Monday, January 18, 2010

The Elusive Swedish Friend

I’m pushing about two and a half years in this lovely Nordic country. It took me a very long time to make friends, not two and a half years, but it was a struggle. I’m not always the most outgoing person, but I am by no means awkwardly shy, making friends has never really been a struggle for me. Until Sweden. Some of this had to do with my circumstances, living in the southern suburbs of Stockholm while working in Uppsala. Not going to school. But still.

Lots of people say this is because Swedes are shy. I say that. Lots of people say it is because Sweden is somewhat of an insular country. I say that. Lots of people say it is because Swedes make friends at early ages and that’s who they stick with. I say that. But still.

Let’s just say moving to Sweden and making a friend, isn’t always easy. So I bitched and moaned, and eventually harassed people enough with phone calls and sms’s (that’s Swedish for text messages) that they were forced to like me. Today I have a friend. Maybe two.

However, I don’t have those friends that know that I had curly hair when I was little. Or at one point was capable of seeing without the assistance of contact lenses. Or that I was awesome at marbles. (Actually, that’s not true. I lost them all to Henrik, the older neighborhood kid with a briefcase full of them. Many of them mine. Bastard.) Most of my American friends don’t know that either. That’s because I haven’t been going to schools all my life with the same people I went to dagis with. It’s different here though. I’ve always claimed this dagis thing was important, but never really understood just how important.

But the other day I was with a group of people listening to a woman introduce herself and I suddenly had a very concrete example of why Swedes are so hard to make friends with. She explained her background, educational, work, and then got into her family life. Where she grew up. She hesitated. And almost apologetically stumbled her way through an explanation. I suppose I would say I am from Södermalm [an area in Stockholm]. I moved there when I was about three years old and still live there today, as do my parents. So I guess I grew up for the most part on Söder. So yes, I grew up on Södermalm.

Here is a woman, who is 30ish, and has lived on the same small island in Stockholm for let’s say 27 years, who struggled to explain where she grew up. I have had my own identity struggles; mostly on the existential who am I level. I always knew where I grew up. Greeley, Colorado. That one was easy. And I didn’t move there until I was nearly six years old.

This was the example I needed though, that example that explains what I mean when I say Swedes are shy and insular. Of course, this is an extreme. I know. But that the extreme could be this extreme seems to speak to just how tightknit Swedes are when it comes to those friends they grew up with. Not everyone is like this. Some people manage to not live their entire life (or all but three years of their life) on an island area of Stockholm. Some people don’t.

Welcome to Sweden. And best friends forever.

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  1. Ha, I love this! So true, so true. What can I say, I hear you. I'm from here, and well, sometimes it's tough being on the inside as well. Lets just face it, Sweden is a country far far away from most countries in the world. It's small. People are pretty introvert. It's a kind of take it or leave it thing I think. Either you love it, or you don't. Or you go back to dagis:) No?

  2. Well shit. I wonder what they will make of me. I've lived in several countries and quite a few American states. When I tell people where I'm from, the simplest I can make it is "I went to high school in Georgia."

    We're buying our tickets to Sweden this week for our permanent move in April, btw. Wish me luck!

    I'm one who really needs friends, so I guess I will be harassing my relatives to introduce me to THEIR friends. Should I come up with a non-complex personal history to make things easier?

  3. Haha! Hilarious! We're not all so lucky to have lived within the same five km2 our whole life, though. :)

  4. I don't know where I'm from anymore because I do move around a lot. I usually just say "I'm living in (fill in the blank) at the moment" or "I grew up in Phoenix." And the Phoenix thing isn't even technically true because I didn't even live there my whole childhood. The question makes me really uncomfortable because I like accuracy, but people don't really care. They just want me to name a place. So that's what I do. Maybe I should start naming random, interesting places for my own amusement. I do have more asinine, infinitely more amusing, answers...but strangers never find them amusing. :(

  5. I can totally relate, tho I am living in Norway. I think Norwegians are a bit more reserved than Swedes tho. I have 3 good friends and 10 normal friends in Sweden and also my best-friend (love that guy to death!).
    In Norway I have 2 friends and umm, 2 american friends and No one else really. (My husbands family even can't accept me as family) They are a tough bunch to become close with or even friends with. I am a couple years shy of being here a decade. I have tried about everything!
    Currently I am nagging my husband to move us close or in Sweden. At least I have a social life there. :)

  6. Oh how timely is this post? I almost wanted to cry reading through this. I LOATHE Sweden and Swedes for this hard, cold truth. I have been here for 1 year next week and have made absolutely NO friends. Me? Me!
    I am super outgoing (likely part of the problem), very friendly and not ugly! And in a country filled with kids, I have one! We lived in Montenegro for 2.5 years and the friends I made there, I'll have until the day I leave this earth. I wrote a post awhile back called, "From Famous to Fk You"..which pretty much encapsulates the experience transitioning from a little-known beautiful Eastern European country to the wealthy, and free education country that is Sweden. There is NO welcome mat in this country. Lonely is an understatement. If it weren't for our trip back to Canada over the holidays, I would've lost it by now. Sure we have co-workers and one family of friends we've known for years, but that's IT. And by golly, it's just not good enough. I feel like there's a perpetual "Do Not Disturb" sign on people's doors and virtually tatooed across their foreheads. I've even brought my uhmmm "personality" down a few notches so as not to scare away potential friends. But I fear that maybe my desperation is showing now. I probably reek of "please be my friend". Everyone tries to tell me, including you, that it's just the way it is. Well, that just sucks the big one. I have two choices: 1. Accept it and conjure up the imaginary friends from my childhood or 2. Try harder. Number 1 seems the way to go.

  7. I completely agree with having trouble finding friends... I'm Swedish, moved to the US in 1999 and moved back home a little over a year ago. I have no contact with my old friends (well, that's not completely true, I have contact with 2 of them but they don't seem particularly interested and I need to do "all the work").

    I went to two different courses in the Fall and hoped to meet up with some new friends, but boy was that hard! People were not interested in meeting new people at all! Frustrating to say the least... I mean... it seems like people think they have enough friends why bother having more?

    I don't have a job yet and I've been hoping I will meet "lots" of new friends that way. I probably shouldn't count on it...

  8. @ swedishJen

    we can cry together. I know how you feel lol.
    Ive been here nearly 2 years now on april. Ive made very VERY few swedish friends.
    I dont know why.
    I have a ton at home, but its so hard to make decent friends here. I made 1 very good swedish friend, and another "just friend". but thats about it. most of everyone is still an acquaintance to me- you know- people you have at parties to have fun; they oddly think more than that.

    "personality" down a few notches so as not to scare away potential friends"
    if you dont mind. im going to highfive you in agreement on this one....

    My 2 friends, remind me of myself = different from other swedes, maybe thats why they're friends with me. hahahahahaha

  9. Well I'm from Sweden and I don't have a single friend from dagis, but alot from school. But our culture is different then let's say the US, or Canada for that matter.

    When I studied in the US the first thing we learned was how to make friends by saying stuff like "hey, you got a nice shirt!" and then just continue talking, even if it's a really shitty shirt. And that made me feel like your culture was kind of superficial, no one really said what they ment and alot of people was just talking without any substance just to keep it from being all silent. Of course that is generalization but it kind of shows the difference between our cultures. It felt like you had a lot of "friends" which could easily be replaced.

    So sure, it can be harder to find friends here since people will think you are a madman if walk up to someone and say "hey, what a nice shirt!" and then just continue talking. But if you find a Swedish friend, which might take alot of time, they will probably be loyal to you for a very long time. (By the way, if you still haven't met a single person you might be "doing it wrong", I mean, it's not like you are doing it right and nine million Swedes are doing it wrong, by Swedish standards of course.)

  10. @Lost in translation: Thanks for the empathy and compassion and crying in my bowl of cornflakes with me :-).

    @Anon: You are absolutely right. I, along with many other expats from the Americas, ARE doing it wrong (here in Sweden that is). If you don't mind though, besides the no-commenting-on-shirts, could you perhaps offer some pointers? What's the secret? I am all ears. Like seriously.

  11. Making friends sure is hard in Sweden. Now i get most of my information about these people from blogs like yours, know people's shyness as the cause. while many others who i've met in Sweden(from different parts of the globe) think it's because Swedes are so arrogant. I even remember once one was telling me that this is the most racist country he had ever been to. Now i told them what i think but come on now can't Swedes be just a bit more open!!? I actually told one of them (After assured her that i wasn't the president of Iran(sigh!) nor was i Muslim)quite a while ago "Others don't wanna bite you,they just wanna talk to get to know you people! That's it!" boy you should have seen her staring at me eyes wide open. but it took a lot of nerve to say that and in fact a little beer lol

  12. Gosh, what an interesting topic apparently. I almost feel inclined to suggest a beer night for alienated people in Stockholm/elsewhere:)

  13. @SwedishJenn: To be honest screw what "we do here in Sweden". Just invite a couple of friends over for dinner with a lot of wine (no Swede will ever say no to alcohol, especially not wine or beer.) At first it might be a stiff conversation but it will loosen up after some time. And fika of course! Fika is an essential part of being a Swede and get to know another person. Coffee and alcohol is the way to the Swedish heart (sad but true, I'm a sucker for both.) We don't do it because we are shy, and for the people that are not shy, it might be seen as unpolite, but who cares? You cannot go on being lonely and miserable for the rest of your life!

    And of course the optimal time of year for doing this is during the summer when everyone is carefree on their 6 week vacation! Although fika can be done all the time, every day of the week all hours of the day, I mean, who can say no to kaffe och kakor?

  14. I feel like I am a lot like the Swedes. I'm pretty shy and reserved and it takes a while to get to know me. It is just my personality. The friends I do have are true friends I've known for forever.

    In the United States I think that it may be easier to make friendships because they are more superficial at least at first and because people offer up information about themselves more freely or openly.

  15. Hello,
    I'm Swedish but raised in the US so I relate very much to Hairy Swede's post, I moved back to Sweden about 8 months ago. I play tennis and found some new friends quickly by joining a local club, Sports for me has always been a great way in both the US and Sweden in meeting new people. To add to the discussion, I have another observation about Sweden, I find here there is a big "user" mentality. Has anyone else come across this? As an example, I have one Swedish friend, whom I socialized quite a lot with while I was living in the US (he was an exchange student at our school and we easily became friends, both being from Sweden). I'm currently upset b/c this friend isn't really helping me out to readjust back to Sweden, meet new people, network etc (my situation is I have no job and all my traditional (dagis) Swedish friends I've grown apart from), My social situation is troubling b/c I consider him my closest and only current Swedish friend. When he was in Florida with me , I introduced him to all my friends, took him to parties, introduced him to girls, let him stay at my house, even great things a NHL hockey game for free and he joined our family in Ft. Lauderdale for a vacation, again for free. All my friends in the US would always "hook each other up" I guess would be the best way to express that cultural phenomenon. So far in the past 8 months this friend has only offered to meet up 3 times (living only 15 min away!), which has been only to play golf. While it's been great seeing him he really hasn't vested much in our relationship as I did with him while in the US. No introductions to any other people or helped me in my job search, I feel jipped. And now with some of my new friends in the tennis club I'm starting to see more and more of these one-sided requests as I get to know them better. I try to keep an open mind but I feel like Swedish people are really quick to take advantage. Anyway my 2 cents...

  16. Thanks for the blog. Well done.

  17. Good lord people! You're scaring the beegeebus out of me. I'm planning to move to Malmö in the second half of this year for none other than . . yup that's right, min pojkvän. And I have to say this post is my biggest fear. Here in San Diego, we definitely have that superficial mentality. But I do have to agree with anonymous that at least it does open doors and allows you to meet more people, which does speed up the relationship process in the end.

    As I am by no means a shy person, after 12 years of living here I have a very very large group of close friends and an even larger group of friends by association. Friends who've seen me through stupidity, let me cry on their shoulder and pass out on their couch when I didn't want to be alone after a breakup. Friends who've seen me through success and ridiculous joys and equally crushing hurtles. Basically friends that have really seen me grow into me and love me warts and all.

    So the thought of not only, not having these friends but also the prospect of it being hard to even find anyone at all, even to superficially hang with. . .woo man, that's a tall order to stomach. But I guess all i can do is suck it up and try.

    I feel for you TennisJunkie because I do realize I am lucky to have a boyfriend with a large social network already who would take the time to ingratiate me into his network. Is it prideful to want my own group of friends though? I suppose beggars can't be choosers.

    Anyhoo, today. . .fear has been struck in my heart. Lycka till to me.

  18. I am not from Sweden but have many friends who are and having gone to the country more than just a few times. OMG YES!!

    This blog's letters, hit so many point, it never fails to have me giggling (oh *FNISS*)

    Well done! can you PLEASE get Swedish men to talk about how they feel.....I know, I am asking the can hope..... (Fniss igen)

  19. Alcohol people!

    Alcohol, Alcohol, Alcohol, Alcohol, Alcohol, Alcohol, Alcohol, Alcohol, Alcohol, Alcohol, Alcohol, Alcohol, Alcohol, Alcohol, Alcohol, Alcohol, Alcohol, Alcohol, Alcohol, Alcohol, Alcohol, Alcohol, Alcohol, Alcohol, Alcohol, Alcohol, Alcohol, Alcohol, Alcohol, Alcohol, Alcohol, Alcohol, Alcohol, Alcohol, Alcohol, Alcohol, Alcohol, Alcohol, Alcohol, Alcohol, Alcohol, Alcohol, Alcohol, Alcohol, Alcohol.

    Good luck!

  20. @TennisJunkie: I'm sorry that your friend don't understand your situation better. I think he of all people should know how it is to come to another country. My husband (he's Swedish too btw) agrees with your comment about Swedes tend to be more takers than givers. I've never thought about it personally maybe because I myself has a huge "giver mentality" even before I spent 10 years abroad.

    @esotericbehavior: No it's definitely not prideful to want your own group of friends! I think your boyfriends network can/will allow you to find your own friends faster than coming alone. My husband moved to the US before we met and through his co-workers and friends I found some of my own best girlfriends. After a while we didn't meet "his friends" only but mine too. Another way to find people might be to participate in some kind of organization where people are interested in the same things as you are.

    @Linus: Sad but true...

  21. @SwedishJen dont worry, we can throw out that bowl together as well. :P

    linus: dear god, so true.hahahaha

  22. P.s.
    I lost a dozen of marbles to the neighbors kids, too. beaches could hit mine from the distance of 1 meter!! Now, don't worry this is an opportunity to practice our marbles together lol

  23. @SwedishJen

    Good lord. I'm completely speechless, but I still feel the need to comment. I'm Swedish. I can easily, and proudly, tell you that I'm from Viksjö, a burb NW of Stockholm. I no longer live there, but reside in the city centre. However, this is after having lived in Skåne, Canada, California, New Zealand and London for 10 years.

    I too found it hard to make friends when I moved back to Sweden, and to my own hometown even! My closest friends here are my friends from junior high and high school in...Viksjö. I've taken classes etc. to try and meet people, but it's just like you say - people don't "need" any more friends. Some of my friends have actually said so! How is that possible?!

    Having lived abroad I know how important it is to quickly become part of a group, so I feel sorry for all of you commenting, and bad because my people apparently is a shitty one. Or at least selfish. Boo.

    But here's another take on it. I find it way easier to make friends with foreigners, and have picked up several friends through blogs I follow (at least I hope Hairy and others consider me a friend!), but you know what - I don't exactly want to be the "foreign bloggers stalker", now do I?! Aaaahh, what do I know, maybe meeting up for an “I have no friends” drink isn’t such a bad idea?!

  24. @terander...Bahahahahaha! First, let me say that I appreciate yours and everyone's honest take on this "situation" and the helpful advice. I laughed so hard at the "blogger stalking" and the suggestion of a "I have no friends" party. It sounds like a gathering of geeks, freeks and weirdos in high school. Like when the jocks and the "in" crowd get together for a "kegger", the losers get together for a game of Scrabble. And I'm sooo THERE! Maybe we could have a game where the Swedes teach the Expats the right and wrong way to snag a Swede as a friend. When you meet a Swede you consider a great prospective friend you, a) Tell her how awesome her sweater is, ask her where she got it and if her Grandmother would mind making one for you too b) Confess your loneliness, tell her she's your last hope and beg her to go out for dinner and drinks (on you of course) c) Ask her how many friends she has and whether she'd be willing to part with a few d) Say nothing. Just stand there and do your best to look important and above all, mysterious. e) Start the conversation by stating the obvious, "Boy is it ever cold out"

  25. Love this post! How true it is. People in the US don't believe me when I tell them that people have said to my face that they have enough friends and they don't want more. And here you are looking to them to be a friend? Do the Swedes realize how this comes across to outsiders?

  26. @Swedishjen..
    YOu're rock woman! haha
    i've got suggestions for you that come right from my own personal experience. 1. don't be picky first 2. wherever you go, find someone to talk to,(keep in mind that sometimes being talkative is absolutely fine)3. be the awesome hilarious person you are and make jokes 4. in the primary 3 min. don't make any eye contact with anyone else like the rest of the world is dead! 5. after 3 min. try to figure out if you've absorbed any interest, if no, stick with your prey(sorry the person whom you're chatting with lol) otherwise you'll go for the second phase which is hunting more(finding others to chat ). If non of them worked then throw a "I don't have friend" party, and we all will be there lol

  27. Im Swedish, and I gotta tell you I am well bored with my dagis friends!

  28. I think the trick is to be very specific and forthright with what you want from a Swede as we tend not to want to interfer and impose ourselves too much on other people.

  29. The trick to getting Swedish friends is to be just the right ammount of "relaxed" and "easy going" (i.e. not being "intense" and too "loud and energic") but still being fun and coming with fun suggestions of what to do.

    Try to chill with your new friends. Suggest watching movies while drinking a glass of whine, taking a "fika", etc.

    You need to feel how "forward" you're supposed to be. If the Swede find you too tedious (it takes too much energy and too much "pretending like I'm having fun" to be with you) then he/she will ditch you for his/her old friends.

    Swedes are very picky and if it doesn't work out right from the start, if they don't feel that you "fit" them then they won't bother anymore.

    Now this is just in the initial stage of your friendship. When you've grown closer to them you can of course suggest bungy jumping and african dancing.

  30. ^ oh thats gonna be a problem for me. Im too energetic for someone to consider me a friend then. :(

    terander :

    you are my hero. seriously, thats a fantastic idea!! ahahahah.

    jen: you described the perfect situation. xD

  31. @LostInTranslation: Maybe I should've added that I'm from Norrbotten. We might be somewhat more calm and relaxed here. Maybe "energetic" is the way to go around the Stockholm area.

    Though I honestly belive it'd be much easier for you guys to get friends if you lived in Göteborg or Malmö for example. Stockholm has it's own mentality that it doesn't really share with the rest of Sweden.

  32. Great post! And I have exactly the same feeling being a Swede in the US. How do you make really good friends here? Have lived here for almost 13 years and still feel like I don't quite know how to connect with these Americans. And I have friends in Sweden so I do know how to make friends. :) Thanks for writing about this as it maybe illuminates that it just is hard to make friends when you are from another country.

  33. ^ anonymous,
    what do you mean about Stockholm?
    I'm from the skåne region, too bad I'm in hassleholm tho. that would be great. :P

  34. I agree with Linus comment. If you feel that you're begginning to connect with a swedish friend prospect you will have to take the reigns as us swedes will go out of our way not to impose ourselfs. That's also why we don't talk or sit next to people we don't know on the bus or subway. It's not because we don't want to talk, it's just that we presume that there's a risk that you don't want to. :)

    This is very much a generalization of course.,,

  35. You guys will just have to put on the track "Ensamheten" by Kent and cry yourselves to sleep. Just like rest of us Swedes do.

  36. Be careful what you wish for, you might just get it.

  37. Dropping :),..was found this blog with sweden blog.
    Great and Success!

  38. The key to understanding this lies in defining the word 'friend' in respective cultures. A really good friend in Sweden is someone you can spend the day with, comfortably, wihout having to really speak at all. There are more subtle differences as well, although they are of the kind that are not easily articulated (Swedishness, having developed in isolation and independence for the past millennium or so has rarely been articulated, nor do I think you can properly do it without destroying some small yet important aspect of it. Surely a BIG part of the problem for anyone moving here.) I myself lived and studied in England for four years and made plenty of friends. But I have few that I would call a 'friend' in the Swedish sense. The kind of sensible friend you don't have to, again in the Swedish sense, be hysterically outgoing and overly friendly with. (formerly known as 'Daniel'. No idea why that changed. The internet just lives its own life these days.)

  39. If I may add a general guideline. If you want to make friends in Sweden, your cardinal virtues are absolute honesty and absolute sincerity. To be 'outgoing' can easily be miscontrued as 'false', 'insincere' or simply too imposing. Swedes ARE private, but true friends are let into that privacy, provided they seem sincere enough. Any kind of bullying etc, which includes being too loud-mouthed about sports for instance, will also rule you out immediately. Any 'fucking a's, that I've heard Canadians especially throw around them, seem to Swedes like that kind of bullying. Consideration is another central virtue (NB - Swedes would never name them virtues, 'dygder', but that's what they are.) It's not that hard really. As long as you are modest, considerate, honest and not too imposing, people are the friendliest in the world. To seem diffident is not wrong, although it must be sincere diffidence. There you have it, just follow the ancient ways of the independent lutheran Swedish peasants and you should be fine. ;)

  40. I guess I'm pretty much the typical swede when it comes to this. I really wish I was more outgoing, and thought it was easier to connect with new people, but I don't. It takes a while to get to know me. Most of my friends I have known for many, many years, but they are really good friends.

    This is not the way I think things should be. I certainly think it's much better if we could be more open with each other and talk more to people we havn't known for that long, but it just doesn't work that way for me. I am shy.

    That said, I really try to loosen up a bit sometimes, but it's really not just something that I can do just like that.

    Sounds sad perhaps, but it's the truth and the way I am. The people who really knows me knows I'm a really good person, at least.

  41. Half Swede - Half LebaneseJanuary 25, 2010 at 11:16 AM

    The Swedish Mentality is not something you want go after.. If you are an American, Frenchman, Italian or whatever, my god keep that wonderfull friendly openness!! My experience with fellow swedes here in south-south sweden (skåne) is that they like when a person, like say an American comes around living it up a bit. Most swedes i think DO like that kind of openness. And most swedes who ARE aware of the generall mentality throughout this country, WANTs to be more open..

    It's just that a lot of swedes are NOT aware of it.. I mean it's like the fish in the water. It doesn't think about the fact that it's in water because it is ALWAYS in water!

    The same goes for a lot of, if not most Swedes in Sweden. They're not aware of the problem since they doesn't know of anything else. They have nothing to compare with.

    That's the GENERALL mentallity, as always, there are exceptions.

  42. Swedish Jenn I feel for you...being without friends is the worst!

    I am from the southern US and we all smile and wave and have conversations with strangers. However, I don't have personal conversations with strangers b/c HELLO they are strangers! What else would you talk about BUT someone's shirt or the weather when you first meet them? You're not going to get into a conversation about a wierd mole you found on your arm with someone you met 5 seconds ago.

    So I guess I'm confused how to talk to a Swede if you can't be too superficial or too outgoing???

    Here in the US I think most people have a lot of friends (people you know that you'd have various social interactions with) but few really good friends (people you'd ask to help you move, watch your children, or see you through a breakup/divorce etc.) My husband and I moved to a new city in 2005 and only now have two couples that we are really close it took us awhile too. But in the meantime we did have social friends we could go out to dinner with.

    These comments make me think of hunting shows. "Here he comes now, your average Swede, wait don't approach too quickly he looks spooked...awww too late he's running away."

    Good luck to all the friend seekers out there!!!

  43. Half Swede - Half LebaneseJanuary 25, 2010 at 3:47 PM

    Quote Mama: " Here in the US I think most people have a lot of friends (people you know that you'd have various social interactions with) but few really good friends (people you'd ask to help you move, watch your children, or see you through a breakup/divorce etc.) "

    But see I don't think that's the way it is either. It's not like every friend you make in sweden is gonna be this "true life friend".

    I don't think you have less deep friends than swedes.

  44. I am in the South in the US too, and often confuse my Swede by having conversations in elevators, checkout lines, etc. with people I don't know. He always wants to know how I know that person, then when I tell him I don't know them he asks, "why are you talking to them if you don't know them?"

    Heck, I learned how to cook corn in the microwave from some little old man ahead of me in the grocery store line last summer. I wasn't even the one buying the corn - he was. He was also concerned that the corn was labeled "yellow corn" instead of "sweet yellow corn" or something like that, and wondered if his wife would notice the difference. I'll bet y'all don't have those kinds of conversations with random strangers in Sweden! But look at the knowledge I gained... :o)

  45. Ohhh... sorry for the double post. It said I got the word verification wrong and made me resubmit, and there it is twice!

    And now it is making me type "unchikin" as the word verification. I think Hairy's blog must be telling me I am very brave.

  46. An American Girl: No, we sure don't. But I, like many other Swedes I know, would gladly join such a conversation. We would just never, ever initiate them ;)

    Somehow this whole thread reminds me of a Harry and Paul skit :)

  47. arisplata - My Swede never joins in those conversations. He looks mortified and stares at his feet.

    Just to clarify, the is corn on the cobb I learned to cook in the microwave. I have never heard of such a thing.

  48. Well, I guess it depends on the circumstances. Although it seems rather impolite to ignore an old man..

  49. I am absolutely in love with the titillating conversation this post has inspired in all of us. Seriously. I think one of the most importants lessons that I've learned while reading through the comments is that though Swedes are certainly NOT friendly by American standards, they are possibly some of the most non-judgmental people I've come across. I'm pretty sure I've been told this before but by Golly, is it ever evident here. First off, most of the Swedes posting in response to the post and its comments seem genuinely sorry for the lack of a welcome mat in this country. But at the same time, they try to offer an explanation (not an excuse, an explanation), offer careful suggestions and above all, in no way come down on "us outsiders" for the way we are. They just state it like it is. Whereas I think us outsiders (me at the top of the list) are very quick to call them unfriendly meanies.
    I've learned a lot from this post and the resulting discussion on "How to make a Swede your friend". Now I will attempt to put this in practice. I'll keep you all posted on the outcome, which will hopefully include a toned-down version of me, not talking a mile a minute to try to fill up silences, while partaking in semla and coffee with a fellow parent (of which we each pay for our own fika), dressed in understated clothing and fighting my animal urge to throw a disingenuous compliment on an article of clothing while giving the slight air of nonchalance and ever-so-casually inquiring as to any openings in said parent's friendship circle for an "American friend who is just the right dose of American (to offer the slightest bit of flair to the troupe) without being too unSwedish." May the force of this country be with me on my quest. Amen.

  50. Awesome! Cant tell you just how much I relate to this one!

  51. Boy do I have a lot on this topic.

    First of all let me summarize this is the swedish cartoonist Martin Kellermans words on the difference between swedes and americans: Americans are shallow and friendly while swedes don't talk to anybody they haven't known their entire life and it's always goddam deep. Obviously a humorous stereotype, but from personaly experience I found it to have a spot of truth in it.

    I'm from Sweden but I've lived and grown up in many differen't places. I've never had a problem making friends anywhere but I have to say there is a difference in the quality between swedish and american friends (note here that I'm not talking about universal quality, but what I find important). When I lived in the Us I had no difficulty in finding friends but they were shallow. Perhaps not the persons themselves, but the relationships I had with them. They were all friendly and helpful, but they never wanted to open up and let me get to know them (equally they usually didn't care for me to open up so they could get to know me). When I moved to Stockholm after five years absense I had a slightly difficult time making new friends. I could rely on the 3-4 old friends I already had here, but getting new ones was difficult. But once I enrolled in uni it became much easier. After I actively started to challenge swedish isolationist norms it became even easier. Now I belong to that group (as has been commented on by others here) that don't need any more friends. Though that doesn't stop me from making more.

    I believe part of the issue is the mentality. The isolationist "space" that is required by everyone (a form of politeness). Since I'm both very swedish and very unswedish I both relish and despise it. At times it is very liberating to have that personal privacy within the public space, that interpersonal respect for everyones own bubble. Other times it is quite frustrating to be so shut out from everyone else.

    I find though that I'm not too alone in this feeling. As arisplato said, most swedes I know are bored within their bubble; they just don't want the break it (and the norms) themselves. Personally (and this can be used to either make a friend or pick-up a guy/girl) I gage the persons interest in escaping their own isolation by giving them an out. Give them a reason to start talking to you. Break the ice with something non-imposing. Nine times out of ten they will bite.

    Example: say you're waiting at a bus stop with one other person. Just by asking them what the time is (or if they have a lighter, or whatever) will usually result in an answer to your question, then half a minute of silence, then an initiation of conversation by their part.

    When it comes to friendships in general I cannot say what swedes like or don't like. I can say that I personally value honesty and openess, and thus most of my friends are honest and open. I dunno if this is common for all swedes however.

    However, if you happen to be competing against people that have been friends since kindergarden I guess you should try to show that you are equal (or at least potentially equal) to them in the sense of trustworthyness. Comming across as flaky or insincere I would imagine would spoil the chances.

    Good luck in your friend hunting.

  52. Alright, someone has to organize a meet-up here. Hermione, Terander, SwedishJenn… are you taking the lead on this one?

  53. @swedish jenn
    I wish there was a book called " How to Make a Swedish Friend" , as long as its not filled with the word " alcohol" .I'd love love love to read it. It would be swedes best kept secret.

  54. Im pretty sure all of the comments here are the start of that book.

    but lets be honest, without the word alcohol, the book would be incomplete.

  55. Ha, I, for a random reason, just re-read all the comments on there and saw the meetup suggestion, Hairy Swede. I'm all for it, let me know if it's happening on your front sometime soon! Better late than never:). Or anyone else for that matter too, let's not be shy:D

  56. Im absolutely in for something. Anyone else?

  57. Alright! Since you're a bit of a nave Hairy, would you be up for setting a time and a place (say Djurgården, Humlegården)and post it on the blog? I bet a lot of people would show up. Might be fun:D

  58. Im running out of time here in good old Stockholm, but would still be up for something towards the end of the month.

  59. I'm an American, but for some strange reason, it seems like Swedish people are more like myself.

    I don't like to talk to people I don't know, and consider most people to be shallow. I also don't like to spend a lot of energy on people, or behave in an outgoing manner. I'm very Introverted.

    I very much have this mentality of not wanting to impose on other people, or be "pushy." I don't like bullying, crowds, or loudness at all. I would rather spend time alone, or with people who I can totally relax around... not people I don't really know.

    Unfortunately, this mentality has made it very difficult for me to find employment. I ended up having to work for my father because I'm not comfortable with making casual social connections.

  60. it is incredible how certain social behaviors in one country can cause problems and in others are seen as normal.

  61. hi,

    I have lived in Sweden more than 20 years .... and it is true. So difficult to make new friends ...

    I study right now to become a dentist and also work 50%.

    If you are interested (just like I am) in getting new friends ... I would like to raise my hand and say I am interested. ;)

    Hope to hear from you.

    Alice from Stockholm

  62. Hope your dentist studies went well!

  63. Hey, you really have a nice style of writing articles, just discovered them. I wonder if you live in Stockholm at the moment or decided to move in another country. Will be interesting to see an article written in the present.