Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Sweden vs. America – The Battle Continues

The US sucks. Sweden is better. Europe is better. It gets so very old after a while.

The other day I found myself in one of these conversations. Again. Once people figure out you are in the least bit connected to the US it opens the door for America bashing.

This time it was comparative bashing. The US just wasn’t as good as Europe apparently. Sweden more specifically. Swedes always claim that they hate nationalism. And patriotism. And any claim of superiority by one country. But many Swedes won’t hesitate to criticize other countries. America especially. You could argue that by constantly saying that other countries aren’t good, or at least not as good as, Sweden, Sweden becomes the default best country in the world. It’s all very Swedish really. But I digress.

Anyway, the conversation in question focused on America’s current foreign policy and international military presence. It is a strong presence. Some would argue too strong. And that’s fine. Debate and discussion is good.

Except, after moving to the more general discussion of Europe being better, the conversation turned to history. And how The US was still young and going through growing pains and that’s why they needed to flex their muscles and have a strong military presence. Like teenage boys on the bus showing off who is the strongest. America was those teenage boys on the bus from an historical perspective.

I like history. I like historical discussions. They entertain me, and I am a selfish person and like to be entertained by others. Really it’s a win-win.

So I jumped in. I focused on Europe though. Because it was being used as a comparison for their lack of military presence and so, obvious superiority on whatever objective scale these people were using. Because as much as people sometimes try to forget, Europe has a long history of war. And that long history stretches into the not so distant past. Obviously, the first two examples had to be the World Wars. But they were just kind of throw-ins. Then I worked my way up in the years. Closer to the present.

Next was the Berlin wall. Which got a mumbled response that it didn’t really count because it was Germany. I was unaware that Germany was no longer considered a part of Europe. I learn new things every day.

When that was dismissed I threw out eastern Europe. At which point, I was told that all Americans are defensive and it is a special attitude we have. Of course, I wasn’t necessarily defending America, just pointing out the somewhat hypocritical comments that Europe had somehow outgrown war. But that wasn’t the topic of discussion. Instead it was the defensive and ardent nationalism that all Americans have. Obviously.

Then today at lunch I realized why, to some extent, that stereotype is true. Because today at lunch, a girl told me that she didn’t like the US. Of course she had never been there. At which point she said she didn’t think she would like the US.

That’s when it hit me. That’s why many Americans are defensive of their country. It gets old hearing people say they don’t like your country without having any firsthand experience whatsoever. In the end, the longer I stay in the Sweden, the more isolationist I become as an American.

Welcome to Sweden. Clearly the best country in the world. By default.

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  1. we know that many people in US don't like Iran, right! and they never been there, right!
    how come,then!
    people believe what they see at news or in media.
    ask yourself hairy what are the most scene in american movies? then you get an idea of people think this way.
    they are mostly about robbery, murder,taking revange.
    all these movies are the source of non americans . and we know they are partialy true, don't we!
    in comparison Sweden is such a safe country,right!
    thus you might give foreigners the right to think this way, and asking the movie companies to revise the trend i suppose is a better way instead of blaming people,
    people shouldn't be so gullible,though.
    after all i like your country and you people not just to make you feel better but coz i do .
    as a last point i've got to say i like Sverige too. these people are so nice and kind. :)
    i don't really think it's a good idea to waste our time about which country is best or better after all we're all adult, i suppose :)

  2. You can't really compare Europe and the US cause the US has one government and Europe about 50.

    Western Europe and Eastern Europe was once at the opposite of the political and cultural spectrum.

    I agree that Swedes are not very nuanced when it comes to their critique of the US but there are some areas where the US could improve and when it is such a powerful nation and force in the world those areas get more exposed.

  3. It amazes me that people would continue-- or in some cases, *begin*-- disparaging the US in your presence when they know that you are American. I think I'd keep my negative opinions to myself under those circumstances, if only out of politeness.

    I agree that the reason many Americans are so eager to jump to America's defense is that we're tired of feeling "bullied"-- prejudged by people who have no first-hand experience of our country or our people. People from smaller, less globally influential countries may be surprised that Americans feel the need to protect our national identity, but many of us do.

    And as for the comment that people are basing their opinions on news, TV programs, and movies from the US-- If I based my view of Sweden (for example) solely on the Swedish movies and news stories I've seen, I'd likely come up with the typical stereotype-- not a completely positive one, I might add. We can't blame all our perceptions and judgments on what we see in the media (though I agree that the news coverage, at least, should be more balanced). We're sophisticated enough, I hope, to realize that movies aren't often a reliable representation of reality.

    Anyway, sorry for the rambling comment...


  5. I'm sorry. I'm sorry because I become one of the people you've just described - when I live abroad. There's no country better than Sweden when I'm not living in Sweden.

    Now that I do live here again however, things aren't quite as grand, and I cherish the US for its many splendid things, places and ways, as I do all the other countries in which I've been fortunate to live.

    But I too hate it when people voice an opinion that has no basis from experience whatsoever. That's just plain rude.

  6. You know you are Swedish when...

    - You get nostalgic by thinking of the summer of 1994.

    - You go seriously sentimental when entering an IKEA store outside the borders of Sweden.

    - You have a tendency to not divide words when you write in English, since "särskrivning" is a sin.

    - You have serious difficulties crossing the street when there is a red light. Even when there are no cars.

    - You don't consider a congregation of trees being a "real" forrest unless it takes at least 20 minutes to drive through it.

    - You know that it is not true, but you like to believe that there is a massive difference between the taste of "julmust" and "påskmust".

    - You like things in general to be "lagom".

    - You have at one point, or more, during your childhood attempted to fabricate something that you learnt how to make from watching "Hajk".

    - You love Kalles Caviar. Everyone else outside Scandanavia hates it.

    - You don't mind waking up way too early during the first 24 days of December in order to watch 15 minutes of TV's annual Advent Calendar.

    - You expect people to be drinking at least a bottle of vodka each, and think that's perfectly normal.

    - Your ideal breakfast consists of a slice of bread with egg och kalles kaviar, and a big cup of O'boy.

    - After having realized that someone is standing on your foot in the subway, you think that the best idea is to not say anything at all, or maybe cough or nod a little in order to attract the attention of the person standing on your foot.

    - You secretly consider Sweden the best place on earth and that Swedes are the most intelligent and beautiful people in the world.

    - You think that all things Astrid Lindgren ever wrote, sums up all the good things about being Swedish.

    - You wake up with BIG hang-overs on the days after April 30th (Valborg) and December 13th (Lucia).

    - You would rather stand up on the bus for an hour than bother the person who's handbag is currently occupying the last available seat.

    - You look forward all year for August when you get to gather your friends, put on stupid paper hats, drink Vodka, sing and eat crayfish.

    - You only consider hair on the verge of being "white", blond. Everything else is just very bright brown hair.

    - Even though jumping into haybales is really gross you'd still do it and love it because "Bullerby Barnen" did it.

    - You hate to 'lose face' in public, and will act like everyone else to prevent this from happening.

    - You consider it tradition to get wasted and dance around a giant penis symbol stuck in the ground every summer.

    - You consider it a sin to record Kalle Anka (Donald Duck) on the video at Christmas.

    - You brag about the free healthcare and the free school system to every non-swede that you have a political conversation with.

    - You feel bad if you're not outside on a sunny day.

    - You find it completely normal, when going to a pre-party (förfest), that everyone has their own "Systembolaget"-bag in the fridge, and notoriously keep track of which liquor is their liquor.

    - You don't consider going to Norway, Denmark or Finland as leaving Sweden.

  7. Interesting post...but man I've got to tell you, there are people in every country that are ignorant about the world outside their borders and oftentimes those people are the loudest in their opinions and everyone else around them always notices them. I think that when you are a world power you are open to more abuse from everyone too. Coming from Canada, which unfortunately gets its fair share of bashing from the US, I can see why some people get angry. Rather than negatively focusing on our differences though we should embrace them and realise that they are the spice of life.

  8. So rude. To immediately start bashing a country when you find out someone is from there is just rude. Don't understand that. Makes me sad that people can be so thoughtless, and these are perfect Swedes? Haven't they been taught manners? I don't care what country you are from that is just not nice.

  9. Didn't you hear? Once East and West Germany reunited they suddenly became a part of Asia. ;)

    I've never had experience with this (yet), but I can see how it would be frustrating.

  10. I know it seems a bit much but I often attribute it to jelousy a little bit. Things in the US are so much nicer, prettier in general. And affordable. I don't care that those on welfare get a higher sallary here. What the hell can you buy here? I could buy everything I needed in the cost of one pair of jeans. That doesn't make sense to me.

    And I particularly hate the fact that Americans are so freindly, open, generous, creative, and fun but that is not discussed. That is such a big thing to me.

    I just don't understand what is wrong with some nationalism. In the right way it is nice to see.

  11. And if for some strange reason Sweden found itself in a shooting war with an aggressor nation, would your acquaintances be happy for the help that the US is sure to provide? I'm no expert on Sweden's history, but I did see an interesting exhibit in a museum in Östersund depicting all of the border changes through war with Sweden's various neighbors. Also, I'm pretty sure the Vasa wasn't built for dinner cruises.

  12. Oh, and the Iran comment above isn't the best example. There are very few public demonstrations in the US that include signs saying "Death to (any country)" Nor have any of our leaders, past and present, openly discussed wiping Denmark off the map, thus posing an eventual threat to Sweden. Just my thoughts on what may not have been an apples to apples comparison.

  13. @Joey – you’re right, many Americans haven’t been to Iran. But I’ve got to say, Iran might not be the best comparison. For a lot of reasons.

    In terms of your movie example, I suppose I would like to think that people are more intelligent than to base their opinions of a country on films. If that were the case I would think that all of Japan goes around doing martial arts, that all of India walks around in flowing saris and falls in love and falls out and fall in love again.

    But as you said, people shouldn’t be so gullible. And you’re probably right when it comes to it being a waste of time comparing countries and deciding which is best.

    @Linus – You are absolutely right about the US having things they could improve. A lot of things. It’s the blind dislike that bothers me. The lack of critical thinking. The regurgitation of stereotypical opinions.

    And your point about the governments is right on. People sometimes seem to forget how big of a country the US is considering it only has one government. If you drive from Oregon to Colorado you’ve managed to only go through five states and youre still very much in the middle of the US. And you’ve driven for 20 hours. Drive for 20 hours starting in Stockholm and you’ll end up in Italy.

    @Michael – you would think so. But this has happened several times. It’s pretty ridiculous. And kind of sad really. I just have a hard time imagining that people would continue to criticize many other countries in the presence of a citizen of that country.

    @anonymous – interesting.

    @terander – honestly, I don’t have much trouble with that. Because you say it. I would rather hear it said than having this constant critique of other countries so that your country is by default the best. If you think it, say it. Opinions are fine. Nationalism and patriotism is fine. As long as those opinions, nationalism and patriotism are within reason.

    @anonymous – the sad thing is that Im starting to relate to more and more of these…

    @Néstor – I think youre absolutely right. There are always those people. And being so big does open you up to more criticism, what amazes me though is the attitude that it is seemingly ok to continue to bash America in front of Americans as if it was no big deal.

    @anonymous – agreed. Completely agreed.

    @Jessy – Man, my history books must have missed that.

    Sometimes its interesting and fun to discuss, and sometime its just plain frustrating.

    @m8 – Seriously, a little nationalism and patriotism should be embraced. It shows pride in who you are and where you come from, and within reason, that’s a beautiful thing.

    @anonymous – I would imagine they wouldn’t say no to a little bit of help.

    @anonymous – agreed, the Iran comment was a bit extreme.

  14. I just know from clips from fox news that us-people, or atleast Bill Oreilly with his millions of viewers dislike europe. CNN had a news píece about the European Union that was about how fasicst it was, Another report from fox news disrespected Holland totally. So while I dont hate the US, I even watch your news from your perspective, there are a lot of idiocy from both part, towards each other. I think its some kind of rivalry. Pure hatred is unusual. But there are exceptions, and none of our countries are the greatest nation on earth, with is a claim people could take as arrogance and try to disprove if a lot of people in that country stated that publicly.

    Thats my subtle opinion.

  15. An American GirlMay 21, 2009 at 10:03 AM

    But Zeb, Americans DON'T hate Europe or Europeans. I would say it is just the opposite, actually. Americans tend to embrace their European heritages, and I can't tell you how many people I know who claim to be Irish, or Italian, or whatever, even though their families immigrated here generations ago and they have never stepped foot in those countries. Also, products are often marketed as being "European" to give them a higher status and make them more desirable. Finally, look at how many Americans travel to Europe (well, when our economy is in decent shape, anyway) and study abroad there.

    As for Bill O'Reilly, please do not think that his viewpoint is the one most Americans share. He represents an extreme right-wing viewpoint. Politically speaking, I tend to stick to the Right, and he is too much even for me.

    I do want to point out one thing that bugs me. I have had so many Europeans cite to me that something like only 10% of Americans have passports, and that is proof that Americans are bad. What they don't seem to realize, though, is that until the last year or two, Americans did not need a passport to travel to most of the Western Hemisphere. Seriously, we could go to Mexico, Canada, islands in the Caribbean, etc. using only our driver's license. We mostly only needed a passport if we were crossing over into the Eastern Hemisphere, and well, that gets a lot more expensive. Now that we need a passport to go to the countries that are closer, I'll bet the number of Americans with passports will be much higher.

  16. An American GirlMay 21, 2009 at 10:05 AM

    Oh, and Nestor, Americans aren't REALLY bashing Canadians. Y'all are just fun to pick on. Just ask the guys from SouthPark (Blame Canada!) Picking on Canada is kind of like picking on your little brother. We may pick, but we still love y'all. :o)

  17. I love Sweden. The country that was “neutral” during WWII… Accept for the massive amounts of iron ore they supplied to the Nazi’s throughout the war. Hypocrites.


  19. Wow, this is awesome. Hairy, when I was in Korea I got to have a kindergartener flip me the bird and shout F the USA, so I too have felt the brunt. It's weird. We're not used to it until we step outside our borders and then suddenly become the Symbol of Everything that's Wrong.

    The hardest part is answering, or being made to answer, for America. As if E Pluribus Unum, inverted, that the one should speak for all 300 million of us. It's a matter of synecdoche, confusing the part for the whole. But we're all individuals (I'm not.) Heck, I probably disagree with every single one on SOME level. I disagree with myself most days...

    @Joey Terribiani, I agree. It's is a matter of limits on perception. But one person can only perceive so much. And that's refreshing. Sweden is safer. Hey, I live in DC currently! I can't wait for my "chance to get mugged" to plummet and my "chance to see moose knuckle" sky rocket. ;) (sorry, still on about that one)

    My take on international relations made personal: win others over with kindness. Many Americans who are tired of being on the defensive take the easy road of slapping a Canadian flag on their backpack while backpacking. I understand the motive of wanting to blend in easily as one of our more polite brothers to the North. But think about what this does to perception! All of the well behaved, considerate Americans who pretend to be Canadians are just giving Canada better press! (My grandmother was Canuck, they're great). BUT then they do nothing to counteract any anti-american impression. That's all I'm saying. Also, sorry for the long rant, good topic, obviously.

    One last thought: those of us who want to embrace the culture we're living in, will take it harder. You're not meeting ahole-to-ahole and sweetheart-to-sweetheart. So if you want to be accepted, and feel rejected by someone just venting then it stings a little more, doesn't it?

    I personally can't wait to get there, but we can't make the same mistake of the part for the whole when someone else is making that mistake on our part.

  20. I couldn't have said it better! I completely agree and I thank you for writing about it. There's always someone ruining my vacation in Sweden by challenging me to a duel. And I AM Swedish! I have lived in the US for the last 9 years... amazing.

  21. I agree that Americans don't hate Europe. That is what makes me sad. We love Europe. If you have a European accent in the US you are automatically cooler, more interesting, worldly, people want to know you. We think Europe is full of history, beuatiful architechture, quality . Sure, we make fun of the clothes a little bit and the dancing. But hey, a little teasing is normal right? I have never seen someone seriously Euro bash unless there was real reason. No we don't want the socialist government for ourselves but we commend the national healthcare systems greatly. So it just sucks that Europeans can't be equally friendly, warm, accepting, and just generally non-prejudice to Americans. It was really such a shock to me the first time I travelled and lisntened to the endless bashing because that NEVER happens at home. I couldn't believe people from what we consider our cousin countries were so full of hatred and harrassment. I expected to be treated with the same amount of interest and hospitality that they would have recieved at home. To me it shows some kind of jelousy or lack of maturity.

  22. Oh, Hairy, how you pluck my heart strings when I read. It's all so familiar. During my years in Sweden I became the soundboard for America bashing.

    "Please, take a number (Swedish style) and I will allow each one of you to get a lifetime of confusion and unsolidified ideas off your chest. I know you need a therapist to help you through the guilt you feel about loving everything America sells, but hating the guy at working at the checkout. You have had a very hard life with all of these mixed America messages and you deserve your chance to throw darts at me from point-blank range for your own healing."

    Sweden: "I hate America because they are so nationalistic and proud and arrogant. Compared to America. Sweden is the best country in the entire world- no, universe- because we are not nationalistic at all. In fact, compared to most other countries- no, all- all other countries- Sweden is the best country in the whole universe because we are definitely not nationalistic.

    ...In fact, most of us hate it here and wish we could leave someday. But never to America. I would never go there."

  23. Well prejudice has never been a good thing.

    One part of this I think is based on two things.
    Generally americans have a reputation of being somewhat stupid and very ignorant to anything outside the US border.
    Have spoken with people who goes like "France..? Why would I wanna go there? What do they have we don't have here?" or "France? That's near Australia isn't it?"

    This is something many I know, not only in Sweden, hold against you. The sad part is that people forget that this kind of people exists in every country, and the vast majority won't fit that profile.
    Trusting funny TV-shows is stupid. :P

    Of course when the anti-america campain starts they will find other things to pick on. The second amendement (The right to keep and bear arms no?)for example annoy some as it's something strange to them.

    Another part, and the major villain, is George W. Bush and the foreign policy of the USA. As you probably know, large parts of the world didn't agree with neither and that really hurt your reputation.
    I can't honestly remember anyone I've met having something agains the USA before Bush was elected.

    These things are kinda sad as an entire county shouldn't be judged cause of one person or a small group of people.

    All in all americans aren't that different from us swedes, except for some cultural differences and the language(:P). The majority are nice, intelligent people and it's sad people can't see through this illusion they and others have created.

    While I don't agree with everything about the US (laws, politics and whatnot) I see no reason to dislike and bully anyone for any reason. When it comes to it, we're all the same.
    And personally, I sure hope to be able to go back one day for another visit. :)

  24. An American GirlMay 21, 2009 at 8:53 PM

    Christoffer - you are correct, the Second Ammendment is the right to bear arms. Are Swedes allowed to own guns? I'm not trying to bait you or anything, I'm honestly wondering what the law is there.

    As for the rest of your post, well said. At the end of the day, we are all just people. We come from different background and different cultures around the world, but when it comes down to it we are all just people doing the best that we know how. We should all remember that more often.

  25. Very interesting topic! I'm not terribly fond of "the US" myself. What I don't agree with has a lot to do with the politics of the Bush administration and very little to do with the individual American.

    When Swedes are bashing America I have a feeling it is often done because many have strong views about the US foreign policies. If they at all connected you as an individual to this dislike a true Swede would NEVER voice their opinion about this in your presence. We are much too timid and too scared to offend. It is merely looked upon as an interesting topic of discussion since there is an American present. We do understand that you as a person might or might not agree with the government of your country just like a citizen of any other country.

    Sadly, I think it has become almost fashionable to dislike America and there is definately a need of more understanding when it comes to voicing ones opinions regarding this subject.

    I understand that an American would feel offended when their country is bashed infront of them, just as I probably would get sick and tired of hearing Sweden being bashed if roles were reversed.

    Peace and love for everyone is how I wish to roll and I will think of this post next time I engage in a discussion about the US with my American friends.

  26. @Zeb – watching news from our perspective also means watching msnbs which is much more liberal and not just the sensationalized new like bill o’reilly. Because really, most Americans are really intrigued by Europe and the ties they might have to the continent.

    @An American Girl – yup. Agreed. Actually, that sometimes annoys me when people say they are Norwegian for example and have never lived in Norway, worked there, studied there, or even speak the language and still consider themselves Norwegian. But I digress.

    And you’re right again about O’Reilly. It’s really to bad that so many people think that is what all of the US is like. Because I am also somewhat right leaning but he is just kind of ridiculous a lot of the time.

    @Erik F – they do have a bit of a sketchy wwii history. They also allowed the Nazis to march on through on their way to Norway. Of course on the other hand they helped tens of thousands of Jews escape and gave them refuge. It’s a confusing era of history for Sweden.

    @Stu – gotta teach them young.

    You bring up some really good points. The best way is to just be a nice person. As an individual you cant be expected to answer for a country of 300 million people. Even if some would like you to.

    @Erica – that’s just not right. I don’t get it.

    @m8 – the amount of vitriol is sometimes amazing isn’t it. And a damn shame. Because it doesn’t really get us anywhere.

    @Rachael - oh I love it! that’s basically how every conversation goes. If it didn’t happen so often it would probably be funny.

    @Christoffer – you are exactly right. Although Id like to point out one thing about the geography question. Because I get that a lot. Imagine if I asked the average Swede to point out Kansas on a map. I would probably even accept the general vicinity. And then tell me the capital. Most people couldn’t do it. But Kansas is a large state (area wise) in the middle of the US. Much like France is a large country in the middle of Europe. Granted its France and people should know where it is, but you get the idea.

    But anyway, I think you brought up a lot of really good points. Especially the judging of a country because of one person or group. In a large country like the US, it just doesn’t work to lump everyone into one handy stereotype.

    @American Girl – weapons for hunting are allowed.

    @Ewa – I think you nailed it when you said that it has become almost fashionable to bash the US. That is another of the problems I have with the situation. It seems like it is the same stuff over and over again and it is just being said because that’s what you are supposed to think if you are a real European.

  27. Sweden rocks! The cheese, the clocks, the banks, the Alps. Of course the Swedes are proud.

  28. I have family who lives in California so I have to deal a lot with America, I have also visited the super religious America(the people who can't say two words without bringing up god). I don't think America is that great, even saying that you prefer Sweden to an American is a death sin. Americans will look physically sick, offended and starts to slowly back away if you question anything about Americas greatness. So I can't really say that Swedes are any more hostile then Americans in that sense. hehe

  29. Anon, I agree. I have family like that as well.
    Jag är amerikan.
    Jag är inte Amerika.

    Another funny, thing about fashionable ideas, is watching people trip over eachother trying to out-do the other. To be more sensitive and more culturally understanding. Like with the post about the Swedish flag shirts in ths school photo...

  30. Hairy,

    Sweden‘s role wasn’t just allowing the crossing of borders to Nazi’s. We gave them a long, long, long train ride too…. It’s a sad but true fact.

    Fron the flikr link,

    “This is quite unknown here in Sweden - perhaps we want to forget. During the war 2 miljon german soldiers was transported through Sweden to Norway.
    One route was from Trondheim to Östersund and than on Inlandsbanan to Gällivare and further on Malmbanan to Narvik in Norway. Every week 12 000 german soldiers were transported on Inlandsbanan. “

    The Swiss people think that they are special and the best of Europe too. They have lots of skeleton closets with the Nazi’s too.

  31. Hitler wanted our iron and they wanted Norway for strategic purposes, Sweden would have been crushed by the Nazis if they would have put up resistance. You would have a choice between getting destroyed and being a minor nuisance for the Germans or just let them pass and hope for better times.
    You can say whatever you like about Nazi Germany but they did have the strongest military force by far and America would have been no match for them if not Hitler had gone crazy. Americas advantage was their geographical location, they could sit out the storm.
    That is what I hate debating with some Americans, they always bring up WWII as some sort of definitive I win card.

  32. still we dont thing any country in europe can get away with stuff like "dead peasant insurance".

  33. Forget America's role in WW2.

    So "let them pass and hope for better times". That's classic.

    I don't think the Norwegian and Danish people have forgotten this decision, even to this day.

  34. How far into the past do we want to go? It's endless. It's like playing cards, and WW2 is always the trump suit.

    I mentioned to a Dane that I was Norwegian background and his remark was "ah yes, a former Danish province for about 400 years." Classy.

    But the point is that kind of historical tit-for-tat is useless. With all the border disputes throughout the long shared history... Look at the 100 Years War for instance... What's the point of saying who "won" now? Here we are, after the fact.

  35. @Robert 61 & anon - Why do people insist on mixing up Sweden and Switzerland. That is embarrasing. If you are Americans you are really f#cking up this argument for people like me.

    @anon - No don't forget WWII. Why should we? It is important in our history. And it is one of the first times we as a new country came through and helped do something so good for the world. It wasn't 400 years ago.

    The other thing is people keep forgetting the size of the US. If Eruope becomes one country with states as the US is, what will the peacefull Swedes feel when non-Europeans ask them how their country can have such krap as the moffia terrorizing parts of Italy, or the corruption and sex trafficing in some Eastern Euro countries? What goes on in crazy, isolated southern towns is not a reflection at all of the US.

  36. Jeepers, Mr. Swedish-American, 35 comments!! Impressive.

    As for your title "Sweden vs. America - the Battle Continues"... isn't that kinda like lighting an M-80 and sticking it in somebody's mailbox? You just know it's going to go big.

    I once spent some time up in the rural north of Sweden, somewhere in the vicinity of Strömsund.

    There are certain rules that you learn very quickly up in the Swedish north.

    The first is not to be like Stockholmers... effete, rude, pushy, loud, bragging, nosy about other people's business, overly opinionated ...

    I once actually witnessed a fistfight over the perjorative use of the word "Stockholmer". No joke!
    Those are fighting words up north.

    You should treat yourself to some quiet time in the Swedish Norrland.
    Time away from Stockholm will definitely do you some good.

  37. @robert – sarcasm is difficult online sometimes. And I really hope this is sarcasm at its best, because if so, it is hilarious.

    @anonymous – fair enough, Ive found most Americans to be very excited about hearing about Europe especially.

    @Stu – yup. Because that’s exactly what happens sometimes. Who can out-hate the US. Or who can out-pc the other person.

    @veritas – yes they did. Sweden’s history during wwii is dubious to say the least. Very interesting, but dubious.

    @anonymous – yup, you would have a choice. And plenty of countries made the choice to fight.

    But youre absolutely right about the US. Geographically it was in the perfect position. Until it wasn’t and Japan headed over.

    The downfall of the Nazis had plenty of other reasons than as you say, Hitler going crazy.

    @anonymous – nope. Europe is too good for that.

    @anonymous – for many people its probably not an easy thing to forget.

    @Stu – agreed. And it can keep going pretty far in the past for Europe because of the length of recorded history. And Ill admit, sometimes I start it…

    @m8 – Im hoping it was sarcasm.

    You bring up the point that I think is one of the most valid. The painting with such broad strokes of the entire US.

    @forutanvind – indeed it is. Which is kind of what makes it so fun sometimes.

    But you might be right. I might need to head north for a while. Or south. Or just out of Stockholm.

  38. as an american with a passport, i'm tiring of hearing about how americans get a pass because our country is so big, it has mountains and oceans, black hills, and prairies. so why would we ever leave?

    what if you wanted to see gorillas or kangaroos in their natural habitats, or go on a medical mission trip to ghana? all of these things require a passport and also some curiosity about the world.

    and i'm afraid that may be what americans without passports lack, curiosity about the world that extends beyond caribbean beaches and alaskan cruises. as for the cost, it's like college, if you really want to go, you can find a way to pay for it, such as exchange programs where you stay with a host family, or applying for grants.

    the arguments about "it's all here" and "it's too expensive" are excuses that prevent not only americans but other industrialized nationalities from broadening their horizons. and that's what worries me about the 60% of americans without passports currently.

  39. I'm probably known among most readers of this blog as viciously anti-American and maybe even as an "America-hater".

    Now, that's not true. I strongly (emphasis on strongly) dislike a lot of things about the US but I certainly don't hate the US or all Americans (I even have a few American friends). My dislike is not based on personal experience of actually being in America. But, since you have and have had such a big impact on all the world, both culturally, politically, environmentally and militarily (actually a word, even though it sounds ridiculous) I think that you don't need to actually have been in the US to criticize the country (depending on what you criticizing, of course). Not only does your foreign policies deeply effect the world but also your domestic policies, in a way that few other countries policies do, leaving more marks than you probably could ever imagine.

  40. You need to understand that while you as an individual American certainly can't be held accountable for all the negative (or positive, for that matter) impact that your country has had on the world, and probably every person living in it, you need to realize and admit your part, small as it may be, of it all.

    Maybe it's very understandable that a lot of people around the world hate or strongly dislike the US. I mean, there's no escaping that your country has started a lot of wars, which both directly and indirectly has led to death and suffering of millions of innocent people. I don't think you would be so fond of a country which started a war (or several) against your home country (often "to protect the US", or the "free world"), and thereby killed many of your loved ones and leaved your country shattered and chaotic.

    Now, that's of course not the case of everyone who dislikes a lot of things about the US, but sympathy, empathy and a sense of something unfair, wrong and having been done by America against a lot of other countries, I believe, makes a lot of people show dissent towards much of what the US stands for. Extreme protectionism, for one.

    I'm not saying this because I want to start a fight between Europeans and American on this blog or because I like "bashing" America. I simply want you to be aware of the impact, much of it negative in the eyes of the rest of the world, you've had on the world. As someone here said, you don't really notice how much America is disliked around the world until you leave America.

  41. @Robban - Also America has done some saving in its wars. WWII was not something that should have gone ignored. And why? It was murder. And happening on precious Euro soil. So we have also stepped in elsewher to do good. When the Bosnians and Croats were being murdered and terrorized by Serbia in the 90's we helped when no one else was ready to. Thank god. Now, other wars have been not so good. That is true. Most people in the US are very unhappy about the entire past war and with Bush. And Vietnam. Hating the Nam war is what created the first batch of hippies. Which half of my family was. So yes, I think it is not fair to say every American should admit some responsibility when many have been anti-war protestors and live a green lifestyle within America. Why are they responsible? For what?

  42. @Hairy Swede,
    Dude, you have to learn how to ignore Swedes - really. Alternatively, just associate with more conservative minded swedes vs. "the natives". This sounds grossly un-pc but worked well for me and I'll be marrying a traditional/conservative Swede soon!! Boy,they are a god send. They still have some of that progressive nature because they are Swedish After all, but they are right of centre on other issues so you get along. And when I say "conservative" I mean a COMPASSIONATE CONSERVATIVE. I'm talking about the people who donate their time teaching immigrants in Rinkeby rather than sitting around at coffee shops in Sodermalm complaining about how bad capitalism is and how awful Americans are. I'm talking about people who give money to hospices in Riga and non profits in Russia and prefer actively helping society rather than giving big brother Social Democrats all the power (which they abuse) to do it.

    Also, I would suggest you spend more time in working class neighborhoods in Sweden so you can counter argue some of the anti American stuff you see. When Swedes go on and on about Iran for instance, ask them why Iranian Americans do so well in the US but can't get a leg up in "oh so wonderful" Sweden. Ask them why in 10 years immigrants in America can and often do become financially free yet in Sweden they stay on state sponsored welfare for 20 plus years (it's alot easier for immigrants to be made permanently dependent than to get a job, start a business, etc.).

    Swedes are often just as ill-informed about their own country as Americans are about theirs.

    Lastly there is the issue of JEALOUSY. When you spend so much time bashing America but your whole life is practically shaped by American products, American culture, etc., quite frankly it makes you look like a moronic fool.

    I mean think about it, if Americans felt about Sweden the way Swedes talk about America, we wouldn't buy their products, copy their culture, etc., etc.

    So ignore the silly leftist non-Americans and make friends with some folks from the Moderate Party or the Christian Democrats!

  43. Anonymous - So basically what you're saying is I can't dislike the foreign policies of the US and at the same time enjoy the flavor of pringles? Yeah, that makes sense...

    I know what we should do! We should start boycotting pringles and start calling hamburgers freedom burgers! That's gonna change your policies! Your government won't know what to do with themselves!

  44. Haha...

    That's an impression of you, btw! in case yo didn't notice!

  45. Joe Hill (Hillström)May 29, 2009 at 10:02 PM

    Robban, you are so completely right.

    "No one will for bread be crying,
    We'll have freedom, love and health...
    When the grand red flag is flying
    In the Workers' Commonwealth".

    You go, girl!!!!

  46. @ Robban said...

    If you are serious you would. After all, that's what happened in South Africa, right? The point is balance. If you are enjoying American culture and ingenuity, then a kind word or two IN ADDITION TO constructive criticism is essential. Just like I get tired (in certain circles) going on and on about how bad Swedes are but have no desire and pack up and move. They love the laid back nature, their 1+ year of parental leave, clean air, and blokes that don't look to bad in tight pants (haha, esp. that :) ). All jokes aside, I say to them too, "have some balance!".

    It's clear from Sweden "voting with its wallet" that there are many many aspects of America culture that the country loves. So, I saw be honest about the good and the bad.....

  47. @anonymous – you’re right, there are things that can’t be seen in the US, but at the same time, the size of the country really does play a role I think. Because there is so much to see. That being said, I think everyone should have a passport and travel. Because no matter how much there is to see in the US, there is more to be seen outside of it.

    @Robban – youre absolutely right, the US has become an idea that encompasses all of those issues (culture, politics, environment, military) rather than just a place. And so, its understandable that people will have opinions about the place without ever having been there. But it’s the constant focus on the negatives that is what gets me in the end.

    @m8 – agreed.

    @anonymous – its true, but ignoring them doesn’t make them go away. I kid I kid. But you’re right, there are plenty of Swedes who are a bit conservative and willing to actually do something rather than just complain. I suppose the same can be said about most nationalities.

    @robban – mmm… freedom burgers.

    @Joe – ghosts are writing on this blog. Creepy.

    @anonymous – its true. A little balance to the negatives would be nice. It would lend more credence to the argument and show more thought in the argument rather than a constant regurgitation of the same complaints over and over.

  48. Ok, this is the typical Internet debate but I guess I can’t restrain myself.

    Though there are a variety of reasons for someone to bash the US (from foreign policy to just being f-ed in the head and needing to put someone else down), I think that the main one stems out of this idea:

    The US is the premier* nation.

    It is the standard. This idea is promoted by the US when, for example, the president of the US refers to himself as “the leader of the free world”. In many respects the US is the leader of the “free” world. However he was not elected by the free world. This creates a feeling of bitterness against the president and jealousy against Americans. George Bush was elected by more than 50 million Americans in 2004. Sure, circa 50 million Americans voted for the other guy (in a very real sense: “anyone but bush”) but that doesn’t get attention because George Bush was elected as president, and you can with comfort say that he was the man that the Americans wanted most in the White House. The problems of bitterness and jealousy (and this also explains why the complaints get louder when an American enters the bashers’ presence) occur when the president does something that has an impact of peoples’ lives that they disagree with but are confirmed by the American populace. When media hypes the concept that Americans are ignorant bumpkins this bitterness/jealousy grows. “Why should they get to decide these important things that affect me yet they don’t even know about. I am more qualified. This is not fair!”

    The reasoning is flawed (and not very productive) but you can see it anti many anti-American arguments.

    The second reason (which sort of builds into the first) is that one of the greatest strengths of the US as a nation is its individualism. This however doesn’t help it in the silly but frequent “nation vs nation” or “nation; good or bad” debates. Why? Because people will associate the greatness as an inherently individual greatness, not an inherently American greatness. The things that are considered crap can be attributed to the country.

    “Americans are all stupid!” or “The American education system is terrible.”

    “George Bush sucks!” or “American foreign policy is uncompassionate, short sighted and ruthless.”

    The praise instead goes to individuals, not the country.

    “Bob Dylan is an amazing lyricist!” not “America produced Bob Dylan, can it give me the same inspiration?”

    “Oblivion is an awesome game, Bethesda Game Studios rocks!” not “The American gaming industry is great, they keep pumping out hit after hit.”

    Which also leads to the ultimate reason for all the America bashing: (continued)

  49. (cont from above) People want to love America completely.

    The people who seriously criticize America (not just the ones who do it cause it’s cool and everyone else at their high school is doing it) actually love America. They love the freedom, the feeling of grandeur that comes from the American experience (whether they’ve been there or not). The American dream is very real, but it’s much more than the crude “I wanna get really, really rich and live like the folks on MTV cribs” concept that it’s sometimes made out to be. The American dream is about fulfilling your dreams., about doing what all those great American individuals did (and you ask any America hater of a list of people they admire, and you’ll find plenty of yanks there).

    However America is not perfect. And when you compare something to perfection it will always come up short. There in lies the criticism. If only America would be exactly like we want it to be. That is why nobody is bashing China, or North Korea or Zimbabwe, because nobody in the “free” world expects them to be anything.**

    Unfortunately there isn’t much you can do. As long as you’re #1, you’ll get this criticism against you. You gotta take the good with the bad and wait until China surpasses you.


  50. (cont from above).

    Bah I missed the footnotes:

    P.S. for HS’s point of reference I’m the Anon poster from the “Religion in schools” debate.

    *for lack of a better word

    ** to the same extent, activists will tear these countries down (rightfully) for their failures too.

  51. Veritas: No, we most often don't think we're better because of our "Neutrality", we feel more ashamed, we didn't fight against germany right? And that's just a bad thing. The thing we are proud of is that we have not been in war for 200 years. And that's a good thing.

    And i think mostly people dislike america because 4 things.
    1.George W Bush and the all the wars.
    2. Other people does it. :(
    3. Swedes are very polite and it's almost a sin to think good about yourself here. Thats maybe why so many people get upset of the americans self-confidence and nacionalism.
    4. America is often taken as a bad example. ex: If you vote for moderaterna the rich will be richer and the poor will get poorer! we'll have to pay for health care and it will be just like in america.

    I have to admitt i've never been in america but i have said bad things about it. But only my oppinions about the government (Bush, not obama! Love obama!). But i still feel a little ashamed now. Sorry so much for my english, i hope you understanded? (can you say understanded?)

  52. @anonymous (JB) – well said. And some excellent points about what is said and why. One thing that I think really does encapsulate the whole issue is the idea that the US is a powerful force in the world. From politics to movies and everything in between. And until someone passes the US in those categories, the criticisms will most likely continue.

    @frida – that’s an interesting point about the neutrality thing. The good and the bad. I like it.

    And your English was quite easy to understand. No worries at all.

  53. @anon - I like the way you put it. It was more fair and not so insulting and rediculous. That seems to rarely happen.

    @Frida - I get the not being proud thing. But, personally, America bashing seems like Swedes really are patriotic. But they are just as Dr. Phill would say, passive-aggressive patriots. Instead of just admitting they love Sweden and the way they do things, they complain about other places that don't do things like they do. So, essentially, it's more appropriate to say why other people are wrong instead of saying that you simply love and prefer your own country. And I much prefer open patriotism.

  54. Anonymous - You definitely got some good points, but I don't fully agree with you.

    First of all, just because I "seriously criticize" the US and it's role in the world but at the same time like some to many American individuals does not mean that I love the US. I know what you're trying to say here. That I criticize the bad things about the US and blame the whole of the US for it and only praise individual Americans for the good things. Well, I don't. Maybe some do, but right now, you're very much bunching people together. Everyone who criticizes the US isn't just a stupid "USA-basher" who is jealous of what they have there. And in case you didn't know, Sweden is a free country as well, so why would I be jealous of that part. If I'm jealous of something that the US has and Sweden has not, and I am, then it's warmer climate, bigger and more exciting cities, more better quality movies, music etc. So don't give me that "You're just jealous of their freedom"-routine because while, if you live in a authoritarian regime that might be true (but then they might just as well be jealous of Finland), but if you live in Sweden, for example, it's not true. (

  55. Second of all, I agree with you that the US is falling short of their own self image of perfection but that's not the entire reason for the criticism.

    It's not only that it's their own self image, it's also that it's the self image they're promoting to the rest of the world. The government is constantly trying to make the US and the rest of the world believe their self image is in fact the real image. But that couldn't be further away from the truth.

    It doesn't exactly look good when you're claiming to be the "leader of the free world" and that you're only trying to protect it and then you go and start a war with the Iraq, for an illegitimate reason and without the permission of the UN. It makes all that talk seem like bullshit and lies. Of course people get upset then and start criticizing the country.

    All in all, yours was definitely the most well written and well thought out and executed and accurate counter comment of all the counter comments in this discussion.

  56. @Robban (and in general)

    Of course my argument bunches people together. It's a general impression that I have that wont fit everyone, but it fits most people I've met who've behaved in this way (not limited to Swedes neither, Americans act in this way towards the US too at times). I never said that all America bashers are stupid (though in their bashing they often display dumb reasoning) nor that “bashing” isn't always legitimate*

    Sweden is a free country. So is France and Finland and a lot of others. But the US is (at least in anglo-american/western culture) THE free country. This is not based on specific variables or facts that can easily be measured. It's based on a notion. The anglo-american/western culture views America as a freer place (this isn't necessarily something good or bad, the flip side of freedom is less security; I'm not trying to argue that “US rocks! In your face!”). This is of course my perception of a large culture, so this wont fit in on everyone either.

    Some of the most individualistic people I've met have been huge criticizers of the US (of the system in general). One can even argue that Sweden is a thoroughly individualistic country. That the purpose of the strong government is to sever the binding ties of the family, church and local community.

    The jealousy I described comes from that lack of influence on the person making the calls. That Swedes don't matter at all to the US, or at least not at all in terms of the presidential election. It's not huge, but I do think it play a part when people discuss US politics. E.g. if a European argues with an American about Bush, then the American will (if he doesn't support Bush) inevitably claim that he voted for the other guy. To say (even if it's more likely) that he didn't vote at all would be quite infuriating to the European, and the American knows it.

    “Second of all, I agree with you that the US is falling short of their own self image of perfection but that's not the entire reason for the criticism.”

    I believe it, while not the entire reason, is the main reason. It's the same reasoning as why we wont accept human faults amongst our politicians. We hold them, as we hold the US, to a different standard and we get pissed off when they don't live up to it.

    This standard gets even higher when the US assumes leadership of the world. There are those who wish not to be lead by the US (difference of opinion, or because they cannot influence their agenda as mentioned above), but those who say “Fine, you wanna lead, lead. But you better do a good job.” are the ones who get seriously angry and hurt by acts such as the Abu Ghraib incident. The US “haters”** will shout with glee “I told you so”, while those would accepted the US leadership (or at least wanted to accept it) will find themselves betrayed and ill-treated.

    If I've been a little vague it's because I'm trying to be exhaustive. But I hope I've clarified some things.

    Lastly, because I noticed it was said earlier, I'd just like to say that criticizing US foreign policy (or even bashing the US in general) and consuming US goods/services is not a contradiction.


    *Though wording it bashing makes it sound illegitimate, unlike describing someone criticizing.

    ** By this I mean not just extremist, but those critical to the US role as world hegemon. In other words, disagreers.

  57. The US is an easy target, like Athens, Rome, the British Empire... Enjoy it while it lasts.

    When Swedes no longer care, your privileges of being an American abroad (don't forget these very basic liberties and authorizations!) you will be part of a country already forgotten. And now that the dollar might flop, that might be sooner than you think, and "American" will be neither an offensive nationality, nor a chick-magnet.

  58. J.B/anonymous - Allow me to be prejudicial and assume you're an American. Only an American would say that the US is regarded as "THE free country" in the western world. That's just not true. In the US, on the other hand, the US is regarded as "THE free country", but that' confined to the US alone. Trust me. The US is regarded as the selfish superpower who only looks after their own interests and thereby leave a largely negative impact on the rest of the world.

    "I believe it, while not the entire reason, is the main reason. It's the same reasoning as why we wont accept human faults amongst our politicians. We hold them, as we hold the US, to a different standard and we get pissed off when they don't live up to it."

    Again, the Americans hold the US to a different standard, but the rest of the world doesn't and if we do it's because the US is THE superpower of the world and could use it's power to do so many positive things which it does not. And seriously, who doesn't see faults in politicians. Seriously? I despise pretty much all politicians and don't trust a single one of them. And in a way, maybe that's how many people see the US. As politicians.They hold up a good image, or surface, which they again and again fail to live up to.

  59. M8surf - "I get the not being proud thing. But, personally, America bashing seems like !Swedes really are patriotic. But they are just as Dr. Phil would say, passive-aggressive patriots. Instead of just admitting they love Sweden and the way they do things, they complain about other places that don't do things like they do. So, essentially, it's more appropriate to say why other people are wrong instead of saying that you simply love and prefer your own country. And I much prefer open patriotism."

    Come on, are we quoting Dr. Phil now? I thought we were trying to have a serious discussion here. You can do better than that. I'm disappointed in you.

    We're not passive aggressive patriots. I, for example, openly love Sweden and i think many other Swedes do, as well. We're just not overtly patriotic like a lot of Americans are. I can still see the faults of our country and don't get pissed off when someone point them out. A lot of Swedes being too quiet, hard to get to know and just damn right antisocial in public spaces is often pointed out as something negative about Swedes and Sweden and I agree. I also agree that there is racial discrimination in hiring situations, for example. But passive patriotic we are not. We're just patriotic in a more modest way and less in a "in-your-face"-way and "we're-the-best-country-in-the-world"-way. And I prefer that to the über-patriotism of the US.

  60. Pride of your country is good in small doses, balanced with a rational self-criticism of your country.

  61. I bet that's what Dr. Phil prescribes, anyway.

  62. @Robban - Oh get over it. Quoting terminology from Dr.Phill or other such professionals is always allowed. Now where is your sense of humor?

    Ok. I agree making international claims that the US is the best country ever in the universe is going too far. But, realize that there is a reason we have better music, movies and potato chips. The free (yes at times less safe and reliable) life in the US makes for more opinionated, proud, determined, and creative-inventive people willing to work hard for what they want. If we weren't all taught from a young age to believe we are indivdiually amazing, unique, special, that our own school/sportsteam is unbeatable, and that our country in general is the best then we woudn't have the go-get-em attitude and infallable confidence. Which is necessary to take big risks to compete in any area of tehcnology or business, and create innovating products/movies/etc all the time. Swedes are always safe, and never better than others. That is admittedly nice and respectful. But to really go for it in buseness or inventions, to work for your idea, you have to have some sense that you and your ideas are superior, cannot fail, and is worth the time and risk. US culture, including the pridefull self-proclamations of grandness are tied to the products that are produced.

    JB - Nice job. And I agree that it feels like much of the bashing comes from being let down. After all I think that is a lot of why Americans themselves went on a Bush-bashing spree in the last few years. We felt we were greatly let down.

  63. My sense of humor is were it always used to be, apparently. Straight over your head. I wasn't being serious with that comment. You didn't even quote him, for god's sake, you only said "as Dr Phil would say", that's not even paraphrasing... You need to to stop taking everything I say so literally, for your own sake, because a lot of my ironic or sarcastic comments really seem to fire you up.

    Ok, fair enough but frankly I like Swedish potato chips a lot better, especially the Estrella dill chips. Yummylicious!

    "The free (yes at times less safe and reliable) life in the US makes for more opinionated, proud, determined, and creative-inventive people willing to work hard for what they want."

    Uh... Yeah, the US being the only free country in the world, of course. Absolutely no security measures taken there. Your airports, for example, are like hot girls and the door to my room - they just go straight through.

  64. Seriously, you should buy yourself a sense of humor, M8surf. I hear they sell 'em real cheap in the States. Just buy one at pricemart or whatever it's called.

  65. "Allow me to be prejudicial and assume you're an American."

    Allow me to clarify and state that you are wrong. I am Swedish, born and bred.

    "In the US, on the other hand, the US is regarded as "THE free country", but that' confined to the US alone. Trust me. "

    That's your opinion. Mine is the opposite. Mine is based on observations and conversations I've had in my life, living in Stockholm, Lund, Rome and Connecticut. I'm not saying it is so, I'm just telling you what I believe is the case.

    "Again, the Americans hold the US to a different standard, but the rest of the world doesn't and if we do it's because the US is THE superpower of the world and could use it's power to do so many positive things which it does not. "

    Why do we talk about the Vietnam war, but hardly the Algerian war of independence or the Kenya's "civil" war with the UK. Or that everyone hated on the US for the war in Iraq, yet almost no one (outside Britain) talked shit about Blair. The US gets a disproportionate amount of blame (though if this is good/ justifiable or not is another story).

    "We're not passive aggressive patriots."

    I'd say Swedes are not so much passive aggressive patriots as they value highly the social traits that Sweden has. Ask a Swede what is important in a society and she'll probably name areas/concepts where Sweden "happens" to be very successful in. HDI is one such area. Swedes wont say (in my experience) "Oh, it's important that the society/country is great at accepting and adapting foreigners."

    "If we weren't all taught from a young age to believe we are indivdiually amazing, unique, special, that our own school/sportsteam is unbeatable, and that our country in general is the best then we woudn't have the go-get-em attitude and infallable confidence. Which is necessary to take big risks to compete in any area of tehcnology or business, and create innovating products/movies/etc all the time. Swedes are always safe, and never better than others. That is admittedly nice and respectful. But to really go for it in buseness or inventions, to work for your idea, you have to have some sense that you and your ideas are superior, cannot fail, and is worth the time and risk. US culture, including the pridefull self-proclamations of grandness are tied to the products that are produced."

    There are lots to be said about US optimism and European pessimism, or that Americans look to the future while Europeans focus on the past, but a lot of the things you mention are not backed up by evidence. I don't have the link now, but Sweden ranks among the highest in terms of business friendly environment or business creativity/start-ups. Historically the economic differences between the US and Europe (Western Europe) has fluctuated greatly. The amount of Swedish inventions in the 1900's is respectable (remember 1/30th the population of the US) and you'd have a difficult time claiming that Sweden (or Europe for that matter) have not been inventive or industrious.

    "But, realize that there is a reason we have better music, movies and potato chips."

    I dislike most Swedish movies, though I dislike most American movies too (though I probably dislike most Swedish movies more). Music wise Sweden is just about as successful as the US (if you take the population differences into account), though "better" music is of course subjective (I like a lot of Swedish music, and I like a lot of American music). As for potato chips... sorry, but Estrella, OLW and Lantchips have you down. Estrella's Sourcream and Onion or OLW's Dill och Gräslök are 10x better than anything from anywhere else, and that's the objective truth.


  66. To clarify slightly,

    My post is about the concept of freedom and that that concept is what people associate with the US. If this is true or not (depending on whatever variable) is not important if people continue to make the association. Do they make the association? I believe they do but I don't have any empirical evidence that I can make a statistical claim from.

    Hence I say that people have a yearning for freedom that they associate with the US. Personally I associate most of my yearning for freedom with the yaylaks of transoxiania, but then again I'm weird.

  67. "Allow me to clarify and state that you are wrong. I am Swedish, born and bred."


    "That's your opinion. Mine is the opposite. Mine is based on observations and conversations I've had in my life, living in Stockholm, Lund, Rome and Connecticut. I'm not saying it is so, I'm just telling you what I believe is the case."

    Well, then let's just agree my opinion is the right one.

    "Why do we talk about the Vietnam war, but hardly the Algerian war of independence or the Kenya's "civil" war with the UK. Or that everyone hated on the US for the war in Iraq, yet almost no one (outside Britain) talked shit about Blair. The US gets a disproportionate amount of blame (though if this is good/ justifiable or not is another story)."

    Blair was almost as ridiculed and "bad-mouthed" as Bush during the "glory days" (he was portrayed as Bush's poodle, for example) but I agree with the fact that the US got a lot more of the blame for the Iraq war, which they also deserved. Here's why: Without the US there wouldn't have been a war in Iraq. Simple as that. They were the driving force.

    Also, it comes down to the amount of attention that is focused on the US, which is due to the amount of power the US has. Additionally, if the US stopped trying to look like the good guy all the time, and actually took responsibility of their own actions (for example, eh, I don't know, maybe accept more Iraqi refugees than the Swedish small town of Södertälje!), maybe the US wouldn't be seen as such a bad guy.

  68. @Robban- Um, back at you. I was joking as well. Maybe you have an equally hard time figuring out my sarcasm and an equal ability to get fired up. And when I mentioned freedom in the US agian I did NOT say it was the only free place. And it is easier to start businesses there. The tax system is much less oppressive for family business, etc. I meant those things.

    All I have left to say is "Don't hate the playa, hate the game"

  69. M8surf - The difference is that when I joke it's actually funny.

    "And when I mentioned freedom in the US agian I did NOT say it was the only free place."

    Then why are you constantly mentioning it then? Like it's some unique thing about the US. The fact that the US is a free country is simply irrelevant to the discussion, because the rest of the western world is also free. Uh, and you know, Sweden is a lot better than the US because we have uhh... grass. Yeah, how do you like that, baby?

    "And it is easier to start businesses there. The tax system is much less oppressive for family business, etc. I meant those things."

    Give me some proof of that statement and I won't argue with it but until then ... How the hell do you know? And the tax system isn't "oppressive". That's ridiculous.

  70. "Uh... Yeah, the US being the only free country in the world, of course. Absolutely no security measures taken there. Your airports, for example, are like hot girls and the door to my room - they just go straight through."

    I was just linked this article... surreal:

  71. @Mr. Hilarious (aka Robban) - No, actually, as discussed in a newer post, Sweden has a serious lack of grass....

  72. "@Mr. Hilarious (aka Robban) - No, actually, as discussed in a newer post, Sweden has a serious lack of grass...."

    So much better of a metaphor then. Sweden is late when it comes to weed, just like the US was late on civil liberties and rights and is still picking up.

  73. As a swede, I've too noticed that a lot of swedes "hate" the US.. They've never been there, but they seem to know soooo much about it..
    And that makes me really annoyed, that they don't know what the fuck they are talking about.
    But still Sweden is sooo much "better" than the US.. that just shows how stupid and ignorant swedes can be.
    I just wanna punch every stupid ignorant swede in the face lol

    PS I like your blog. cheers

  74. Hej, käre landsman! Har du hört talas om böcker? Det är en ny uppfinning och med hjälp av dem kan man alltså ta reda på saker om ställen man aldrig har varit på. Häftigt va?

  75. @Robban: U R Stupid.

  76. @Robban: U R Stupid.

    Mmm, and with that comment you just proved yourself to be Einstein.

  77. @anon - Thank you ;-)

  78. just checking in on the debate, some good points, some less than good points, and some points that just dont really seem relevant. but still interesting.

    a former professor of mine said that the us is no longer just a geographical area. and living abroad seems to confirm that nearly every day. for better or worse.

  79. Great comments Robban!

    I was born in Sweden but have lived abroad for years, in Australia, France, Indonesia, and Singapore. I am quite anti-American myself. No, I have never been to the US, but it doesn't matter.

    It is a logical fallacy to base conclusions on life experience. Any of these "conclusions" will just be stereotypes. I base my opinions on books, on studies done by respectable institutions. I base my opinions on history and of the US's actions around the world.

    I most definitely think Sweden is a better country than the US. :)

  80. @Anonymous (June 28, 2009): What a delightful parody! hahaha!

  81. @anonymous – yup. You’re one of those.

    @James – parody indeed.

  82. America bashing is virtually a national pass time in Europe. I saw a debate on the Local about the immigration issue in Sweden, specifically Muslim immigration to the Sweden. The debate quickly turned into US-bashing. Claiming the US invasion in Iraq is the sole cause of all Muslim immigration to Sweden. All of Sweden's problems were quickly forgotten and it was one anti-US comment after another. First of all, there are plenty of Muslim people moving to Europe who aren't Iraqi. They were moving en masse to Europe long before the Iraq war. People need a scapegoat, and more often than not, its America. Its funny too, that Europeans so despise the American military presence in the world, except when it benefits them. Did you hear Europeans decrying US troops stationed in Europe when they were protecting them against a potential Soviet invasion? Or even earlier when they were waving American flags as US troops liberated France (yet the same French people who were alive back then, so quickly forgot that when they refused US planes permission to fly over French airspace). So because Europeans now feel safe, they don't mind criticizing the US presence in countries that aren't so safe right now. Its funny that we now see people in Kosovo waving American flags. It all depends on how safe the people in a country feel. That really affects their attitude towards the US.

  83. You know, the eastern European thing is something I have noticed a lot. Countries in which the US has recently aided in some way, especially militarily in certain situations, seem much more positive towards the US.

    Maybe it is that simple, once a country has no use for the US aside from as a trading partner, the cultural attitude towards America devolves.

  84. Its interesting too, that the majority of Europeans don't seem to realize that all countries act in their own self interest. Is it so surprising that the US will act to benefit itself? The only difference is that the US has so much more power than any other country that it is much more noticeable. Imagine if the USSR had won the cold war and had the power that the US has now. Would anyone like to live in that world? Or what if China or Iran had the unilateral power that the US now enjoys? Would there be anything left of Afganistan if 911 had happened to the Russians instead? In all honesty, the US isn't perfect (no country is) but I think I'll take the US over the alternatives.

  85. agreed.

    but I think what is often thrown around to counter that argument is the whole great power great responsibility thing. but in the case of the US, often times it seems as if the damned if you do damned if you dont aspect comes into play. the us is expected to help but not to help if it clearly benefits them. But if they dont help they are not embracing their role as a super power.

    in the end, a country has a responsibility first and foremost to its citizens. so it should follow that they act in a way that benefits them as you say.

  86. Its easy to criticize the actions of the United States when you live in an "insignificant" country like Sweden. I am an American, but all four of my grandparents are from Sweden. Don't get me wrong, I love Swedish culture, and history, but in reality Sweden is a rather minor player in world affairs. Swedes can easily take the moral high ground in debates about international politics, because really, Sweden doesn't face any truly tough decisions that potentially could cost the lives of 100s of 1000s of people (even millions). The United States is forced to act on a global level, as its interests are truly global. This is the reason most European countries have become so liberal. In essence they are on the outside looking in. When the Netherlands, for example, ruled a large global empire, the country had a much different outlook on world affairs. They massacred thousands of Indonesians in a vain attempt to cling to a crumbling empire. Numerous examples of this can be cited in countries such as France, Spain, and especially Portugal. Given that individual European countries now have very little international power, the people feel comfortable in criticizing the actions of the United States. I believe part of this attitude stems from jealousy, especially in France. The people still want their country to be a significant player on the international stage. In reality, despite France's best efforts, they were unable to stop the US from taking unilateral action in Iraq. They failed in holding onto Algeria, they failed in Vietnam, and in WW2, until the US stepped in. And without the US they would have certainly failed to stop the USSR had they invaded Western Europe. This is a major change for a country that was once one of the most powerful nations on earth. To watch the upstart Americans take their place on the world stage really bothers them (understandably so). I think the question really is what would Sweden be like if it was the size of the United States? I highly doubt the society would be the same at all. On the other hand, if the US was 50 different countries, US society would undoubtedly be different as well.

  87. Your last point is the point that I often try to make. The US is one country the size of continental Europe. And while the EU has changed things a bit, Europe is still filled with tens of autonomous countries while the US has only one. The sheer magnitude of the US makes governing the country a whole new ballgame. And something that most Europeans don’t understand. The best example I give is saying that if I drive from Oregon to Colorado which I did when coming back from college it takes me about 20 hours and I have only passed through a few states. If I drive for twenty hours from Stockholm I am in Italy.

  88. Both Sweden and USA have huge backgrounds of war/killing people and slavery. So, why don't you all apologize to black people whom their previous generations were mistreated by you and give them a large amount of money, natural resources, etc ? The thing that really pisses me off is when you still boast about your supremacy especially in military and tech. Don't you know you're also the people who have done most wars and nature destruction ? Look at your factories, your tanks, your bombs, your vehicles. all they do is damaging the planet. and dont ever call us third world countries.

  89. Swedish people are not nationalistic? Yeah right, that's why they have their flag everywhere like....... Americans!!

    Americans and Swedes have a lot in common thanks to protestantism, the famous work ethic, law-abiding, kind of rigid regarding rules, puritanical on some issues... They also share this feeling of superiority, we're the best blah blah blah.... But if I have to trust one nation to get the job done when the moment of truth arrives, that would the United States, not the cowardly neutral Sweden.



    Ps: Love your blog Hairy Swede, keep telling it like it is! ;-)

  90. I think the nationalism is one thing that Swedes justd on't really get. they are nationalistic as you point out, flags are everywhere. and the countries do have a lot in common.

    thats what makes things so interesting being able to delve into both perspectives, although I am decidedly more american in most of my perspectives.

  91. Maybe I missed something about this but...

    While discussing America's behavior, particularly international, it is common to have the USA's relative youth be pointed out. It is a young Nation. The discussion explains away some differences with Europe as America’s National adolescence.

    The thing that I must be missing is not about America's youth but about Europe.

    Is the rule of dictators with ever changing borders a time encouraging wise political traditions and customs of (pseudo)enlightened culture to be developed?

    I don't strongly identify with the USA, in fact it frightens me. However Europe (EU) frightens me no less. Granted there are wonderful things about them. If there is any old wise fella it's not the nations of Europe, it's clearly China. (China scares me like knives in an MRI exam.)

    Even if changing leaders, borders and names is considered a silly way to understand the age of a nation America as a Teenager is still seems weak. Teenagers are rowdy because of hormones; America is rowdy because of its financial self interest. If it were rowdy to be rowdy it would be expanding its borders rather then its bank accounts.

    No place is superior in every way to another. IKEA clearly a giant clogged pore. Dr.Phil is a similar puss clogging up America’s complexion.
    Superiority and good or bad is only how people feel about it. Since China has the most people I think it is the superior place doing the most good and has the best meatballs.

    If you have read to this point of this comment I guess you are as uneducated as me. Or it is possible you are Chinese.

    I don't speak good or write good or do much well so I apologize for grammar, punctuation, spelling and composition.


    Mike Fancants

  92. i remember the first or second day i was here in sweden, i was talking to a stranger, and they were so delighted i was speaking English. They started asking me questions and one of them was " where are you from?". Before i can answer the question they continued with---"...America...?"*squinty/ worried face* like they just picked up a dirty sock.. i looked at them "O_O.. no.. I'm from Canada". The way they reacted, you'd think it was the best place in the world.
    i was horrified. i mean sure, Canada and America have had their little 'sibling rivalries' but i LIKE America, and i was offended for some reason. hahaaha

  93. just promise me one thing, when you do something stupid, don't claim to be American. I had a Canadian friend who stuied here who pulled that move. Everytime he did something dumb or offensive he claimed to be from the US.

  94. Hairy! your friend is a genius(major lauhghter)--- it sounds like a very "Canadian" thing to do. i wont lie to you hairy, i thought about it a few times plenty, but i believe you guys are taking a lot of crap already so i wont claim i'm from the US! :)

    btw if it makes you feel better, I've HONESTLY tried to make America look good in some sweds eyes. I'd talk about the people not being as mean as everyone says,and their not so stupid ramblings; basically i tackled all of the stereotypes that sweden has held against your nation! ive been to chicago and loved it, so i had some good honest opinions.

    in case you are wondering... no it did not work, instead it made Canadians look bad for liking Americans.
    so thanks for that.

  95. LOVE THIS!!!!
    I am right there with you.

    But you do not have to be in Europe to get the same comments. Swedes IN THE USA, do the same thing about the USA, even though they live in USA..which, while I love debate about the good and bad, if it so awful, they why are you here?

    Mind you, I really like my Swedish friends. I like to see things differently from their perspective..I just have not figured out, why a people so educated think that their point of view is the only one that exists?

    It becomes really tiring when all you hear is how awful or stupid Americans are. In reality, they are not stupid, just what is important to them, is NOT important to Europeans. Face it, we have enough diversity amount ourselves, without having to add them to the list. Still we try and THAT is what makes the USA super. Not that we are perfect, not that we know all ( even though some try) and not that we know all the various languages..just that we are unique in our drive and our stance independence as individuals. Going a long with the crowd, is not our thing..and that lack of going along is the very thing that a socialistic country and people can not perhaps we have something to teach after all.

    Oh..I am of Danish/German and Dutch descent..

  96. and thats the thing I learn every day. each country has something that they value. what the average swede values, might not match up with what the average americna does. and thats fine. its the constant criticisms that get to me.

  97. "I was born in Sweden but have lived abroad for years, in Australia, France, Indonesia, and Singapore. I am quite anti-American myself. No, I have never been to the US, but it doesn't matter."

    What an idiot.

    Next time you are bashing an American they may decide they have had enough of your rude ass and beat you within an inch of your worthless life.

    Good thing about the free healthcare in your country eh?

  98. "I think the nationalism is one thing that Swedes justd on't really get. they are nationalistic as you point out, flags are everywhere. and the countries do have a lot in common."

    I'm a Swede so you have to forgive my spelling errors.
    When it comes to nationalism and Sweden the thing gets a bit complicated. I'm sure you've heard of the Law of Jante and how Swedes aren't really "allowed" to feel pride in their nation, a statement many Swedes use "against" other countries with a lot more openly shown pride than us. Personally, i don't think this is the whole truth. I'd say most Swedes, when you say the word nationalism, immediately thinks of ww2 and the beginning of the 20th century, possibly even the imperialism and colonialism. Nationalism in Europe has been used as an excuse for racism and some of the most horrible event in history. If you call me a nationalist you might as well have thrown out the word Nazi or racist, if you know what I mean.

    Nationalism here is bad and is very much confused with patriotism. [On a side note: I once heard a Canadian or American say that patriotism in their country was seen as bad and that "Europeans" and people from the Americas used the terms differently and gave them different meanings. Maybe we need to specify the definition of the two on both sides of the Atlantic so we don’t misunderstand each other?]

    I think most Swedes are very aware of the bad things in our history, but when non-Swedes try to discuss this some Swedes might get a bit overly defensive in the discussion and act very "nationalistic". Other times it seems like the most Swedish of all is to criticize this country (Sweden).

    When it comes to flags and national symbols, I don't agree with you when you say that flags are everywhere in this country. Growing up here the sense always was that you didn't want to use the flag (or the colours) because they were being used by the Nationalists (meaning neo-Nazis here) and racists - perhaps like the Germans "stole" certain symbols and used in their propaganda - and that might give the wrong signals. There are exceptions, like sport events, but I had a friend whose parents refused to buy her a Tre Kronor T-shirt on vacation in Öland, since that “could be misinterpreted”.

  99. I have not stopped laughing. As the grandchild of Danish/German immigrants and the fact that I have been to Sweden more than just a few times, these blogs have given me more laughter than any sitcom show.

    I personally am surrounded by Swedes, all be it Swedes that have moved to America and still find the time to bash their new found country. Obviously Sweden is the best country in the world..but I still keep waiting for some offended America to dish out something unpleasant (or should I say hope..ah think about that for a minute........or not). None the less the bashing continues regardless of the continent they are on. That and all American's are stupid. Yes while I realize that most citizens of this country have just a bit of a problem discovering geography..I dare any graduate of basic school/High School (Gymnasium) Swede to understand science to any degree or the various medicines available in the USA. Yes American do not know where a state is, but by god they know what Valium or Vicodine is or just about any antibiotic for any particular illness. So alias, we are a country full of health fanatics, if not geographically where is the state of Virgina (fniss).

    Your stories on taxes and the child porn bring a smile to my heart! Now if you could just give all of us American women, who are fairly traveled, well educated and speak other languages, a clue on how to get American based Swedish men to express some kind of feelings. Oh but wait! THAT IS A VIOLATION... buzz buzz buzz...... Emotion alert. Danger Danger. ;)

    Keep up the fantastic work!

  100. @anonymous – yup.

    @anonymous – you are absolutely right, the word is loaded in a certain context. But I suppose what I am looking for is a sense of pride in your country. Not a blind pride that only sees the good, but something that you are willing to believe in. whether it be your health care system in Sweden or the market economy of the US. Because you are right, definitions differ.

    I still stand by my comment about the flags and the colors of the flags. Even the subways have blue and yellow as the main colors in the interior.

    @debbie – emotion… hmmm. Alcohol?

  101. I have the same problem with people! I have friends in America, and I tend to speak English with my friend (even in Sweden) because I'm used to it and such. So back when I was still in school, some years ago, every siiingle luuunch was the same. Sit down. People stared at my food, then asked me why I'm a vegetarian. After 10mins of that discussion, the America conversation came up. It's funny how people love to talk trash about America over here, yet love all american tv-shows, movies, food, clothes, music and so on and so forth. Not to mention the fact that we'd all be nazis or commies if not for the American youths being buried in central europe for saving our asses in WW2 :3
    And yeah so every single day, the same friggin people had the saaame argument with me. It's ridiculous!
    And still now, everyone complains about America without knowing what they're talking about... I've grown too tired of it to do more than roll my eyes and sigh :p

  102. the professed hatred of America on the one hand and the consumption of all things American on the other fascinates me.

    It is an interesting phenomenon especially with how people can be so stuck in their opinions, as you experienced.

  103. Yes, you're right, Europe has been in numerous wars when looking back on history. But looking at Sweden in particular, the country has never been in war. Sweden stayed completely neutral during the world wars.
    I agree with you though that it is hypocritical to claim not to be patriotic/nationalistic when you at the same time criticize other countries for being worser than your own. I as a Swede will however admit to being nationalistic. I love sweden!

  104. see, I can handle that much better. there is absolutely nothing wrong with being proud of your country.

  105. Really? Sweden's never been in war? I mean, sure not *recently* but it's had plenty...

    Anyway, I'm also a Swedish-American dual citizen, and when I studied in Sweden, I didn't get this impression as much. I don't know if maybe it wasn't because most of the Swedes I was interacting with were fellow students, and a couple of the people on my dorm hall had been to the US and such, but it didn't seem as bad as all that. People did not seem to take me being American as an invitation to bash the US.

    But maybe me being gay relieved me of some responsibility for the US, since then it's like "Oh, poor thing, coming from homophobic America". Also my Italian name might've led some people to not realize I was American...

  106. I do think that everyone has their individual experiences, absolutely, and having a name that can make you blend in with another group of people can really helps ometimes Ive noticed, but I've had some pretty ridiculous experiences with the America bashing here. Some worse than others. Some just horribily illinformed. Some just based on stereotypes and movies. It can be very frustrating.

  107. The funny part is that if you were to ask most Americans what they think of Sweden, they would say they they have nothing against them, and say no negative comments. But for some reason, if you ask a Swede what they think of America, they would spit off all of these "reasons" why America sucks and how it's not as good as Sweden. I personally find nothing about Sweden that really bothers me, but what's with all the hate towards the US? Is it jealousy? Whether any Swede wants to admit it or not, America is a bigger and more powerful nation (not necessarily better). In conclusion, I don't really care what the Swedes think of the states, not because I don't like them, but because I can assure you that my life goal is not to impress the Swedes. Peace!

  108. You use the term America several times in your post. I am assuming you mean USA every time.

    You don't really say much about the conversations you refer to (USA bashing). Maybe they weren't very political, but generally:

    People around the world hating and being affraid of USA have good reasons for it, and is of course not hating the PEOPLE or the culture but the "foreign policy" - which for a long time now has been an extremely aggressive imperialistic strife for world domination by the use of excessive violence (along with softer means of strategy) all over the world, run by an elite of concentrated power. Technically it is state terrorism. Unless you pretend to be unaware of this (or worse, provocatively patriotic and self-righteous, in which case you probably should never leave your country) you will likely never meet anyone in ANY country that will hold any grudge whatsoever against you personally. It is of course possible that you actually are unaware of you countrys behaviour internationally, possibly spoon-feed with state propaganda by mainstream (and right-wing) media - and therefore don't understand the animosity - in which case I don't really know what to say..

    Personally I think USA is one of the best, sexiest and fascinating countries in the world and I have no problem with people from that country.

    As far as Sweden go, I'd say it's complex and extreme in many ways but basically the best and one of the worst countries in the world. Swedes need to realize how bad it is, and why (the sacrfices you make in society where rationality and individualism is valued so highly, for example). What others think of Sweden I don't really care about.

  109. Anonymous said...

    "I was born in Sweden but have lived abroad for years, in Australia, France, Indonesia, and Singapore. I am quite anti-American myself. No, I have never been to the US, but it doesn't matter."

    What an idiot.

    <-- Please do never express an opinion about.. the Nazis, for example (unless, of course, you encountered them personally, which I doubt).

    Anyway, this is just sad. Bye.

  110. I would definitely not recommend isolating yourself from the community simply because you still identify with America. I'm going to take this space here to list a couple reasons why:

    1. It is not psychologically healthy
    2. Why did you move if you would rather live where you grew up? ("Love it AND leave it?")
    3. People are more than their political beliefs.
    And, seeing as how you seem to have a sane worldview, how could you possibly identify with a country that:
    a) allows banks to loot the country and then forces the population to pay for it
    b) uses its military to cover up news coverage of the BP oil spill
    c) killed a million people in Iraq
    d) killed approximately 39,000 people in Afghanistan. Don't be fooled by the numbers, though. Those were people. You know, sons, like you and me? The ones mothers love? And mothers, you know, like the ones that we have? They take care of us, love us unconditionally, and losing them is the most heartbreaking, soul shattering loss of a lifetime. And friends, best friends, you know, like the one you tell everything to, and who helps you face your darkest days? Yup, they have been killed, maimed, raped, humiliated in front of the world, and all on the American taxpayer's dollar. We Americans have paid for that.
    e) a country that has been torturing innocent people (friends, sons, mothers, sisters) the world over for years and,
    f) has set up proxy governments in South America to steal the local resources and kill those who resist ever since the 1950's

    and obviously the list could go on. If you want to keep your head in the sand concerning the reality of what the US and gang have been doing in this world that is fine. That's your choice. But don't lie to yourself: you are sticking up for people who would just as soon see you dead. Seriously. No joke. Either dead, or as slaves. That's what they want, that's why the world hates America, and that's why isolating yourself in the name of America is not healthy. You are essentially giving up on Humanity. Good luck in the future.

  111. I regard Sweden as "the little USA". Most Swedes speak fluent English (with american accent), which isn't that strange considering that we are heavily influenced by the American culture. I would say that swedes in general are more or less obsessive with all things American. "Everything from the U.S. is trendy, cool and worth embracing." Some might say that this is just a general trend in the world at the moment, but I think that there is something more in the sincere love that I believe we swedes have for the USA. Perhaps it has something to do with all those people who emigrated, and of course the thought of a land far away where everything's possible :)

    I mentioned earlier that we get a lot of input from overseas, but what is the most frequent sources of this information? Well, I've never been to the USA, but I'm pretty sure that for most swedes the image of the american is that of the stereotypical californian. This might be old news to you, but if you consider how this stereotypic being behave I think you will find the things that bother swedes apparent. This stereotypic californian is a loud, arrogant and selfcentered show-off. That's not fitting in well with the swedish culture and it's no way to be liked by the swedish public.

    The conclusion is that we're very interested in your country, we want to know more about it and discuss it. This can lead to an argument because of different perspectives. When you are seeing american troops offering help, our flawed view just sees arrogant americans trying yet again to boss people around.

    I just found this blog and like it a lot!

  112. @bysheon – there is a difference between blatant bashing of an entire country and disagreeing with a particular foreign policy. Unfortunately, too often, disagreeing with one policy leads people to make assumptions about an entire country. The sad thing is that because it is the us and many people to disagree with the foreign policy, it is seen as perfectly acceptable to bash the country as a whole. It gets real old, real quick.

    And of course, agreed. That person struggles a bit…

    @Hespen – you seem not to understand the definition of isolationism. In terms of isolationism the definition (according to is as follows:
    the policy or doctrine of isolating one's country from the affairs of other nations by declining to enter into alliances, foreign economic commitments, international agreements, etc., seeking to devote the entire efforts of one's country to its own advancement and remain at peace by avoiding foreign entanglements and responsibilities.

    Essentially, by becoming more isolationist, you wouldn’t have to deal with the US. We would give no military support. No economic support. No support. Isolationism.

    But you may have gotten confused as you ran around fearing you were about to be forced into slavery or even killed. Those worries often lead me to struggle with simple definitions and lose myself in a world of paranoia.

    @Gävlebon – agreed, but it is that interest that makes it so interesting that so many people are willing to bash the US immediately by just repeating stereotypes.

  113. @ Hairy Swede

    I must have struck a nerve, seeing as how offensive your post is. I will apologize for my own, but, after re-reading my post and your reaction, I should start by saying that I misunderstood what you meant as "isolationist". In your initial post you said:

    "That’s when it hit me. That’s why many Americans are defensive of their country. It gets old hearing people say they don’t like your country without having any firsthand experience whatsoever. In the end, the longer I stay in the Sweden, the more isolationist I become as an American."

    I thought you were referring to your own isolation from your community, not the isolation of the US from the rest of the world. Then in your reply you said:
    "Essentially, by becoming more isolationist, you wouldn’t have to deal with the US. We would give no military support. No economic support. No support. Isolationism."

    So it seems that we both share common views, that the US should be concerned with its own problems and let the rest of the world live in peace. Of course that is not what's happening, though. And it still doesn't address any of the points I brought up (which are all easily verifiable).
    You also said, concerning the points I brought up:
    "Those worries often lead me to struggle with simple definitions and lose myself in a world of paranoia."

    You're right, I do enjoy simple definitions. But the thing is, it's work finding simple definitions. It is a process of sorting material, and, after sorting, simple definitions are a method of communicating. And, while we're on the subject of simple definitions:

    "But you may have gotten confused as you ran around fearing you were about to be forced into slavery or even killed. Those worries often lead me to struggle with simple definitions and lose myself in a world of paranoia."
    That's an emotional definition of me that seems to have come pre-packaged. I told you I would apologize, and I am sorry if I seemed preachy in my initial post, and I can see why you reacted as you did. It's just frustrating being an American, seeing everyone around you suffer with no hope and little help, and then finding no one who actually cares about the reality they're experiencing. This includes them! I have several family members who have died or have been handicapped by the horrible health insurance, toxic diets, and enormous stress that is part of the American way of life. From where I stand, slavery and death are not simple definitions, they are right in my face. Oh well, I hope that this reaches you in good spirits.

  114. I think it's best to stay emotionally detached when discussing anything political. That is a tall order, I know. But when people start to get defensive, that is when the "bumper sticker" type talking points tend to come out-- meaningless slogans such as, "but we have FREEDOM!"

    On the other hand, from my experience, Swedes visiting the US habitually comment, "why don't you do things like Sweden does?" While that may be a good question, I usually don't have an answer. Generally, this seems to be an opening for the Swede to discuss why the Swedish way is better. It's a good thing I don't get offended in these situations. But really, I wish Swedes would stop asking me to justifify American cultural tidbits, or ask "why don't you do it like Sweden does?" (as though I was part of the committee who made the USA the way it is). I'm being a little sarcastic.

    But really, it is best to just treat people as individuals, and not let your perception of their country define that person. Don't prejudge, and don't attribute all of a nation's qualities to a person, good or bad. I would hate to think that anyone would associate me with America's overbearing military empire, for example. I would be equally irritated if someone decided they liked me just because they enjoy American movies. These are shortcuts to thinking, no matter who does the stereotyping.

  115. @Hespen – fair enough. I appreciate the clarification. Sorry for the defensive reaction on my part.

    @anonymous – well said.

  116. To Gävlebon and others who think they know all about Americans when they have only a shallow connection to "Californians" via TV shows: you are stupid, sad, and ignorant, yourselves!

    What is it about "Californians" that presses European buttons?

    My parents were born in in Sweden, and in the late 1950s they moved to... Los Angeles, CA.

    I got my bachelors degree at San Francisco State University. I personally know scientists, and a lot of really smart people who live in California.

    Currently, I live North of California. It's called "Oregon".

    To Swedes Who Have Never Been to the USA: you actually do sound kind of stupid if think you know what you're talking about. You don't.

  117. I authored "anonymous" 9/24/2010.

    Who are these ignorant people, who think they know what other people are like, based on their TV shows? Such arrogance!

    Come closer with your mouth open wide, so I can get a good aim to kick shit in!

  118. I know what you mean. I'm a Scaninavian American AND I AM SICK OF AMERICAN HATE! Our government has nothing to do with who we are. Plus there's no sucj thing as a blood american so nothing about this country is a genetic issue. Yes America sucks but that doesn;t give them the right to bash us. I mean in Sweden you don't have to wear cloths if you don't want. WOW THAT IS SO WISE *she says sarcastically* I am nothing like the stereo typed american. When a foreigner get's to know me better they like me. But some just won't give me that chance. UGGGH!

  119. Entertaining fantasy that the government has nothing to do with who a people are. The government is made up of the people. Without the people to condone its every procedure from police to paperwork to ideology and law it would not hold up.

    The people in the government have gone to the same schools, grown up in the same society with the same values and have the same desires and beliefs and need of order as the people. They govern by the very necessity of governing for the needs of the people/society and the expectations on the government.

  120. Once I met a Danish guy who didn't realise that Canada is NOT part of the US.

    ... And they talk about Americans being ignorant....

  121. The thing is, I know lots of things that are fucked up in the US. In media you never hear the good things, just how it works.
    Have nothing against the people, that would just be racist basicly (though with such a mixed culture and genes that word doesn't make sense). One of the things that bug me the most is the political system, calling it a democracy seems stupid from my point of view, as there's only two parties. And the governors don't hold enough power. But there's equally as bad things here. Not to mention the Swedish and American culture is many-a times considered very similar, I'v heard.

    @Anon The think is that the extremely stupid people are the only ones that show. As you're such a big nation it's easier to make you look stupid. I mean, if someone pops out and gives this danish guy as an example one might think he would contribute to the statement that Europe is stupid, but people can just dismiss it by saying "oh but he's danish" or something like that. China is a similar example. Same thing happends there, except we don't talk about them being stupid.

    Big countries vary alot from region to region, it's easier to generalize a small part of a country. A majority of people don't seem to realise this.

    None should judge a country without living in it. Really, or atleast visiting it, if you have an urge to bash something or someone. Bashing what a country is doing is different from bashing what it is.

    I think this whole 9/11 reaction ticked people. Never heard anything majorly bad about the US before that. Suddenly it's commonly accepted to bash. It's not right.

  122. Oh and about countries being different in different regions. Same obviously applies to countries in different regions. Even more so as the differences in law and goverment is bigger. When you pointed out the Berlin wall they all probably thought about the nazi-germany times. And they probably felt just what I'm saying now. Can't judge continents for what they do, can only judge smaller regions or countries.

    But yeah, in history Europe has been terrible. We have had more time to make enemies and complex relationships though. US is a young country, populated by the offspring of people who took a chance. Not like Europe, where everyone has lived forever.

  123. Lots of notes! I experience the same thing with my internet dutch friend. Having never been to my country, he still cannot seem to stop himself from American bashing. I once tried to explain to him how rude he was being. He accused me of blinding patriotism and an inability to have a rational debate (BS!). I accused him of gross ignorance and arrogant assumptions. We don't talk about politics anymore. Too frustrating.

  124. Europe isn't a country, it should not be viewed as one, and if comparisons are done it should certainly not be viewed as a single entity. That is ignorant.

  125. @HairySwede - I absolutely LOVED this! As a fellow Swedish/American I can heartily back absolutely everything you say. Oh my goodness, I cannot tell you how great it is to know that someone else has noticed these things, too! It gets very old, very very fast - because it truly is almost the only thing any Swede will want to discuss once they sniff out any connection to the US! It's almost like instead of establishing the state of the weather as chit-chat, it is instead necessary to establish the supremacy of Sweden, by default.

  126. Thank you for explaining this!
    I recently joined an international penpals site and have been approached by no less than twenty Swedes who want to talk to me only to tell me what amoral, right-wing theocratic, interventionist, imperialist pigs we all are.
    And how we are all obviously idiots because some people have a problem with "obamacare". And I'm like, you love Obama, but you hate America, so Wtf?? Is he our president or yours? (Yes, I'm aware that Sweden is a monarchy.)

    It just surprises me that people would seek me out to tell me how much they hate me, before they've ever met me. or any Americans...
    And to the above poster who said Americans hate Iran, no, we don't hate Iran. what we hate is that the governing bodies of Iran sanction, ignore and perpetrate violence against people who aren't Iranian enough, and I do and will hate that openly and vehemently because I have worked in refugee services and I have seen what has been done to people...
    you can say what you want about Americans, but when you come here and you need help, your neighbors will rise up to help, usually providing more than you need. At least in my neck of the woods.

  127. Actually, Americans are among the few nations that Swedes genuinely respect, even though the America-bashing is quite fashionable and the person doing it can think of themselves as an "intellectual". I am truly sorry for the bashing that Americans must endure in Sweden, but it is something like a little brother (Sweden) who emitates the big brother (USA) and secretly admires but must at all time deny this fact and assert himself by pointing out the big brother's faults. If we leave aside our opinions on foreign policy, the USA seems like a very cool collection of places to live. Regardless of what you are into, you will always find your niche and your people somewhere in that huge country..

  128. Swedishs are just jealosu to see how thr US is the best country in the world, while ythey are there with their poor weather, rude people and high suicide rates... sweden is a fake utophy.

  129. Really good comments, for the most part. Great discussion and fun to read so many years later. Although, I must say, I'm pretty sure after so many years of going back and forth that Sweden is not jealous of the US.