5 ways Swedes say ‘No’ without saying ‘No’

As an international student living in Sweden, I expected to face some cultural challenges. Swedes, who tend to be very polite but also really dislike doing things they do not want to do, have found many unique ways to say ‘no’ to something or someone without really saying ‘no’.  These are slightly exaggerated versions based on some real life experiences and of course not all Swedes are like this, so take it with a pinch of salt!

  1. “It is possible that you are not considering…”
    Swedes are very suggestive when they want to advice or tell you to do someething. Most often this advice is actually good for you and they just want to help you but telling someone what to do is rather unacceptable in Sweden. Thus, you can find yourself in situations when your friends are ‘suggesting’ something to you without wanting to sound like they are telling you what exactly to do. Even parents have to hint to their kids sometimes about how kids should behave and can be heard saying things like “Maybe you are not considering the impact of chocolate on your health.” I mean, I was like, “You treating your kid like an adult bro” in my head. That would basically translate into “DO NOT EAT MORE CHOCOLATE”
  2. “Maybe you would be disturbing that person”giphy

    Imagine you are in a library and being clumsy and making noise eating food or on your laptop. It is highly unlikely that a Swede would directly tell you that you are disturbing them and that you should quiet down a bit. So, it is up to your Swedish friends to break out this truth to you. What I was told was, “If you keep playing with your pen’s cap, maybe you would be disturbing someone else in the room”. That’s a Swede extremely irritated by you and is being passive aggressive! It would be roughly translated to, “STOP PLAYING WITH YOUR PEN CAP, I CANT CONCENTRATE AT ALLLL!!!!”
  3. “I would love to but…”
    Swedes are suuper polite and really find it hard to just say no to coming to events. Its quite convenient with facebook cuz then you just dont have to reply, but if you want to create an amazingly awkward moment, just invite in-person anyone who did not reply to the event invite on facebook. The reply you should expect is, “I would love to attend but I’m doing xyz, maybe next time I’ll join.” This is a 50-50, sometimes they actually want actually attend the event but even if they really dont want to attend (say the event involves indian food and they dont like indian food) they would neveerrr say it. Always protecting other people feelings or just dont want any kinda conflict. I dunno, but its hilarious!
  4. “Perhaps you should try out that shirt over there”
    At a retail store – Me: “Hey friend, how do I look in this yellow purple colored shirt?” Friend: “Maybe you should try out that shirt over there”, pointing at a muuuch more sober color. Means I would never hangout with you if you wore that yellow purple shirt!!giphy (2)
  5. “You should have scheduled the event earlier”
    Another great excuse Swedes use to wriggle out of events is that they need like 2-3 weeks notice for anything that takes more than 1 hour. Mostly just means they dont want to be at the event!

    giphy (1)

Raghuraman

An Indian student studying general management at Stockholm School of Economics. Email me your questions at raghu.digitalambassador (at) gmail.com.
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