What Do Scandinavians Think of America?

Sweden, Denmark, Norway, and America are some of the richest and most economically advanced nations in the world today.

However, when it comes to politics and culture, the United States and Scandinavia can seem worlds apart. How do these differences inform the way Scandinavians think of America?

Scandinavians think of America as both aspirational and dysfunctional. They admire American pop culture and the innovative businesses and industries that made the country a 20th-century global power.

At the same time, they are baffled by its divisive and idiosyncratic politics.

The following sections will provide a more detailed explanation of how Swedes and Americans view each other and describe the cultural and political ties between the two nations on the global stage.  

Statue of Liberty
Do Swedes Like American Tourists? See below

Do Swedes like American tourists?

An overwhelming majority of Swedes do not like American tourists. They see American tourists as indecorous, ignorant, and next only to Chinese tourists in their undesirability.

However, this is a view of Americans collectively, and individual tourists are unlikely to be treated inhospitably. [1] [2]

People across the world are increasingly wary of the mixed blessing that is tourism.

On the one hand, tourism brings valuable foreign income to nations and positively impacts the local economies of the major tourist destinations.

At the same time, it also often brings unruly crowds and bad behavior. 

Unsurprisingly, Swedes are not wholly enamored of the idea of tourism.

A recent YouGov poll suggests that as many as 67% of all Swedes are opposed to letting Americans into the country, as opposed to just 16% who are in favor.

This makes Americans second only to Chinese tourists in their undesirability. 

However, it is important to note that such surveys are often impacted by immediate local and global events.

In the case of Swedish attitudes to Americans, both the presidency of Donald Trump and the American people’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic seem to have turned Swedes off the country.

Swedes also know that America is a large country with a very diverse population.

Besides, Sweden is a relatively safe country and an open society that welcomes tourists of all nations. Individual Americans are highly unlikely to encounter serious hostility when visiting Sweden.

Having considered these caveats, there are several qualities common to Americans–as the Swedes see it–that tick them off. 

Swedes see Americans as warm, friendly, and ambitious, but these same qualities can also make them seem loud, brash, and, in the worst cases, arrogant.

Swedes also think of Americans as poorly informed, unintelligent, and lazy. 

Still, the feature of American lives that baffles Swedes the most is undoubtedly American political culture.

With their highly egalitarian and well-functioning social democracy, Swedes just cannot fathom the deeply-entrenched inequalities of American life and the divisive nature of American politics.

America’s mixing of the state and religion, historical underinvestment in public health and education, lax attitude to gun control, and hostility to immigrants are all viewed with discomfort by many Swedes.   

American flag
Are Sweden and America allies? See below

Are Sweden and America Allies?

Sweden and America have a long history of friendly relations and cooperation but have not always been allies.

While the countries share deep cultural ties and have overlapping political and economic interests, Sweden’s 200-year history of neutrality has frequently strained the relationship. [3] [4]

Sweden and America have deep and long-standing cultural and political ties.

Sweden was one of the earliest countries to recognize the newly independent American nation in 1783, and the countries have mostly maintained friendly relations based on mutual self-interest ever since.

Many Americans also have family ties to Sweden based on waves of Swedish migration over the centuries. In the late 19th century alone, over a million Swedes traveled to America to escape famine.

This was over a quarter of the Swedish population at the time. [5]

Although Swedish political culture is to the left of American political culture, the two countries continue to share mutual interests.

They are both relatively open societies that look to push for the expansion of trade, global security, and human rights.

As part of the EU, Sweden is a significant American trading partner.

At the same time, Sweden’s historical neutrality has frequently strained ties between the two countries, most notably during World War II, when Sweden refused to join the American-led alliance in taking on Nazi Germany.

On several occasions, the Swedes actively assisted the Nazis in keeping the peace in their part of the world. 

More recently, although they have contributed to international peacekeeping efforts, the Swedes have resisted joining Nato.

With the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022, this situation is potentially about to change. [6]

Scandinavia America
What do Americans think of Swedes? See below

What Do Americans Think of Swedes?

Most Americans are unlikely to think about Swedes at all. Those who do are likely to have strongly divergent views on Swedish political culture.

As people, Americans are likely to view the Swedes as physically beautiful and exceedingly polite but reserved if not cold. [7] [8]

Most Americans are relatively ill-informed about geography and international affairs. Or–as the Swedes complain–they cannot find Sweden on a map.

They are unlikely to have a well-articulated opinion of Swedes if they have one at all. 

However, the inclusive, consensus-based, and left-leaning culture of Swedish politics is likely to strike Americans–whose politics are the polar opposite–as either ideal or abhorrent. 

Many on the American left look to the Scandinavian countries as exemplars of the ideal polity.

At the same time, Right Wing Americans are likely to be horrified by what they would consider a highly socialist state in Sweden.

Personally, Americans find Swedes physically attractive, picturing the typical Swede as tall, blonde, and blue-eyed.

However, differences in culture and communication styles mean that Americans often find individual Swedes cold, stand-offish, or even rude. 

Part of the disjunct in how Americans and Swedes perceive each other is based on very different communication styles.

While Americans are generally more expressive and outgoing in public spaces, Swedes are reserved. To Americans, the Swedish reserve can sometimes come across as cold or unfriendly. [9]

At the same time, Swedes are much more direct and honest in conversations with friends and relatives than Americans.

Americans not accustomed to this style of communication can perceive it as rude and intrusive. 


Scandinavians have a love-hate relationship with America; they adore its pop culture and industrial savvy, are wary of its people, and despise its political culture.

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Christian Christensen

Christian started Scandinavia Facts to explore his family heritage, raise awareness of one of his academic interests as a professor, and civilly promote the region. Please see the About page for details.

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