Social Guidebook to Sweden
When contemplating a move to Sweden, one can be quite mistaken in thinking that the Scandinavian culture will be somewhat similar to one’s own. This, I find, is especially true of expats and foreigners who come from the US, Britain, Australia, and Canada. We assume that we are moving to a country which will allow us to integrate with ease into a multicultural, white – yet diversified – and progressive society. When we find that cultural mores and differences stand in stark contrast to our own, confusion reigns. There is complaining. Many experience culture shock. There are those who rebel. Some of us become very depressed, and some just get lost between the cracks. Integration into Sweden does not come with a guide book or instruction manual. Until now …
Julien S. Bourrelle, founder of Mondå, seeks to connect people and provide a light in which to guide Swedophiles toward a more satisfying and successful integration. His new book, A Social Guide to Sweden, is a much needed resource for people hoping to understand Sweden and her sometimes rather odd character. Not only for foreigners, the book also shines a light on Scandinavian nuances which will enlighten many a Swede as to how they are perceived by the outside world, and it illuminates the challenges faced by those who seek a new life in the Nordic nation.
As Bourrelle himself points out, “This book is full of generalizations and stereotypes. It draws an image of Swedes that can be criticized. I encourage you do to so. Use the press and social media.”
Over a period of ten years, Bourrelle – who is, in fact, a rocket scientist – has lived in six different countries and each time he adapted his lifestyle to suit that country’s local culture. He considers his move to Scandinavian to be the biggest cultural challenge of his life – “by far”. After five years of living among the Norwegians, he wrote his first book, The Social Guide to Norway, which became a best seller in 2015. He has now set his pen on capturing the lifestyle of the Swede.
The preface to Bourrelle’s Swedish guide book reads:
The lens through which your brain sees the world shapes your reality. If you can change the lens, not only can you change the way your brain perceives behaviours, but you can change the way people relate to cultural differences. Embedded within that statement is the key to bridge cultural gaps and to benefit from diversity.
What you perceive, or understand, from what you hear and see, is highly influenced by your cultural background. Cultural intelligence is the ability to understand the impact of people’s cultural backgrounds on their behaviours; it is the ability to perceive the world through the eyes of those who are different from you. It is essential for effective communication, and for socializing with and within different cultures. It is about interpreting the behaviours of others not based on what it means in your own cultural, but based on what it means within the cultural reality of the person doing specific actions.
Filled with humor, and yet so many spot-on references, the book is really a must-have for anyone with an interest in Sweden, or in trying (and trying) to fit in. Illustrations are by Nicholas Lund and you can enjoy many of these on their Facebook page.
Do not trust what you perceive; strive to understand what is meant.
Purchase your own book at Scandinavian Tips. The book will soon be available through Amazon, if you prefer to order there. It will also be available through the online ordering system of Swedish bookshops.
In the meanwhile, you can download a free PDF sample of The Social Guide to Sweden.
Writer/photographer Lisa Mikulski. Available for print or online publications and business in the Nordic region, Europe, and the US. Editorial, features, and creative.