Skip to comments.Swedes' perceived rudeness 'isn't racially motivated'
Posted on 09/01/2011 1:11:46 PM PDT by WesternCulture
Mr. Suhail Din, India, demands of the inferior inhabitants of Stockholm, Sweden, to treat him like an Emperor on visit.
"UK native Suhail Din sparked a heated debate among The Local's readers with his reflections on why Swedes refused to talk to him and his family during a recent visit to Stockholm. Contributor Ruben Brunsveld examines why.
Two weeks later the article has received more than 300 comments and has been shared on Facebook almost 600 times. So now that the dust has settled it is time for a more nuanced look at why this contribution sparked so many emotional reactions.
The contributor is Suhail Din, a UK native of Pakistani or Indian descent (given his reference to Punjabi). During his highly-anticipated holiday in Sweden, he and his family were shocked to find out that they did not manage to interact with the Swedish population.
Or to be more precise: that the population seemed not to interact with them.
The experience of the Din family is a classic example of problems in intercultural communication. In his contribution, Mr. Din makes assumptions that are based on cultural misunderstandings that consequently provoke strong emotional reactions amongst some of The Local's readers.
So lets analyse what happened.
In the first half of his contribution Mr. Din goes to great lengths to compliment the Sweden's nature, population, and service-minded attitude. But just like in his real life experience, the article turns, at the sixth paragraph, when he starts to describe the uneasy feeling he and his family got after spending some time in the city.
He describes the stares of the people, the fact that people sitting at their table kept speaking in Swedish and the general disinterest of people to engage with them. So far it seems like not much more then relatively common big-city behaviour (compare it to the arrogant Parisiens, New Yorkers, Amsterdammers etc.).
So why did his article spark so many reactions?
Although Mr. Din does not explicitly mention it, in several places he implies that there could be racial motives behind the behavior of Stockholms inhabitants:
We could not understand why, as we dress as everyone else except that we are brown...
We were the only non-whites in the National Museums Atrium Restaurant...
In Newcastle a visitor is sure to receive a warm welcome, , black white or brown, Chinese or South Asian...
First of all the unpleasant feeling this must have given the Din family needs to be taken seriously. However, the feelings seems to have been fed by a lack of knowledge of and failure to understand the Swedish communication culture.
Since there was no other logical explanation for the (in their eyes) rude behavior on the part of the Swedes, the only reasonable explanation left for the Din's is the conclusion that the way they were treated was because of the colour of their skin.
And that is where the spark ignites!
Besides the Swedish communication culture, which Ill address below, Mr. Din should have been aware of the fact that implying racial motives and then expanding that to a whole society or population is very sensitive.
Especially in Sweden with its long standing tradition of human rights protection, emphasis on equality, as well as Swedes' tendency to display politically correct behavior. The recent rise of the extreme right on the political scene has made this topic even more sensitive as views become more polarized and the debate more heated.
Mr. Din also walks a fine line of sensitivity by referring to the Utøya tragedy and placing his feelings of anxiety in that context. Worldwide people were devastated by that event but outside Norway probably nowhere more then in Sweden.
The images were so similar, the system is so similar, and the people are so connected that for many Swedes it felt like an attack on their own society. Since that tragedy took place during the same weekend that the Din family was in Stockholm his feelings of paranoia (as he describes it) can be understood.
Nobody knew how to react to those events. But to write that into the article, implying extreme right wing motives behind common big-city behaviour does not demonstrate a lot of understanding for the Swedish society.
Finally the Swedish communication culture.
It is a well-known fact that many foreigners find it difficult to engage with Swedes. From my personal experience as a Dutch native living in Stockholm, I can tell Mr. Din that it is not easy and that he was right picking up those signals. However, the motives behind this behaviour are often different and sometimes even nice and honorable.
An example: this summer I was grilling on the barbeque outside my apartment for four nights in a row. To my surprise all the neighbours looked, sometimes smiled, and then quickly walked on.
It was not until the last evening that one neighbour approached me and asked if he could put a korv (sausage) on the barbecue because his wife was not home and he did not feel like cooking. After talking to him I realised that what I mistook for unwillingness to engage (and even rude behavior) was actually my neighbours' way of respecting my privacy.
Respecting each others privacy is highly valued in Sweden. You do not stick your nose where it does not belong and do not interfere with the business of others (at least not openly). Obviously these strict boundaries make it more difficult for foreigners to get in. It is also very often considered rude by people coming from more communitarian societies such as those found in Asian or Latin American countries.
Another example: when I go out for drinks, I am used to buying a round of drinks for the whole group. Someone else will take the next. But in Sweden one buys a drink for oneself and possibly the person you are talking with.
After a year I still have to remind myself that I am not rude in doing this, nor are others, but that it is just a different social convention. It is actually rude to my Swedish friends if I buy a round for the whole group because It puts them in the difficult position of either having to break the code or be rude to me.
It is also a common misconception that all Swedes communicate well in English. Although most Swedes know English well, that does not mean they are comfortable communicating in it. Try talking to your insurance company in English!
With regard to the Swedish language, it must be said that compared to the language of Shakespeare and Yeats, it is not very refined or courteous. Partially as a result of Sweden's emphasis on egalitarianism (as such, a noble principle) a lot of the polite forms have virtually disappeared. For instance, there is no polite way to start a letter or email. This is not a matter of disrespect but a different way of communicating.
My sincere belief is that what Mr. Din saw as possible racially motivated behavior was in fact a mix of capital-city-arrogance and cultural behavior.
Of course that is no excuse for being rude but with the assumptions Mr. Din made and his implicit racial references, it is no wonder the article sparked the reactions it did.
However I am sure that if his daughter proceeds with her plans to come to Stockholm she will find that although it does take a while to get to know the real Swedes they are just as nice, arrogant, loveable and yes rude as the rest of us.
Ruben Brunsveld is the Director of the Stockholm Institute for Public Speaking (StIPS), which offers training in Intercultural Communication, Public Speaking & Negotiation Techniques"
The article that upper, superior, caste Mr Sieg Heil Din wrote:
I couldn’t be whiter nor look more Swedish. I went to visit my ancestral area in Sweden and they were rude to us, too.
Now... in order to be more Swedish, I’m rude to everyone.
I grew up in a Norwegion area - the author is spot-on. Even when visiting lifelong neighbors or friends, the intent was that if no one answered the door on the second knock; you quietly left. The assumption was that your friend was either sleeping, entertaining someone, or wanted to be left alone.
So, if you were not doing anything - feel free to stop by; but don't expect automatically that just because your friend is home, that he wants to be bothered. Now, if you had previously made plans - that is another matter.
I think the Swedes are on to something here. I am nice and I try to be polite everywhere I go, but I generaly like to be left alone.
Greta Garbo was Swedish. The famous quote attributed to her that “I want to be alone” was really a misquote. Her actual statement was “I want to be left alone”.
Seems she reflected her culture pretty accurately... /g
Sorry, forgot to include you in post #7.
That the Swedes refused to speak Punjabi to Mr. Din was obviously motivated by racism. He could have told them many interesting stories about his grandfather Gunga.
Many people have remarked on “the cold attitude”, and let me tell you I’ve never met a Swede or Sa’ami who struck me as cold ~ and it’s none of your business why I might feel that way.
My great-grandfather emigrated from Sweden. I got a chance to visit his town in Sweden. The people were cold and seemed unfriendly.
It was a great disappointment. I only report, you decide.
I only want to hear about that last fight!
That sounds so midwestern, specifically Nebraskan, Iowan, South and North Dakotan and Minnesotan. Wonder why.
In a gesture of diplomatic interrelations, Lazamataz invited each and every member of the Swedish Bikini Team over to see his vast Beer collection (he even has Billy Beer), and you know what?
They ALL turned him down. How Rude was that?
And if you don't believe this really happened, remember, you just read it on the inter-Webs!
I never found Swedes to be rude, just rather shy and quite introverted. I found the Norwegians to be much more shy and introverted. I rode on a train once from Oslo to Bergen and it was rare to see someone speak the whole trip.
What about Din’s “racism?” Or is “racism” only from whites?
Sounds like Mr. Din does not like those whitey Swedes. He can always travel to brown Pakistan where he doesn’t have to put up with foreigners (whitey).
He’s been in Britian and knows whitey’s place. He found a native white culture in Europe not properly shamed, cowed and cleansed.
Whites must develop the habit of getting back in the race baiter’s face and suggesting he has racist problems within himself and his tribe to take care of before he takes on the problems of the foreigners.
Suhail Din is a Muslim name. And if he is a Punjabi then most definitely he is from Pakistan. During partition Punjabi Muslims moved over to Western Punjab(Pakistan) and Hindus and Sikhs moved over to Eastern Punjab (India). Besides, Sweden had a large Pakistani migrant population and comparatively a very small Indian population. I will hazard a guess this guys is a Pakistani. And young Pakistani guys have been causing a lot of trouble for Swedish girls.
It’s not racism, it’s jantelaw. Nordic people treat other non-familiar Nordic people like outsiders because of the tradition of jantelaw. He just happened to be an outsider whose skin was brown.
It’s also very common to see it in outstate Minnesota.
The Scottish Highlands were once peopled by a people created out of an amalgam of Irish warriors and Norse Vikings.
They all moved here.
It's not often appreciated just how incredibly like the Scandinavians the Scots are.
“I grew up in a Norwegion area - the author is spot-on. Even when visiting lifelong neighbors or friends, the intent was that if no one answered the door on the second knock; you quietly left. The assumption was that your friend was either sleeping, entertaining someone, or wanted to be left alone”
- This is how we Scandinavians behave.
A citizen of India I once did some business with once told me this was something he liked about Sweden; people respected each other’s space.
My grandparents emigrated from Sweden (western Sweden, in northern Bohuslän). I have stayed at the Henriksson family farm, which my cousin now runs, and they were friendly enough and welcoming. I have spent many weeks in Sweden, and I was treated OK by most people. I do know the language some, and that helps.
Yes, Swedes are more reserved and private than Americans, and I think they look down on Americans to some extent, based on the stereotype they have. But when they actually can spend time with a real American--hej, people are people.
Now... in order to be more Swedish, Im rude to everyone.
Good policy! Then when they discover you're actually a nice person, they're pleasantly surprised! ;^)
You know, reading this about Swedish culture gives me a little more insight into my own character. This is kind of how I am! And my Swedish grandparents had a big role in raising me.
It is common among us Scandinavian-American Lutherans to joke about “God’s frozen people.” I guess there’s some truth to that!
“The famous quote attributed to her that I want to be alone was really a misquote. Her actual statement was I want to be left alone.”
- Nice having intelligent people respond to what I post here on an average thursday.
Mr. Din is right that they were rude when
Waiting in line, a young blonde mother dropped one of her babys possessions.
I asked my wife to retrieve it, by now assuming the mother wouldnt take kindly to me.
She didnt say thank you.
read the article — he said they spoke English throughout....
What are you talking about Din’s racism or “whitey knows his place” — he doesn’t say anything like that, just that he thought people would be warm and friendly, evidently he didn’t read up on Swedish culture.
Thug is trying to intimidate based on race, nothing more. Of course he like anyone else just knows that anti-racism which he crows about is nothing more than being anti-white. To hell with him and the people that side with that thug. He could have just said the Swedes were rude then went home to his paradise on Earth which has no evil whites.
I know...I was just kidding. It would be unreasonable for a foreigner in Sweden to expect a Swede to be able to speak any foreign language beyond English, German, or French.
He could have just said the Swedes were rude then went home to his paradise on Earth which has no evil whites. --> he could have, but he wondered if it was because he was brown. He was wrong, but he wondered. AND, "his paradise" is the UK, which has quite a few whites and quite a few evil ones (and evil browns, blacks, yellows, red and purples ;-P)
Of course he like anyone else just knows that anti-racism which he crows about is nothing more than being anti-white. -- how exactly is this being anti-white? He talks about how his wife helped a young mother and didn't get a thank-you in return. THAT is plain rude
I've traveled with brown and black and Oriental friends in Italy, Spain, Poland and Slovakia and if you do something nice, like give up a seat to an elderly person or help someone, they WILL thank you -- mostly it will be in the their native language, but they WILL thank. It is common courtesy.
Why this young mother did not thank, I don't know -- I have an acquaintance in Gothenburg who is an East Indian and quite dark and he has experiences to the contrary. Of course, he LIVES in Gothenburg as opposed to Din who was a tourist.
I personally don't think the Swedes are racist at all, may be they are rude (I don't know), ruder as a people than others, I don't know.
Or, the other point could be if the Dins were wearing Moslem gear (I wonder), or that they, being Pakis, looked like the Kurds who plague Malmo (my East Indian friend is too dark to be a Kurd!)
Of course he never speaks Punjabi around people that don’t understand it...
That's been my limited experience too, and perhaps these folks expected the same. But you are correct that one should not expect all to speak English well -- some non-English speaking Europeans who speak very good English are still embarrassed to speak to a "native speaker", thinking their English is not good enough
However, again these guys spoke English -- we don't know if they were speaking the bad English which is prevalent in Britain these days with an atrocious accent "innit?"
good catch. But, since the dude seems a Paki, he may have spoken Urdu.
You go around calling people “racist” you are a thug, end of conversation, have a nice day.
Of course he like anyone else just knows that anti-racism which he crows about is nothing more than being anti-white. — how exactly is this being anti-white? He talks about how his wife helped a young mother and didn’t get a thank-you in return. THAT is plain rude
I’ve traveled with brown and black and Oriental friends in Italy, Spain, Poland and Slovakia and if you do something nice, like give up a seat to an elderly person or help someone, they WILL thank you — mostly it will be in the their native language, but they WILL thank. It is common courtesy.
Why this young mother did not thank, I don’t know — I have an acquaintance in Gothenburg who is an East Indian and quite dark and he has experiences to the contrary. Of course, he LIVES in Gothenburg as opposed to Din who was a tourist.
I personally don’t think the Swedes are racist at all, may be they are rude (I don’t know), ruder as a people than others, I don’t know.
In every black or brown person, a white racist sees a sub-human criminal. In every white person, a brown or black racist sees a sub-human racist.
Who died and gave Din the position of racial superiority to judge and condemn the Swedes? He has plenty of hate against women and people of other races in his own heart and in his own tribe before he starts taking on a stance of racial and cultural superiority over whiteys in Sweden or anywhere else in Europe.
He wonders why his family were stared at -- then says "oh we're a different color" -- that's what people do, as long as the stares were not hostile, big deal. However, he never said it was racist
Then, he says: "superb cultural heritage of Sweden" -- hardly sounds racist
Yet, he points out two things:
The first probably was a misunderstanding, but the second seems plain rude
He doesn't scream or even say it was definitely racist, he just points out his experience
He doesn't go around calling people "racist"
Of course it did, but if you visit Sweden as a white person you'll still find them rude. They are "colder" than we in the States expect people to be and they are cooler to strangers than even New Yorkers
However, the young mother WAS rude -- extremely. That was basic common courtesy to thank, even a "tack" (thank you in Swedish) is common courtesy.
How is he "denigrating Whites"? His comments at the end talk about how how in Newcastle In Newcastle, a visitor is sure to receive a warm welcome and a kind word from any member of the community, black, white or brown, Chinese or South Asian -- hardly "denigrating Whites" -- he's talking about Swedes in particular
Why, I've known English friends -- white English friends have the same "experiences" on the continent. And they too slam the "foreigners" -- most of the time the problem was, as also in this case, that they didn't bother to learn a few words (Please, thank you, hello) in the native language.
Why the first time I visited Paris I thought the Frenchies would be insufferably rude -- and they WERE to my friend who didn't speak French, but I did speak basic French and the locals were happy that I at least tried. Even in Greek with just "Efxaristo" you get the smiles out of the locals
In every black or brown person, a white racist sees a sub-human criminal. In every white person, a brown or black racist sees a sub-human racist. --> true, but you have no way of knowing that is the case here and if you read what Din ACTUALLY wrote, it doesn't seem that way at all
Who died and gave Din the position of racial superiority to judge and condemn the Swedes? -- where exactly does he give "racial superiority"? He talks about his experiences among a nationality -- as I said, speak to white English yobs and they'll tell you the same
? He has plenty of hate against women and people of other races in his own heart and in his own tribe --> how exactly do YOU know that? How could you know what's in his heart? By the looks of his family, his "tribe" seems Geordie (ooh, I just thought of one thing -- if he spoke Geordie, no wonder the Swedes didn't understand him -- NO ONE can unnerstan Geordie)
Let’s put it this way. If you put the shoe on the other foot and as a white guy from Britian traveled to Pakistan and then came back and wrote a piece condemning the brown people and their culture as disgusting to you from a superior point of view, you would be a racist. I don’t accept your shame based double standards of multicultural racism. It is not in a Paki’s place to racially condemn Swedes.
There are plenty of problems in everyone’s heart, race and culture for them to straighten out if they want to be a busy body. Pluck the pole out of your eye before you pick at the splinter in the other guy’s eye. He who is without sin, cast the first stone. That is the golden rule for peace and mutual respect. It is the opposite of multiculturalism.
Multiculturalism keeps all the tribes plucking out one another’s eyes and blinded while global elitists rule and abuse everyone as they please. So I reject it and go by the West’s cultural “mind your own business” rule of thumb. When you get yourself and your tribe all perfect love, then come and teach us how to do it. Before then, stick it.
He had a number of gastrointestinal problems all his life (except when at sea) and, most tellingly, his children suffered from "indeterminent infertility" which is a situation where half the offspring of someone carrying the allele for that condition end up infertile.
I haven't traced his ancestry all that far ('cause you can't), but that's so typical of the Sa'ami, and the Scanderhoovians with substantial Sa'ami ancestry it isn't funny.
Could be she was a feminist and was offended and in her eyes she may have thought the man arrogantly ordered his wife pick it up rather than doing so himself.
Maybe she was mute.Not likely but possible.
It could be sheas havng a very bad, worrisome day and forgot.
It could also be that she did repond, just not verbally. In the midwest a lot of people will just give a nod to say thanks or to acknowledge you, perhaps a holdover from older days when people wore hats- they would tip their hat. We could go a full day working in a group to shingle a roof or pick a field or hunting and not utter a single word, just using hand or facial gestures, because we'd pay attention to see if someone was out of shingles or cartons and needed resupplied, or needed help getting over a fence and would just get it for them or take their gun before they said a word. If you are accustomed to it you see it, second nature, but someone who isn't accustomed to nonverbal communication could easily miss the subtle gestures.
2. Maybe she was a mute? Maybe -- but even mutes would nod or give a sign-language "thank you"
3. Having a bad day -- still not an excuse for a simple thank you. In Swedish it's one word "thak"
It could be a lot of things, but I see this as a British guy who goes to a foreign country without bothering to pick up a few words of the local language and thinking the foreigners will speak English and not bothering to find out a bit about the culture.
I've known white Brits to do the same thing and be equally surprised
This guy wonders why and wonders if his skin color had something to do with it - a reasonable , if wrong, guess.
Firstly -- he never "condemned" the Swedes, leave along condemning "white people" -- on the contrary if you read what he actually said, he admired Swedish achievements and he talks highly of the Geordies (whites from Newcastle) -- read what he actually said before commenting.
Secondly, I've READ quite a few articles of Brits who travel to Pakistan and then condemn the culture or actions of people there -- it's not racist, it's a Brit either not reading up about the culture there, or knowing and pointing out the bad things
And yes, white BRits would also call the Swedes rude.
Where are these supposedly "double standards of multicultural racism" in either Mr. Din's article or in my posts?
Stop making up stories -- you can't read minds.
Firstly -- where exactly in Mr. Din's article did he "racially condemn" Swedes?
Secondly, "it's not in his place", interesting -- folks should stay in his place, eh?
Yet YOU are the one saying He has plenty of hate against women and people of other races in his own heart and in his own tribe --> how exactly do YOU know what is in his heart?