Do Swedes really integrate? What do international students think?
Swedes are very open to diversity and they embrace the different cultures, backgrounds and nationalities. However, is it possible for an outsider to really integrate with the generally reserved Swedes and be a part of their social circle outside the classroom? Hanging out with my clique of international students, we had very different opinions on getting to know Swedes.
“Swedes are nice but its hard to get to know them. We mostly talk only about group work.”
“Swedes love fika and I love fika. When we fika, we talk about everything and I think this is a good way to get to know them better.”
“Swedes are very different at parties where everyone has been drinking.”
“I find that its easier to mingle with the Swedes when I try to speak Swedish, even if its bad Swedish.”
“I was invited to my Swedish friend’s summer house for crayfish party even though I only him know for a few months. His family is welcoming and now he’s my good friend.”
“Most of my friends are international students. It’s not surprising since most Swedes already has their own cirque of friends here.”
“When I’m with a bunch of my Swedish friends, they choose to speak English even though sometimes they struggle to find the right words. I ask them why, they said its only polite and that I should not feel left out.”
“They cluster among themselves. I feel like there is this barrier. We only say hi-bye.”
“Sittning is more fun for the Swedes or if you understand Swedish. But I can understand, I’m French. If we have sittning in France, everything will be in French and English is not an option.”
“I do hang out my Swedish classmates but only in uni.”
“They are not as cold as I thought and they can get so crazy!”
International students may it difficult to ‘get into’ the Swedish crowd. If you feel that way, you are not alone. As foreigners, students are eager to meet the locals and experience the Swedish culture. However, Sweden is generally an introverted society. Firstly, Swedes generally don’t really share their personal feelings until they get to know you better. Secondly, the study timetable and workload is pretty hectic. It’s can be hard to even find quality time to chill out. Thirdly, Swedes may feel uneasy or even nervous to be the first to start a conversation with someone new, not just with foreigners but also among themselves.
Swedes do enjoy meeting, interacting and working with international students but it took me a while to really get to know them. To break the barrier, take the first move to say hi in the classroom. Have fika. Coffee breaks in between lectures is a good start. Joining social activities, clubs or sports may be a good way too. Through frequent fika and lunch with my classmates, both Swedish and international students, we get to know each other better overtime and become really good friends. In the above picture with my classmates, half of them are Swedes and another half are from all over the world. We hang out with our Swedish friends and their friends too. Can I really get to know the Swedes? For me, yes. Like any individual, some are super enthusiastic while others are more reserve. Swedes may seem cold but in reality, they are warm, friendly and they like to meet new people.