Monday, October 8, 2012

Less Sexy side of Sweden - Bigotry and Racism

On living here for many years now, i have 95% of the time been impressed by how accommodating the general swedish population is in making one comfortable.  For example, when first moving here, I didnt know what to expect, would i be understood? Would i be lost or isolated due to my lack of Swedish skills? Not only was this not the case, but in general Swedes in general go out of their way to make foreigners as comfortable as possible.  On arriving here, I noticed that all signage at the airport was at a minimum in English as well as Swedish.  Everyone i spoke with when arriving seemed to speak excellent English, and in short its not been at all difficult initially to get along here as a Canadian in Sweden. 

Just to give a bit of contrast to those whom have never visited the Nordics, when traveling to Norway for example, the atmosphere is quite a contrast to Sweden.  The Norwegian history is full of conquest (that would be the Norwegians being taken over) and their cultural identity developed as a result of such and now when you travel to Norway the economic climate has changed due to the large oil and gas reserves off the Norwegian cost and their proudness as a peoples is also reflected in the population.  During my visits there, i found the Norwegians to be must more distant, hesitant to interact with foreigners and generally less accommodating then the Swedes.  This is also the case with signage and such....for example the fairly international hotel i stayed at had no English in their rooms, elevators, or anywhere in the hotel.  To my relief yes the receptionist did speak English.

 Yes, on first impressions Sweden seems like gumdrops and sugar blossoms and the average English speaker probably would not have any problems here but if you are one to live and work here for any length of time and work to follow the rules such as for taxation, calling about your phone bill, requesting service for your kitchen appliances you will quickly experience another side of Sweden that is far less welcoming.  Of course being here for so long you do pick up the language and for the most part although I am fluent in Swedish, i prefer to speak my mother tongue of English for the simple fact that im just more comfortable doing so.  When calling help lines for local or non-international companies here in Sweden it is rather rare to have the option to request English assistance so I would simply navigate through the Swedish menus until i reached a person.  However, in more instances that I can count now, upon getting to someone who politely says their name and how they can help you in Swedish, as soon as I open my mouth and ask weather I can speak in English, the line mysteriously disconnects. 

There have been cases where the person on the line speaks in Swedish and I reply in english, that is the best of both words as we are both more comfortable speaking our native languages and i have no problem at all with this however hanging up on someone becuase they ask if they can speak english is about the most impolite thing i have ever experienced.  Initially you want to call back, speak to a supervisor and ensure that this never happens again but the other side of me knows that this type of behaviour will never change.  As welcoming as Swedish people are to foreigners, we will always be just that: Foreign, and a contributor to the dilution and depreciation of the Swedish culture and heritage. 

The government here is hell bent on making Sweden multiclutural, however more and more I am noticing that a growing majority of people have had enough.  Perhaps this is why the Swedish Democrats are increasing in the poles every year.

The Swedish Word of the day is: ohƶvligt which means Rude

A racist is someone who believes in the superiority of one race over another, or who acts differently (usually negatively) towards a person or a group of people because of their race. An example would be a member of the Ku Klux Klan, who espouse the superiority of the white race.

A bigot is a blinkered, narrow-minded person, usually also very intolerant and unable to see anyone else's point of view. People can be bigoted about things that have nothing to do with race, for example, religion or sexual orientation. A prime example would be Archie Bunker from the old television sitcom "All in the Family."

All racists are bigots, but by no means are all bigots racist. That is, a racist is a bigot against a particular race or every race except for his/hers. 

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