Swedish Communications Skills

April 1, 2009 at 04:37 3 comments

Every now and again, I’m faced with all kinds of stereotypes and misconceptions about Swedes. Israelis have this idea that Swedes are introvert, suicidal nymphomaniacs who live in a socialist paradise/hell (depending on their own respective political leanings) furnished by IKEA.

I spend a considerable amount of time at parties, work lunches and first dates explaining that Swedes aren’t really like that. Not at all. There are other explanations for the suicide statistics. Some Swedes actually keep their virginity way into high school. Swedes don’t actually need to be inebriated to initiate social interaction.

And then, from time to time, reality slaps me and all my efforts in the face.

It happened to me again this morning, as I was reading the advice column of Magdalena Ribbing, Sweden’s answer to Judith Martin. Someone wrote in with a particularly tricky question for the queen of Scandinavian etiquette, and I think it deserves to be quoted (in my translation):

“When one travels by bus for example from Slussen to Värmdö, there are many seats where there’s a bag, a backpack or something else.  
On the bus, the seats are arranged in pairs. And next to the ‘bag seat’ the owner of the bag will most often sit. 
This happens even when there aren’t all that many ‘free’ seats left on the bus. Quite rude, I think. 
So, one is forced to ask – ‘Can I sit here’ or ‘Is this seat free’. 
It feels a little awkward that one cannot simply get onto the bus and sit down without having to ask if a seat is free.”

Ok. But I still insist that there’s a perfectly natural explanation for the suicide statistics.

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Entry filed under: Life.

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