One good thing about being Swedish is that there aren’t too many derogatory stereotypes about us, or at least not here in the UK. When I started my current job, there were some attempts by my new colleagues to find a weak spot to exploit for some good old British banter. At first, they had a go at my presumed Viking ancestry, referring to me as Maria the Worst, and pretending to have concerns about me raiding their villages.

I managed to fob them off with vague claims that Swedish Vikings were simple traders, who only went to Russia anyway. After that they went for the food angle, making jokes about rotten fish and meatballs. However, being a hungry bunch, this only really served to offend the vegetarians amongst them. They then tried to go down the Abba-route, but were surprised to realise that not only do they know all of Abba’s hits – but they also love them. Going after Volvo made them wish they had a Volvo. Finally, the Swedish Chef jokes just made them hungry again. After that, they largely gave up. Sweden, it seemed, just isn’t that much fun to poke fun at. And once I’d demonstrated my knowledge of the correct colour of tea (if you don’t already know this, don’t worry, Brits will let you know when you get it wrong…), they finally accepted me as just a regular colleague, admittedly one with a bit of an accent. That is until I accidentally chopped a five-inch hole in a concrete floor with an axe. After that, it was straight back to being a Viking.

Maria Smedstad bio Scan Magazine

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