Wednesday, November 28, 2007

An eyeopening book about Swedes?

I accidentally found a book at Borders today - Culture Smart - Sweden - A quick guide to customs and etiquette. I got curious and just had to buy it. After all - sometimes I do feel like an alien even in Sweden these days and maybe I need a quick refresher course.

I interestingly read things like;
On quality of life: The Swedes love their homes, and this is apparent the moment you enter them. Candles softly glow, lightning is subdued, and fresh flowers lend an air of cheeriness. The whole effect is cozy, welcoming, restful and harmonious, for the Swedes, when not outdoors, happily spend a lot of time at home (p.84).
I immediately felt the pressure... I'm I living up to this despite being a Swede abroad...? "Fresh flowers, air of cheeriness"? Gosh - I might need to hire and interior decorator!
On invitations home: To be invited into a Swedish home is a real honor. Guests usually bring a gift of flowers, candy or wine. When giving flowers, the Swedes like to pretend that they are straight form the garden, and will remove and hide the florist paper before knocking on your door (p. 78).
My gosh! I've always removed the paper (which usually is wrapped around the flowers to protect them) because I think it's nicer not to give flowers wrapped in paper - never even crossed my mind that anyone would perceive it as trying to fake that they were from my garden (I lived in apartment building in down town Stockholm...).
Swedish conversation has an exchange pattern all of its own, and foreigners, especially those from North America, tend to go wrong by offering too much information too soon. The conversational comfort zone of a Swede follows a certain cadence: brief question followed by a brief answer. The length and strength of the response should match the question (p.70).
Holy cow. Are we really perceived to be that slow...

Culture Smart seems to be a book series about different countries, "attitudes, beliefs and behaviors" - and there seem to be one for the US too. I might have to get that one and compare...

13 comments:

britgirl said...

I think it sounds right about your homes.
I love how most of you have your homes,although of course they are not exactly the same. The flowers thing was interesting as I've only ever taken the price off. Maybe I'll take the wrappers off now also and claim they're from my garden!Maybe add a slug or something for authenticity!ha!

Anonymous said...

åh, sånt är kul. När jag var utbytesstudent i USA hade min värdfamilj fått en beskrivning om svenskar och våra seder. Jag fick sidorna i min hand efter ha bott hos dem i si sådär ett halvår och vissa beskrivningar var sanna, andra inte så, men kul att läsa hur andra uppfattar oss.

/u

Annika said...

OMG! Thanks for the laugh of the day. Where the heck do they gather information like this???
I feel the pressure as well now...Man, so I need to have candles going all the time now? And fresh flowers? straight from the garden??? PLEEEASE!!!!
And how to make conversation with a Swede...LAUGHING!!!
Good, now I know it is a "real honor" to be invited to my home...

This is great! I have to go take a look at that book myself...hahaha!!!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for a great blog!
I actually got that book for my american husband a few years ago when we lived in Sweden. When we later moved here - I got the US version from him =)
/Veronica

Saltistjejen said...

Haha!!! Jacal! Skoj!!!! :-D
Jag älskar just det där om hur man konverserar.... Hm, tyvärr är jag nog rätt osvensk i det fallet då? ;-)
Fast visst det där med våra hem tror jag gäller generellt. Men inte enbart "inredningsdekorationsmässigt, utan även att vi är noga med att allt ska vara bra kvalitet och att om något går sönder så lagar vi det. Ordentligt. Här (iallafall i NYC) ser man 99% av gångerna att folk liksom inte bryr sig. Vatten kan rinna in genom taket och det enda man gör är att ställa dit en hink. Ingen kollar upp och renoverar och fixar "från grunden". Det tycker jag fortfarande är konstigt.

JaCal said...

Britgirl - haha - yes, I guess it would work here - in theory you could have fresh flowers from your garden all year around... I sure wonder what the author thought when she got flowers in February in Sweden...

U - visst är det kul och ibland halvt skrämmande... som exemplet med blommorna. Det är klart att det möjligtvis skulle kunna uppfattas så - men tvivlar på att skälet till att man tar av pappret är att fejka trädgårdsblommor... haha.

Annika - I really felt a bit sorry for the author... she lived in Sweden for 10 years and must have had the most awful conversations, getting fake garden flowers... there is a lot more in the book - some of it is more accurate and interesting and some of it are just plain dumb... I'll share more of it later...

Veronica - thanks! Haha - then you know what I'm talking about! I'm really curious about the US book now... maybe I have to get it and compare...

Saltistjejen - ja, jag är nog rätt osvensk också... jag undrar just vad det är för människor författaren har stött på... Jag tror att kvalitetsaspekten nog kan vara rätt - men den övriga beskrivningen känns ju lite over the top... jag undrar just om författaren besökte hem med barn i ... fniss... Men visst är det skillnad på hur vi sköter våra hus generellt - blir ju extra påtagligt i storstäder här - Stockholm har ju knappt några "sunkiga" hus alls.

Desiree said...

Visst är det interessant att läsa sådana böcker. Vi fick faktiskt en bok som heter Culture shock Sweden av våra vänner då de var här. Den tar upp just sådant som din bok också tar upp. Jag tycker verkligen det är interessant. Man reflekterar plötsligt över saker som man aldrig tänkt mycke på innan.

Ally said...

What there no mention of how you MUST talk about the weather? ;-) I didn't read any culture books before I moved to Sweden because I decided I didn't want to be influenced beforehand. But I kept wondering why people discussed how cold it was. Then later I read a book discussing the need to talk about it.

I think many Americans share a little too much, and most Europeans are probably shocked about the details one learns in just an hour with an American.

My mom broke rank and visited us in the winter and all she could talk about was how cozy every place was with the candles. I think it leaves a good impression on visitors.

Petit said...

Hello!
I live in California too.
I visited here when I was looking for Lilla Anna Klippan blanket. Your blog is sooo qute.Ilove this blog.Thank you!

Lullun said...

*Haha* Och midsommar; jo det är en offerfest som vi svenskar firar i fruktsamhetens tecken. Det vet ju alla och en var. Eller hur var det nu..?! :-)

JaCal said...

Desiree - ja, visst är det intressant - inte minst som "ögonöppnare"!

Ally - haha! I'm sure it's in there - the Swedes urgent need to talk about the weather. Sometimes it's the first thing we talk about on the phone - no matter if it was 5 years ago we talked. I so curious about your impressions about Sweden - I sure want to hear about that!

Petit - hi there! Thank you! Welcome here! I hope you found your blanket!

Lullun - ja? Vet inte alla det? Haha! ;-)

Anonymous said...

Det där med frågorna och svaren när man snackar med en svensk var rätt kul... Låter som tips inför en jobbintervju eller nåt, typ: "kom ihåg, svarets längd får INTE överskrida frågans längd!". Det är ingenting jag tänker på men det låter riktigt löjligt. Jag känner ingen som alltid svarar lika långt som frågan..

JaCal said...

Ja, ifs är det nog en hänvisning till den omfattning i vilken amerikanarna kan prata på... jämfört med oss tysta svenskar... ;-)