Something Swedish

Welcome to Sweden


When you first move to a new country you wonder and worry about a lot of things:

“Is this ever going to feel like home?”
“When will I get used to the way things work here?”
“How long will it take to feel normal again?”
“How long until I can speak the language?”
“Will I ever find a job? Make friends? Get used to the food and traditions?”

For me, the overall answers are, “Yes” and “About two years.”
A few months ago I noticed that I no longer felt the need to take pictures of everything I saw or did. A few months ago I noticed that things were no longer strange and exotic. A few months ago I realized that I had found my place in Sweden, started working more, can speak the language and have a strong group of friends. I began to forget how hard and different it was when I first moved here two years ago. The differences that made me laugh or get frustrated are now part of my everyday life. A few months ago, I stopped blogging.

Today though, I decided to pick it back up. Stopping was never my intention, it just sort of happened as a side effect of being busy and not finding anything fun or interesting to write about. This weekend I watched a new show about an American who moves to Sweden and I felt the need to comment on it, criticize, and continue doing what I can do to help other people who are still finding their way.


About the show that motivated me to write again: Welcome to Sweden – it is a semi autobiographical comedy of Greg Poehler (Brother of actress/comedien Amy Poehler) moving to Sweden for love (Which he really did do about 7 years ago). Sound familiar? I thought so too, so I was eager to watch it.

This interview (which is in English) and short clip from the show make it seem like the perfect show to watch:

And it’s true; it is about being a “fish out of water” and trying to reinvent oneself. For some reason though, I couldn’t connect to the actual show.

While it shows a lot of stereotypes (of both Americans and Swedes) I can’t say i was personally able to relate to all of it. Greg Poehler plays the over the top ignorant, oblivious, culturally obnoxious American who moves to a country without doing a single second of research or putting a single thought into it. The way the character is portrayed is supposed to be funny and charming, but is a bit insulting. His girlfriend’s parents expect him to fail and go home and wonder why he hasn’t found a job and can’t speak the language after two days. Yes, there are pressures and expectations, but this is exaggerated for no reason.


“…and so you moved to Sweden to live with our daughter. You have no friends, no job…”

Now, I know its hard to make reality into a show (aside from reality tv) and still make it fun and captivating, but part of the problem for me is that most of the show doesn’t make sense because it’s simply not the way things work. Immigration interview after you’ve already moved to the country? Illegal. Needing to get your drivers license changed to Swedish immediately? In reality, you have a year. The Swedish teacher speaking English to the class/the class introducing themselves in English? Should never happen. Not knowing about taking off your shoes indoors until you’ve lived there for three weeks? Seriously? Come on! Perhaps this is exactly how it was for him, but parts of feel hard to believe.

Maybe I am too serious and like to be overly helpful and informative, and a comedy show doesn’t need to get all the facts straight because there is an artistic freedom, however, I find some of it to be misleading or annoying at some parts. Of course everyone has different experiences and I don’t expect it to portray my exact struggles or observations, but there are a lot of things that are overly exaggerated and even more basic (and potentially very funny) things left out.

Those in Sweden- What are your thoughts on the show? (If you haven’t seen it yet, it is being aired on TV4 play) Those in the US – you’ll get your chance to see on July 10 2014 (My wedding anniversary) as NBC has bought the rights and renewed the contract for a second season – so it must not be so bad. Even if I don’t think it’s great, it’s interesting to see and I will certainly tell my friends and family to watch it to get an idea of what it’s been like for me…kind of.

I will continue watching because it does have potential. I can see the appeal and there are funny parts and parts I can kind of relate to, but it’s still an overall “miss” for me so far.

I think I can do better (in written form)- and maybe one day I will. For now though, I’ll continue blogging.

Welcome back Something Swedish.

30 thoughts on “Welcome to Sweden

  1. Hi, Meg and thanks for the tip. I will check it out. One part of that clip was pretty real for me: the first month I moved here every single time I told a person I had just moved their immediate question was: Do you have work? Every single time until I finally asked someone “Why does everyone want to know whether or not I have work?” Amazingly, that stopped all the questions from anybody on that topic.

    • Hey Dan! Let me know what you think. They are airing on TV4 play, I think the first episode has expired, but the next four should still be available. There’s certainly parts that are easy to relate to!

  2. Thanks for this. I’m new to your blog and new to blogging actually. I also recently wrote about this show and the Hasselhoff talk show, which is also pretty significant from a cultural perspective. Having an American host a show in Sweden entirely in English. Pretty wild, if not also kinda uncomfortable. Anyway, with Welcome to Sweden it’s hard to capture everything. I think best of all is that people back home in the US will get an idea of what it’s been like to be here. Or at least the title Welcome to Sweden might help people remember I’m in Sweden, not Switzerland.

    • Hi Joel! Welcome to blogging! It certainly is wild to have Americans hosting TV shows in Sweden, I have to admit. It will be nice to show people back home, I’m just curious of what impression it will actually give or if they will get it at all. At least they can see the scenery and some of the culture. And yes, the title helps! Classic mix up.

  3. Hey Meg! I have been watching the show since it first aired and although it is an exaggerated account of starting over in Sweden I find it hilarious. I can relate to his awkwardness in social situations and his struggles with the language and getting a drivers license the most. In June I will no longer be able to drive here which is a bummer seeing as I have been driving since I was fourteen. It wasn’t until I moved and started driving around I realized how much I had to learn when it comes to driving here. I had seen ONE roundabout my entire life and all of a sudden the darn things were EVERYWHERE! I have had my hands full with learning Swedish and some health issues and have not had the time or energy to devote to getting my license. Eventually I will get it done but for now it is on my ‘to do later’ list. As far as the language goes, I take SFI as a distance learner but we meet once a month in Skellefteå for class on campus. Our teacher did spend most of her time speaking in English and nearly everyone in the class had very limited Swedish language skills so most stuck to English as well. I have learned there is pretty much one key to being settled here and not feeling like an outcast, and that is learning the language. It truly is the key to getting on with life in Sweden!

    • Yes, it’s nice to have something on TV to relate to on some level.

      The amount of roundabouts here is insane! I have also only seen one in my entire life, at the beach, and am terrified of driving because of them even though I understand the concept and that it is quite safe. I’ve met a lot of people who have had trouble driving in Sweden even though they have driven their whole life. It’s still on my to do list. It certainly is a big deal when moving here, and the show could have even spent more time with the topic, honestly.

      I’m very surprised about the English in SFI, as they are supposed to follow an immersive teaching model. I have had about 10 teachers total (5 of which were SFI teachers…we moved around a lot) and none spoke English with us unless someone English speaking was very stuck, in which case people in the class that couldn’t speak English would freak out because they couldn’t understand. Learning the language takes time but it is key – absolutely!

  4. This blog post couldn’t be more inaccurate! Just flat out wrong. Let me count the ways: (a) you CAN do the immigration interview after you’ve “moved” here provided you are within the 3 month visitor visa period (I know this for a fact, because I did it myself after meeting my Swedish husband here) – they prefer you do it prior to coming (and perhaps, for some countries, make you go back home for a period after the interview) – but you most assuredly can do it; (b) as others have stated above, my first SFI class, everyone introduced themselves in the language they were comfortable with (most chose English), so nothing about this scene was unrealistic at all (since the teacher was speaking Swedish;(c) on the show, he had to get a Swedish license because the guy at arbetsförmedlingen said he needed one for a specific job – nothing in the show said you needed to get one right away; (d) is this even a real comment – you think it’s impossible that 3 weeks into living here, you wouldn’t know to take your shoes off AT A PARTY?? I still am not sure about that rule and I’ve been here for 12 years.

    Really strange for you to make an entire blog post about how things could “never”happen, when all of these things are not only possible, but factual.

    I think this show is the best show on Swedish television. Certainly the best since I’ve been here. Smart, funny and really charming. I love the chemistry between the two main characters. Bravo to all involved! I can see why it’s becoming an international hit.

    • Like the blog post states, everyone has different experiences and I simply stated my opinions compared to my experiences and the experiences of people I know. In the show he clearly had already moved to Sweden, was not visiting, so yes, I did think it was strange to be accepted to live here without doing the interview yet. Perhaps there are indeed exceptions, but I wouldn’t say it is the norm or a widely known/ accepted way. Perhaps ‘illegal’ was an exaggeration.

      As far as speaking English in class, it’s not the proper way for SFI to be taught, especially since everyone doesn’t speak English. My gripe with it was the impression it gives to people who plan to move here and think that we get to speak English throughout the course of SFI, which should never be the case.

      In the show it makes it seem as if the American drivers liscence is invalid, while it is still valid for another year. People that have not yet moved here might get the wrong facts.

      And yes, taking off your shoes might be used to get used to and take a lot if time to do, however, upon entering your first Swedish home you would know that it exists as a social norm. There’s a difference between making a mistake and forgetting compared to somehow never hearing about it.

      It’s a fine show with good and funny parts. I just think that it could have portrayed things a little clearer, which is frustrating. But then again, that is my opinion.

  5. Oooh I wanted to watch this show, especially now I’ve been in Sweden three months myself. Mind, I’ve come here as an EU citizen (even if I came from Australia, because I was born in Britain) so at least the immigration side for me is quite different. But the culture and language side I suspect I’ll be able to relate to. I’m slowly (very slowly) getting my head around the language. The cultural side hasn’t been too hard – it’s just little cute quirks but I knew most of them long before I moved here. But geeze people are shy here hahaha, they must think I’m so loud. 😛
    Also…seeing as though I’m pretty sure you live quite near to me…how nice is this weather?! I think I accidentally brought summer with me 😛

    • Hej!! You have to start watching quick, the episodes expire off of TV4play every few days, I think episodes 1-3 are already gone.

      Yes, people are much more reserved and quiet here – and they probably think you are loud! haha It took a while for more to get used to everything. Thank you for bringing summer! (although this week has dipped down a little again) Now that you are settled into Sweden, let me know if you want to meet for a fika!

      • Ahh, I’ll have to have a look for it then!
        I’m getting used to it now, and in some ways I like how quiet they are here compared to in Australia – they’re definitely not obnoxious on the whole. I don’t know what happened to summer though, sadly, but everybody did keep warning me this would happen!
        And yes definitely we should meet for fika some time, that would be great!

  6. I have not watched an episode and I think because I do not care to see what has been a long struggle for me to be made into a comedy show. I think if I did watch though I would feel the same as you did!

    • I can understand that sentiment. I think it’s interesting to have something to relate to on Swedish TV, but maybe it’s too close to home at the same time.

  7. My husband and I are both watching the show since it first aired. We’re also Americans who moved here 2 years ago. We find the show quite comical but I’m also annoyed how naïve Bruce is to adapting to the culture ASAP. I’m also annoyed because we don’t know Swedish enough to understand the actors when they revert to Swedish on the show. I’m not sure Americans in America will appreciate the comedy in the show. I think you have to personally go through these experiences to relate. Anyhoo, it’s a funny show overall but we don’t love it.
    I do love your blog though! 🙂

    • Hi Laurie!

      I never thought about the subtitles being in Swedish for people who have just moved here (which is what the show is all about) but at the same time Swedes need to understand it. Maybe you will have some luck re-watching the American release. I am curious to see how it will go over in the States, as I agree and I think it will be really hard to find funny if you haven’t been to Sweden. I agree, funny show – I just don’t love it (and it sometimes annoys me). 🙂 Thank you!

    • I used these subtitles for the Swedish and they worked well.

    • Hi! I know its a probably a long story, but how did you and your husband move to Sweden? My partner and I plan on doing the same thing when I graduate school, I heard its hard to get into the country

  8. Hej Meg! Good to see you’re back! I’ve been following your blog ever since I got a Swedish girlfriend 1,5 years ago and started considering moving, but I was never able to comment due to some silly things going on when posting from the Netherlands. You’ve been very helpful with getting to know the Swedish culture and language and funny to read all this time! I moved to Sweden almost 3 months ago and you partially inspired me to blog a tiny bit myself as well!

    About Welcome to Sweden… I really like the show, my girlfriend and I really enjoy the stereotypes, and it helps that I love almost everything that Amy Poehler is involved in. But you are right, if they wanted to let people know how it is to move to Sweden, they should’ve at least been correct about all those things. It doesn’t destroy the show, but it is as you said a little frustrating to watch. I suppose some of those things are ‘changed’ to make the comedy work orso, because it shouldn’t be difficult to just get it right. I just hope Greg’s move in real life went a bit easier and less awkward.

    Again, good to see you’re back! I can see how the show made you want to post about it, I had to mention it too.

    • Hej Rens!

      How great to finally be able to hear from you! Figures I stop updating when you are finally able to comment! I am soo happy to hear that the blog has helped with your transition.

      You’re right – I guess he Greg didn’t have any blogs to help him with his transition, because it is much more awkward than what I experienced! It is a funny show, and it’s impossible to get everything “right,” I just needed to point it all out 🙂

      Good to be back!

  9. First of all I should probably admit that I’ve barely seen it, but from what I *have* seen it seemed way over the top. In an atempt to be funny, it tries to be nothing but, leading it into the area of being unrelatable through exaggeration. I’d have prefered it to try and capture the reality of the situation, and then try to make *that* funny. As it is now, it seemed about as sublte as slapstick.

    Buuut that’s alright, eh? There’s plenty of other things to watch, more to my tastes :v

  10. Hej! Thank you for writing this blog post (and for your helpful blog in general)! I started watching the show and I agree with you that the show is misleading and annoying at times. My sambo’s parents find the show hilarious though! I like the show enough to keep watching but I’m not sure if I’ll be recommending the show to my friends outside of Sweden.

    • You’re welcome! I suppose the show isn’t for everyone – but some people sure do love it! I’m still torn on showing it to family and friends as well.

  11. I agree with this post completely! I feel as though the show has a handful of good jokes, so admittedly it does make me laugh from time to time (though I can’t imagine it would be funny to anyone other than ex pats in Sweden!) but other than that, the writing seems really lazy. I lost patience with Poehler’s character in the episode where he went to the job centre – what kind of idiot imagines they’ll rock up with no idea what they want to do – other than that they don’t want to do what they are qualified for! – and imagines they’ll be handed some exciting career?! Generally it just seems really vague, as though they have basically shot Greg Poehler’s stand up routine and just pretended there’s a story there. It’s a shame as I wanted to like it!

    There’s another English language show in production that sounds a lot more promising – it’s a detective/thriller about an American policeman who comes to Sweden to investigate a murder. A friend of mine was involved in the casting and says the scripts are great – fingers crossed!!

    • Hey Claire!

      Exactly: Funny at times, can’t possibly be too fun for people who don’t live in or haven’t moved to Sweden, and not very realistic even though it’s based on actual experiences.

      That sounds good – I’ll have to keep a look out for that one! Thanks for the tip!

  12. Hej! Jag hittade din blogg idag och har redan läst igenom många inlägg och jag tycker att den är väldigt bra och intressant. Det är väldigt kul att läsa om sitt land från en annan synvinkel. Det är nog även därför jag tycker att serien Welcome to Sweden är så rolig. Jag får ju se Sverige på ett annat sett, om än lite överdrivet.. 🙂

  13. Hey Meg!
    Just discovered your blog and it’s great! I moved here 6 weeks ago to play football and it’s been a tough, but exciting change! I’ve applied for my personnummer 2.5 weeks ago now and still waiting… I’ve learned you can’t do ANYTHING without that number! I can’t buy broadband Internet, get a cell phone contract, sign up for store loyalty cards, or apply for a Swedish for Immigrants course. What was your experience with this? I feel like my life will officially start once I get my personnummer.

  14. This is the first time I comment on your blog, but I have been following it for a while now. The first reason I started reading Something Swedish was because I was seriously considering studying abroad in Sweden, but now I see going to Sweden as maybe a more permanent move (once I finish my schooling). I watched the first episode and I found it completely wrong and offensive not only in the Svenska aspect but also to the Americans. It was very disappointing, since I have been telling my fiance that moving to Sweden is something I want to do I figured watching Welcome to Sweden would be sort of a funny way to get him accustomed to the idea, I decided not to watch it with him. Most of my cultural immersion has come from your blog, since I essentially would be walking in your shoes once I move – being American and all (from California). Overall I believe it to be slightly amusing but not enough so to keep watching, bottom line: bad misinterpretation.

  15. Did anyone watch the season finale last night? Did you notice how much blue in yellow was in the show??? Their clothes, the apartment’s candles, furniture, etc. My husband pointed it out and it was crazy!

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