In an interview with Global Texan Chronicles recently, Walter Price asked us what the biggest misconception about Swedish music might be. We thought about it, and concluded that it could be – considering the amount of super successful Swedish pop song writers and producers – that Sweden would be a typical breeding place for musicians, bands and artists. A haven for artsy people. Street musicians everywhere, live music bars and Chelsea Hotels round every corner.
It’s not, I’m afraid. Here’s how: Swedish culture and etiquette is easy to grasp: Just don’t ever bother anybody. That’s it. Don’t bother nobody and you’ll be fine. People will love you.
If you show up at a Swedes doorstep unannounced, the polite thing for the Swede to do is to not invite you in. See, you might not want to and then you may feel like you have to, like you’d hurt his feelings if you don’t. Or worse, you might feel like you are bothering him, forcing him to make coffee and worrying about cookies. So, the best thing for everyone is to not invite you. You should never have just showed up like that, but don’t worry, noone will say that to your face. They’ll tell each other, people will get uncomfortable around you and some cookies will be baked just in case, but you won’t know. Noone will bother you with all that information.
It’s not that we don’t want company, we just don’t want to force ourselves on anyone.
Yes, this sounds really bad. But still, as a guy with many friends and relatives from other cultures, I’m forced to do things I don’t want to all the time. I drink stuff I don’t like, I tell people about my job even though they don’t want to know and I don’t wanna tell them. I have them make me coffee even when nobody else is having it, so they have to make it just for me, which makes me feel very uncomfortable plus the coffee is often no good. Once, I ended up drinking a hole bottle of whiskey with some guys who didn’t really want me there and I missed a great night out with my friends, just because we were all being polite. That’s not the Swedish way. We never bother anybody.
So, let’s say there are pros and cons. I would never recommend traveling to Sweden as a tourist unless you’re hiking in the mountains alone.
On the other hand, the day Iran is free (insh Allah), I don’t know what we’ll do. There are so many relatives of mine (wife’s Irani) that we’d have to visit, we’d never get out of there. We wouldn’t see much of the country’s exterial since we’d be sitting inside drinking thousands of gallons of tea and eating ghorme zabsi. And the next time we can afford to go again, we’ll have to do it all over again. Some of them we’ll be very happy to see after all these years and some of them we don’t know at all. I don’t speak persian, so I will not be having a conversation apart from saying hello, thank you and good bye and getting lots and lots of praise for having learned how to say that, after 10 years of marriage to a Persian woman. (Oskar Hovell, aka Orren)
Anyway, the real downside with Swedish tradition is, as you may have guessed, that music can be seen as something that bothers people. People trying to sleep, trying to have dinner, trying to put their kids to bed or trying to watch TV have managed to bann live music from Stockholm almost entirely. Other cities in Sweden are probably better, but for anyone from abroad, the whole of Sweden will seem very sleepy. Because if one single person, be it in the flat on top of the bar or even in a tent at a festival, wants to sleep, the whole town will go SSHHHH!!
So what of the Swedish pop wonder? How does that happen? Well, boredom, lonelyness and really, really thick walls I guess.