- Apr 2018
- Upland, Sweden
Sure, unfamiliarity definitely has a role to play. Especially coupled with the stereotypical Scandinavian insularity it makes a lot of sense. The "medelsvensson" Swede is often thought of as being very uncomfortable with conflict and quite shy. If you instantly meet lots of foreigners, especially if those foreigners are from cultures where the stereotype is 180 degrees opposite in temperament, this is hardly a "match made in heaven" so to speak. This no doubt plays a part.But is that at least partly due to discomfort because of unfamiliarity?
For example, I've been in areas with lots of Eastern Europeans, and I feel uncomfortable partly because I don't understand what they are saying, and a lot of them are young men. They might all be lovely, law abiding people, but I still felt uncomfortable.
I am not convinced it is a sufficent explanation though. People in Sweden are not really that unfamiliar with migration from foreign cultures per se, I think it's more the scale couple with the smaller secondary effects of migration and the signals (or lack thereof) which people percieve from authorities and society around them, that you notice in everyday life. To take a few examples:
Basically every convenience store in the country has a roma beggar sitting outside of it who migrated from here from Bulgaria or Romania; basically every railway station has groups of "youths" (i.e. men, most commonly Afghans, aged anywhere from 18-45 years old) just hanging around every hour of the day, forming neat little clusters of 3-12 people in every public space you can think off (provided we are talking about at least mid-sized cities). It's more common to see stationary police everywhere, particularily in the places where these "youths" are hanging around. Things (infrastructure, public buildings) look marginally less well kept than they were a few years ago. Public servants are more angry and more stingy "on principle" (I have a quite a few examples of inside knowledge from the medical profession through family members and acquaintances, but it would be wrong of me to publish them here) - transparently it's about squeezing the people who actually care about the law, while letting the more problematic people who are not easily regulated by bureaucrats slide. Why? My guess is its because the public servants have directives from up above to "effectivize" etc. because of the increased costs they are facing, mainly because of migration and the social problems related to it.
To take a very anecdotal and personal example, just three hours ago on my way to my apartment in midsized city somewhere in the middle of Sweden I noticed that the city council had put up a typically cliché, public sector poster with the theme "This is all the cool cultural things we are offering this summer! Come to this "festival" funded with your tax payer money!" (not explicitly, but I think you understand the point). Anyway, under the Swedish text there was a text in Arabic. I.e. a public authority, funded by the Swedish tax payer, is using a foreign language (also an incredibly foreign language, they could have used English if it was just about communication? Why didn't they?) to signal things on public posters, in a public setting, in an area of the particular city where there are little migrants, and for purposes which relate to everybody who is a resident, taxpayer and citizen in the particular city. This is indeed unfamiliar, and I think most Swedes (including me) have very little desire to have these things become familiar. Yet they are becoming more and more so...