brown hair to blonde?

  32. well Im going to throw my two cents in. I would say... possibly. especially considering the recession. I would imagine companies will be more hesitant to hire someone if they ave to go through a long process of paperwork to make sure they can work in the company.

    but whether it is discrimination or not, getting a job here in sweden can be very difficult. and time consuming. and you will most likely get a lot of nos. or a lot of no responses. you should check out workey.se though. they do a good job of aggregating different job sites.

  33. I have to add to this. I agree that it might be generally tough to get a job right now. The Swedish job market isn't all that 'flexible' to begin with. That's got pros and cons though.. The idea is that once you have a job, you have it. It's hard firing people in Sweden. On the other hand, if you have a job, you have a job.

    I would also say that I find it hard to believe that anyone would actually discriminate against an American. If anything, they might not want to hire someone who doesn't speak Swedish. I imagine that sort of goes anywhere though? One of my best friend's girlfriend is Australian, and she found a job easy enough. She conducts market research for a medical company, and she mainly makes calls to English speaking countries. You should look for something like that..

    All that said, if you come in with a good CV, a positive attitude etc etc, you stand a chance anywhere I would think (after all, everyone speaks English, to varying degrees) -- if they need someone. That's where it gets tricky.

  34. Thanks for the advice, Swedes! I just was a little down after reading some of the stuff on this blogg. But, I basically expect that it will be a little difficult, esp. at first until I am fluent in Swedish. I just wanted to know it was not too hopeless! I definitely have the positive attitude .

  35. @daniel - just a glorious answer. and I think you brought up a good point. the discrimination could very well have more to do with the language than anythig else.

    @anonymous - good luck!

  36. Sweden is currently 80% Swedish and 20% not-Swedish. With current birthrates the way they are, Swedes will soon be a minority in their own land.

    This is a real shame. Sweden isn't a big nation in terms of population.

    I don't want to come off as racist, but shouldn't Sweden slow the amount of immigrants coming into the country? Why are we taking in SO MANY? Haven't we done enough? Why isn't Denmark or Norway doing this? The simple answer is, there is a limit a nation can take in.

    Take a look at Fiji. Or even Hawaii. Their native populations are either minorities or nearly outright extinct.

    I don't want to kick anyone out. But let's not take anymore in, until the ones we have are integrated!

    Another question: Would Swedes be welcome in Iraq or Iran I wonder?

  37. There are plenty of non-germanic countries like Japan and Armenia that are uptight in preserving and defining their ethnic purity and who they consider to be a part of their culture. I'm a part Swedish - American and I would hate to see "real" ethnic Swedes disappear in Sweden, just because they don't want anyone to think that they're being Nazis. America is supposed to be a "melting pot" for the purpose of taking everyone in. Sweden doesn't have to be just like America, just because America and other paranoid countries around the world want them to be. Swedish people are special and beautiful and should be able to preserve their rare mono-culture, immigrants aside. I think that Sweden should take all of their recent and new immigrants and put them on a boat back to their countries of origin. Swedish people should stop being so overly nice and polite.

  38. I found this article very interesting because I too spent a year in Sweden in 99/2000.
    I'm a professional middle-aged Englishwoman, and came pleasantly and excitedly looking forward to a new life there.

    I returned home after a year, extremely disillusioned and with a very bitter taste in my mouth.

    I met the most appalling discrimination when applying for both work and looking for rental properties. I had no idea the English and Americans were so hated in Sweden. (This was pre-9/ll and the Iraq war.)

    On the surface some people seemed pleasant, then when tongues were loosened by a little wine the truth would come out 'Oh you bloody English and Americans', 'who do you think you are coming over here', 'why have you come here', 'you are not welcome'.

    I couldn't understand why no-one would help in the simplest ways (exactly the opposite of how foreigners are treated in my country) and everyone seemed so reticent.

    I think it is a real shame, because it is a beautiful land. Certainly the most beautiful I have seen in its geography.

    But the hearts of the Swedish people need to warm up a lot towards others.

    Not just Sweden has had to take many immigrants. England is full to bursting. Don't give yourself grandeur when others are probably doing an awful lot more than yourselves.

    I loved the landscape so much I would have loved to return, but
    the memory I have of Sweden is of a beautiful land but with very rude unhelpful people.

    'English nurse'.

  39. To English Nurse:

    It's very difficult to judge your experience without knowing your background. I've lived in the UK for four years, as a Swede, and I could easily see that some parts of British society would not thrive in Sweden. Of course, quite a few Brits complain about bad food in France, bad manners in Italy etc., too. I personally associate this with the extremely conservative British lower classes. To a smaller degree, also the extremely conservative upper classes. I have plenty of British friends who have lived and studied in Sweden, and no one felt 'discriminated' against. Rather the opposite. The general view of Britain is also very positive in Sweden, I would say. Again, there are some bad sides we also associate with Britain, and Brits abroad, of which two immediately comes to mind: binge drinking (even in the middle of the day) and hooliganism. Perhaps you were a bit unlucky in who you met, or perhaps nowhere but Britain is for you.

    Also, the following:

    " 'Oh you bloody English and Americans', 'who do you think you are coming over here', 'why have you come here', 'you are not welcome'.

    I couldn't understand why no-one would help in the simplest ways (exactly the opposite of how foreigners are treated in my country)"

    Frankly, I don't find that conversation believable. If for no other reason; no one would say to your face that you're not welcome. Where in Sweden did you live, what did you do? And 'no one would help in the simplest ways' - in opposition to Britain? I have to ask in what ways then. Try being a foreigner in Britain. If you struggle with the paper work for a few years, you might get a polite 'regret' that no help was available. Alternatively you can call the hotline to India and listen to a real person reading from a script. Of course, the way to do it is to adopt a complete Lord mentality and demand that things happen. If you're polite, good luck.

    There's a strand in British society that suffer in a different way from the Swedish way of projecting themselves on others: everyone's really British, but if they behave differently from Brits, they're no good.

    There's an old saying, 'when in Rome, do as the Romans do'. From this post, I get the impression you didn't live by that. I am very sorry though, that Sweden wasn't what you expected.

  40. @anonymous – I agree. Immigration should be controlled. As you say, there is a limit to how many people a nation can accept. Its just the way it is. At some point, too many people becomes a strain on resources whether that is through immigration or high birthrates.

    @anonymous – also agreed. Sometimes I am amazed by the self-deprecating nature of Swedes. Sweden is a wonderful country with a rich culture. And one that should be a source of pride. Of course, immigration is great because it helps that culture evolve. But as has been said above. There are limits.

    @anonymous (English Nurse) – while I have definitely come across some serious stereotypes many of them not so good, I wouldn’t say that I ever felt really discriminated against as an American. Of course, Im kind of a tweener so I might not be the best example. But your experience sounds pretty horrible. And Im sorry.

    @daniel – I think you hit it on the head when you mentioned the unluckiness of who the English nurse met. Or that maybe England is the place for her. Because that’s the thing, everyone has so much history that goes into how they experience things. Ive noticed it how handle my own experiences and how I view my life here in Sweden. I see it very much through an American perspective. And that has probably made me much more sensitive to certain things, like the shyness of people for example. I suppose the fact that I did have some experience here though helped me to do as you suggest (which is something I think, to an extent, is incredibly important) and “when in Rome…”

  41. @ the anon swedish/american who said all immigrants should be put on a boat and sent out of Sweden...I am assuming you live in America? I think you should get on one of those boats yourself and get out of the country that I call home. You are the descendant of Swedish immigrants yourself. You can be an immigrant where you want, but others cannot? Your attitude is ugly. Often the ugly, unhappy, unsuccessful, and most importantly, uneducated people think as you do because it gives them some sense of riotousness. Why not teach immigrants to be Swedish by incorporating them happily? Why not teach and proudly spread your culture? Is that not the best way to preserve Sweden? If you are an American, please listen to a youtube version of Amazing Grace and then read about its origins. If you still feel the way you do, move back to Sweden, live in the north all alone, and tell yourself that your right. But I tell you one thing, you are only diminishing my respect and appreciation for your homeland. Good work for your country!

  42. @anonymous - you bring up some god points, and youre right, immigants should be integrated into society. that being said, I still believe that there will always be a limit as to how many people a country can absorb.

    but youre absolutely right, the idea of putting all of the recent immigrants on a boat and sending them away is ridiculous.

  43. I hate how an anti-immigration stance automatically makes someone "racist".

    @Daniel: I wonder if you would consider the Japanese racist because they aren't very welcoming of immigrants. Just because Sweden is a Nordic/Germanic country, there is an unfair stigma attached to being anti-immigration.

    I'm not saying I don't want ANY immigrants in Sweden. But why not slow down how many we are taking in? Is that not reasonable? Sweden is currently 86% Swedish. In 20 years I'd be willing to bet that it will be 70-75% Swedish. I don't think Swedish culture is "Superior" to any other culture. But that doesn't mean I want it to disappear either.

  44. @ Anonymous: I'm not sure you wanted to address that to me? I think you are right though. 'Multiculturalism' presupposes 'cultures', and cultures are typically fairly homogeneous in values, ways etc. Whether they have to be ethnically 'clean' is another question, and more controversial to say the least. I don't think it shouldn't be discussed though; but discussion mustn't deteriorate into xenophobia..

    David Miller in Britain has argued for a careful nationalism in various places. Well worth reading.

  45. Sorry, I don't see where it was said that its racist to be anti-immigration. And if this is the anonymous who said the comment about the boats, well, that was just plain ignorant and completely rude. To aend people who already live in Sweden away is what is crazy. Fine, cut back on immigration. But don't start talking about shipping people out from their homes.

    And my comments were to the American of Swedish decent, because America is a nation of immigrants so they are a decedent of one, themselves. Hippocritical in my opinion. True Swedes can have the opinion that Immigration should be restricted. I am fine with that. As long as they treat the ones who are there fairly. And bring them into society as new Swedes rather than separate them.

  46. anonymous - I think thats the key. slowing down the influx of immigration. not stopping it.

    @daniel - agreed.

    @m8surf - also agreed.

  47. After 4 years in Sweden I´m leaving.
    It´s enough. In reality more than enough.
    The article was quite interesting but I read some of the comments and I have some doubts.

    People talk about Swedishness, that immigrants have to learn the Swedish lifestyle, that one of the problems is that Swedes don´t know how to communicate certain things, etc.

    But why on Earth an immigrant has to become Swedish?
    If the immigrant works and pays taxes the swedish system will go on functioning as usual. As soon as he or she doesn´t commit any crime or disturb order, it´s ok.
    Immigrants don´t even need to learn Swedish if they don´t want to or if they can speak an international language as English. All in Sweden speak English why do they force qualified immigrant professionals to learn Swedish (a minority language in the World and in Europe)before they can get a job?
    What´s the reason behind it? Are Swedes so afraid of losing their jobs to foreigners?
    Why do they keep inventing non rational requirements to accept others? It´s just not logical (at least for me). Lalle

  48. @anon - I'm a Swedish immigrant in process - currently waiting for my permanent visa...but I totally agree immigrants should learn Swedish. I am trying sooooo very hard to learn as fast as possible. It is just rude not to. It is SWEDEN. You should respect Sweden for what she is. It is not fair to be unable to communicate with locals in their own language. Why should they have to struggle to understand you? Many do speak English, but not all. Yes, Swedish is a minority language in the world, so they have even more right to want it preserved in their home country. I actually fear English becoming too prominent in the future, and it being spoken natively in Sweden. I hope they hang on to Swedish and Swedishness as hard as they can. And I am more than willing to suffer through the learning process as I believe a good immigrant should.

  49. @anonymous – an immigrant doesn’t have to become Swedish at all. But an immigrant should understand that culture and adapt to that culture. Not give up their own culture.

    And you’re right, you don’t need to learn Swedish. But you should. It’s just a matter of respect. Of wanting to be part of the national discourse in the native language. And it’s something that I believe is incredibly important. Regardless of what country you find yourself. I can’t imagine moving to a country and not learning the language.

    @m8surf – I agree with English becoming too prominent. It speckles every Swedes speech habits. And I think it is kind of too bad, despite it being very easy for me to fall into those same patterns because of my English skills.

  50. You're right - my boat comments were ugly and I do apologize to "real" Swedes and innocent war refugees for ugly comments coming out of my American mouth. Do you want to know what I think is ugly? - Immigrants raping young Swedish girls and nobody in Sweden/Swedish government doing anything about it as well as this Arab fuck, who's threatening to slash the throat of a Swedish cartoonist for drawing an image of Mohammad.

    I am not uneducated, or unhappy (as mentioned), except for the disrespect often shown towards Sweden, by this lecherous lust for fucking "Swedish Chicks" that a lot of non-Swedish people have for someone who looks like my mother. Immigrants to Sweden shouldn't have this expectation that Sweden should just up and change its culture to suit the preference of people who are just leaching off of its socialist system. Their country is going to go bankrupt. Other than being war refugees, what reason do any of these people really have to want to be in Sweden? Is it the awesome food and weather, or is it the women and free healthcare/welfare money…?

    For the other comment made in response to my posting about being a hypocrite - yes, I'm descended from immigrants - to a country that is bassed on non-native immigrants and meant to be exactly that. Sweden is a rare country of predominantly native people and not based on the same principles that America is and they have a unique culture that should be allowed to preserve. As and American, I value the idea of proper methods of immigration into my country, but have a special place in my heart for the country that my ancestors came from and respect its ethnic and cultural makeup. I believe that Swedes should start doing the same for themselves.

  51. @ anon - Well I am glad that you live in America as I am immigrating to Sweden. I am un-homogenizing Sweden. I was traveling in this time of globalization and planes and met/fell in love with someone from Sweden. So I, an immigrant from the US of mixed European background, who is short and has curly, brown hair will now mix into Swedish society. Please don't move back to the place of your ancestry as Hairy did and try to put me on any boats.

  52. Hmm, as a Japanese citizen, who works in both Japan and the U.S., but my home is in Tokyo. Though this is a post about Sweden, I think I can draw some comparisons. It has been an issue in Japan too. The LDP is writing a bill for the increase of number of immigrants, which currently only make up 1.7% of Japan's population. You can see this: http://www.economist.com/world/asia/displaystory.cfm?story_id=12867328

    However, it's very unlikely that such legislation would ever be passed as the citizenry is generally very conservative and value their culture very much. See this:http://www.mysinchew.com/node/21305. You can see, looking at demographic data, that Japan's birth rate has been low for years. The same for South Korea. However, this year, both countries were top of the index for innovation leadership in the world, even in front of the U.S., which fell to #6 on the list. Furthermore, Hong Kong and Taiwan, both relatively homogenous regions, are economically advanced and fairly stable, in crime rates, literacy, etc. I think the key to a country's success does not depend on whether it is homogenous or "mixed." The key is a strong education, for ALL citizens (including immigrants), a culture that values a hard work ethic and does not reward slackers (the West seems to be dominated by welfare systems that overburden taxpayers), and public policy that focuses on economic outcomes. It's not even necessary to grow the population by that much, whether by immigration or birth increase. In Japan, many people are debating the possibilites of an automated society, where machines can take over many of the tasks that low-skilled workers might be needed for. Also, elderly people can be incorporated into the workforce, by voluntary pay for easier tasks. The main problem, and the primary pusher, behind any immigration is not actually the liberal young people, or the politicians. The true pusher is the large, multinational companies, big businesses that need cheap labor and unprotected immigrants (who don't have lawyers to sue for underpaying jobs, or bad conditions in the workplace) to cut their costs, and raise their profits of margin to beat their competitors, other large corporations. In other words, immigration is being viewed as the fuel for the vicious cycle that is international corporations' competition. That is why, for many of the common people in Japan, we are sick of the greed of the large companies, even some of the car makers, who want to import large amounts of Philippinos and Southeast Asians for manual labor, and cheap salaries. First of all, this does nothing to benefit the average Japanese citizen. All the money will go into the pockets of the CEO's and bosses, and also, the immigrants themselves are mis-treated and underpaid. This seems to be a problem in U.S. too, where illegal Mexican immigrants are paid less than even those in the developing world. But, the good thing for Japan is that the citizenry is very united, and most of us believe that there is no need to feed the greed of the large companies, and we will not be passing any bills to allow a large increase in immigration. I can understand how it feels to be an immigrant, and how much you want people in the place you move to to accept you, but as an immigrant, your primary concern is still economic. If the place you move to deteriorates day by day, and everyone is losing jobs, the immigrants will suffer too, even more than the rest of society. The best thing that any country can do for its citizens, and the world, is to take care of itself first. Make sure that its public policy is conducive to technological and industrial competition, but not allow mass immigration, which will only be exploited by big companies. Then, help the poor of the world by investing in their countries without expecting profit, help Africa and Latin America and the Middle East build schools, electricity, wireless networks. All of this is much more helpful to the world than letting in a huge amount of immigrants, who you are then unable to take care of, and end up resenting.
    -that is just my opinion, based on some articles I've been reading, and people I've talked to, have a good day.

  53. Oh, also about msurf's comment, I don't think there's anything glorious in "unhomogeneizing" a country. I don't care about race, but I do care about stability, and studies have shown that when a place becomes very diverse but not everyone is on the same level of education, wealth, or family values, then this leads to more conflicts and tensions, which leads to more problems. In other words, there is nothing wrong with homogeneity, as long as it preserves stable, safe life for everyone.

  54. @ anon - Well, seriousness aside, if it weren't for a certain amount of mixing we would never have Eva mendez, Jennifer Lopez, Beyonce, Tyra Banks, or even Obama. And wouldn't that suck.

  55. So I am curious what will come out of Sweden in the near future.

  56. That sounds just like the type of comment a guy with hormonal issues would make. Are you objectifying mixed-race people? Are they there solely for your viewing pleasure? I don't honestly care about a person's racial background, or their appearances - ugly or beautiful it doesn't matter, what is most important is that everyone in a society lives better off and is safe and secure. Furthermore, go to South America. It is full of people who look like the aforementioned celebrities. There is no need for all countries to look alike. Sweden has its own culture, and that is something worth preserving. I believe that if the situation were reversed, say if Haiti suddenly became a super-rich nation, and it was flooded with Swedish immigrants, the same argument would apply. The unique local Haitian culture is worth preserving, and no one would even argue with that. Same in this situation. I'm not saying that no immigration should occur, only that it should be limited so that the immigrants who do go to a country will receive education and health care at a level the state can afford. Too many, and everybody suffers, including the immigrants themselves. And msurf, if you really did want to become part of Swedish society, if you truly loved the country and people, you wouldn't want to change it, to make Sweden into another country. If you dislike the Swedish culture right now, and think it not worth preserving, then you don't have to be in Sweden. I'm sure they would welcome you in South America, if you like that regions' physical appearance more.

  57. @ anon - Wow, you got me so wrong. Seriously. Number one I DO NOT want to change Sweden at all. I have no interest in any immigrant group changing the country they enter. There are many things I disagree with in the current immigration policies in Sweden. Mostly allowing too much of their own culture to be ignored. I have/am trying very hard to do be respectful of Sweden and its history. You have no idea how much time I put into learning everything I possibly can about it. Not that I like everything. But, I have even learned to dance to techno music. That is a big thing, trust me (joke). I also agree immigration should be limited. I only think being so negative about any immigration at all is not a healthy thing for society. Especially because not all immigrants are uneducated and poor.

    I never said people who looked like the aforementioned celebrities were better than Swedes. It was supposed to be a joke. Sorry you took it to be offensive. And by the way, I am not a guy. I am girl. No objectifying was intended. Just happens that most internationally known mixed race people are Hollywood celebrities. And did you notice I put Obama as well? Because in my opinion he is the best thing that has happened to American politics in quite a while. Or is that objectifying middle-aged white/black men?

  58. No offense taken :) I agree with you basically, as long as the immigration is limited (to much less than the national birth rate, I would say) and everybody in the society (immigrants and preexisting citizens) are financially secure and stable. I agree, hysterical reaction to immigration is only going to polarize society. It's best to treat it rationally, and allow immigrants in based on each application separately, not total amnesty, while also striving to educate and offer all services to currently existing immigrants. The primary task of any country, first, should be to take care of its common citizens, and not feed the greed of the corporations. This, hopefully, is something Sweden will address to reform its immigration policies.

  59. I haven't read all the comments to this post and maybe someone has already told you, but I just wanted to tell you (A Swedish American in Sweden) that you obviously don't know anything about this subject.

    I don't have the energy to correct you on everything you've misunderstood but one very basic thing is that you for some reason believes that we're letting fewer and fewer immigrants in. This is wrong.
    Since 1995 we've granted more and more PUT:s every year and in 2008 we granted 90021 of them which is the most in the history of Sweden.

    Another thing that really annoyed me is that you claim that swedes are proud of this disaster. Nobody except for teenage girls with hairy armpits and che guevara t-shirts is proud of this catastrophic failure.

  60. Luckily I do have the energy to correct you. Because its almost like you didn’t read the post at all. The first sentence is “Since the beginning of the Iraq war Sweden has accepted more Iraqi refugees than any western country.”

    I follow this a bit later on with a quick discussion about the number of asylum seekers. Those granted asylum have been drastically reduced. “The immigration board has cut down drastically on the number of people granted asylum in Sweden. According to the UN the percentage of refugees allowed to stay has fallen since 2006 from 80% to 70% to just 25% through the beginning of 2008.”

    Of course, that doesn’t mean that fewer people are actually entering the country. Which is why I wrote “This has led to a large number of immigrants “disappearing.” They have gone underground.”

    So, while more and more PUTs may be issued, the number of asylums, which make up a large percentage of immigrants to Sweden, is decreasing. In numbers. Officially.

    The entire post is focusing on the reform that is going on in immigration in Sweden.

    And I’ll stand by the Swedes are proud of this. It’s one of the things they present to the outside world every time Iraq or immigration comes up. Obviously, there are people who aren’t, but there are a whole lot of people who are incredibly proud of Sweden’s immigration policy. All in all, I’m not too impressed with it. I think letting too many people in creates a burden on the state that the state cannot handle.

    Of course, had you actually read what I had written, you may have picked up on that. But that might have taken too much of your energy.

  61. First of all I'd like to apologize for sounding a little rude in my last comment, this topic just always pisses me off.

    It is true that asylums granted has decreased (even if those percentage numbers are somewhat misleading since the number of asylumseekers went up from 24322 in 2006 to 36207 in 2007.)
    But what I was tryin to say is that these numbers say very little about the trends in immigration to Sweden and that they, sadly, doesn't mark some relevant change in the swedish immigration policy.
    The decrease in asylums granted is simply a consequence of some verdicts from the swedish immigration court in early 2007. Those verdicts decided there was no longer a civil war going on in Iraq and that everybody who said they were iraqis therefore no longer would automatically be granted PUT.
    (This ridiculous decision was a coward way to stop the whole refugee reception system from completely collapsing without dealing with the real issue and without having to openly admit to the enormous costs of immigration and sound racist.)
    The graph on page 7 in this link gives a clearer picture of immigration to Sweden than those UN figures. It's just more of the same every year.


    The so called "reform" that you are talking about is basically little more than a change in rethorics spawned by the recent success by Sverigedemokraterna. The "rightwing" alliance in power are still letting the same people in they just fall under other cathegories in the statistics. And, despite of what they are saying, in reality they haven't even done anything meaningful at all about the idiotic and unique swedish system of letting in relatives to all of those granted asylum.

    I don't know which swedes you have been talking to, but when swedish politicians brag about their idiocy abroad I believe its just desperate attempts to win some international goodwill from this national suicide.
    In the opinion polls that have been made on this subject over the last couple of years a mayority of those asked say that Sweden should stop immigration completely and that the swedish integration politics is a complete failure. And lately even politicians have been talking about immigration as a failure. The most important part of Moderaternas new strategy on how to talk about immigration (or new policy as you call it) was, in my opinion, the report where Moderaterna finally said that Swedens immigration and integration politics have failed.

    No sane swedish person is proud of what we've done to our country.

    The one fundamental thing that it seems to me you haven't fully understood is that both political blocs in Sweden wants this mindless immigration (albeit for different reasons) and none of the established parties will stop it even if Folkpartiet, and now Moderaterna, every now and then say they will.

  62. Its one of those topics that gets a bit emotional sometimes. So no worries. My response was a bit aggressive.

    I completely agree with you. Sweden, as a whole, saw very little immigration until after WWII. Immigration is relatively new to Sweden and is still rising. The point of this post was really just a response to the article in DN by Billström and the reform going on. For better or worse.

    I call it reform not necessarily because I think anything is getting better really but just because they are trying to make changes. And there is “reform” coming from both sides of the political spectrum. At one point Sahlin came with a suggestion that they be allowed to decide where immigrants are allowed to live. A placement program if you will.

    I thought it interesting though what you said about Sverigedemokraterna. A party that still is a percentage point or two away from getting in the Riksdag. But it is interesting. They have some support. And enough that people are taking note. But what I see from the media and a whole lot of people I talk to is just disgust at their system. That’s why I think it is so interesting that the main parties would take note and make changes.

    But in my opinion, that speaks to what I mentioned in my post. The idea of Swedishness. And how that can hurt the Swedish people. Because they are afraid to take a stand. Afraid that they might hurt someones feelings. But most of all, afraid that they will sound racist.

  63. They are not trying to change anything, they just want to trick people into believing they are so they can get their votes. They know all this immigration is very unpopular outside the extremly leftwing swedish media.

    I would also like to say something about the history of immigration to Sweden. It is very true that this is a new phenomenon. But I would say that the crazieness really didn't start until as late as the late eighties. From the sixties til sometime around maybe1987/1988 we had almost only labour immigration, mainly from our "brother people" the Finns. And apart for a few minor problems with the Yugoslavians (the second biggest group) this was basically a win, win arrangement. Good for Sweden and good for the immigrants.

    Over the last twenty years though, Sweden has, per capita, accepted more than twice as many "refugees" as any other western country. And we've done it without any consideration of what's good for Sweden and the Swedish people.
    All these new asylum seeking immigrants chosed Sweden because of our unique and idiotic rules (you don't have to prove your identity, you get citizenship and thereby full access to the worlds most generous welfare system, much faster than in other countries and it is by far the easiest and fastest country for a refugee to bring his relatives). These new, often only self claimed, refugees also came from countries and cultures with nothing in common with Sweden and they were pretty much useless to the Swedish labourmarket that by then didn't even need any extra uneducated workers. Now we have hundreds of thousands of these people here and no matter how much we spend on them we will never be able to make them a positive asset to Sweden.

    In the beginning, I believe, we Swedes did this to ourself out of sheer stupidity and naivety (the most stupid generation in the history of Sweden had by then taken almost full control of the country). Even if it didn't start as a very well thought out plan it didn't take very long for any of the political blocs to adapt and make the continuation of this insanity into one of the very fundementals of their politic, which it is today.

    About Sverigedemokraterna, they suffer from the lack of enough competent members and the fact that they are still a one-question party, but their opinions on immigration is actually not very different from those of the Socialdemocrates in Denmark. The difference between Sweden and Denmark is the media. Swedens powerful media is almost exclusively made up out of fundamentalists who actively work against Sverigedemokraterna, they also consider the immigration policy I wrote about earlier inhumane and calls everybody who don't agree with that racists.

    Finally, as you might understand I don't like swedish journalists much and one of the things that made me angry enough to comment on your initial post is that you also chosed to say that Moderaternas (phony but obviously not racist) suggestion "reeked of underhanded racism" instead of focusing solely on analyzing it for what it really is - a cheap trick.

    sorry for the long comment

  64. I really dropped the ball on responding to this. Not sure what happened.

    Your comments about the start of immigration re pretty interesting. Because youre absolutely right that there are different forms of immigration. And it is definitely important to differentiate between them. If only to be able to respond in a more appropriate way.

    I think that’s one of the areas that Sweden really struggles in. Knowing how to respond to all of the different forms of immigrants. I think that was one of the reasons the original article was written in DN, it was an attempt to figure out how to respond to immigrants so that they are absorbed into Swedish society and do not end up being a burden on Swedish society.

    It’s a tricky situation. And its one Sverigedemokraterna have chosen to focus on But youre right, they are a one question party. But the fact that they have similar views to the Social Democrats in Denmark doesn’t necessarily mean there way of responding to immigration is a good way for Sweden to handle the immigration issue.

    No worries for the long comment, sorry for the delayed response.

  65. Every other Swede I think I've ever talked to has wanted immigration to either slow down, or stop completely. Every Swede I've ever talked to thinks we have too many immigrants. Yet, we keep INCREASING how many we take in! Is it just me or is our government not working for our people? This same thing happened after the PEOPLE rejected the Euro. The government said they still wanted to join the Euro zone! Most Swedes don't think the Pirate Bay founders should be found guilty. Yet they are. Look at our internet policy. Look at our alcohol policy. I ask you how long can Swedes tolerate a government that does the complete opposite of what they want? I thought we had a democracy here. I guess I was wrong.

  66. Thats actually a really interesting point. What I really want to see is how this develops in the next couple of years. Especially as more and more immigrants come in and that tension builds.

  67. Its always been like that in Sweden. In 1967, the whole country went from driving on the left to driving on the right, despite the fact that 80% of the population had voted against the change in a referendum. Our government has always known best and we obediently listen to them.

  68. Thats kind of the deal with a representative democracy though. The people vote them in and then expect them to keep their best interests in mind. If they don't, you don't vote them in next time. Which is why I don't really understand the Swedes when over and over again, Socialdemokraterna keep getting voted in, with just a couple of convervativ governments making inroads, including the current government obviously.

  69. As an Iraqi who visited my sister in Sweden, I found the experience very interesting.

    What I found was that no one integrated the Iraqi or any immigrant into Swedish society. Most of these immigrants were living in miserable conditions and the language and culture and they just threw them into Swedish society. They found nothing in common so they seperated. Forming their own litle communities and areas. Even real estate in Stockholm is cut up depending on if it's a Swedish or foreign community.

    Sweden has a high standard of living and you come and put some desperately poor people among them, why would they want to work if they're getting something for nothing?

    If I was in charge of immigrants I would get them all to take an integration class. Teach them about Sweden, the people, how to act, the language. Education is the only way to go. This gives them not only a chance to integrate into society but to become active and efficient in a country that has been kind and generous to them.

    If you guide people towards the right direction, to help them be useful, they will definately jump at the opportunity and make Sweden a better place to live in for all. The immigrants won't act like freeloaders and the Swedes won't think of them as such.

    Immigrants have a bad rep wherever they go. It's also an important part to let them feel welcome.

    When I was in Sweden I came across some funny things that happened to me. I'm fluent in English and I look foreign so people were more shocked at the accent in connection with my face. They were very friendly but I came across the occassional person that literally ran away from me when they found out I couldn't speak Swedish. One woman had such fear in her eyes I didn't know how to deal with it and all I was doing was feeding the ducks.

    Fear comes from not understanding the person in front of you. Let's help them understand each other I say instead of avoiding the problem.

    Off the subject your writing is very smooth and full of information. Keep up the good work!

  70. very interesting perspective, and I couldn't agree more with the education thing. I really do think that educating the people who move to any country goes a long way in allowing them to integrate and truly become a part of the society.

  71. To add to the conversation about comparing Sweden to Canada....
    I'm a Canadian now living in Sweden.
    There are some pretty big differences between Canadian and Swedish immigration policies.
    Canada does accept alot of immigrants into our country (approx. 150,000 per year).
    However, immigrants are most often chosen based on education, profession etc.
    In turn, the immigration population in Canada is more likely than Sweden to go to university, have a job and generally assimilate into Canadian culture (which is a country of immigrants in any case).
    Overall, I see Canadian immigrants doing much better in Canada then the Swedish doing here.
    It was quite depressing for me to see when I first got here.

  72. nothing wrong with being a bit selective at times.

  73. ugh, having 2 families here in Sweden, and speaking to ALL of their friends, I've learned 2 things.

    immigrationsverket thing sucks in Sweden to no extent.
    and some of the immigrants whine and don't appreciate what they are getting. on top of which, some find loop holes in the Swedish system to get MORE money.
    once one of them finds a hole , it spreads like wild fire between other immigrants, then everyone is doing it.

    I've watched both " teams" be in the wrong. both have HUGE negative points making them look bad.

    i bet if immigrants could easily get jobs here it wouldnt be a problem, but racism is a huge factor in that as well.
    example( my aunt applied to be a mathematics teacher in her little town of Hallsberg, they actually TOLD her that they won't give her the job because she has a scarf on, so unless she loses it, its a no-go). my aunt had to go against her own beliefs because she knew that she needed the job. talk about demoralizing.

    i really get riled up talking about both of them.

    your right about the immigrationsverket throwing curb balls so they can get rid of immigrants. they fear someone entering sweden and then deciding to stay. they are obviously out of their minds. though sweden does appeal to some, 90 percent of everyone ive spoken too wants to move out of sweden as soon as they get a job.
    im a student myself, a "free move" student. i support myself( well actually my parents do at the moment -_-). i have money, i have been accepted into university, i am a Canadian citizen. you'd think with all those criterias i can get a student visa easily . but noooo ive been dealing with these douchebags for 5 months now. first they send me a regection saying it might be too late for school since i was 2 weeks late. then when i appeal, they just forget about me all together. i havent heard from them in 2 months. what could they be possibly doing instead of their job.
    and since im a big coward, im too scared to call because they might tell me theyve lost my appeal, or theyve said no. etc

    for now. i have to leave legally every 3 months until i get my student visa.

  74. BTW i apologize for the crap English, ever since i got to Sweden, Ive been screwing up on my spelling.... its heart breaking, and shaming... -_-

  75. whats sad is that your story isnt all that unique...

  76. I lived there for many years, spoke fluent Swedish, had friends and so on. But having emigrated (again) to Canada a few years ago, I must say that I feel more as a part of the society, and less prone to be alienated just because of my skin color or ethnic origin. Sad but true.

  77. and that is one thing that I will never really get because with the pale (easily sunburned) skin and red beard, I can definitely blend in. and even still I sometimes feel very much the outsider. but your story is one that I have heard a lot from people who have come to Sweden. Its really unfortunate.

  78. Yes, it's unfortunate. And I'm afraid more second generation immigrants are opted to do the same (migrate to other more immigrant friendly western countries) if the society doesn't open up more/is more welcoming and inclusive of all of its citizens/residents. I haven't been back to Sweden ever since I left yet, so I don't exactly know what it's like to be an immigrant there now compared to let's say 3-4 years ago. I am fully aware of the differences in migration policies between different countries (i e Canada vs Sweden), but I still don't think that the problem lies only in the sort of immigrants the two countries are receiving. It has to do with general attitudes to great extent. Praise/ bring forward the good examples....there are thousands of them, don't just focus on the troublemakers. Being an immigrant there has unfortunately become a negative label which is hard to wash off, regardless of how much of a good, productive and nice resident you are. People judge very quickly, and unfortunately to your disfavor often.

  79. that seems to be the attitude that is becoming more and more prevalent amongst immigrants to sweden. its a shame really.

  80. In a hundred years Swede's will be like native Hawaiians are today. A virtually extinct culture and a minority in their own country (native Hawaiians account for just under 10% of Hawaii's population). Its sad really. Of course I'll probably be labeled a racist for saying this, as anyone in Sweden who is against immigration is a racist.

  81. ^I don't think that's being completely racist. Nor, is it a fact. Explain how the swedish population will slowly fade? and what is swedish culture. I am honestly not attacking you, just curious :)

  82. The question 'what is Swedish culture' than one hears (often) in Sweden is a funny one. As if the one of the remotest, oldest independent countries in the world -- that was never occupied -- hadn't developed a distinct culture. In fact, that culture is and has been so homogeneous that Swedes think that their values are universal, which is why the question is asked. It led sociologist Karl Olov Arnstberg to call Swedish culture the 'culture-denying culture'. Swedish culture is, basically, a mix between the self-owning, independent peasant community that up until 1870, ie industrialisation, accounted for half the population and land owned (the aristocracy owned less than 10% throughout history), and Christianity -- specifically Lutheranism. See e.g. Åke Daun - Svensk Mentalitet, or, Trägårdh Lars (2006). Är svensken människa: gemenskap och oberoende i det moderna Sverige (med Henrik Berggren). Both are good, yet in my humble opinion in various ways flawed (at least the latter.)

  83. ^ thank you for that :)
    Ttahat's very very intriguing.

  84. Sorry, that the question is asked by Swedes (who are quite obviously very Swedish) is what's baffling. I think you would all enjoy Andrew Browns excellent Fishing in Utopia: Sweden and the Future That Disappeared. It won the Orwell Prize last year and takes an amusing look at Swedish culture through the eyes of an Englishman who moved here in the 70's and lived here for many years. His take on Swedish pessimism is prizeless (this was in the 70's, in Sweden mind you).Brown quotes Swedish crime novelists Sjöwall/Wahlöö,

    “‘Private citizens … were clubbed down every hour on the streets, or in their shops, or on the tube, or in their houses, everywhere and anywhere … The existing system was obviously useless, and even a well-wisher could only say that it just about kept going … The so-called welfare state is overflowing with ill, destitute and lonely people who live on dog food if they are lucky and are left unattended to die in their rat holes of houses.’

    That was written about a country that was one of the richest in the world, emerging from a hundred and fifty years of uninterrupted peace, and in the middle of unprecendented economic growth, which had just built a million new houses more or less to prove that it could. The tradition of dystopic hysteria has been continued by more recent Swedish fictional detectives, but none has surpassed Sjöwall and Wahlöö, nor matched their furious refusal to admit that things were, for the most part, perfectly tolerable.”

  85. @anonymous – I disagree, I think Swedes will figure out a way to preserve their culture and language while also growing and evolving culturally. That being said, they must understand that to discuss immigration does not make a person racist.

    @Lost – Swedish culture is everything from the religious culture that still plays a role today despite the secularism found, to the historical culture that has led a country to be virtually free from war for nearly 200 years, to the artistic culture that has produced artists like Strindberg, ABBA, Astrid Lindgren. The Swedish culture is the minutiae of everyday life in Sweden, and it seems because of that, it is often skated over.

    @arisplato – oooh… good answer.

    @Lost – seriously, those were some good tips by arisplato.

    @arisplato – I agree. I managed to get myself a degree in Scandinavian Studies in college, and Swedes are incredulous when I explain that I describe my degree. The most common question? Varför?

    I’ve heard a lot of good things about that book, I need to snag it here pretty soon.

    By the way… where did Karl Olov Arnstberg call Swedish culture the “culture-denying culture?” I have to read that article or book.

  86. It was actually the subtitle of a book. Can't remember the whole title now, but a search for 'den kulturfornekande kulturen' should be enough. With the dots, I'm on an English keyboard atm. I get that very reaction when I say I studied 'ppe' (philosophy, politics and economics) in England incidentally, whereas in England it's actually considered a very good degree.. I wish Swedes could learn to appreciate more the fact that you have a good degree, and that you gain transferable skills that you can then apply in a wide range of jobs, rather than saying: 'So, you want a job as a market analyst. Well, hello! Then why don't you have a degree in 'market analysis?' Oh well.

  87. "What is Swedish culture?" is an interesting question. Or who is a Swedish person? Let's say someone is born in America, but their grandparents were all born in Sweden. The person's last name is "Larson", they are Lutheran, etc. Is this person "more Swedish" than someone who was born in Sweden, but whose parents were both born in Iraq? I find this to be an interesting question. The ancestors of "Mr. Larson" helped build this country, but he himself has never been here. On the other hand the Iraqi is probably a Muslim, doesn't speak Swedish (despite being born here) and is probably only living here for economic reasons.

    I hate to say it, but the only reason Iraqis or other Middle Eastern people move to Sweden is to make a better life for themselves. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, it doesn't make them evil. But they have no love of anything about Sweden. Why would you move from an arid desert country full of fellow Muslims to a bitter cold nation of Lutherans? There is no love of Sweden here. Its ease of living. While commendable, it will in the end only serve to destroy "Swedishness". For that I am sad.

  88. I beg to disagree with Anonymous who says that Sweden will lose it's Swedishness.

    A Swede whether in Sweden, Australia, Timbukto will always be one. You take your traditions with you wherever you go and only YOU keep it alive or kill it. And you can't say any immigrant doesn't love Sweden. How could they not when Sweden gave them a whole new life? Immigrants won't go around hugging every Swede they find to show appreciation but it's there and not even the immigrants themselves can deny it. They just don't show it and they miss home, so would you if you were in their place.

    And I have to say something about the Swedes, in a time where the whole world condemned the Iraqi's to dying in their own war torn country, Sweden on the other hand took the humane perspective and said hey these people need help and we're going to do our best to help them out. And guess what ladies and gentlemen, they brought them over, put a roof over their heads and took care of them. For that they and their generations to come with be eternally grateful.

    With or without the immigrants and refugees the Swedes will be taxed so how about instead of blaming a group of people for being born in a certain area of the globe that just didn't work out, how about teaching them something so that they don't have to take your tax money? how about giving them equal opportunity?

    Don't throw money at a problem then expect it to go away, give the problem a solution and it becomes an asset to your society.

    And on a more personal note, I have never lived in my country of origin, and have lived all over the world and during my stay in Sweden I gotta say I not only love but respect the country.

  89. I am a just student in Sweden so I am no expert on immigration issues. I came here mostly to have a new experience in a place that is politically stable (an important requirement) and completely new to me. I am from the Caribbean and I'm a naturally reserved person. Things like not talking on the bus don't bother me, I dont want to anyway. I was having a discussion with an employee of Arbetsforemendligen (I hope the spelling is correct) and at the end of the conversation she said to me 'it's so different when I am talking to you than when I am at work talking to refugees' (I am assuming she was referring to African refugees)...she continued to mention that they had very little education, spoke very little to no English and seemed very "different" she just could not connect with them... but she didn't have that problem with me

    I didnt come to Sweden with the intention of staying here, most of the integration issues that I now know about are things that I have read about and not experienced myself. Even though I dont intend to stay, I have enrolled in a Swedish Language class because I didnt like the fact that I could not understand notice boards at school, in the laundry room, billboards etc. I think that it is necessary to understand a culture and attempt to learn the language if you ever hope to integrate into the society.

    I havent had any bad experiences here (knock on wood). Everyone has been nice to me. The day I moved here I met so many overly accommodating people who tried their best to help me get settled. They didnt have to. I too have picked up on the fact that Swedes avoid confrontation and basically keep a straight face in 'uncomfortable' situations. In my perspective, being able to speak Swedish goes a long way. There are students whose parents aren't Swedish and they occupy important positions in the student union and appear to be fully integrated. I hope perception is reality in this case


  90. @arisplato – found it. Thanks!

    The thing about Swedes being painted into a certain profession by their degrees is true. It amazes me how literal people are with regards to job titles in conjunction with university degrees.

    @anonymous – Swedishness and identity is fascinating. You can see it in literature from hundreds of years ago when it was claimed that Sweden was actually Atlantis, to the idea of Swedishness and emigration with Mobergs books about emigrants, to the current influx of immigrants and the questions that raises. I love it.

    However, I dont think that Swedishness will ever be destroyed. Instead, it will evolve, it will change, but in the end, what comes out will be Swedish.

    @Jasmine – Traditions do follow. And not only do they follow you out of the country. But they evolve within the country. And that is what makes identity such an amazing topic. It is also what makes Swedish culture, which for so long has been isolated from immigration, so interesting.

    @Lost – well said.

    @anonymous/Jan – those are the kinds of stories that I like to hear. Now I just wish I heard more of them.

  91. Great topic. I'd really like to study Scandinavia in the USA as a minor as I'm majoring in History. Something about Sweden and Scandinavia to a greater extent interests me quite a lot.

    I'm a Black guy and in the 16months I spent in Sweden whether with my gf's family in Torsby, a few days in Gavle with friends, Stockholm for many months and even a week in Kristianstad my race never really was brought up and I prefered that. Now of course my nationality defined me as I normally had to defend our American culture, the points that I believed worth defending. It was a tough battle but well worth it.

    I saw many a times Swedes who ignored a foreigner whether Gypsy or African/Arab but also many times Arab/Africans with jobs on the Tunnelbana or simple pizzeria. I guess over time I wondered why these Blacks had such awful jobs but perhaps it really is lack of economic opportunity and not any subtle racism.

    Swedes must accept that there is a major problem with immigration and fix it asap. They need to ensure that all immigrants realize they are Swedish and should conduct themselves as. Not so much they have to blend in, but it should be obvious to integrate. It's up to Sweden what happens next.

  92. Swede in the HeartlandFebruary 16, 2010 at 8:41 PM

    I found what everyone has said on here to be very interesting.

    I'll admit, I'm an American, but I'm mostly Swedish descend and I grew up in a community that had very rich Swedish heritage. You get a lot of talk about Sweden's immigration issues here. Here your sitting in the middle of America and these peoples are very concerned. The reason being they don't want Sweden to lose their identity and who they are. It is the same reason three to four generations of people still think much the same/common way, even not in Sweden. It is possible many Swedes in Sweden don't see themselves as such, but it is very noticeable on the outside.

    No one wants to be considered a racist when dealing with the subject. People do agree that Sweden needs to do a better job of educating the "immigrants" with their language and ways of life. Hopefully the "immigrants" want to integrate, but most fear that isn't the case. As brought up, many came just for the welfare system and the easy asylum... nothing else.

    I guess what I'm saying is, people don't want Sweden to become just another Middle Eastern country. It isn't so much about the race of the people, but more so the cultural/religious aspects. The community I live is mostly Lutheran and the people as a whole resemble what one thinks a Swede looks like. Then again people have gone out of their way to keep that way of life. Young and old still a like and do learn Swedish for personal sake... to still be connected to the Motherland. I guess this is why they are troubled about immigrants that don't want to blend into the Swedish world.

    Sorry for the rant, but I guess the answer from many here is that Sweden needs to do a better job of integrating the new immigrants when they come in... hopefully they will be accepting of being taught the language/culture. If not, Sweden itself is in a world of hurt to what they are/once was.

  93. Immigration needs to be cut drastically, or else Sweden is going to die. Who would honestly agree that they would like to see "Kevin Johnson's" or "LostInTranslation's" as the majority population of Sweden in 50-100 years? Is that fair? How is it fair? There are too many africans, asians, middle easterns, muslims, etc in Sweden. Sweden should always be majority Swedish.

    I'm not going to say that ALL immigrants have to get out, but Sweden has to put a stop to the insane immigration which is slowly wrecking everything that makes Sweden.. Sweden. Same problem in the UK, and elsewhere. Europe is fast becoming very un-European because of insane immigration. How is that fair?

    White Swedes have a birthrate very below replacement level, and I'm not sure if many of you understand that they are literally in the beginning steps of a drastic population decline. Think about the future, please, and think about what is fair.

    Let's also just be bluntly honest, people who aren't white will never "blend in" in Sweden, but it wouldn't be such a big deal as long as they remain a minority. Their birth rates must be in check, and actual Swedes (as in white Swedes) need to start having more children.

  94. @Kevin – yeah it is definitely an issue that is becoming more of a hot button issue.
    @Swede in the Heartland – I think the issue is the integration one, regardless of religion or country of origin. The same thing started in the 90s with the Eastern Europeans. Integration and immigration is always a difficult question. One that any country struggles with. The first thing that needs to happen is an open discussion that avoids prejudices.

    @anonymous – yeah, actually I don’t agree with you at all. I think immigration needs to be discussed and reformed. But your thesis, that Sweden should always be a majority Swedish, is a problem. Mostly because it is. And by a large margin. It also brings up questions of Swedishness. At some point, those immigrants that came here a couple of generations ago become Swedish. Their children become Swedish. Their grandchildren. Unless of course you are only basing it on the color of their skin or their last name.

  95. Nej, did you even read what I said? You should take a minute to open your blind liberal eyes to the fact that Swedes have a terrible birthrate, their "large margin" in population percentage is not going to hold up. Something like 20% of Sweden's population are foreigners. Meanwhile, the immigrant population continues to have a massive amount of children. Swedes will literally end up being replaced by foreigners, if this rate continues.

    It is about race, yes, and race is not just about the color of skin. Surely someone as educated as you would understand that. Swedish primarily means ethnic Swedish, as in white people of the Swedish ethnicity.

    The only other people who can "be" Swedish would be someone who is physically assimilable, and they would have to have actually been born in Sweden (or at least grew up in Sweden from an early age). IE. the children of someone who was physically assimilable, preferably with 1 parent of the child actually being Swedish already.

    All else are just citizens of Sweden.

    Sorry if me wanting to preserve what it means to be Swedish is really offensive to you.

  96. Hairyswede, if I asked you what your ethnicity was, your ancestral heritage, what would you say to me? You would say Swedish + maybe some other things, right? Or not if your American mother is also Swedish descent.

    So how exactly are you of "Swedish" heritage when you are saying that "anyone" of any genetic heritage can be Swedish? You grew up in America, so using your definition and logic, I fail to see why you can say that you have "Swedish" heritage.

    In reality, you are obviously referring to white ethnic Swedish when you say that you are "Swedish-American," via your Swedish father (or mother too?), yet you won't admit that because you think it's racist or something.

  97. If you were a white or black immigrant in Japan, or even if you were born in Japan (and consequently grew up there), and you called yourself Japanese... people would laugh at you.

    Just think about it for a second. How ridiculous would it sound if a white or black person said, "I'm Japanese." Who is honestly going to agree with that?

    They are immediately going to make the distinction between an actual Japanese person and then someone who just lives there or was born there, yet isn't ethnic Japanese.

    Everyone seems to be okay with that too, but only when this same distinction is made for European countries, then everyone calls foul. More unfairness and BS double standard.

  98. First I would like to point out that you are definitely the first person, either here in Sweden or in the US, to call me liberal.

    And yes, I did read your comments. Some of my favorite parts were the personal attacks on other commenters, and the following quotes: “There are too many africans, asians, middle easterns, muslims, etc in Sweden.” And “Let's also just be bluntly honest, people who aren't white will never "blend in" in Sweden, but it wouldn't be such a big deal as long as they remain a minority. Their birth rates must be in check, and actual Swedes (as in white Swedes) need to start having more children.”

    You have essentially called for regulation on the birth rates of immigrants. Which is just shocking in every sense of the word.

    But to respond to your latest string of comments:

    Only about 13% of people living in Sweden are foreign born. Not quite your 20% giving Swedes a ridiculous majority. Also, the birth rate, while slow, still outpaces the death rate leading to a positive population growth.

    You say it is not about the color of skin but immediately refer back to the color of skin. Its ridiculous. Culture is not defined by skin color. Culture is not static. It is a fluid idea that is constantly changing. Constantly evolving. To suggest that the only people who can assimilate into Swedish culture are white shows a lack of understanding and a naïveté of the international community.

    To preserve Swedishness is not offensive, but to do so while cutting off an entire part of the population is.

    @anonymous (again) – If youre asking for my ancestral heritage I would say Swedish American. Like the blog suggests. I would say that because I was born in Sweden and spent six years of my life here as a child as well as several summers. I grew up in the US.

    I am referring to my father, regardless of his skin color because he was Swedish. It has nothing to do with skin color. My father was born in Sweden, I was born in Sweden therefore, part of me is Swedish. Just like this new class of immigrants. Those who are born in Sweden grow up in the Swedish system, learning the Swedish language, learning Swedish customs, becoming a part of the Swedish culture. They become Swedish. They are Swedish.

    @anonymous (again again) – wouldn’t sound ridiculous at all. Not if they were born there, not if they grew up there, not if that was the country they were a part of. You are suggesting that anyone who ever leaves a country will always be a part of their original culture. So the Swedes who left Sweden in the 1800s for America are still Swedish. The Europeans who fled to Sweden during WWII are still German, Polish, Hungarian. It’s a ridiculous argument.

  99. Cirka 1000.000 invandrare per år kommer till Sverige. Det är ingen minskning jämfört med förut. Det är en mycket hög siffra för ett litet land som Sverige.

  100. very true, the overall number is much larger than before. however, the number of asylum seakers has decreased in the past couple of years.

  101. Hello, Hairy Swede. I've wished to contact you via twitter personal message (I'm Trystane, from Croatia), but there was no option for it. And I don't have you e-mail address, so I will have to ask you here.

    I'm a student of a last year of Graphic Design university in Zagreb (Croatia), and after my Master degree/diploma, I'm planning to move to Sweden. To Helsingborg, where my family friends (yeah, friends, not part of family..) are inviting me. Not for a visit - but for moving abroad. I have always day-dreamed about Scandinavian lands, I admire Nordic culture etc. So it was an opportunity that happens only once at a lifetime. It was all perfect, before I found out that it would be almost impossible to move to Sweden. Especially before 2012, when my country signs as a part of EU. Because I have no family relations in Sweden, only my parents' friends (another family) that has immigrated from Bosnia, during the Croatian/Serbian war. They have big house, nice jobs yadda yadda... And I'm willing to leave everything behind (even the person I love, that can't move with me), to start a new life and find a job (one day I hope I'll find a job as a Graphic Designer, it should be possible in the land like Sweden) and have a normal life up there. But now.. my self-confidence is falling. I would appreciate any advices, or places where I should inform myself about. Thank you a lot, in advance. Btw, I'm watching your blog, but you may answer to me as well via e-mail: hlaalu.hortator AT gmail.com
    Best regards from Croatia,


  102. Moving to Sweden can be tough but there are a few options. So here are my recommendations. Take them for what they are worth.

    One is to have some sort of family connection. Whether this is a parent or partner or something along those lines. This one can be
    tricky. Of course if you are able to claim citizenship it makes life a lot easier.

    The second is the job option. If there is any way you can finagle yourself into a job do it. If you have a contract then you can come
    in on a work permit with very little problems. Of course, getting that is not easy because employers are hesitant to deal with the paperwork. I’m not sure what you studied and if you are finishing up your undergrad or grad work, but start looking for work in Sweden now if you want to make the move. It will probably take you a while to find a job. That is absolutely not a knock on you but just that the process is a very slow and long one in Sweden from my experience.

    If you’re in a place to get a university degree, that is a good option. Because of the Bologna program Sweden is moving to a lot of English language programs. Plus school in Sweden is free. That being said everything else is not. It is pretty expensive to live here so I would suggest getting a solid amount of savings up before you head over here for that.

    Stockholm University, Uppsala University, and Lund University have all kinds of programs and are adding new English programs every year. Check them out online. They have a lot of information in English.

    Here are a few websites that might be helpful:






    http://www.workey.se. The website is in Swedish but just type in “English” in the search field and you’ll get all kinds of English
    speaking jobs.

    In terms of getting here and then getting citizenship, it is very very hard to do. Especially with just an education. In fact, even sticking around after you finish your education can be a real challenge. Best bet there is to find yourself a job or to get married. Not always the easiest things to do.

    Hopefully that helps!

  103. hey there loved your blog as someone who's been thinking about visiting Sweden someday, has lived in the US and had previously lived in Europe (Malta) for 3 years.

    Sorry if this question has been answered before, but Sweden has definitely been one of the places at the top of the list for visiting however I'm reading and seeing so many videos of the increasing crime that is happening there (specifically violent crimes and violent crimes against women) that it makes me feel disheartened to go there.

    Is there any truth to this? or is this skewed data? Also I definitely believe in the idea of multiculturalism, but not at the expense of the safety and justice of a country's citizens.

    The articles and videos I've watched about the recent crime wave I've heard make it sound really bad and that the authorities are not doing anything about it. It's not about race, or ethnocentrism or any of that. It's about maintaining a system that assures that everyone is free to do and believe what they want so long as they don't hurt or harm other people in my opinion.

  104. LOL,You will be in for a shock once they take over. I am from Texas a state in the U.S, and the town where I grew up was mostly German/Irish when I was a kid. The Mexicans started moving in and my father lost his construction business because he couldn't compete at the wages they charged. The problem was they could do it almost for just cost in material, because they qualified for social programs that we didn't therefore could underbid him by a large margin. Once so many businesses went under and most of those people moved away, alot of property was bought up by Mexican's (Many times with government grants that white's didn't qualify for), and whole sections of town that used to be nice with no crime were, in just 10 years turned into ghetto's. I got fed up and moved away but I still visit family there, and its sad that to order a cheese burger I have order it in spanish just to make sure the order gets done right, and now crime is high and its almost a Warzone on the Texas/Mexico border. You can speak academically on this mater like in this forum, but I lived through it, Once my brother got shot in a "drive by" I just had to get out of there. I hope with all my heart that NATIVE Swedes never have to see the destruction of the home they love, by immigrants like I did.

  105. Dear Sweden,
    You have a great country with highly intelligent,attractive citizenry.
    If I were you,I would never permit any invaders,illegal aliens or persons looking for a place to hide and live off of your labors.
    Africa is a huge continent with a great deal of natural,in demand, resources.Let them make it there.The same holds true for Europe and Asia.SWEDEN IS FOR SWEDES.You do not want to become the USA,where you must carry a gun due to so many criminals all over.
    Do not believe tv and movies,it is propaganda!

  106. @daniel

    I think you're mixing up two very different views here; The official "view" devised through the years by our politicians and governments, even though signs are showing things are starting to change with the current center-right wing government, and the ordinary Swede's view on what Swedishness really is about. I'm sure the the Swede knows his Swedishness. If you ask him. I'm not sure if it's due to political correctness that the Swede doesn't speak out or if it's because he never has been asked to reflect on the issue. But one thing is for sure; The Swede knows hell for sure what bonds him together with his alikes even if he never talks about it! Just look at all the old traditions the Swedes celebrate, christian as well as those even dating back to the pre-christian Viking ages. Talk about deeply rooted identity! They're very important in Sweden as they bond the people together. Sweden, despite many years under socialdemocratic ruling still is a monarchy. Not because the country has to be, no, it's because it's a very old tradition that seem to satisfy people's need for something. Call it a comfort zone where it feels like home and that reminds the Swede about the history of his country and gives perspective and continuity, unites and gives something to hold on to when times are tough. And by judging from polls it's a tradition that doesn't see any signs to cease..

    So I'm afraid that your little thesis on how Swedes aren't aware of how they identify themselves with their national history doesn't hold very well.

  107. @sonny - Sweden is incredibly safe.

    And wow. some racist comments popping up here. Very unfortunate to see.

  108. Well hello! First, I've read all the comments and I'm thrilled to see that you are still responding.

    Second, do you feel that this argument is valid for Syrians? Or that this argument is even more important now?
    I'm am American, and my husband and I are looking at immigrating to Sweden in 2 years. We have three small kids and we do not want to raise them here. I'm second generation American, a decedent of italian immigrants and my husband is a mix. My husband and our kids are very fair and blue eyed so I'm not worried about them assimilating. We are starting to learn the language and plan to intigrate into swedish culture as much as possible. that's why we are moving!

    Thank you for your time :)