Thursday, 11 September 2008

No eye contact please, I'm Swedish

Many a non-Swede will complain about the Swedish unwillingness to make eye-contact out in public. People look at you from afar, but the closer you get the more their eyes tilt down. By the time they have reached you, by the time they pass you on the street their eyes are studying the specks on the ground.

It is heartbreaking to live amongst people who want so little contact with the outside world, with people they don't know, or are only faintly familiar with.

It was even more heartbreaking to see this very trait in my daughter's young friend this morning. After dropping my kids off I walked past her (and whoever was escorting her to daycare) and watched her eyes drop to the ground as she neared me. She is my daughter's friend, how can it be that a six year old has already acquired this behaviour?

It makes for a very lonely life if you don't know anyone....


  1. I don't want to comment as it means I have to make contact with you!;D On a more serious note it is strange & Swedes do like to keep to their own, also I think it's a question of self esteem, not feeling you have anything to say or offer, that damn Jantelag!

  2. with this particular girl it is self-esteem, I'm quite sure of that. But it doesn't explain a whole country of people. If you grow up here maybe you don't think about it - but as a foreigner I'm not sure you ever get used to it,or at least you never get comfortable with it. It always upsets me with people I don't know very well, I want to make contact and say hello, but by the time I get close they are looking down, always down, and then I feel silly speaking to the top of someone's head.

    I've met lots of newcomers/tourists that have had fun with it, they walk along and purposely seek contact and say hello to see if they get any response and what sort of response.

  3. Oh Nic, you need to visit Jokkmokk, I had an American friend (been here for 20 odd years) visit for the winter market a few years ago and she commented that Jokkmokk was the friendliest town she's been to in all her years in Sweden. Come up and I'll prove it to you!! :)

  4. Just might have to take you up on that!! All in the name of researching Swedish culture! hehehe!