Monday, December 10, 2012

Get to know your neighbors – Allt för Sverige

One thing that takes ages in Sweden is getting to know your neighbors. This might be because some Swedes admit to hiding behind their doors waiting until you leave the hallway before they exit their apartment. But really, its just because if you get more than a nod and eye contact, you are ‘in’.

I feel a bit bad writing this because my neighbors are really great. And while I don’t know them well, they are mostly retired, and they know EVERYTHING that is going on in the neighborhood. So they will often fill me in on who is getting divorced, who had a grease fire, and where there was a robbery down the road.

But I really love this little film clip about how Swedes react to strangers at the door, even when they come equipped with a television crew.

This is a show called Allt för Sverige, a cute program about Americans who come to Sweden to learn about their family heritage. There are a bunch of absurd overdramatic moments with people proclaiming “My great great long lost cousin’s husband’s cow might have lived in this barn” followed by tears.

But it is also full of cute and fun cultural observations, not so far off from what I try to do with this little blog.

Here is what happens when the American contestants try to bring baked goods to their new neighbors.

Check out the clip at around 20:30 for the event. Most of it is in English, with a bit of Swedish thrown in.


  1. Hmm, you write that some Swedes "admit to" waiting until the hallway is clear. It sounds like something we are hiding, but it isn't. I think most people here do it, and it's not something secret or shameful at all, it's just normal. I also reacted to "even when they come ... with a television crew". Well of course they are reluctant to open for a tv crew, who wouldn't be? Do you want to be on tv? Most people don't, you know!

  2. I'd like to add that I still think this was a nice post, and I also think that show is kind of cute!

  3. @anon - I do enjoy different points of view, as I am only one person with my experience, but again remember I am writing with an American bias - so yes my language reflects that. I think it is pretty embarassing that you would wait behind the door until the hallway was empty, so to me it is 'admitting' you do it.... because I would never admit to that. (The only person I ever hid from was door to door salespeople) and as for TV crews, again, this is something a lot of Americans do seem to get rather excited about (If I am to use Oprah/Ellen as a guidepost here) - but to be honest I would probably hide behind the drapes if a TV crew showed up at my place in the US or Sweden. But I would be happy to invite in my neighbors!

  4. haha, turn on the captcha again :)

    I wish they would get rid of the eliminations, they're boring, cruel, and every person they send home is one less reason to watch the show.

  5. Yes, now I remember why I have the captcha... what you don't think I am an awesome webmistress who can help you with your pornsite?

    I don't know why they have to send people home either -- especially since everyone always seems to become so darn likeable.

  6. Hi
    i am so glad i found your blog. I am an ex-pat living in Finland, 29 weeks pregnant and have still not adapted to life here! I am looking forward to read more about your life in Sweden and get to know you better.
    Have a nice day

  7. Oh my god is it really like this?

    Waiting until the hallway is empty? Blank faces, go away- body language and no talking to strangers? I always pictured the Swedes as friendly and helpful people. Maybe I wathced too much TV when I was a child.
    Though I can understand that everybody feels a bit strange with a camera team around, I would, too.

    And the Americans in the show must have taken too much sugar in their coffee, sorry, but they mostly act a bit hysterically. :D

    PS: I have only met one native Swede and I am not sure about Americans and I know TV is not reality, so please don't take anything personally. It's just the impression I got during watching that show.

    1. It's not all bad. The blank faces is the default for swedes and nothing you have to take personally, it just means "I am paying attention to what you're saying". I think the americans would have had better luck if they didn't demand to be let in right away. The swedes probably expected if they had let them in, the next line would have been "..and we brought sleeping bags!"

  8. Lisa, Swedes are helpfull (but you will have to ask, unless you ask for help it is assumed you want to solve your problems yourself and interfering would be rude)
    And Swedes can be friendly but rarely with strangers.
    And most Swedes are kind of shy and risking getting on TV saying or doing something stupid would serve as a huge disouragmnet for most.