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Why Sweden is “a little odd”

A boy on a jetty in Sweden: not invited for dinner? Getty

Sweden is one of those countries “people think they know” but actually don’t, says Imogen West-Knights in Slate. Hence “Swedengate”, the recent controversy over Swedish hospitality – or lack thereof. It began when a Reddit user said that during a childhood visit to a friend in Sweden the family had asked him to “stay in another room” while they ate dinner together. Other users were aghast at this apparent rudeness, but most Swedes just shrugged: “That’s the way we do it here.” And it’s true. Having briefly lived in Sweden, I can confirm that Swedes are, without a doubt, “a little odd”.

They certainly have an “unusual relationship with their homes”. The moment they turn 18, Swedes try to move out of them – the country has one of the highest proportions of people living alone in the world. And they’re fiercely protective of their privacy. One of my closest friends only invited me round to their apartment after months of hanging out, and “didn’t make a habit of it”. Communal laundry rooms have a “military-precision” booking system to ensure you “never have to cross paths with anybody else while handling your dirty bedsheets”. The few occasions I got this wrong were “some of the most awkward encounters of my life”. Every country has its strange customs, of course. But Sweden has more than its fair share.