So, what have you heard about Swedish people? Maybe you’ve heard that they are ‘cold’, ‘blunt’ and keep to themselves. Well, you’ll be pleased to read that I have a different opinion. I disagree. (But that could be because my partner is Swedish and as a result of years of relationship development and maybe a psychological lapse in memory for adaptation, my perspective is different). I just think approaching Swedish people requires more of an understanding of the culture, resilience and more effort. And not necessarily that people here are distant.
In my experiences, Swedish people are friendly, laid-back, empathetic and intelligent. The qualities that I value most. I also, LOVE their sense of humour and, again, maybe I’m just lucky enough to find like-minded people here. And of course, like anywhere in the world, you’ll find the odd-ball here or there who doesn’t suit you. But like everything in life that doesn’t work out, you move on like a soldier.
I guess, the only thing you need to do, is to make friends with a Swede and make that judgement for yourself.
Let’s start – How to make friends with Swedish people!
Get yourself out there
Ok, so you’ve started uni and after the first few weeks, you’ve noticed your Swedish comrades dropping off. Where are they? Coming from a different country, your motivations are probably different to people who are already settled in their own countries. They are probably juggling their own families, friends, part-time jobs and, well, life itself isn’t easy for everyone! So, here is where you pave your own way. Similar to making friends in any new country, my greatest tip for you is to join a club and attend events or talks. You might want to join a sports club, science club or library club! This might be within the university but also outside the university. Whatever it may be, get involved! Attend the events that interest you about science, books, food, feminism… etc. Get yourself out there! Because the more you expose yourself, the more contacts you will make, and the more likely you will meet Swedish people.
Be the first to initiate the conversation
This is where the hard work begins. You’ll have to initiate conversation. My understanding of Swedish people not starting a conversation, is that they have a culture of being mindful of others, and their personal space. So, if they initiate a conversation, the fear would be that they are imposing. And of course, if they don’t have the years of practice that you have initiating conversation, it’s not going to come naturally to them. YOU start the conversation. If you’re at a talk or club, initiate interesting conversations about the topic. Don’t be afraid! Because like I mentioned, Swedish people are very friendly (they just don’t initiate).
Be prepared to maintain the relationship
And it gets harder. You’ll also have to prepare yourself to continue the conversation. Sometimes, conversations naturally taper off. It’s your job, if you want to maintain the relationship, to continue digging and questioning. Be curious and open. It’s unlikely that a Swedish person will continue a conversation outside what had been discussed, for the aforementioned reason. So, you need to show how open you are willing to be, and certainly gauge your audience’s response. Push for more conversation and try to get to know the person.
Don’t be disheartened if there’s no initiative from your fellow Swede to continue the friendship. This takes time, much longer than what you’re probably used to. But, don’t misinterpret this as Swedish people not wanting to be your friend. Everyone has their own personal lives that they prioritise. It will take more than one conversation for a Swedish person to want to stay in contact with you, and you can only hope that you will see them again to build upon what you started.
That’s all folks!
In all honesty though, just jive with the people that suits you, whether they be Swedish or not. Use these conversations and brief friendships to understand the people and culture better. And most importantly, be patient and be kind.
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or https://www.linkedin.com/in/helen-nguyen-539782aa/
Hi! I'm Helen from Australia here, currently living and loving life in Stockholm. I'm studying a Master's in Health Informatics at Karolinska Institutet. I love walking in nature, dancing and cycling around town. I love a good chat and enjoy a good hearty laugh. We can talk about nothing and discuss absolutely everything. I enjoy cooking food, falling asleep to movies and going for long walks in the forest.