Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Is Sweden racist for real?

"We Swedes have to come face to face to the fact that we are super racist!" my friend Kåre told me after a few weeks from my arrival in Sweden.

Kåre's words might have some point.

Racism exists even in Sweden (but the Swedes are not so aware of it).

Any foreigner who lives in Sweden for a while (Erasmus students don't count) notices a certain attitude.

What does that mean?

I need to be clear about the meaning of my statement, otherwise I could get the same reaction the average Swede has when I tell them this (without any insulting attitude): they look at me as if I had said that Albania is the strongest national football team in the world, they get astonished.

Then they add: "But we Swedes give political asylum to every Iranian or Iraqi who applies for that; we give them a job, an accommodation to live, everything they need to live in a decent way"

That's true.

It's also true that many men and women have relationships with people from other countries; I could quote many positive aspects of Swedish people which make them among the best citizens in the world.

But it's a matter of fact that if you live in Sweden you are never taken too seriously, simply because you come from a different culture, which is perceived not as good as the Swedish one; if you apply for a serious job you'll get it only if there's no Swede who can do that job at all (but that happens almost in every country).

Here is one of the examples I could provide: a friend of mine got a very good job for a Swedish IT consultancy company which worked with the Italian market; my friend was hired at the very last, after they tried employing some Swedes who spoke a bit of Italian; the problem was these Swedes could not really understand the Italians on the phone, so the company in the end they had to give in: "We need an Italian native speaker, otherwise we risk to lose this important client of ours for communication impossibility"

Obviously when they had to choose between hiring a native speaker of another Country or losing a big customer they had to do what they didn't plan at first.

Another non Swedish friend of mine was the best performer of his company in Stockholm, always reaching the highest targets; one day he had a chance to have a look at a work contract of a new colleague of his, who was a native Swedish girl, with no work experience: her starting salary was significantly higher than his and he could not find any explanation for that. So he started asking around what could be the reason, and his colleagues answered him "you are not Swedish..".

I know other stories of the kind.

What's my conclusion?

When the Swedes tells me that Sweden provides a foreigner many good things they are right: not many Countries can say the same thing.

But they miss to realize their unconscious attitude towards the foreigners. These things are perceived.

It's true that in Sweden people are not allowed to joke about ethnic groups, they are always politically correct speaking wise.

But facts count more than words.

Obviously what I have written here is only a generalization and not all Swedes are like that, but without generalizations 90% of speeches do not exist.

My Swedish friends don't get pissed off when I claim what they know (in the deepest part of their hart).

Because they are smart.


Anonymous said...

It's funny, but I am American and I didn't not feel discriminated at all in Sweden (was in 5 cities in three weeks). However, once I got to Rome or Milan, that's when I had Italians cursing at me (yes, I understand curse words in Italian) for being American. It's easy to criticize others; don't forget to look into yourself!

Giorgio P said...

You could stay even 3 months in 12 different cities and not feel discriminated at all if that matters, I am sure. It's when you live there for real and you need to make ends meet that you notice what I am writing about. I have lived in 6 different cities in 4 different countries "for real", working there I mean, and only in Sweden I experienced certain things. Besides that Sweden is a great country, we agree on that

Anonymous said...

Holy words. And by the way, Who said that Italians are not racists? The post was about the Swedes.

Lowlin said...

Being Swedish I agree to a certain extent. But you have to differ between being racist and being culturalist.
Swedes won't treat you differently because you are black or brown. They will treat you differently because of language and behavior.
I would however claim the Swedes take an exception to Anglo-Germanic countries. Perhaps thanks to American media exposion or perhaps thanks to belonging to the same cultural family tree.

That being said most countries I have visited have been very accommodating to my strange Swedish ways and I hope most of youhave found the same about Sweden. :)

Giorgio P said...

You have a point Lowlin, but if we start making differences between between being racist and culturalist, we should also claim that being individualist doesn't necessarily mean being selfish...

But that is just a way to be self-indulgent, nothing more than that..