What Do Swedes Think of America and Americans?


Sweden is a peaceful country with consistently high levels of satisfaction and happiness from its residents. Because it’s such a happy place with such attractive scenery and exciting things to do, it’s experienced a steep rise in tourism over the past few decades. What do Swedes think about all these new tourists, specifically those from America?

Sweden and America get along well. The US is Sweden’s third-largest export trade partner, and the two countries consistently have pleasant relations. Swedes also enjoy American pop culture. However, not all Swedes are as fond of Americans or the United States in general.

This article will further explore the average Swede’s thoughts on Americans and why they feel the way they do. It will also discuss whether Sweden is friendly to American tourists and non-American tourists.  

American flag
Why do Swedes think the way they do about Americans? See below

Why Do Swedes Think the Way They Do About Americans?

Over the last several years, Swedes have lost a lot of respect for Americans. Words and phrases that often pop up time and time again include: 

  • Nice, but loud
  • Brash
  • Outgoing, not shy
  • Uneducated
  • Indoctrinated 
  • Somewhat dim
  • Somewhat lazy
  • Excessive, too big (in terms of body mass, the cars they drive, how much they consume, etc.)
  • Driven

In other words, many Swedes think Americans are polite, outgoing, and fun-loving. They also think they are creative and willing to take the initiative when they want something. However, they also think Americans don’t take good care of themselves, are excessive, loud, unintentionally rude, and poorly educated. 

A large part of why Swedes think of Americans the way they do is because of the Trump administration. The delayed response to the COVID-19 pandemic didn’t help most Swedes’ opinions of Americans, either. They also pity Americans because of the amount of gun violence in the US.

In a 2020 study, 67% of Sweden’s population opposed having American tourists visit Sweden. [3] The only people they wanted in their country less were those from China. 

Regardless of his support in the United States, President Donald Trump wasn’t well-liked on a global scale. People from other countries, including Sweden, were shocked when he was elected president, and it lowered their opinion of the United States and the people in it. After all, the common question on everyone’s mind was, “What kind of people would vote for a man like that?”

The way the Trump administration handled the COVID-19 virus was also frowned upon by most countries. They thought Americans weren’t doing enough to curb the spread of the disease, and they didn’t want Americans in their countries for that reason.

In all the countries surveyed for that same study, all but two (Sweden and Finland) were most opposed to American tourists.

Pre-Trump administration and pre-COVID, Swedes’ opinions of Americans were better. They still thought Americans could be brash and unintentionally rude. However, they also like them.

Of course, much of what the average Swede knows about America comes from pop culture, including movies, television shows, music, and books.

American girl
Is Sweden friendly to Americans? See below

Is Sweden Friendly to Americans?

Living in a post-COVID world has changed many things for people. As mentioned above, Swedes aren’t terribly excited to have American tourists visit their country. That doesn’t mean they’ll treat them rudely if they do visit, though.

Sweden is friendly to Americans, though American tourists often disagree. In Sweden, it’s rude to engage in small talk with strangers. It’s much more polite to leave strangers to themselves instead of potentially taking up their time or forcing them into a potentially uncomfortable conversation.

For that reason, Swedes don’t go out of their way to engage American tourists – or any strangers, for that matter – in conversation. They’re quiet, reserved people who aren’t big on pointless chit-chat. 

Additionally, Swedes are very private people and don’t like to discuss what they consider “private matters” with outsiders. “Private matters” could include their families, their health, and how their day is going. Unfortunately, these are all things that Americans usually ask about within the first five minutes of a conversation, such as: 

  • Hi! How are you feeling today?
  • How’s your family?
  • Do you have any children?
  • Oh no! You’re coughing! Are you sick?

An article on LYS Förlag sums this up perfectly with the following scenario: 

“For example, if you are travelling [sic] on public transport sitting next to a person sniffling, without anything to blow their nose with, it is not unlikely that you, a non-Swede, will offer them a tissue from your own package. […] You will probably be surprised to see the Swede hesitantly accepting the tissue, perhaps using it, but not thanking you, and for the rest of the journey looking very uncomfortable.”

The article goes on to explain that in this scenario, “a private matter has been recognised [sic] in a public setting, and Swedes are not prepared for such situations.” [4]

Because the two cultures are so different, Americans often think that Swedes are being rude to them. In reality, the two just have very different ideas about what it means to be polite. 

American flag
Is Sweden friendly to non-American visitors? See below

Is Sweden Friendly to Non-American Visitors?

Sweden is very friendly to most tourists, whether they’re from America, Great Britain, or one of its Scandinavian neighbors. Swedes put a high premium on politeness and are usually courteous to all tourists. However, they aren’t friendly in a talkative, engaging way.

As mentioned in an earlier section, Swedes think leaving strangers to themselves and not bothering them is friendly. Someone unaccustomed to this dynamic might think Swedes are ignoring them or being rude. They aren’t; they’re being very friendly and respectful in the ways they define friendliness and respect. 

However, suppose one defines “friendly” as talkative, engaging strangers in conversation, and going out of their way to offer advice and exchange. In that case, no, Swedes aren’t usually “friendly” in that way.

Conclusion

Individual Swede’s opinions differ on Americans, with some finding Americans “fun and outgoing” and others thinking they’re “rude and dimwitted.” Politically, the countries get along.

References:
[1] Source
[2] Source
[3] Source
[4] Source

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