To non-Swedes, Swedes can seem shy or even rude. This is one of the more ignorant stereotypes roaming the world today and, although there is of course a reason for its existence, it is unknown to the majority and not taken into consideration when judging a whole people.
Some cultures are very open and chatty (we are looking at you, America), and when Swedes fail to respond well to a behaviour they consider to be ‘too much’, they are often instantly labelled as rude. But Swedes are not an anti-social group of Scandinavians; the winter darkness has not made them stone cold and heartless. If they were, the expression ‘if there is room in the heart, there is room for the butt’ would not be a thing. In fact, you are probably thinking of the Finns. Jokes aside, Swedes like to mind their own business and will most likely only interact with strangers when they have to or are politely asked to.
Some of the Swedes’ introverted streaks originate from the Swedish Gustavian era at the end of the 18th century. King Gustav III had big plans for Sweden and wanted to unite the people with one unified Swedish language, founding the Swedish Academy to curate it and dressing up the people in different official Swedish costumes, which would make it easy to spot who belonged to which class in society. He introduced the same etiquette used at the French court to his own court, thus pushing aside the old medieval habits such as eating with your hands and using the table cloth as a handkerchief. Now there was a real set of rules to follow. Like all things royal, these ‘rules’ spread across the nation, first to the nobility, of course, and then to the common people, taming the Swedes and laying the foundation for today’s inaccurate image of the Swedes as shy and rude.
Joakim Andersson is a Swedish musician, YouTuber, podcaster, and entrepeneur who calls himself an enjoyer of life. He is the founder of Say It In Swedish, which is a podcast, web and mobile app, and YouTube channel that teaches modern Swedish in a fun and easy-going way for free. Check it out at www.sayitinswedish.com