10 signs to spot a Swede

Source: "The Social Guidebook to Sweden"

I was in splendid Thailand enjoying the sunset looking out to the sea.

A mother and her teenage daughter walked into the restaurant.

After two minutes, I knew they were Swedish.

The mother and daughter came into the restaurant.

(1) They did not speak to each other.

(2) Both had a neutral, almost sad face.

(3) They did not look at, nor greeted the waiters.

 (4) They were the only one sitting at the table ready for dinner. The Sun had just set. No one was eating at the time. All tourist of different nationalities were still either sitting on the beach, having an aperitif at the bar section of the restaurant were I sat or taking a shower and getting in their evening clothes for dinner.

(5) As all tables were empty, they choose the one table which was furthest away from the other people at the bar. 

(6) They sat down on a four person table, in diagonal to each other

(7) I looked at them and gave them a big honest smile. The daughter looked away and the mother changed her facial impression: “Why is this guy smiling to us?”. She then looked away as well

(7) For about one minute they did not speak and enjoyed the silence between them. The daughter tried timidly to smile, not managing quite, when her mother took picture of her.

(9) Soon after the father arrived with their other daughter which was about 2 years old. The father was several meters in front and as the little daughter passed by my table, I said “hi” with a big smile. She stopped, looked at me with an obvious surprise expression in her face.

(9) I said “hi” again kindly. Surprise turned to fear and she looked desperately for her father, loudly saying “PAPPA”. 

(10) The dad turned around, took the daughter by the hand. He did not look at me, nor acknowledge the situation in any ways, and simply walked away with his daughter.

He saved his daughter from this uncomfortable social situation that I had created by greeting her. In order to send a clear message to his daughter "you should not greet strangers" and prevent any further social interactions, he did not greet nor acknowledged the stranger who had just greeted his daughter.

Efficient, purposeful, practical. People from around the world sitting around looked at each other and commented on what had just happened.

I explained that these people were not rude, that they most probably just were Scandinavians. I explained that if one would go and talk to them they most probably would be very nice people. As I was pronouncing these words, I heard some familiar words:

"Nei, men! Det var fint!"

Tip to Scandinavians abroad: Acknowledge waiters and people around you by looking at them, nodding or even with a smile - this is expected in many countries outside Scandinavia and often a sign of basic politeness. 

This is a true story which happened during Easter on the island of Ko Lanta. Originally published in 2015.


Illustrations: "The Social Guidebook to Sweden"

By Julien S. Bourrelle

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