Monday, October 06, 2008

Lunch with Swedes

Yesterday I sat at lunch with four Swedes. Three of whom knew I was American. I sat silently throughout nearly the entire meal for one simple reason. It was America bashing time. Primarily coming from the mouth of the girl sitting immediately to my right. But one other guy joined in a bit.

For example, did you know that:

Americans eat too much? And that they only eat junk food. And hamburgers and french fries.

Americans drive too much? The magic number according to these Swedes was 300 meters. Anything over 300 meters was driving distance.

Americans don’t recycle enough? And when they do learn to recycle Europeans look down their noses at them because Europeans have been doing it since they were little.

Americans have shallow relationships? Because they are so friendly, it was decided that Americans don’t have good friends and that all of their relationships are shallow.

(Finally, one that just made me shake my head), American athletes, before competing will drink a bottle of water, and then immediately fill the bottle of water with pop so that they have it during competition? Little known fact.

Let me remind you that all of these things were actually said. Granted in Swedish but still. One girl actually uttered the recycling and the athlete comment.

Now granted, I have heard most of these before, except for the pop thing, because it is the same thing over and over. Americans are fat and lazy. Americans are bad for the environment. Americans are too friendly. Usually I stand up for the US, but I just wasn’t in the mood to deal with this nonsense. Sometimes I just don’t have it in me. And yesterday was one of those days. So I sat quietly. I mean, literally did not say a single word. I did do a lot of head shaking, because well, that’s what I do when I’m disgusted. Finally, the girl to my left turned to me with a half smile on her face and laughingly commented that I was being very quiet. So I simply stated that I was American. And left it at that. That at least shut up the girl doing most of the bashing and the talk instead turned to the tired food we were eating.

But it made me think. It is socially acceptable to bash America. But had a group of people been sitting around a table eating lunch and bringing up negative stereotypes of, say, Mexico, those people would be considered, at best, mildly prejudiced. At worst, full blown racists. A quick side note, I know that being from a certain country does not give you claim to race, Mexican is not a race, Swedish is not a race, American is not a race, just deal with my colloquial usage of the word.

It boggles my mind that a country that prides itself on openness and acceptance can so obviously disregard those very morals and beliefs when it comes to the US, simply because it is the US. Obviously there are things wrong with the US, but it’s not hard to pull up things that are wrong with any country really. I’ve found plenty of things that I don’t agree with here in Sweden, many of which I have written about. Of course, I would never dream of sitting at a table with four Swedes and go on a tangent about how awful their country is.

This America bashing is something I have seen from most of western Europe. Very seldom have I found anyone from western Europe that has much good to say about the US. I even had one guy tell me that the US really had no impact in World War II. Those people which I have run into from eastern Europe seem to have a different attitude towards the US for some reason, often asking me with disbelief why I would have ever moved from the US to Sweden. So in the spirit of stereotypical assertions about large groups of people: It seems that as a general rule, the bashing of America is seen as acceptable if not required for true citizenship in any western European country.

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  1. Simply ask them if they have ever visited the US. Most people have only formed their minds from movies/TV and the leftish media.

    I knew a guy who always loved to bash america, and alot of other western countries. Usually of very in-depth explanations on how thinks are in those countries. Then it turned out that the know-it-all, self-proclaimed globetrotter had only been on brief vacations in Norway and occassional beer-runs to Denmark. The guy had not even been to Germany!

    But when it comes to discussing american politics my swedish side come out! I do believe I live in the free world, so when the American president calls himself the leader of the free world he gives me the right to critizise him back under the rock he crawled up from.

  2. @tobias - that is a good point, I've also noticed that a lot of people who spout the stereotypical complaints of the US are the ones that haven't ever been there.

    and you're also right about your politics comment. and thats the difference though, that is a specific comment and one we can have a discussion about because it is not voiced as an overarching "this is what all Americans think." It's the bashing that lumps a country of 300 million people into one big stereotype that drives me nuts.

  3. I think it's as horrible as you dou when people rant like that. One of the biggest perks of getting older is to be able to see things from different perspectives.

    That said I do agree with Tobias last remark. The biggest and strongest party has to be able to take some bashing. Be it the hegemony, the family patriarc, the US (and Russia, China, etc), mankind. This really doesn't call for misdirected bashing over lunch. What I'm saying is why it's not as accepted to critizise Mexico is because they are all ready being bashed in another sence.

  4. Very interesting post.

    I have heard people in many countries of the world bashing America and Americans. For those that don't see those as different things, they are. When it comes to bashing Americans, the 'fat and lazy' are one of the most common things, though, to be honest, I think some some ways it is true. Isn't Houston, Texas the fattest city in the world?

    With all that said, of course it really sucks when people generalize all Americans the same way, or any other countries citizens for that matter. It certainly can be tiring at times to support your country or people. The one thing that I find pretty easy with most people is ask them if they have ever actually gone there. 90% of the time the answer is no and that tends to end it.

    The one funny thing I found is the complaint about 'being too friendly'. If people consider being too friendly a bad thing, then I am glad that I am not them.

    In defense of the 'driving' stuff... Most places in the states have no real public transportation, so you have to drive. As for the base being 300 meters... hmmm.

    My complaint about the average American, they complain about the price of fuel, but the rest of the world pays more.

    Thanks for the post.

  5. Once again, congrats on your topic!
    This may be far fetched, but see how a school bully acts. The others rather support him than defend the target. Therefore, it's safe to bash the US because everyone does that. Defend the US and you become a target yourself.

    Personally I don't like the USA too much, but I do appreciate the music, movies, TV-series... well the American culture in general. Haven't been there though, I think my relationship with the States works only on remote basis. Granted, I'd like to visit NY and LA (and other places too) but mostly because some famous people have lived there. Some of them I respect deeply.

    In Finland you can bash any country, because we feel that every country is bashing us. However, it's 'safe' to bash Swedes, Russian, Norwegians and, yes, Americans. That is all Finland's neighbors plus one :) Estonians are mocked a bit too, they are so close to us.

    Hairy, I bet that later on in America, in a pub after a couple of beers, when you are asked by your friends what it was like in Sweden, you may start bashing Swedes as well. I don't think you'd compare it to Eden or something. Be honest now, am I right?

  6. @anonymous - agreed, the big guys need to be able to take a little bit of heat. and Im perfectly ok with that. its the generalizations, the acceptance of it being ok that gets old.

    @kaleb - again, you're right with the travel thing. I think that is key. it's amazing hat you can learn about a place if you spend a bit of time there.

    and I was also amazed that being too friendly was seen as a bad thing. but apparently some people want to live in their own little world. whatever floats your boat.

    and about fuel price. since living in Sweden and owning a car, I actually have the same complaint. and when I talk to people from back home who cmplain about the price of gas I do a quick conversion of what a gallon of gas costs in us dollars here in Sweden. that tends to put things in perspective.

    @smek - I like the comparison. I think a lot of people though would probably consider the US the bully.

    it is interesting to see what contries you can pick on depending on where you are from and what is considered ok.

    and you're right, I mean hell, even in this blog I write a lot of stuff I dont like about Sweden. and sometimes I generalize even. but Id like to think there is a bit of a difference when living in a country and being critical than sitting around at lunch bashing a country. but maybe there isn't...

  7. in response to the 300 meters being driving distance in the US. 300 meters is about 1000 feet. the average city block is about 600 700 feet. so 300 meters is about 1.5 city blocks. Id like to think most people I know are willing to walk that far in the US

  8. I'm an American -- a Californian, to be exact -- and I have to say that I agree with the first three: that Americans eat too much, drive too much and don't recycle enough. I don't agree with the fourth one (too friendly? is that a bad thing?) and I had to laugh at the last one!

    Here's one of my own: Swedes smoke too much! In CA, smoking is not allowed in public buildings, restaurants, bars, etc. None of my friends or family here smoke, but if someone would want to light up s/he would first ask "Do you mind if I smoke?" In Sweden no one asks that but rather, "Would you like a smoke?" All my family in Sweden smoked as did their friends; the bars, parties, they were all terribly smoky. ::cough::

    It's been a few years since I've been there, so perhaps that's changed?

  9. While I do not necessarily agree with the bashers described in the text I think I know what they mean with "too friendly" and feel the need to explain.

    Its not the friendlyness that swedes tend to complain about, but the (percieved?) shallowness. In many countries outside northern europe, and in the US especially, it's custom to always give a cheerful, (in our eyes) over-the-top greeting. Along with a (cramped) positive attitude.

    Have you seen the south park episode where there is a performance group coming to school rapping about how uncool smoking is? The kids find the cheerful behavior to be way too much. That is how many swedes percieve american "friendly" behaviour.

    I live and work outside sweden and see it here too. From americans and others. Sure a warm welcome is always nice, but not if its just words and a facade, instead of genuine.

  10. To generalize a little about swedes: The "too friendly" thing i think vary a lot in different places in Sweden. I am born and raised in the north of Sweden. I lived in the country side with my friends living big distances away. When i took my bike to go see my best friend I tended to stay the night and eating with their family was allways the custum. When I moved to Stockholm and got to know friends here I couldn't find any of the strong bonds between friends families and myself. When I met the parents of a good friend they weren't interested in who I am and what I do. I guess you don't have to depend on each other as much in a big city.

  11. One the things that bothers me the most is that all these people critize the US in every way they can, but the sure like all the US products and they would love to go to New York, San Francisco etc. etc. They love the movies and they froth over all the stars in Hollywood, who by the way are Political Gurus. Whatever they say is obviously the truth

  12. Well, see, I'm actually for bashing. I mean, some countries, including the U.S. (where I live), deserved to be bashed for certain things. I mean they really, really do. We so deserved to be scorned for electing Bush a second time; we so deserve to be mocked for our oil dependency and almost refusal to explore alternate energy; and even our politics should be made fun of once in a while--just like every other country should have their political systems poked at occasionally.

    But what your female lunch mate was bashing was...ridiculous. If you're going to bash another country, at least be well educated on the issue and avoid the annoying cliches. And if you're going to use stereotypes in your bashing, at least progress deeper than the surface (like, if you're going to say that Americans [note the generalization] are fat and lazy, at least pull out facts and statistics that sound credible...sorry, Michael Moore films do not count); only sheep will nod and agree with you when you are with the absence of proof.

    Stereotypes rear their ugly head mostly through parroting. If there's one thing I can't stand, it's parroting, because all it is is an uniformed, underdeveloped opinion. Stereotypes may be based in some truth, but gd, at least be informed if you're going to use them! (Again, Michael Moore does not count, and neither does anything coming out of Hollywood.)

    So, for me, it's not the bashing, it's what's being used in the bashing. You can criticize/bash a country, but at least be smart about it.

    Oh yes, my bashing for the day: Surströmming is gross...why, Sweden, why? ;) Canning at it's most unique, right there. (Prime example of poor bashing)

  13. i have never been to the US so i don't critize the american people.. and i don't think most swedes would do that either if you asked them to be serious.

    .. but i do critize the way the current administration in the US 'behaves' internationally and i do think i have that in common many swedes. going from that to semi-serious comments about the american people isn't very far so i'm not surprised you found yourself in that situation.

  14. I think that media often portrays Americans as if they own the world, or at least think they do. And to put this travelers perspective in reverse - how well educated about the surrounding world is the average American? And how often does Americans go on vacation abroad? If I was to bash US I would probably rant about these things - even though I haven't been there. With the power US have one could expect more humbleness.

  15. A lot of good comments here. But first I wanted to quickly reiterate that I am all for people being critical. I think it is important to be critical and to stand up for the things you don’t agree with. That being said, there is a difference, as has been pointed out in a few of these comments, between being critical and just spouting out the same tired stereotypes of Americans. Now… to the comments:

    @anonymous – well there’s your problem… you’re Californian. I kid, I kid. But you’re right, there are plenty of things to be critical of in the US, and if you’re willing to have a discussion about them then I am all for it. But come with something, anything, more than just the same stereotypes. Although I don’t really want to hear about athletes drinking pop. Because, personally, I don’t see that as a big negative for the US.

    And in terms of smoking… I actually feel the exact same way and wrote a blog post about it called Swedish Cigarettes are Killing Me. But, in defense of Sweden here, they have since outlawed smoking indoors which is really nice. But I still feel like a lot of people smoke here. I can’t think of a single person from the US who I know personally and would consider a smoker. Sweden is a different story.

    @Tobias – yeah I think you’re right, and I think that is what they meant when they went on to say that Americans had no good friends. But I just don’t agree. At all really.

    I have seen that South Park episode. I saw a rerun just a couple weeks ago here in Sweden. South Park at 11 every weekday on MTV. (MTV should probably pay me for that glorious plug by the way).

    I guess my question is how do you know if it is warm or just a façade? Because I find myself always being very friendly to cashiers, waitresses, when I leave messages for people I end with have a good day or something along those lines. And I always mean it. If I didn’t mean I wouldn’t say it. Say what you mean and mean what you say sort of thing. But I don’t know if that’s how it is for everyone. Maybe that’s what happens when you mix a Swede with an American.

    @anonymous – you bring up a good point. And this has actually come forth a few times because I have commented before on how reserved Swedes tend to be. And lots of people have mentioned that it is absolutely the worst in the big cities. And you know, it could very well be like that in big cities in the US. But I’ve never lived in a big city in the US. I like the idea of dependence though. Because you’re absolutely right.

    @anonymous – this is something I’ve thought about a lot. People complain about the US, but they do so while drinking a coke, eating a burger from McDonalds, listening to Coldplay on their iPod as they are about to walk into a movie to see Batman and sit down in their seats wearing their Levis. But as smek said, this could be considered part of the culture and while people may complain about that their true disdain stems from the politics of the US. Maybe? I’m just throwing that out there..

    @PhDR – exactly! Be critical, bash away, but come with something intelligent and worth discussing. And I love the digs at Michael Moore by the way. He is somewhat of cult hero here in Sweden and his word is taken as gospel often times.

    Surströmming is most definitely an interesting use of canning. Well done.

    @john – I suppose it isn’t a far jump, but the thing is, the conversation started with the stereotypical bashing of American people rather than some sort of discussion about foreign policy or the political attitude in the US.

    @anonymous – you’re right, a discussion evolved in one of my previous posts about the Swedish media. I claimed that they are very left leaning. I used the word biased. And I still agree with that. I say that because that is what sells here in Sweden. Swedes are very liberal politically. Even the conservatives are liberal. I mean look at the current administration coming out in support of Obama. So the newspapers are writing and printing what sells. It makes sense. So the Swedish media plays up the liberal side of the US, and also the ridiculous stuff that the extreme right does, which doesn’t always give the best portrayal of Americans.

    I also agree with you that a lot of Americans are very isolated in their world view. But I actually had this conversation with a Swede who agreed that, while it is a problem, it is understandable simply because of the size. She said that Swedes leave the country during the winter to find sun. Americans don’t need to. They can go to Florida. A drive from Oregon takes about 20 hours. Driving from Sweden for 20 hours puts you in Italy and you’ve passed through a handful of different countries all speaking a different language. But I agree, I think travel is incredibly important. And can’t really defend the lack of international travel as wholeheartedly as I would like.

  16. Group generalizations is something I'm careful about and I normally don't participate in politically incorrect "bashing conversations". But if I ever be involved in such, I'll make sure that no person belonging to the group being bashed or at least with some kind of close relationship with the group, is present. I guess that's what one calls tact?

  17. Hairy,
    I have one very important question.
    Why were you quiet? Why not counter all her stupid statements?

  18. hi!

    what do they tell you in american schools about ww II?

    I always thought that british and american soldiers "freed" poland, but then I heard 90% of the soldiers beating the nazis there were soviet ones :O, and then they too raped poor poland, but still.. barely any brits or americans involved

  19. I recognize this bashing america thing, and i know it's very common.

    I think some of the things has some truth to it though. About the lazyness and recycling thing, what springs to my mind is when you wrote in "Swedes hates convenience", that in america almost everyone have those machines where you could put your litter (not even sure how it works, i live in sweden and have yet to see one), instead of sorting it for recycling. Isn't that a typical example?

    And about americans being fat. I know for sure not every single person in america is fat, but i think more people there are fat than in any european country. And while swedes love to complain over the expensive price of gas here in sweden, we also love to complain about how the other countries like the US doesn't care about the environment, bringing up the cheap prize of gas there as an example of it ;)

    And all the other things that girl said - that sounds just riddiculous. Being friendly is always a good thing, in my eyes.

    But i want to bring up another point aswell. I think swedish people in general thinks its more okey to bash any counrty at will, than americans do. American tend to be very proud over their country, while swedes... well, they like their counrty when it comes to the end of it, but mostly they just whine ^^

    And so, since they whine about their own country, it's okey to whine about others aswell. Especially countries that are bigger than us. We even have a word for it: lillebrors-syndromet. In the same way swedes in general bash america, Gothenburgians bash Stockholmers, Norwegian people bash sweden, and so on...

    Sorry Robban; But I guess you might have noticed how Robban often suggests gothenburg is a better place to live than stockholm? There you see what i mean. And i'm the exact same way, i'm also from gothenburg and i'm pretty sure it's a nicer place to live than stockholm ^^

  20. Floridian in FinlandOctober 7, 2008 at 4:10 PM

    I'm so torn because I really see both sides. The American people would be bashed a lot less if they weren't so brainwashed with the bullshit of 'leader of the free world'/'in no other country could this success be possible'/'spreading freedom and democracy'. I don't even tell people when I go back that I live in Finland because of the ignorant comments I hear all the time.

    Then again, I really do think that the US is one of the best countries in the world, culturally speaking...and I've had countless discussions about this with Finns. It would be a lot better with more world awareness, less imperialistic views on foreign policy, etc.

    Although it almost seems accepted for foreigners to vent here about frustrations about Finland, I try not to go too far. Of course if the same people insist on asking me every week how my Finnish is, I give myself permission to go postal on them.

    Anyway, I guess I consider myself a world citizen. My heart and soul is American but rationally, I understand why there's a lot of American bashing and am often times embarrased by my countrymen.

  21. izi: haha I used to live in Gothenburg and I heard that all the time about Stockholm. I have never visited Stockholm (yet) but I'll reserve my comparisons after I've been there... then I'll let you all know which one is the friendlier. ;)

    Hairy: When I lived in Sweden it was before 911 and I guess a lot of things have changed in the opinion of the US since then. (Not saying there was not America/n bashing before. My ex even tried to jokingly convince me once that it was a Swede that invented the airplane, once. NOT an American.) It's as if the rest of the world saw some schoolyard bully get knocked on their butt and the resulting media and government hype have given everyone a better excuse. So you go from "Awww... 911 was awful" to "Americans are too proud." However, I've never heard this same thing being used with the British after the bombings in London. That's just one case in point. And I'm not going on a 911 rant its just from what I know from the point in which I lived in Sweden. I moved back literally right before then. From my friends still in Sweden, opinions HAVE changed.

    And yes, sorry Swedes, but you all are obsessive about American culture. This obsession and complaining/bashing is simply making you all look two-faced. I'm a quarter Native American. I'm Pagan. I'm (obviously) very open about both... and my opinions. I found prints of famous Indians in shops and on t-shirts and I just laughed. My long hair and my blood were like a novelty there... and I associate more with my Irish blood. (Oddly enough, they found that endearing, too.) They also found it mightily exciting that most Indians have a thing for blonds, by the way.

    Everyone thought the fact that I am Pagan was "cool." Yet almost everyone claims they are agnostic but were born into some form of Christianity? Churches have pagan runes carved on them? The biggest party of the year is a Pagan sabbath?

    And no one complained when they learned new American/English swear words and phrases. lol In one evening all the kids in Frolunda learned how to say "Bite me" ... well, one kid learned it (opps) and by that night, I swear it had spread through all of Frolunda.

    I said the word FITTA! very loud on the tram once and I thought every man on there was going to swallow his tongue... and the country is so feminist? Well, it made me laugh, at least. And that I belly dance? Shocking. That American women are "easy" or "slutty"? Latest polls say almost every woman in Sweden has cheated on her significant other. I've never cheated.

    I've been all over the US. I've lived outside the US. I love visiting Europe and the rest of the world. I've heard US bashing in the US. I think George "W" Bush needs to be in prison. I was refused service in Brussels airport once because I was American. (My french is pretty crappy, but it's not THAT crappy.) I've been to the poorest county in the US which resembles a third world country... and in case no one knows where that is... that would be Pine Ridge South Dakota a.k.a. the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation (a.k.a. the Rez.) I even helped rebuild in the 9th ward in New Orleans after Katrina. If anyone has any right to complain about the US it is it's own citizens. On the other hand, I extend an open invitation to any Swedes who have never been to the US. You can come visit me and I'll show you the only temperate rain forest in the world (Washington State) - 1880 town South Dakota where the town sign lists the number of ghosts in residents along with the living population - we can go to New Orleans and drink hurricanes and listen to some of the most talented musicians in the world playing live jazz in its birthplace (nothing like that crap they have on MTV Europe)- we can hit some of the artsy little seaport towns like Portsmouth, New Hampshire and see just how close those little towns resemble a lot of Swedish towns. I know where most all the little hidden gems are.

    So liberal.. but such hidden judgment. And to think... I love Sweden! (Could you imagine if I didn't like it?)

    Wow... I didn't plan on making that post that long... must be my pride.... but... was that overly friendly? And usually I have such a sweet disposition. :)

  22. Impressive post, nereid. It makes me realize something; There are things that are okey to be prejudiced about, and many things that are not okey. In Sweden that is, i don't know about other countries.

    It's okey to have prejudices about america and americans. It's okey to have it about stockhom if you live in gothenburg. In my circle of friends, its okey to judge rich people you don't even know just because they´re rich and have a lot of money. It's very much okey to have prejudices about nazists, communists and other extremes.

    It's NOT okey to do the same to black people, poor countries, other religions, gays and lesbians, just to name a few examples.

    People who say they are so open and so on, often have a lot of prejudices, they just don't realize it, because they have it about things that are accepted to have it about.

  23. Interesting post!

    Really that very same conversation could have taken place at a table here in NYC amongst American citizens.

    And while I think some of it might be a tad on the unfair side I do think that as a population we have provided a lot of material for the world to bash us on. Many times while visiting other parts of the world I have been mortified watching the behavior of fellow Americans...not to mention watching them here in their own habitat :-)

  24. Get some new friends, jeeze. And dont pick 08or, people from Stockholm. That shallow relationship thingy was kinda stupid. And that smoking thing was stupid, what are you from NYC or California?

  25. @mogLi – yeah generalizations are hard. I am guilty of them in this very blog. It’s so easy to want to generalize when talking about groups of people because it simplifies things. But to sit there while it goes on was a bit much. And you’re right, tact is exactly what was lacking in that conversation.

    @anonymous – an excellent question. I just didn’t have it in me. I have been defending the US ever since I moved here, and I felt tired. A hint of resignation almost. Especially because the final statement was just so absurd that I didn’t think it was even worth getting into any sort of real conversation.

    @Hanna – mostly focus on the western front in europe. Hardly at all on the eastern front. But yeah, I’ve never really heard that there were a whole lot of Americans involved in rescuing the eastern eruopean countries. If anything, one thing we learn is that one of the german downfalls was having to fight a war on two fronts, the russinas in the east and the americans/british/allies in the west.

    @Izi – well there almost always seems to be a grain of truth in most stereotypes. That’s kind of how they end up forming. But you’re absolutely right, theres plenty of things to complain about. In just about every country.

    I like your point about the Swedish attitude towards their own country. I think you’re right. In the end they are proud of their country but there is a lot of complaining. Until you criticize it.

    I also have very much noticed the intercity rivalries here in Sweden. All in all some excellent points. Thanks.

    @Floridian – some good points also. I suppose one of the problems is that the regardless of American policy and politics, it is a country that is under a microscope because of its size and historical power and place in the world. Which leads it open to plenty of bashing.

    I actually wrote a little bit about the American world view and how the free newspaper “metro” wasn’t doing well in the us because it focused less on local news and more on international news.

    @Nereid – skadeglädje, schadenfreud. Something I noticed a bit early on as the US economy was getting hit of course now its spreading so that skadeglädje isn’t really of much use.

    But anyway… well said.

    @Izi – also well said. Society allows for some “acceptable” prejudices, maybe bashing American counts as one of those.

    @Doghigh – I must say, in all of my travels, I have found most Americans to be incredibly well behaved, polite, eager to learn, and all around great tourists. In fact, someone sent me an email with a link about the countries that had the worst tourists according to people in the tourism industry throughout the world. The worst tourists in the world? The Chinese, followed by the Indians, and the French.

    @Anonymous – these were just random people I had met that same day and happened to be eating lunch with. Not sure what was stupid about the smoking thing though. Im from Colorado. And I stand by my statement that I cant think of a single person I personally know that I would consider a smoker from the US.

  26. i also can't think of anyone i personally know in the US that is a smoker. just not as common here.
    Don't know what that has to do with anything here but there it is.

  27. Actually according to WHO, There´s more smokers per % of the population in USA that there are in Sweden

  28. In sweden the smoking thing depends on in what group you belong to. A couple of friends often have a little bit of the same view on things, i have noticed. Lets take an example: In my class, almost no one smokes. Maybe 2 or 3 out of 100. I'm studying to become a vet. It's very hard to get into that education so I guess most people that do get in there are motivated and think a lot about their future. That's why only a few of them smokes, i think.

    My boyfriend, his friends, their girlfriends... i seriously can't think of anyone of them, except from me, that don't smoke. Everybody does it. It's gotten so far, it has become some sort of a social thing. "Wanna come over smoke a cigarette?"

    In the first group, my class, you are seen as odd if you do smoke. While in the other group, my boyfriend and his friends, you are seen as wierd if you don't. I think these things have a great impact on if you start smoke or not.

    Anyway, what I was going to say, hairy: Maybe in your circle of friends in the US, smoking wasn't very common. Maybe it's much more common in other groups of people over there.

    Though, i guess, if seeing people on the streets smoke here in sweden is more common, that's another thing.

    Maybe, just maybe, it's a little bit of the sweeds wanting to be a little like the american way. "Smoking is bad and the government doesn't want me to, but i don't care, because i'm an own individual and i can do what i want". Haha. I don't know, it's just a thought.

  29. @anonymous - thats how I feel also

    @anonymous - Ive seen those numbers too, and they just dont match up with what I have experienced. but I think izi brings up a good point in the comment thta follows yours.

    @izi - a very good point. I think you must be right, that it comes down to different groups and just what kind of group you find yourself in. I also wonder if it just ahs something to do that Im in a bit of a bigger city now. for some reason I have it in my nhead that there are more smokers in bigger cities. maybe it is just number wise and not percentage wise and that is throwing me off.

  30. Not being a swede, infact not being from western Europe, I love to bash the US. But I think one has to be very polite if US is being bashed about food or obesity. When a country is waging two wars which can be deemed controversial, acts like a bully in the most part of the world and has been at war since forever what else do you expect.
    By the way I have very close friends and family living in the US. So I think US bashing is not just fashion but a consequence of the US. Ever been around arabs and muslims?:P

  31. this seems to be the general theme that the US deserves to be bashed.

    so here is a question. and an extreme one. and one that might fire some people up but its only meant to be thoughprovoking in some sort of way I suppose.

    what about people who truly believe that a certain group of people deserve to be bashed. lets take homosexuals for example. there are people around the world who truly believe that homsexuality is wrong. they believe it is not biological but a choice and that people choose to do something that is against nature or god or whatever. so should those people be allowed to bash homosexuals? becuase they believe homosexuals deserve it.

    obviously this is extreme and maybe even a bit of a stretch but my point is that not everyone agrees that america deserves to be bashed. plenty of people do, but not everyone. but if a different group of people were inserted, in my example, homosexuals, there would be uproar against the bashing.

    but sorry umair... I got a bit of topic but I appreciated the comment because I htink it spoke to a wider attitude.

    and to answer your question directly, yes, I have been around quite a few arabs and muslims.

  32. First of all my point is that the criticism US gets is not always objective and in some cases, for instance, that they are too friendly, is unjustifed. My german supervisor when went to the US, ran out of a store because he thought that sales man was coming on to him.

    I think they get criticism because of general out look and conduct of the US, most probably the US government. Unfortunately there is only one force which can stop them, the american people.

    I see your point about homosexuals but I think the analogy does not entirely apply. Even though homosexuals do not agree with conservative values but they don't bomb other people . What they do is their business and it does not affect other people. On the other the american way of life (they use 33% of world resources), their foreign policy and their love for world hegemony affects the whole world. I would not even discuss how kids and woman being killed by the US as colleteral damage helps in creating a negative image of the US. I criticize americans even more because I find europeans, even in small towns, more sensitive to human values, and more aware of the world than americans. BTW what do you think about nazi bashing? is that justified?

  33. sorry... I definitely forgot to respond to that first part of your original comment. you're right, some things are definitely unjustified. and your stroy about your advisor just made me laugh. I quite enjoyed it actually.

    I think you're on to something though about the government thing. most people, in my opinion, probably have less against the American people, than they do against the American government. And in the end the easiest way then to express that disdain is to lump everything, everyone, together.

    yeah I wasn't sure about the homosexual analogy but it was something to think about. your nazi one is probably better.

    and to be honest, I don't really want a bunch of nazis running around spouting racist nonsense. so I understand the nazi bashing.

    and I guess thats what it all comes down, what do people feel is acceptable to bash and what is not acceptable. what is justified and what isn't.

  34. I think when non-Americans bash America they are just being insecure and jealous, even though they don't know it, because America has THE POWER, and people don't like that when someone has all the power.

    Honestly when people bash America, I just rub WWII in their faces and say "oh what will the world do if America wasn't around to help? The west speaking German and the east speaking Japanese!" Of course it's going to sound BS, but most of the time it shut them up right away, and as for the Americans and who bash America themselves? I tell them to cross the border and then let me know if they still hate their own country. :D For the immigrants who bash America, stop coming to our country then!

  35. Tyler Jian: Im not even going to respond to that, it's below my dignity

    Hairy: You can't compare a minority of people with a whole country? (including of course politics, government and ALL the people of that country)

    Bashing to me is more like a joke, every time sometHing bas happens or when the weather suck I blame it on Sweden - not because it's realistic or true but because it's fun and people agree with you. When a person is cocky or snobbish we usually refer to that person as "typically Swedish" Even though we know that there are cocky and snobbish people al around the world.
    When talking about the U.S. We often say that they are shallow, ignorant and bad at geography - again not because it's true or because all americans are like that but because it's fun.

    We also bash the danish for being drunk and retarded, the englishmen of being ugly and the italians for being hairy (haha) and flirty..

    My and my friends might have weird or strange humor, but when it comes to bashing of countries - it's all a joke to me.

  36. Swedes or western Europe bashing the U.S more than other countries?
    What are you basing this on, have you actually lived in any where else then the U.S and Sweden?
    I´m studying in Italy in an international class with people from all over the world, and I´m always meeting pople from different countries. I find, the more intellectual the person, the more he or she has to say about the U.S-and it´s never positive. The U.S bashing is accepted-everywhere-period.
    I remember growing up in Sweden, never hearing negative things about the U.S. I´m convinced things have changed. In my personal opinion the last drop was the re-election of Bush. When 50% of the population voted for him it doesn´t just confirm errors in the government- but a lot of people tolerating it.
    Personally I´m always somewhat defending the U.S, reminding people of the great parts of the culture, telling people of the great Americans I have got to know, and most of all reminding people of the differences in culture and point of view. But I´m telling you, I´m the only one to do so,and like I said, I´m around non-swedes 24-7.
    And about the smoking thing, haha, sorry but I had to laugh..try to live in France or Italy as a non-smoker. People could have known me for months and then they go; but what??? you don´t smoke? -pause- but why? All is relative, but to compare the U.S to Sweden regarding the habit of smoking seams pointless. Both countries are doing pretty darn good compared to the rest of the world(not just Italy and France)

    By the way, coldplay=Brittish, not American.

  37. Hairy Swede said...
    @tyler – you know, there are a lot of people who believe that. But I’m not entirely sure that’s the case. To be honest, I do think there might be a bit of it involved, but not so much that it plays a big of a role as most people would like to think.

    @freja – as I said my example of homosexuals was extreme, but the idea was to point out that some things are acceptable to bash and others are not. But I appreciate your point, because I think a lot of people would say that they are just joking around, but then that always brings up the question… where does the joke stop and the truth begin?

    But in the end Ive made fun of plenty of people and places when I really was just joking around so I know what you mean.

    @anonymous – This is the paragraph I wrote: “This America bashing is something I have seen from most of western Europe. Very seldom have I found anyone from western Europe that has much good to say about the US. I even had one guy tell me that the US really had no impact in World War II. Those people which I have run into from eastern Europe seem to have a different attitude towards the US for some reason, often asking me with disbelief why I would have ever moved from the US to Sweden. So in the spirit of stereotypical assertions about large groups of people: It seems that as a general rule, the bashing of America is seen as acceptable if not required for true citizenship in any western European country.”

    I have only lived in Sweden and the US but have traveled extensively throughout Europe and Australia. So that is what I am basing it on.

    Since I live in Sweden I tend to write about my experiences in Sweden and avoid making too many generalizations about countries I haven’t been to or had some sort of experience with. And when I do, I try to point it out as I did above.

    And about the smoking thing, I actually spent 6 weeks in France one summer. I know that other countries smoke more than Sweden and the US. According to one study 1 in 5 Americans smoke whereas 1 in 3 Europeans smoke.

    That being said, in response to comparisons between the US and Sweden. You’re right, sometimes they are pointless because of the sheer differences in size and scope. However, seeing as how the whole point of this blog is to write about my experiences in Sweden, often comparing them to what I have experienced in the US, comparisons between the two country tend to be very relevant.

    And you’re right, I’ll be honest, I realized that right after I sent my comment about it. I was surprised it snuck through as long as it did. I’ll just make the argument that the massive music industry in the US has helped Coldplay, hence the confusion. Regardless though, I think you see my point in that example.
    @everyone who has commented – this has been a really interesting discussion. And it actually reminded me of a buddy of mine from western Canada near the American border. Very hard to hear any sort of Canadian accent in him. And when he traveled abroad he traveled as a Canadian. Except he confided to me that when he did something stupid, was too loud, was too drunk, was rude, and someone asked him where he was from he claimed to be American. I’m not sure if that means that the America bashing has gone so far that it can be used as an excuse or what that means, but I wasn’t impressed.

  38. Isn't the USA the country we love to hate and hate to love? Swedes might like the popular culture of the US but most of them definitely hate george W Bush, your constant wars, the way you contribute so much to the global warming but contribute so little to the attempts to prevent it or slow it down etc.

  39. About you Canadian friend, it has definitely come that far.
    I have a good Canadian friend. People in most countries can´t distinguish a canadian from an American so automatically everyone assumes that she is American. Also, a lot of the time they think I am, since I speak rather decent English with more of an American accent. Then when people find out you are not American, they always give their ooooooh so sincere apologies...
    I would say you haven´t seen the whole extent of US bashing since you are after all American. Most people wouldn´t be strongly critizizing the U.S to your face. Actually I´m sure many would, but still- not most.
    And even though I disagree with so many things in the U.S and the American way of life- I still feel really bad for Americans who go abroad. They always have to prove themselves before being accepted in Europe. While being Swedish abroad you are accepted and- most of the time liked before even opening your mouth. This has been true without any exceptions in the 4 year period I´ve spent abroad.

  40. @anonymous – I think you’re right, the US is that country for the rest of the world.

    @anonymous – that’s sad. I love the apology thing too. As if calling someone an American is such an insult. I suppose to some people maybe it is. I don’t know, I’ve found, like I wrote in this post, that people really have no trouble bashing the US whether it is to your face or not. Just by saying you are American can open you up to allow people to dive right in in regards to what they think about America.

    The funny thing is that usually, the Americans that go abroad are the ones who truly want to learn about other cultures, to understand the rest of the world, and to see what other countries have to offer.

  41. Yeah, that's really sad that a lot of Europeans judge people before they've even got to know them just because they're American. It's also sad if they get into some sort of "USA-bashing" to someone's face when that someone's said that they're from USA.

    As you know from a lot of my earlier posts on your blog you know that there are many things that I don't like about the US e.g. some of the things the people you had lunch with mentioned.

    Sure, I may be a bit prejudiced but a lot of Americans are over-weight, obese etc. In fact, I think that more people are overweight, obese etc. in realtion to the population, in the US than in any other country in the world. I don't have any source to back this up with but I know I've read it somewhere. OK, that was years ago so that may not be true anymore. But the junk food part. Yeah, that's true. But in what country don't people eat a lot of (American) junk food these days?

    Americans are also known for driving a lot. I've actually got to known an American girl on my work and she confirms my believes on that issue.

    However, the "too friendly"-thing just made me laugh. Is it a bad thing to be nice? The American girl I mentioned above is very nice and so are most Swedes I know, as well. I don't think it's a uniquely American quality to be nice, and if it was why would you criticize Americans for it? But maybe more Americans than Swedes are very nice to people they don't know, like casheers etc. I don't know... But just because you're nice to everybody doesn't mean you're shallow and don't mean anything by it. It's just a really good quality. That's how we Gothenburgers are being portrayed by other Swedes too. Nice and friendly to pretty much everyone but shallow.

    There was actually a funny strip about the idea that Americans are "too nice" and have shallow relationships. I don't know if you read Rocky, the Swedish comic strip? Anyway, here's how this strip was: There were two guys sitting on a bench talking and one of the guys say that he would like to live in the US and he goes on to talk about how nice Americnas are but that it's just shallow and that there's no "djup" (deep) in their relationships. Then the other guy says something like this: "Ja. Tacka vet jag Sverige! Här är alla otrevliga mot alla vi inte känt sen vi var fem år gamla. Det är djupt så det stänker om det!". That would be good comeback to the their (the people you had lunch with) negative comment about "Americans being too nice".

  42. I was very surprised reading this, but I suppose it has to do with who your friends are. I absolutely love the US and all my friends does too and I havn't picked them because of that, so it's not a club! ;)But I think some people on the far left are against the US and perhaps you've run into those kind of people?

  43. well, this was just a group of people I had recently met... so lets stick with the term casual acquaintance. but it is good to hear that not everyone is like this. because it makes for a damn tiresome conversation I must say.

  44. Another interesting post and comments.

    For what it's worth; Is it more OK to bash the US than most other countries? Yes. With great power comes great responsibility. America is the world's only superpower, claiming to champion a free world. If her policies do not seem to reflect this, people from around the world will rightly bash. Especially if 'free' is seen to be interpreted primarily in an American way, and Americans are seen to be too 'insulated' to borrow from Mr Engdahl.

    That said, I don't think people bashed America nearly as much in Bush's second term as in his second. i also don't buy that he's evil (this has been suggested); I think he meant well. He just happened to personify all the prejudices that people had about America. Insulated, ignorant, high on the idea that America is the only 'free' country. It's simply rubbish, so that talk needs to end.

    You will also know by now that, as much as Swedes travel, they may well be the most insulated people on the earth. Sweden is, ipso facto, the best country in the world. They (we) project our view of humans on others, and people that do not conform are confused. It's a nice fiction we have created for ourselves, and in this context, we are not helped by the fact that it is sometimes true (The Economist ranking Sweden as most democratic etc.). We are also typically suspicious of authority, and we probably think Americans are too impressed by it.

    I also think, incidentally, that generalising is perfectly OK sometimes. Especially when we are talking about how people understand themselves. The 'taken-for-granted' or unacknowledged background as Wittgenstein or Heidegger might have said can be generalised about. So when Americans and Sweden may all be different, they will still be Americans or Swedes..

  45. 'Sweden' should of course have been 'Swedes' in the last sentence.

  46. very well said.

    and I think you bring up a good point about the superpower status of the us. despite everything, the world watches eveyr little move that the us makes. for better or worse. and comments on those moves. for better or worse.

    and when sterotypes are fulfilled, especially negative ones, people are quick to jump on that.

    its an interestig situation that powerful nations find themselves in. almost a lose-lose. because if the us does something good it is to be expected and when it does something bad it is vilified.

    and in terms of generalizing, I agree. I do it a lot myself. its a natural reaction that makes things so much easier. but at the same time, in some cases, it just becomes too much. as it did at this lunch I found myself at.

  47. I feel that I might be the only person here with this particular perspective;but, I am going to give my two cents worth anyway.

    Nobody here who has posted is from or grew up in the Southern United States. I am from there and grew up there. Bigotry,Theocratic ideals, a misunderstanding of people up north not to mention a misunderstanding and out of touch perpective of the rest of the World are all major problems in the Southern United States.

    If you go to New York and then travel down past the Mason Dixon line; it becomes almost like you've gone to another country. People from the Southern U.S. want to mix politics with religion, they hate socialism and display horrible prejudice attitudes toward anyone who is a socialist(I've heard both Sweden and Euro Bashing both out of the mouths of these rednecked bigots) I have experienced some very rude and hateful treatment for being a socialist. They seem to think that if you aren't a theocratic, ultra-conservative Republican that you're going to Hell. There are people who believe that way. I'm not making this up. Come pay me a visit some time and we'll start going and talking to Baptist ministers if you don't beleive me. Although these idiots are losing their grip; they still have a major influence on the U.S. culture and government. A majority of the people in the Southern U.S. tend to be self righteous. They think that the U.S. is the only Country in the World where Christianity and freedom of Christianity exists, they it's the greatest country oin the World, and it's "God's Country" unquote. The Southern Baptist and Penticostal Churches are some of the worst to take on this attitude and some of the worst to inforce theocratic ideas. The idea systems of people like that help to support the beliefs of hate groups like the KKK that have ideals that mirror Hitler's. I'm ashamed to say it; but, the klan and many other redneck hate groups are going strong here in the Southern U.S. Barack Obama has already had plots against him and there will probably be more; unfortunately. So; those of you against American bashing obviously never lived in or traveled to the Southern U.S. for any legnth of time. The Southern U.S. is the Redneck capital of the Universe. Rednecks and thos elike them are a dangerous breed of anglo saxons with very anti-social, theocratic, and ignorant belief systems that only the U.S. has produced. No other country is populated with such idiotic and ignorant people unless you count the communist nations and the nations where terrorists rule supreme. That patch of the U.S. that was solid Red during the last election was solid red for mor ethan one reason. It was solid red because of racial prejudice,a want for a theocratic government where their warped idea of Christianity is the major inluence, and several other reasons. Country music with very war like redneck tones like Toby Keith's song "Angry American" redneck comedians with questionable racial and anti-social material like "Larry the Cable Guy", and displaying the confederate flag as both a self righteous and racist statement are all VERY popular here in the Southern States. People here love the rebel flag; which deserves no more respect than a swastika. So; those Swedes bashing Americans are absolutely correct in many ways. The rednecks I've mentioned do not beleive that global warming is real and tend to think that we can just go on the way we're going and it's just "those damned liberals makin''truble'". They also listen to the like of Rush Limbaugh who actually has around 20 to 30 million listeners.... and on that statement.. I rest my case.

  48. so because one section of the us has different ideals and beliefs than others, swedes are justified in lumping together and bashing the entire united states.

    thats ridiculous.

    obviously you can find these kind of groups in just about every country. sweden has a nice little racist political party that is on the bring of makings its way into the riksdag, it just happens that number-wise its a lot smaller simply because sweden is a lot smaller.

    by just tagging people as ignorant without trying to understand why the believe what they believe only perpetuates the problem in my opinion.

    and I love that you use rush limbaugh to rest your case. 20-30 million listeners. in a country of 300 million. youre using 10% of the american population to rest your case?

    when it comes down to it, the US has plenty of problems. but too lump them all together and say that it is ok to america bash juts because of southerners, as you do, or just because a lot of people drive, or just because a lot of people are overweight, is ridiculous.

  49. Well; you have to understand the frustration of living in and putting up with people in the South. As an American; I really don't lump everyone together . I'm certainly not like those other people I mentioned; obviously.
    I hoe and pray that the Swedish people prevent that party you mentioned from taking control. That's what happened when the Republicans can control here and you see what happened as a result.
    Separation of Church and State menas absolutely nothing to the Republican party and that danger isn't going away. Sure; only 10 % of the population listens to Limbaugh; but, most of our Republican politicians have the same ideas as Limbaugh and they represent millions more than just Limbaugh's listening audience. If you think this Country is so great; why did you move back to Sweden? The reason I came around here is becasue I want to do the same thing... move to Sweden. From the sound of it; if I learned to fluently speak Swedish, with my ideas and everything.. I would fit right in.... That too friendly conversation is also correct. Americans like to pretend that they like somebody when they really hate their guts. I've been guilty of that myself. You go and give them a big smile and a friendly hello when you really want to tell them to take a long walk off a short pier. That is a lack of integrity. It's being a hypocrite and I don't blame the Swedes for being disturbed by that particular trait. There are some people that I know that I wonder about. I don't know whether some of them like me or they don't. Like I said... an ingrained lack of integrity...I apologize if I offended you with any statements that I may have made; but, I am so frustrated right now. Being a poor/lower class American who is a socialist, who is literaly stuck in the South and unable to travel North much less to another Country; I am about to my wits end. I ahvent' been able to afford an education, I havent' been able to get a job, I haven't been able to do anything. I live with my aging father and will be out on the street if something happens to him. I have tried very very hard to make a life for myself and these damned Republicans lable me as a bum because I can't find work. Now you see why I would love to go to Sweden myself. I feel as if there is no way out and am hoping Barack Obama can deliver the Change that he has promised. Also; respect the opinions of others. If I feel that way about the situation in the U.S.; I have more than a right to feel that way since I am stuck right in the middle of it. If that's my opinion; then, taht's my opinion. That goes for any Swedes who were "America bashing". I know it agrivates you; but, when Bush ( who represents the south and every Redneck idea in the book) has been our President for teh past 8 years; what do you expect people to think? There is a Book out on Amazon entitled "Redneck Nation: How the South Really Won The War". I encourage you to read that book and see the kind of thing I'm talking about. With an ignorant President like George W. Bush; how do you expect Swedes to have a favorable opinion of the U.S.? The President represents the Country. I certainly hope that Obama changes that World wide outlook on us; but,I'm not holding my breath. I'm not sure if you knwo what it means to be an American in poverty or how it is. You obviously had the money to make a trek over to Sweden; which is something I only dream about. I hope you understand my feelings. I really have nothing personal against you and I am sincere when I say that. I mentioned a lack of integrity. Well; I try to have as much integrity as possible. I don't always succeed; but, I try.

  50. thats fair enough, its just that the longer I live abroad, the more I have realized that gross generalizations of americans plays a huge role in the america bashing. and its too bad.

    its important to realize that in a country as large as the US that there are going to be all kinds of people all over the spectrum on issues of religion, politics, economics, everything.

    you definitely bring up some good points, and sometime the bashing is deserved. but it was the stereotypical bashing at this lunch that really got to me I suppose.

    obviously, there is plenty the US can work on. but for the most part, america as a whole, does not fit into the stereotype that europe likes to use when bashing the US.

    hopefully that explains my point of view a bit better.

  51. Yes; as a matter of fact, it does.
    And; you are right in your viewpoint. I certainly don't fit into the steriotype. I'm a socialist, I'm 130 lbs and as skinny as they come, I NEVER drink soda beverages, I drink only water, tea, and coffee, I never put sugar in the tea or coffee, I don't even use artificial sweeteners, I'm never wasteful, I beleive in helping the environment in any way possible and want do away with the use of oil period, etc. So; when you hear people bashing the states and putting everybody into one category again; just mention that skinny socialist hippy guy living in Arkansas that posted on your blog. :-)

  52. I love it. diversity is key right?

  53. Right! Also; if I ever make it over there.. I have to learn not to wear my feelings out on my shoulder. That's a rather rude gesture in Sweden isn't it? I know; I'm sort of changinfg the subject. You just don't go up and tell your life story and hand out personal information to strangers in Sweden do you? From what I hear; you have to get to know them pretty well first. Or.. something to that degree. When I do make it over to Sweden.. even if for a visit.. I don't want to come on too strong. I guess that's part of teh too friendly stereotype. I respect and understand their customs;but, I don't quite know how to follow them. I'm giving you a subject for another blog I guess... :-)

  54. Well; I'm back with more. Here is a link to an article concerning a situation in my area. This is a prime example of some of the ignorance that exists here in the States. It is also example o fthe type of prejudice against socialists that I have to deal with day in and day out. The article made me want to throw up.

  55. @anonymous - yea, swedes are incredibly reserved. its ridiculous sometimes.

    and thanks for the link.

  56. Yeah.. I knwo. about he reserved thing. If I ever get a chance to go there; I think I know how to handle myself. I just have to sort of play it by ear as the old expression goes. No problem with the link. There is more info where that came from if you're ever interested. You hsoudl ahev seen teh North West Arkansas News last night.. oh my God.... THey had some of the most bigoted, self righteous, and ignorant people you've ever seen on there supporting this moron that is flying the confederate flag. I wanted to throw something at my TV set. I can get used to people being reserved becasuse it's much better than putting up with this kind of crap that goes on with people here. I have people's warped, theocratic, and borderline communist like politics literally thrown in my face on a daily basis around here. I'll take people being reserved and being socialist any day over that.

  57. I've actually been to the US. Of course, I was only 9 so I wasn't very aware of politics at all. However, I do remember that my father told me that black people in the US only get bad-payed jobs. Just wanted to say that, for now. Perhaps I'll write more later.

    Anonymous, I'd like to discuss a few things with you, could be interesting. I could tell you about Sweden, politics here, customs etc, you could tell me about the US, stuff there etc, and we could perhaps discuss things. Could be fun. You have MSN or Aim? Send a mail to if you're interested.

    Anyone else interested in discussing things could send me a mail too.

  58. @anonymous - oh the beauty of local news...

    @swede - I love it. enjoy the discussion!

  59. Here is a link to an article produced by the Southern Pverty Law Center. The SPLC is an organization taht works with the FBI in tracking the many many racial hate, nazi, and white supremecy groups in the United States. For those who live in Sweden; be very thankeful for what you have...... and I would stay put if I were you. You're much better off where you are. The following article has some startling information and statistics.

  60. and today a forgotten patient died in a swedish hospital

  61. That's sad... Like I've said many times before.... Everybody has their problems; however,I weigh pros and cons and just try to find places and things that work for me. Bad things happen everywhere.

  62. Of course; patients are forgotten and neglected thousands of times per year here in the States and it's almost never reported by the media. There is information out there to back up the statement that I just made; but, the American media could care less. It happens one time in Sweden and the media is jumping all over it. There is something to be said there. Also; I prefer areas with lower population when you consider my own preferences.

  63. @anonymous - indeed

    @anonymous - fair enough

  64. I've had the same experience, and i sometimes feel bad for my american friend. I believe Swedes in general thinks (wrongly) that they know a lot about American culture. Swedes also seem to think that there is no difference between america and Sweden, exept that americans are fatter and stupider. Therefore Swedes think they are entitled to these prejudice opinions.

    But this is of course generally speaking. I for one does not hold any prejudice against Americans! (Well, maybe some, but i keep them to myself.)

  65. its a very interesting phenomenon. and I thinkyou bring up an interesting point about swedes sense of entitlement.

    Ive always just thought that it was becuase swedes believed themselves to be different that they felt the need to be critical. but you might be onto something with the beliving there is veyr little difference and that is why they can be prejudiced.

    p.s. I love your last comment. it made me chuckle.

  66. Everyone has very different views on topic.

    My thoughts of America is this
    Love the culture.
    Hate their foreign politics.
    Hate that rule of "American dream", if you don't succeed with the "dream" you r stepped over and forgotten.
    Love the people, in that matter that they are very fun to talk to.
    Hate their education system.

    There are stuff in Swedish Culture, politics and stuff that isn't good, i don't deny that.

    But last but not least, that seriously gets me so angry bout USA.. DON'T MIX RELIGION AND POLITICS. DO ONE OR ANOTHER NOT BOTH. IT WILL ONLY CREATE BIGGER GLITCH BETWEEN "Our religion" and "the other religions."...

  67. there definitely are different opinions about america. andhtta is to be expected. but the ones that get me are the blatantly stereotypical ones that somehow are meant to describe a country of 300 million people. its just kin of silly sometimes.

    and Ill agree with the separation of church and state.

  68. How rude to sit and insult the US knowing full well that you grew up there - you should have called them out on this but maybe you were shocked. Its all a part of the phenomenon of saying "vad jag tycker or tänker även om det kränker". The longer you live in Sweden the more you will find that these non-productive orgies of character assassination stem what is known hereabouts as 'The Royal Swedish Envy' or what hip Americans refer to as 'Playa Hatin'.

  69. it is an interesting phenomenon.

    what I think is so strage is that it seems to go against the whole swedish idea of jantelagen and not being better than others. and not to mention that so many swedes say that they abhor any form of national pride and patriotism.

    quite the swedish paradox really.

  70. hollabacksverigeMarch 9, 2009 at 5:03 PM

    The problem (challenge?) I have with alot of Swedes is that they have been brainwashed into believing that because they embrace all things left of center they are "open minded". And that's just what alot of them believe! They have it in their heads that because gay marriage is fine in Sweden, they don't have the death penalty, blah blah blah, they are oh so high and mighty better than Americans. Well I've had to check them on alot of issues. Plus, Swedes won't admit they they have a secret obsession and envy for almost all things American. I think it makes you look pretty sick when you go on and on about how bad America is, yet you turn on the TV and they show Soul Food the HBO series 2 times a week, Friends, SeinField, COPs....shall I go on? So the next time you are suppering with a group of Blond non-Americans tell them to quit their yapping. All this talk about how bad America is - um, how many MPs from Jakobsberg or Rinkeby are there?? Yes you have gay politicians but how about openly religious ones? Why don't you stop making women feel guilty if they want to be full time homemakers. If feminism forces a woman to stay home when what she really wants to do is take care of her man and kids...isn't it just as oppressive as male sexism??

    I could go on and on but I'll stop. Sometimes I get my friends because they are always talking about how close minded and underexposed Americans are. Then I counter by saying, um when was the last time you left Danderyd, Lindingo or Ostermalm? Exactly. So, as you can see we all have our issues not just us Yanks..

  71. Its amazing in a country that considers itself to be so open minded. It is an open mindedness that is contingent on you agreeing with them.

    Hippiecriticalness. It’s a special word I use to describe this sort of attitude.

    The affinity for American goods is something that I have noticed for quite some time now. You cant turn on the TV, go to a movie, the store, buy clothes, and not have some sort of American influence. And Swedes eat it up.

    So Im definitely with you on this.

  72. @hollabacksverige: while I agree with the gist of what you're saying I have a few objections. I agree with everything up to "secret obsession and envy". Swedes do sit on their high horses, but just because they enjoy things from America does not mean that envy America. Most Swedes would rather not have those things than live in America over Sweden. The disagreements incidentally concern quite serious political questions, like the ones you mentioned, and not trivial things like TV. So while I don't Swedes dislike the American _people_ in general, there's seom dislike for policies, and mostly policies of the past eight years.

    That said, Swedes are incredibly narrowminded about, especially, religion, and they do tend to think that their view of the world is value neutral and superior. But hey, like you say, it's Americans too. Most people really. I really think that is a people-thing more than a peoples-thing. Maybe that's just me. Americans are certainly more open-minded about some things, but your 'background understanding' of the world will decide what you're open-minded about, and the fact that Swedes and Americans are so incredibly alike in most cases obscures from the fact that we also have some very deep differences. Both are incredibly narrowminded about Marxism, surprisingly (I actually think in both places, but for different reasons). Lars Leijonborg + all Christian Democrats are openly religious btw. off the top of my head. I sometimes use this argument by Charles Taylor. Memorise it ;)

    "The deafness of many philosophers, social scientists and historians to the spiritual dimension can be remarkable. And this is the more damaging in that it affects the culture of the media and of educated public opinion in general. I take a striking case, a statement, not admittedly by a social scientist, but by a Nobel Laureate cosmologist, Steven Weinberg. I take it, because I find that it is often repeated in the media and in informal argument. Weinberg said (I quote from memory): "there are good people who do good things, and bad people who do bad things, but for good people to do bad things, it takes religion."

    On one level, it is astonishing that anyone who lived through a good part of the 20th Century could say something like this. What are we to make of those noble, well-intentioned Bolsheviks, Marxist materialist atheists to a man (and occasional woman), who ended up building one of the most oppressive and murderous brace of regimes in human history? When people quote this phrase to me, or some equivalent, and I enter this objection, they often reply, "but Communism was a religion," a reply which shifts the goal-posts and upsets the argument.

    But it's worth pondering for a minute what lies behind this move. The "Weinberg principle," if I might use this term, is being made tautologically true, because any set of beliefs which can induce decent people, who would never kill for personal gain, to murder for the cause, is being defined as "religion." "Religion" is being defined as the murderously irrational.

    Pretty sloppy thinking. But it is also crippling. What the speaker is really expressing is something like this: the terrible violence of the 20th Century has nothing to do with right-thinking, rational, enlightened people like me. The argument is then joined on the other side by certain believers who point out that Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, etc., were all enemies of religion, and feel that good Christians like me have no part in such horrors. This conveniently forgets the Crusades, the Inquisition, and much else.

    Both sides need to be wrenched out of their complacent dream, and see that no-one, just in virtue of having the right beliefs, is immune from being recruited to group violence: from the temptation to target another group which is made responsible for all our ills, from the illusion of our own purity which comes from our readiness to combat this evil force with all our might. We urgently need to understand what makes whole groups of people ready to be swept up into this kind of project." from

  73. @Daniel – damn. That’s good stuff.

  74. The thing that pisses me off the most is that people admit such a change in the opinion of the US happen recently. The entire population did not just change when Bush got elected. Non-Americans thought the US was better than it is in the past. Now people think it is worse than it is. A country cannot change as fast as people's opinions about it do. It is and always was lagom. In the middle of being the land where all dreams come true, the land where everyone is rich and happy, and the land where everyone is ignorant, selfish, shallow, and violent. It simply has not deteriorated in 10 years. And the people sure have not. Just foreigners impressions have shifted so tremendously.

    Also, my first week in Gothenburg, I walked into the first floor of my large apartment building and on the roof in large black paint was a Nazi swastika. I have never seen that in the US. And I have lived in all corners of the US (including the south). I was shocked, scared, confused. Couldn't believe that still happened today. It stayed up there for a LONG time. In the US it would have been repainted in one day. Letters would have been sent out to all residents apologizing for the incident and saying that it was done by hoodlums and does not represent the opinion of the apartment company. I saw people go in and out of the building without paying it any attention. Like it was normal. So it goes both ways. Crazy racist and violent people exist everywhere.

  75. The change in opinion has been amazing to watch. Because youre absolutely right. I suppose the argument would be that the change in opinion can happen that quickly because the dislike for America was focused on the Bush administration. But who are we kidding, there is still disdain for the US.

    He Nazi thing is interesting. Some forms of anti-Semitism in Sweden are often accepted to some degree. (notice the somes... this is not a sweeping generalization by any stretch of the imagination.) That is not to say that Sweden is full of Nazis, it is only a comment on Sweden’s dislike for the state of Israel and their support of Palestine. And with that there are people who take it one step further and are openly anti-Semitic. I think that was on display in the most recent war. And especially with the things going on down in Malmö. It’s a damn shame.

  76. Being the world ruler the US is easy to criticize. Slaves have always hated the powerful.

    Why not discuss with them, ask them why they think that. Demand actual discussion? Open conversation? Or take the bull by the horns and outdo their jokes with your own?

    P.S. With the "Welcome to Sweden" you may do yourself more harm than good; incites a negative feeback loop in your view of everything; a totalization.

  77. @m8surf: i've seen swastikas in many places in the US. Maybe you only noticed this one because you were traveling/had your eyes open.

    Is a small portion of the population opposing war policies of Israeli government antisemitism?

    It's also interesting to note the change in perspectives of the Swedish left. In the '60's they were pro Israel. So it hasn't always been the way it's been recently (especially the past few years and intensified in since December '08 - January '09). Also, don't mix a few thousand narrow minded Swedes up with everyone else or call it a general tendency, it just supports the shit-slinging you're tired of Swedes doing to the USA.

  78. @james - you're absolutely right, and usually I do discuss with them. but for some reason, I had reached a point where it just wasn't worth it. it was ust too outlandish really.

    The Welcome to Sweden thing is more of a way of saying welcome to my sweden. welcome to what I see, hear, and experience in my Sweden. Some of it negative, some of it positive, and some of it just kind of ridiculous. some of what I wrote in this post was just absolutely ridiculous.

    @james - opposition is not, but what with attemted burnings of synagogues, burning of israeli flags, the locking out of fans for a tennis match, all of this added up to be more than just a standard protest.

    and from my exeriences, I have only met a handful of people that show any support for Israel. which would suggest it is not a small portion of th epopulation.

    in terms of the generalizations, in both mo post and the comment in question I point out exactly what I am doing "So in the spirit of stereotypical assertions about large groups of people: It seems that as a general rule, the bashing of America is seen as acceptable if not required for true citizenship in any western European country."

    "notice the somes... this is not a sweeping generalization by any stretch of the imagination.) That is not to say that Sweden is full of Nazis, it is only a comment on Sweden’s dislike for the state of Israel and their support of Palestine."

    I try to be very careful in that sense, because you're right, otherwise I just fall into the same trap.

    the shift in policies towards israel in Sweden is avery interesting. and I think the intensification of it in the recent past is amazing.

  79. I spent 13 years in the US before coming back to Bulgaria for a few years.

    It is impossible to understand a foreign culture and its people unless you go there and stay for a while. It seems just as impossible to keep people from making know-it-all comments on other cultures. There are just too many stereotypes that are not going away any time soon. It's just the way it goes.

    Swede, I thing your silent way was right on.

  80. Hi again, I am the Anonymous guy from the post above.

    PS: Speaking of stereotypes, I recently came across this phrase in a short story by Raymond Chandler, the American writer: "Whey I woke up I had a hangover like four Swedes."

    Goes to show you.

  81. those stereotypes often are really ingrained. Regardless of how wrong they might be. Or right.

    It does make things interesting though Even if it does result in me sitting quietly while people bash the country I consider home.

  82. Didnt really bother to read all comments except for the ones that caught my eye but still felt compelled to write something.

    I agree with you that comments made solely on personal views and ignorance sparks up a patriotic side of you you never knew was there, and Im all for standing up for your home country.

    Someone up there shouted "Leftish media" and fair enough in Sweden but come on? What bout the rest of Europe and.. oh.. the world? I wouldnt stand listening to some bimbo/mimbo ranting on bout fat americans, but Id have to listen to someone with some fact based accusations. (Of which the US is actually guilty of).

    And you know there are lots of them. Sad but true. Im gonna go with hybris being my favorite one.

    Cant really decide which way I went, being part american, swedish and asian. I think Ill root for the world.^^

  83. It's interesting that there hasn't been much mention of the American habit of bashing the rest of the world. I have encountered this in the US in person, online and in the US media. Indeed Jon Stewart this week just past had a great piece on The Daily Show about blowhards like Glenn Beck and O'Reilly saying 'do you want us to become like Sweden'? Then there's the whole 'freedom fries' and 'all French are cheese-eating surrender monkeys' thing. The rhetoric can be as ugly as anything you found at you dinner party.

  84. @Lilly - that works. Because you're right, there are plenty of facts to use, but it's the same old tired stereotypes that really start to get to me.

    @Lee - I'll agree with that point, but only to a degree. Because as you put it blowhards like O'Reilly tend to be on the extreme. What gets paraded on political talk shows, be it left or right, tend to be the extremes. Unfortunately.

    What I've found though is that the bashing of the US tends to be the status quo in much of Europe.

    In terms of freedom fries though... Ive got nothing. Just embarrassing really.

    @James - see above.

  85. I think 300 meters is pretty generous. Sometimes I purposefully walk an indirect route back to my car, as to break the point A to point B bubble world.

    Also I think its best to acknowledge our problems and not take them as personal insults.

    I have a professor from China who is always bringing up his own countrys shortcomings. It would be annoying if he did acknowledge them.

    9-11 and moon landing conspiracies really shouldnt be tolerated.

  86. Absolutely, and to acknowledge shortcomings is incredibly important if you ever hope to have a meaningful conversation about a culture, government, country.

    However, there also comes a point when the gross generalizations are taken too far and serve only to drag the discussion into the mud. Which this conversation clearly did.

  87. I think you are right.

    It would also be annoying if a country picked whatever it was best at and then proceeded to compare itself to the rest of the world.

    By definition one country has to recycle more per capita than most others. This happens to be Sweden.

    The US also invented and perfected the internet. Maybe if we encounter Sweden-is-best-at comparisons, we can just counter with "your country (sweden) doesn't invent anything," which, of course, isn't true but they do probably invent less than Americans. Does that make Swedes un-inventive?

    Better-than-thou-ness is, of course, so charming.

  88. Charlemagne in The Economist a few weeks back was spot on ('Those exceptional Swedes'). It is an unfortunate fact that Swedes are world beaters in quite a few ways (yes, Swedes invent more per capita than in the US; tenth most patents/year in the world, and 8th in total R&D with a 9mil population). It is unfortunate, because it adds to a certain smugness which is difficult to say anything about. Fortunately, smugness is a vice in Sweden, to the point where it is sometimes frowned upon to be proud. If Swedes could learn how to be proud without being smug, it would be a very good place indeed.

    (Good post this apparently; all discussion, and I think we've learned that there are reasonable people in the US and Sweden both.)

    Anyway, in Sweden when people have the chance to bash someone and show some of this pride, it often comes out as smugness. And in Sweden, only those who stand above you can rightfully be bashed. Perhaps that is some consolation?

  89. Good post Daniel.

    Sweden is amazing! I think the world should really use it as a model.

    If only I could surgically remove my state, Maryland, well maybe not Maryland, but California or Oregon, I could be smug too.

    I think a good analogy for the USA is if Japan had absorb China (sorry China). Or if Sweden had to absorb some highly agrarian piece of land (sorry mid-west).

  90. Actually...

    Wait a second Daniel, am I to believe that Slovenians are the most inventive people in the world, according to your metric, which gives no weight to quality of contribution (swivel sweeper).

    Keep in mind that I don't want to actually prove that any country is more inventive than any other because neither you nor I invented anything, so its stupid to claim the inventions of people you happen to live near.

    Basically using your country rather than personal accomplishments as a point of pride is really stupid.

  91. Ha! Well, a good case can be made that both countries made enormous contributions to the world. Americans are rightly proud of probably more significant contributions than any other country the past century or so. Sweden are proud of mostly widely used mechanical and practical inventions like ball bearings, safety matches, tetra paks, the propeller, the blow torch, the vacuum cleaner, the zip lock, saftey pin, saftey belt etc etc. It's more than you'd think. The Nobel Prizes would not have been as prestigious had Sweden been less prominent in the world of science and invention (Slovenia is less prominent, although of course a terrific country where I've had some really good grilled food and ajvar.)

    I'm gonna go off on this tangent because I enjoy the subject. Please tell me what you think!

    Whether or not one should or could be proud of one's nation is a question I currently struggle with (my dissertation is on Sweden and political theory). A good case can be made that a certain culture breeds more in terms of innovation, or peace, or 'democracy' or what have you. Influential historical sociologists have argued that the protestant influence on the world led to liberal democracy in northwestern Europe and the USA (ie the countries that were already or formerly protestant), but dictatorships of the left and right in southeastern catholic Europe. This is historical accident. Under other circumstances, a muslim or catholic world would have seemed more 'liberal' or peaceful. But if you analyse what in your culture helped make this or that contribution — say the protestant work ethic in America — than you can take the best from it and try to add something yourself. I mean, it's circular, but it has to be.

    Your last sentence is quintessentially American and Swedish both. To be proud of your individual accomplishments, and not that of your country or family or religion, is something quite American (in places) and Swedish (everywhere). Other cultures put more emphasis on e.g. the family. If your family did something, you did it. If your son did something, you did it. You can be proud of your family. Why not your nation then? It is true of all cultures that certain truths seem 'obviously' true.

  92. Hi Daniel,

    I did drive my car to work today, when I could have ridden my bike.

    I guess pride is sort of silly in general.

    But I did want to point out a trivial piece of irony:

    The propeller was apparently (wikipedia) invented by a Swede while living in the United States, but I'm pretty sure it was his roots that allowed him to invent it, or was it the environment, or was it who cares we have a propeller...

    Hopefully the USA will become more like Sweden in many ways soon, with high speed rail, health care ect in the works.

  93. Well there you go :) Sweden can and has learnt from America; and vice versa. But it does matter, b/c we'll only have new propellers etc under certain circumstances. Your example is actually spot on:

    "He then improved the ship design with two screw-propellers moving in different directions (as opposed to earlier tests with this technology, which used a single screw). However, the Admiralty disapproved of the invention, which led to the fortunate contact with the encouraging American captain Robert Stockton who had Ericsson design a propeller steamer for him and told him to bring his invention to the United States of America, as it would supposedly be more welcomed in that place. As a result, Ericsson moved to New York in 1839."

    He invented it in Sweden, but at the time was only allowed to flourish in America. Obviously both inventiveness and being encouraged to try and use your inventions are needed. So I have to care, because I'm political theorist! Anyway, enough of that. Point taken.

    You worked today? I just called my mom in Sweden (I live in England). She was working too. Relax people!

  94. @Daniel: Excellent idea to be proud of accomplishments and merits (I made it here, I created this); terrible idea to be proud of genetic and cultural circumstance (I was born here). Regarding the nation, the same.

    Take the 'influential historical sociologists' who claim 'the protestant influence on the world led to liberal democracy in northwestern Europe and the USA (ie the countries that were already or formerly protestant)' and that 'innovation, or peace, or 'democracy'' led from that. 'Peace' is only the illusion is of peace, because modern liberal democracies (let's not forget most countries, even dictatorships are now called democracies) usually have peace at home, but are dependent on war in distant lands to support the needs of the middle classes. Perhaps in this sense dictatorships are more honest, because they're often openly warlike. Additionally, how does this theory explain Prussian/German dictatorship (enlightened absolutism, national socialism)? Northern Germany was protestant and created a dictatorship left unmatched even in the dreams of most of today's African, Asian, Slavic and Middle Eastern dictators.

    P.S. George Carlin on Pride:

  95. James: I disagree, you can be proud of your nation if by collective effort it achieves something good. A naion simply is people of similar disposition and culture, created by a shared history. It is also almost necessary to feel affinity with your nation, as one formerly did with one's city state or polis, in order for democracy to work. A political people, a neutrally defined demos, ensures that people (ideally) vote for the best of their whole society, not just their group. Comp. how people would vote if all of Europe was made into a big nation state.. (see e.g. the Eurovision song contest voting).

    Regarding 'modern liberal democracies' ... usually have peace at home, but are dependent on war in distant lands to support the needs of the middle classes,' I'd like some examples. This is hardly true of the Scandinavian countries for example. I can only think of one country in fact where it might be true, and that is the USA.

    The historical sociologists referred to were Max Weber, Barrington Moore Jr., Theda Skocpol and in the last case Michael Mann. In his two books 'fascists' and 'the dark side of democracy: explaining ethnic cleansing' he argues, with decent evidence, that Germany and France were the dividing lines in Europe; they could have gone either way. He argues that what happened was that 'people' in 'rule by the people' the 'dominant political ideal of our times' was interpreted 'ethnos' in Germany, and this for some historical reasons, and many countries to the southeast. In the protestant countries it was thought of as 'demos' as said above, since the Enlightenment ideals of individuals made more sense according to the protestant sola fide. I.e. you identified yourself as an individual more than in terms of your material or social position. This was esp. true in the Lutheran nations. It is a 1000 page argument so you'll have to take my word that he's arguing this, but both books are worth reading. That liberal democracy and capitalism -- esp. the modern rational and systematic way of organising life -- came out of protestantism is I think hardly disputed. At least not that protestant christianity was a deciding factor. Note that more than a few are unhappy both with versions of liberal democracy and with capitalism... (so I'm not 'giving credit' to protestants here; I'm trying to exaplin why things happened as they did, and why they are as they are now)

  96. @Daniel: Thanks.

    Being 'proud of your nation if by collective effort it achieves something good' *is* about merit, not default of being born there. So, essentially you do agree with me on that point.

    Feelings of affinity to a nation are not equivalent to national pride. And yes, democracy is built upon a state (nation, people, ethnos...) that indoctrinates and reinforces through media and education shared experiences that are in turn projected onto a common vision. (Without the vision and pride of merit the nation can't be mobilized).

    Re: demos. Modern liberal democracies are by that definition corrupt, because we don't vote for the best of society, but for our own interests. As Aristotle would say, Swedish democracy is a perversion of the parliamentary system. The elections system is an apparatus of the government which measures how best to suit and/or regulate our material desires in relation to the market.

    Examples of liberal democracies requiring war abroad would simply fall under what in other cases is called post-colonialism. Foremost examples: Great Britain, USA, Australia, Germany, France, Israel, a "neutral" country like Sweden rides on this wave, sending minimal support to war abroad. If you look at the USA for instance, it is, as critics say, doing the dirty work of liberal democratic nations. Securing resources and spreading liberal democratic (univeraslist) ideals.

  97. James: Thanks. I will have to disagree again I'm afraid, but thanks for arguing!

    First, the post-colonial analysis is wrong for the Scandinavian countries, and most of Europe. Including the UK. None of these coutries 'require' war to secure resources. In fact, America's war has been extremely disruptive. The dependency on oil -- which is the only resource that may have to be 'secured' in this way -- is also bigger in America than anywhere else (over 1/3 of world consumption). E.g. Sweden and Norway gets over half of all energy used, and almost all energy used in production, from hydropower. Milton Freedman's The World is Flat argues that if the US were to make independency of oil their next 'moon project' -- independent within ten years -- this would solve almost all of America's current problems (war in the middle east, terrorism, environment).

    As for Sweden sending 'minimal support', we do take more refugees per capita than any other country, and we give more humanitarian aid than any other country as a percentage of GDP. Södertälje has taken more refugees than the US and Canada combined. Sweden also consistently only sends help where we could not get anything 'in return'. This is very much in line with the Swedish ethos. Where so has happened, as in South Africa, there has been massive critique.

    I agree that liberal democracy is corrupt, but 'liberal' means different things in different places. The Swedish new liberals at the turn of the century (19th-20th) interpreted liberalism as a primarily egalitarian doctrine. Compare the Commission of Inquiry on Democracy (Demokratiutredningen, SOU 2000:1): 'Every citizen binds herself to show tolerance and respect, especially to those with whom one for various reasons disagrees. The basic value [of democracy, or equality] gives one reasons for empathy and solidarity, for a devotion and responsibility which goes above self-interest, family, gender, ethnicity, religion etc. '

    It is true that ppl even in Sweden vote more and more in 'their' interest (the old adage was that what's in the communities interest is in your interest) but this is a corruption of the Swedish model, brought about because people are increasingly (and bafflingly) impressed by economic orthodoxy. That orthodoxy is Anglo-American, and very different from most of the rest of Europe.

  98. @John, Daniel, and James – I’m pretty sure its because of you guys that I love writing this blog. Because, seriously, that was good stuff. Just a great discussion. Pride in ones nation is something that I find incredibly interesting. Especially here in Sweden where, as has been pointed ut, pride is something you try to avoid but sometimes comes out as smugness.

    Yet, look around you. The interior design of the subway cars are based on blue and yellow. Flags often grace the busses. A Swede (provided the Swede is outside the Swedish border) will gladly tell you that Sweden is an amazing place and has the best ______fill in the blank really. I think Daniel nailed it on the head early on, if Sweden could learn to be proud without being smug it would have figured it out.

    What I find interesting is that both Daniel and James could easily be arguing the same thing. That pride, when falsely held ( just because I’m Swedish I’m superior) isn’t good, but pride in ones accomplishments (because I taught a child to read or, some might even argue, a more social approach, as in pride that the Swedish model works) can be beneficial. I might even argue that pride can lead to a furthering of those merits and achievements as people recognize the importance of accomplishing something good.

    Anyway, thanks. Because that was fun to read.

  99. @Daniel:

    Sweden imports at least 1/3 of its oil from Russia, more than from Norway, as I often hear claimed. Russian, like the USA, is a nation at war (often based on resources). Another 1/3 of Sweden's oil is imported from Denmark (where that oils comes from more specifically I do not know). Denmark is in any event at war, "peace operations" - supplying troops to International Security Assistance Force and flirting with the invasion of Iraq already six years ago.

    War: (I wasn't able to post this in the comment box.)

    Note: I'm arguing more from an ontological and psychological standpoint, trying to understand the function of the state and the people, rather than doing some sort of Chomsky-like, this plus this plus in the reports = that.

    Elections over the past decade give two options 1) fear and 2) fear of fear, that is "be afraid of the Muslim threat" and "be afraid of the fear of Muslim (truly only Islamic though) threat". In other words, over the past decade most liberal democratic states have increasinginly incorporated fear into their body and thus increased their ability for coercion and terror within their borders - motivating all controversial changes with fear of terrorism. In Sweden the recently hot debates on FRA, IPRED, ACTA, etc demonstrate this - they're all motivated by fear of fundamentalist threats. The horizons of democracy are thus being directed more and more towards war.

    The West is collectively involved in a mutlifronted war, trying to maintain control over oil, which feeds terrorism as you pointed out. In turn this feeds fear of terrorism, which we then war against. Terrorism is also caused by global economic inequalities.... with our economic war we are also creating a heretofore unseen global system of inequality, which seems hardly noticeable as we retreat to gated communities (Swedes for instance feel more and more unsafe and want more and more locked down housing options). This seems hardly noticeable though even at the level of the nation or EU. Yet "leftist" Zapatero kept "Africa" out of Spain (thus Europe). The USA plans how to build a wall around Mexico, perhaps even south Florida. Then we have the even more invisible walls erected around the camps where we intern the victims of our war, immigrants and asylum seekers, who together equal a new Trelleborg arriving to and interned in Sweden each year. And some think the US has to be fighting abroad to hunt down the "bad guys", otherwise they will come over here and organize, or at the least, send money to the Islamic evils within. To monitor them we take measures that work against our traditional ideals of tolerance and rights.

    It is precisely the oil dependecy, as you say, that creates a war on terrorism and to some extent disrupts the world and creates the war in distant lands, draining our economies (as "predicted" in Orwell's "1984"), mobilizing the poulations between world police forces and islamophobia. And I'm aware of the bloated and naive Swedish humanism, which is undoubtedly part, but not all of the motivtion to its humanitarian practice. The immigration policies, as it is often calously remarked, are also, in part, due to a need for cheap labor and a growing population in a country riddled with the problems of the late social democracy complicated by a global capitalist world.


  100. ...The Commision on Inquiry on Democracy stands for the ideals that the United States (above all in our examples) is trying to enforce abraod. Obviously, I believe that succesful arguments can be made that without the expansionist tactics of the US liberal democracy would not work -- and yes I'm aware that this expansionism is at the same time corroding the system. If you consider the export of democratic ideals - we support tolerance at every turn, yet this tolernace is always backed by a hidden doctrine of intolerance/zero tolerance. Here the truly imperalistic nature of liberalism kicks in and we see that tolerance really means following western means of tolerance and the sacrifice of personal desires for Western universalist ethics and economics.

    @HairySwede: Very cool

  101. Hairy: I bet you thought that was the end!

    James: I agree with a lot of this, if not the universalist dystopic tone. Sweden and America act in very different ways, people and government both, and decisions are also legitimated in very different ways. Sweden is essentially a deliberative democracy where the USA is a 'conflict democracy'. The USA was contructed with a view to checking potential conflict between people with widely differing ideas of the good. Sweden grew organically out of a non-feudal state of self-governing farmers (at least half the land was owned by the farmers historically) and half a millennia of Lutheranism (and arguably a thousand years of independence, but at least 500 years). Sweden was until the 1960's or so almost wholly homogeneous -- and Swedishness still dominates Sweden, even with 15% or so immigrants (many of which are Danish, Finnish etc.). Swedish values are not naive humanism, but what Swedes often take to be commonsensically true. So in this regard, Swedes think differently from Americans (and most of the rest of the world.)

    Inicidentally, we have more troops in Afganistan than Denmark. Mazar-i-Sharif is Sweden's responsibility. This is labeled a peace keeping mission, with mandate of course from the UN. Keeping n mind that I agree with a lot of what you said -- it seemed very close to what Judith Shklar called the 'liberalism of fear' -- it is possible for countries to send troops while not doing it (intentionally) to spread values. What is 'naive' about Swedish universalism is not the values themselves (which serve their country very well, as a brief look at the various 'indicies' will confirm) but the fact that it is incomprehensible to a Swede that they are not shared by all. Unlike the American policy to spread the values of liberalism, 'our way of life', Swedes just think it's a natural progression towards how Talibans and others would think were they just a little more enlightened about the state of things.

  102. Sorry, a small correction. We have less troops than Denmark but a larger contingent with our own area of responsibility (like Norway). The point was anyway that 'we' are at war as much as Denmark in any event. The war in Afghanistan has literally nothing to do with oil, at least as far as we're concerned. But of course values and fear. In Sweden troops are legitimised as helping people to a better life (typically, the Swedish troops have installed more deep mountain water drills in mountain villages than any other contingent), which is part of unintentionaly spreading naive humanist values of course, and trying to stem the world's largest market for opium (Carl Bildt explicitly said this on his blog recently.) Many Swedes want to the troops out because it's not 'our affair'. Not b/c people are dying, that happens in war (but they should have a fighting chance so people want better equipment down there, not Toyota landrovers).

  103. James: Sorry, forgot the Commission of Inquiry. The US is far from a deliberative democracy. That excerpt aside (I'm sure everyone could agree to it) the Inquiry found that what follows from such values is democracy as a critical rational dialogue with agreed judgement as its end product. America is typically liberal in that democracy is seen as the aggregation of individual preferences. That consensus should be the end product is foreign. You'd also notice that if most people in a society BELIEVED in those values you would have something that resemebled Sweden much more than America.. It seems to me that Americans often believe in economic orthodoxy and think that idividuals are essentially self-interested.

  104. I recognize this from lots of swedes. It's kind of strange when you put it togheter with most swedes also calling themselves open minded and very unracist.
    To me, it all started making sense when I studied the History of Knowledge at Stockholm Uni.
    The way swedes bash America(ns) is much like 17th century philosophers (mainly from England and France) that writes alot about rites in the primitive cultures of Africa and South America. Pure prejudice and - at best - second hand sources :)

    By the way. Great blog. Very interesting to read about the Swedish society and the Swedes from another perspective. I'm RSS:ing you from now on :)


  105. I dont really think its a insult when your friends start to count up negative things about America when you are present. Stuff like this you might have to get used to, and not only about countries, but religion, politics in sweden, tv series, books etc etc.

    I mean its alot easier if you dont take it all that serious. Somethings im sure you can agree with, somethings you can explain exactly how it is and somethings you can add for balance. Or add stuff compared to europe/sweden.

    If you are selfcritical, they will be selfcritical and proberly start to rant all sorts of negative things about Sweden aswell. And you will all end up with a few attributes in each country that faces each other. Like better candy in sweden, and better fastfood in america or something.

    Dont really need to take the bashing serious, because i doubt the saliva is sprouting out of their mouthes when they condem your country and i doubt they get all red faced when you say something negative about sweden :)

    Another example of cultures, and medias/ways different social behaviour could be Sweden vs Israel now.

    A swedish journalist witnessed something in Israel a while back and have now written a story about it, because it has become fresh again because of the new jersey scandal about organ trafficking.

    Anyway that journalist was a witness, had talked to alot of familys etc etc. He never said he had proof for anything, all he wanted was to shed light on it so it could be investigated. But regardless, it was all posted in a swedish newspaper, a free media. And Israel went all crazy, they should had asked aftonbladet to appologize, but instead they asked the swedish government who got nothing to do with it. They demand an appology from the government, for something they havent been apart of, and if they would give one they would actually go against swedish laws of free expression.

    Thats something about culture crocks, Israel obviously dont fully understand what free media means and what kind of laws a democratic country like Sweden has.

  106. Haha, its really interesting to look at how America generally sees Sweden. I am an expat in Sweden myself, but not American. I recently took a look at how - one of my absolutely favourite reads on the net, and American - sees Sweden.

    Condensed, the result was: A land of tedious, cucumber-minding socialists who fast adapt things like Spotify and also navigate the seas with stealth ships.

    I've got links to articles in my blog entry as proof :)

  107. Very interesting discussion going on here.

    But is there actually anyone who takes stereotypes seriously? Most people I know just play with it and agrees with them for the laughs...

    But then again I'm Swedish.

  108. @Alexander: So your stereotype is that Swedes aren't as likely to buy stereotypes and you fit that stereotype, Interesting. :-)

  109. I somehow missed all kinds of comments here. sorry about that everyone. a good discussion going on though. still. over a year after the original post, very fun to see.

  110. i have nothing to say except.

    this makes me angry... ><

    criticism is fine, it leads to betterment, but when your criticizing a country, and its people, thats bad enough, but to have a person sitting at the table from THAT country, thats just insulting/rude.

    its not only the unfactual critisim that bugs me, its the unbelievbeably rude table manners that drives me up the wall.

    i know that wasn't the point of the post, buti was raised with a high value for table manners... -__-

  111. some people struggle. and the us is always fair game it seems.

  112. This is such an interesting discussion.
    I'm Canadian in Sweden and for some reason Swedes LOVE Canadians.
    I've had many situations where they hear the accent, are unsure of you, and as soon as you utter the magic words '...but I'm Canadian'. You get like the 'Oh, that's OK then!' reaction.

    Except that many of the bashings you're describing above (and the ones I hear) exist in Canada also!
    The driving, the recycling, the junk food. It feels like it's just simply cool in Sweden to bash the US without actually knowing what they don't like about it.

    I have yet to hear one backed-up and intelligent opinion on why the US (and Canada then I guess also) is so bad.

  113. Im swedish but i lived in Phoenix for one year. I also have relatives in conneticut, denver and manhattan. i've been to probably 20 states (which i think its pretty good work for a 19year old!). ive been around so to say.

    my relationship with the us is kind of a 'love/hate' relationship. some of my best friends are americans, so is my boyfriend of 2 years. i am moving to long beach, ca in one month to study, so obviously america has a special place in my heart.

    still tho, i find myself bashing america sometimes to my swedish friends. good examples of this would be when we get into dicussions about the bush administration, drugs, 'the right to bear arms', american that are so ignorant they dont even know (or care to find out) where their own country are located on a worldmap.. pretty much the things america get bashed for all the time.

    its not til afterwards i realize what ive said. i mean, how can long so much to go back to the us, bore my swedish friends with endless stories from phoenix, and still bash?

    honestly, and sadly, i think it all has do to with pierpressure and the fact that its just the norm to dislike america.

    ive read the comments on this page, and i find them all very interesting. im gonna make it my mission from now on to stop bashing :) it doesnt make anyone happier.

    forget about all the stuff going on in the past. lets focus on the future. lets cheer Obama on. Lets not (!) listen to Bill f'ing O'Reilly. ;D

    love, and let love.

  114. @toronto - it is interesting watching how people respond to canadians as opposed to americans. and especially how willing people ar to accept them.

    @Lolah - I think you are on to something with the peer pressure. that once someone starts, it just becomes a thing where everyone piles it on without even really thinking. its a shame.

  115. I am from Sweden, and i dont speak fluent english (so dont get silly over my grammar skills) but i do feel i have to express my self and to some what half of a degree defend my countrymen as well as my own us bashing.
    I should probably ad that I am a little "rasist" against americans and germens. Moore specific Germens who do leave their country and come to Sweden in "toobigtodrive" motorhomes(husbil/husvagn), and americans who dont leave their country. Because americans who do mostly seem nice.
    So why is it then ok to bash the us.
    Well, For starters I don't like the fact that a nation so powerful has a president who can't answer the question "How old is the earth". He cant! Not because he do not know, but half of the voters are christian fanatics.( obs! Half is a word demonstrating my feeling of the problem, not from a study)
    Then you have threatened my country with millitary actions if Usama was here. Our "grundlag" (constitution) says it is illegal to give any prissoner away to where he would have a chance of getting the deth penalty. I can see your point, he's a bastard, but you dosn't seem to be able to see mine.
    I feel it strange to me that your lobby organisations from hollywood came to the us goverment and they sent agents and diplomats to take care of the piratebay servers. Fine if they had not used illegal methods to take them.
    Then the war! well its not that dramatic but a very big point for me and should be for you too. Some history. 9/11. usama. afganistan. ok i can buy that. But then Iraq. We (the UN. see the irony) sent many qualified people to Iraq with Hans blix as the lead inspector, and he foud no wepons. he evan said that there could be no wepons. Iraq was just not there yet. America ofc dont care about something not america did so ofc there where wepons of mass destuction in Iraq. Well, there where no bombs besides those usa had given to them. But the big thing, it had nothing what so ever with 9/11. NOTHING! You just whanted to go to war because it was cool. Or maby oil. anyways, there are alot of things wrong with every single country in the world. America just seems to excel at doing everything kingsize.
    Did you know that hanging is still a valid punishment in the us (Washington and New Hampshire).

    We/I dont have all the right in the world too judge you. But dammit we should be able to bash.

  116. so basically.
    I am saying that you are agressiv, impatient, fanatic, revenge hungry, sneaky, easy to fool, bullys and bombgiving.

    I must apologize. This is not how i truly feel about USA. But its theese things that lay on top. I love jazz, love you nature, Love the industrius spirit. But i cant help it. Usa has tried to say "we are sorry" ( but you have a long way to go. That thing before about you beeing to nice. well In sweden everything takes longer, it takes time to make friends. and it takes time to forgett almost a decade of stupidity. We see you as a people with a responsibility. not like mindless sheep under a great leader. You are not a new nation with Obama, you are still for a few years the country that ellected Bush. twice

  117. Fascinating blog, I love the issues you bring up. Welcome to the arrogance of Swediots.. Being a Swede who likes America, I face that discouragement everyday.

    Keep your head up and don't let it bring you down. Never forget and let go either, remember the compassion and empathy of where you come from.

  118. @anonymous – the US has plenty of things that need to be fixed. Agreed. Plenty of things to be ashamed of. Agreed. But it wouldnt be hard to draw up a similar list for damn near any country. And that’s what makes this so interesting to me. That for some reason, it is socially acceptable to bash the US.

    @Michelle – it really is an interesting question and one that I come into contact with on a regular basis because of my background. It’s always interesting to hear because so many of the people who do the bashing have never actually been to the country. Granted, that shouldn’t be a prerequisite for forming an opinion, but it sure helps.

  119. You must know that not all swedes think of Americans in this way.

  120. absolutely. and I have met many who don't think this way at all, nor do they blatantly throw around stereotypes as reasons for hating the us.

  121. This thread has at times both depressed and cheered me, but I just wanted to respond to @Mikey way upthread - He has issues with the American Dream - which he has gotten completely wrong, so I am not surprised. The American Dream is one of optimism and success, it isn't something that comes around just the once and/or you get left behind. It is about striving. It is about betterment in whatever form that may be. I hate to go wiki - but here it is plain and simple: "The American Dream is a national ethos of the United States of America in which democratic ideals are perceived as a promise of prosperity for its people. In the American Dream, first expressed by James Truslow Adams in 1931, citizens of every rank feel that they can achieve a "better, richer, and happier life."

    That is certainly why my family emigrated to the US. And it worked.

    Mikey also seems to have a problem with the US education system, which I guarantee that he knows nothing about. In a huge population such as the US', there will be low results from some school districts in some states. But there are everyday successes as well. Where do they think all those Nobel prize winning American scientists came from? Some public schools in the US are very good. It depends on the students much of the time.

    And just in general, why in the America in WW2 bashing does no western european EVER mention the pacific theatre? Very self centered viewpoint to leave 1/2 the war out...just because it wasn't nearby.

  122. some great points and good work on popping in the quote, even if it did come from wiki.

  123. I just read your last posting about doing the taxes, and how awfully much we pay in taxes here in Sweden. My American boyfriend was struck by astonishment when I told him how much I paid in taxes compared to my incomes. "But that sounds as what we are paying!!" I don't know, talk about prejudices.

    No, it's not fun when people are bashing your home country.

    And I have met quite strange opinions abot phenomena here in Sweden from Americans who have never been here. For instance that we have to take care of our old churches (the buildings) instead of building new ones. People have to you know in countries that aren't so prosperous. I didn't know what to say about this.

    And by the way I'm leftist, and that's really not a good thing in the US! And I have become more and more by the years.

    I get A LITTLE tired over all the talk about our high taxes. I don't mind paying taxes for all our best (and have never done during my over 30 years in work life). For our kids to get decent education, sick people to get health care, old people to get decent nursing homes and so on.

    And I belong to the middle-class in Sweden ( with over 6 years on college), have belonged to it my whole life (grew up in the over middle-class too I think).


  124. its true that when looking at the income tax at certain levels, it isnt that far away from an american income tax. however, the overall tax burden in Sweden is much higher than in the US. that takes into account things like sales tax. Oregon has none for example, so it oesnt take long for that tax burden to get above the US tax burden.

    but as you mention, some people dont mind it. it comes down to what everyone values and is willing to pay for.

  125. OMG! I love this, simply because I live in Sweden and being half spanish half american made my life a bit harder here I would say. I never felt so discriminated in my life! and the fact that I am jewish makes it all worse. I have heard alot of ppl talking shit about the states, that americans dont have manners, that we are lazy, that we are dirty, that we are racist...and lemme tell ya something SWEDES ARE TOO!! I lived in central MN for years and never felt different( except for the height) but here I feel like an alien, like I don't belong here...maybe because my swedish is not excatly good, but I've been here for less than a year and I haven't got the chance to take any classes, everything I have learnt if from the tv, my daughters öppet skolan and my hubby. So I know the feeling of have to sit and listen to other ppl talking crap about the States but I usually dont remain in silence for too long.

    These ppl to me need to learn that the are not even near super humans as they think they are, and that are superior than us. I just think also that is outrageous that they can talk shit about the US and other "inmigrants" as they like to call people that aren't blonde ore properly swedish, but if u say something about it then u are racist, so I guess only swedes have the right to talk about other countries or other cultures.

    Also have u ever tried to tell swedes that they actually dont have manners when they eat? and that eat french fries with ur hands its ok!!!! dont use the knife when u eat its ok!!! but make sounds when u eat, talk with ur mouth full of food and eat like the world is about to end! NOT OK!

    SO if any swedes reads this, please look at urself in the mirror when u eat, also please try not to wear the H&M uniform that all swedes wear, maybe then u will look a bit more normal to me. OH and also ur english sucks!

    I guess I dont like swedes...well I only like two :)

  126. the H&M uniform cracks me up every time.

  127. There is much I have to say on this (as an American in Stockholm with Swedish friends), but I will be brief.

    After having a look at the horrible American t.v. shows that are played here (some that I never knew existed) and other sources of information, I can see where these stereotypes come from! I don't know anyone who had a "Sweet 16" party like on MTV or anyone that would live in a mansion with Hugh Hefner.

    And as posted above, lumping almost 300 million people together is a bit much. Each state is like its own country.

    My favorite quote from a Swede so far is: "I like to judge people as individuals, but I hate America". to that I asked, "Have you ever been there?". NO!

    Don't get me wrong, there is plenty that sucks about the U.S. and it could learn a lot from the European way of thinking. But there are lots of things that I love and always will like encouragement of being an individual and choices as a consumer.

    But I do find that people who have studied or worked there tend to have a very different and more positive view. And I am commonly asked why I would move here from a warm place like Florida.

  128. very true, I noticed something similar. the people that hated the US the most had ever actually been there. Those who had travelled extensively were much more open. I suppose that is probably true regardless of where you go.

    and also... TV. seriously. it hurts a little to watch the stuff that gets exported.

  129. Really I would have reacted if someone bashed on America about 12-15 years ago. That's because of all the poor choices (only looking up lately) I was amazed when bush was elected over Al Gore. Sure there was probably some cheating involved. But when you get to pick between a good leader and a man who doesn't seem to have the brain to open a door i would simply assume 99.9% of the population would go for the leader.

    What really bothers me is the way US elections work. As you may have noticed, here in Sweden we have about 7 major political parties (will never admit SD into the major parties category). Over in the US you have two. The idea is proposturous that in a country with such a large population opinions would be so strictly devided. And also the winner takes all in the US elections. Simply disregarding 50% of the country most of the time. In my eyes that's not a good democracy.

    I'm in on the politics subject but it's because I think it's the main reason people bash. Sure i know there's LOADS of great people in the us. But the ones we see on documentaries are usually the bad side. And clearly, since it's a documentary we take it's the truth.

    There's not much to it really. People believe what they hear and make stupid assumptions.

  130. I have been in the same situation. My father and almost my entire family don't like America and constantly bash the place. It's so annoying, so to get even i bash Sweden. The conversation ends in a battle, loudly or silently. I tell them no country is perfect, but at least in America a majority of the people say hello when you walk past them. So living here in Sweden, I remain as American as possible. Yes I am also swedish, but honestly... I'm more proud to be an American. But as it turns out, a lot of the young people love America and Americans. So for my age group, being 18 and going to school here, they enjoy me! A little bit too much if you ask me. But the elderly and middle-aged people take pitty upon my American ways. Well.. I know that they are full of shit and don't know any better. So I can't hate them. Plus I know I was brought up in a more accepting environment. To do wrong or to stand out in Sweden seems like a crime. To NOT stand out or be foward, whether friendly or rude(hopefully friendly), back home is unamerican. Let's just say, I'm excited for graduation and returning to america!! or Spain!!

  131. I think the reason many western European countries love to criticise America is that the US is just so present on the international political stage. I mean, let's face it, they basically rule most of the world, and they let you know it.

    One can hardly expect the ruled to love the ruler...

    Anyway, just a quick hi, I'm new to this blog, came across it as I'm thinking of moving to Sweden. Thanks for many informative articles!

    I like to do country-bashing myself, mostly whatever foreign country I happen to be living in, at the moment that would be France.

  132. It might seem strange to comment on an old article several years after it has been written, but I think many people might still read the article - and all the comments - and find it very interesting, and not the least relevant even today.
    In my case, for instance. I found the blog searching for information on moving back to Sweden being emigrant for 2 years. However, I do not feel being Swedish even though one of my double citizenships is Swedish and I spent half my life there. I try to combine the best of the two citizenships/upbringing in my daily life. That includes trying to say only good things about countries, independently of which country it is. If I do dislike a country/nation for any reason - and really have nothing good to say about it - I make my short point on that, but do not engage into a detailed discussion. It is much harder to tell good things, than to critisize. Try it.

  133. Yeah, this is one of those things that still fascinates me. There are plenty of things to criticize though in both countries. And I would argue plenty to praise also. It just seems that it is much much much easier to criticize. And I am absolutely guilty of that. Especially on this blog.