I was entertaining three Canadians who were in town for a couple of days. It was speckled with “ehs” and discussion of hockey. It was like a living stereotype. I know plenty of Canadians who do not like hockey, nor do they say “eh,” but it was because of this living stereotype that I was so intrigued by the reactions they had to Sweden.
We ended up at dinner where the main topic of conversation was Sweden. Swedish culture. Swedish history. Swedish. Of course, there were the classic comments, the women are all beautiful, no one will look at me. But then there were a couple that threw me for a loop.
The first being that Swedish bars and restaurants are filled with co-ed bathrooms. This was news to me because I have only found one restaurant and one bar with co-ed bathrooms. In nearly three years. I tried convincing the Canadians of this, they weren’t having it though. Even the lobby of their hotel had co-ed bathrooms.
Then there was the view of Swedish men and women. Generalizations and stereotypes don’t take long to form. I do it all the time. It a good way to categorize things, to bring some sort of order to the individuality of everyone that I cross paths with. So despite having only been here for two days, there were stereotypes and generalizations being made.
Men in Sweden were dominating and rude, while women were meek and subservient. I think my jaw might have actually dropped. It was the first time I had ever heard Swedish men and women described that way. I am used to the strong willed women of Sweden. I am used to the soft spoken men of Sweden. I am not used to rude men and meek women.
The whole discussion reminded me just how easily our views are shaped. The importance of experiences in everyday life. That circumstances can lead us to conclusions that may not necessarily be true.
I’m not saying it will ever change the way I interact with different cultures, but I do think it made me more aware of the way I form my own stereotypes. And even after so long here in Stockholm, how stereotypes still dominate my life, both from the way I interact with Sweden, and how others interact with me as an American.
Welcome to Sweden. And the stereotypical Swede.
Subscribe to a Swedish American in Sweden