High School - Sweden, High School Abroad

Stereotypes in Sweden

by Jillian Stallman, CCI High School Abroad Participant in Sweden

So as of today, I have been in Sweden for three weeks and a day (22 whole days! Holy cow!), and I feel as though I just got here. Well, I mean, if we’re looking at this from a geological or universal viewpoint, I did just get here. But you know what I mean. I’ve asked some people in my class to start actually speaking Swedish with me (rather than the svangelska that has been going on), so I anticipate that tomorrow will be interesting. I figure it’s about time to stick a knife in the floaties and see how well I can swim.

On last Wednesday and Friday, I talked to four different English classes during my day, just as a “Whoa. Here’s an American. Well, we’re taking English, and here’s a native speaker, so let’s stand her at the front of the classroom for like an hour and a half to two hours and see if Americans really are from a different planet.” And I did get the occasional “whoa.. you’re like an alien!” look. I felt like they were disappointed that I didn’t revert to my natural green color or grow eyestalks from my head. But it was very entertaining.

Since high schools here are much more specialized than in the U.S, and are actually probably closer to our colleges than our high schools, the questions I fielded from the kids were AWESOME. I talked to two classes who specialized in fashion, another than specialized in soccer, and the last was an art group. The fashion was composed of mainly girls and a couple flamboyant boys, the soccer a co-ed group of absolute jocks, and the art group was.. just plain odd. Wonderful, but odd. And so not mentally present.

Think of the most spacy artsy person you know. The type of person who doodles on every single piece of paper and never ACTUALLY pays attention to you, because anything you do is infinitely less interesting than what they could be drawing. Now think of around twenty of them in a single classroom. It’s like a graveyard in there! And I’m not saying anything against the art students, but I found it amazing. We would NEVER get all those personalities in one place. Anyway, they didn’t ask so many questions.

But the talks in general were hilarious. All the Swedes know of the U.S. is what they see on TV, and if you’ve seen American TV lately, it doesn’t exactly.. uhmm.. flatter us. So I was asked, in all four classes, if I was a cheerleader. I was asked if there really were fast food stores everywhere. I was asked how fat Americans actually are. I was asked how the weather is in the U.S. They also wondered what the U.S. thought of Sweden. So in every class I was asked about our stereotypes.

My response to these questions? No, I’m not a cheerleader, the skirts don’t look good with my angry white thighs, and I just can’t be peppy for very long. However, I was a cheerleader for Halloween, once!

Then that, okay, there are some areas where there are a LOT of fast food stores. And fast food in America is so darn CHEAP! It’s amazing! But so horrible. I said that some Americans are larger, some smaller, but yes, it’s a problem that our country as a whole isn’t too happy about.

As far as the weather, I’m not sure the people asking were really paying attention. America has everything from freakishly cold to balmy year-round (in case you didn’t know). So I responded that it probably most likely varies by location. And one of the kids who asked just.. his jaw just dropped. Like he’d never thought about it before. I don’t know, maybe he hadn’t.

Also, I did get to talk a bit about cliques and stuff, because honestly, Swedes just don’t care in their own schools. In high school, they’re already separated by interests, and they don’t feel the need to bother about what the other groups are doing. It’s so relaxing and typically non-dramatic. But my favorite example of American schools was the lunch system in my high school. At South, we have 1,500 people, so three lunch runs. At every single lunch run, the seating is generally the same. We do have a seniors/popular table, a table of mostly student government, a couple jock tables, some sophomore tables, and an overhang that gives shade to our wannabe vampires/emos. In every lunch run. Face it, people, we are kind of like a movie sometimes! Not all the time, of course, but after all, where do stereotypes come from.

Read more about Jillian’s soccer experience and see some photos on her blog

About Greenheart Travel

CCI Greenheart Travel is personally invested in providing cultural immersion programs that change lives, advance careers and create leaders. We achieve this by partnering with organizations and governments overseas that empower their local communities through experiential learning and practical development. We provide others with the same positive travel experiences in which we ourselves engage. Through travel and cultural exchange, we help individuals reach their full potential, leading to a more tolerant, peaceful and environmentally sustainable world.

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