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Today we’re going to talk about #SwedenGate, so before you start reading, grab some popcorn (well, if you’re at a Swede’s house, don’t grab it, now you’ll understand why) and off we go.
From time to time some Nordic concept arrives in Spain that fascinates us: Swedish paternity leave, Danish hygge, Greta Thunberg… and now, a peculiarity of Swedish hospitality, although this has not fascinated us for good. It all starts with a post on the Reddit forum, the subject of which is “What’s the weirdest thing you’ve had to do in someone’s house because of their culture or religion?” Several replies to this post talk about anecdotes in Swedish houses and end up on Twitter in the form of a screenshot, they say the following:
“I stayed overnight at a friend’s house. When we woke up, she said she was going down for a bit. After 15 minutes, I went downstairs to see what was going on and saw that they were having breakfast. They see me and tell me that they are almost done and that they will be back soon. I still think about it 25 years later.”
“I remember going to my Swedish friends’ house. And while we were playing in his room, his mom yelled that dinner was ready. She told me to WAIT in her room while they ate. It was amazing.”
The tweet with these captures has been shared more than 50,000 times in less than a week, more than half of them by appointment (with a comment from the user who retweets them), and has provoked thousands of tweets from surprised Spaniards. Some Swedes have also corroborated the story or tried to provide details about this custom, such as the tweeter @Tyckmyckna, who has explained in a series of tweets that it is done “out of respect for the parents of the visiting child, who may have planned a dinner that later it would be wasted” and that, if discussed or planned first, food is offered.
And what did the Spanish say? Some have joked with the idea that the expression “playing Swedish” comes from this custom, others with the Swedish language or Ikea and others have taken the opportunity to joke about the opposite custom: that of stuffing the guests that some Mediterranean countries have. There are also those who have asked the Swedish Embassy for explanations. And we have contacted them to ask them.
We have contacted the Swedish Embassy in Spain and Chancellor Emelie Gallego-Díaz, in charge of the promotion of Sweden, Culture and communication, has answered us. She recounts by email that, indeed, “people who have grown up in Sweden in the 1970s and 1990s remember going to friends’ houses after school, for example to play, but they didn’t have lunch or dinner there. That was done at home later, upon arrival.” However, she states that “nowadays it is something strange and unusual, for obvious reasons.”
The Swedish ambassador in Spain should give explanations
— Thrill-hungry lady (@missmalaper) May 29, 2022
In Direct to the Palate, one of our favorite cooking pages (apart from the foodie, of course), they have also dedicated a topic to #SueciaGate and have spoken with Raquel Machín, a Spaniard who has been in Sweden for more than 10 years. She affirms that this practice continues to occur and that it was one of the things that surprised her the most when she went to the country: “If you take your child to someone’s house to play one afternoon, you have to agree beforehand if he is going to stay for lunch or no, and at the time you are going to pick it up. If you arrive late and you have told him not to eat, they do send him to the corner, ”she says. However, it also points to what the Swedish chancellor is saying: that currently, what is going on is the opposite: “There is also a tendency among the ‘moderns’ to adopt more southern ways in terms of protocol: sharing food and so on, because looks like something cool”. Also on Twitter, other Spaniards who live in Sweden affirm that the custom of not inviting people to eat is in disuse.
I like to imagine that, just as we have become fascinated with Nordic concepts such as paternity leave or the hyggethere’s a Verne Nordic hallucinating with Mediterranean concepts such as tapas and with the idea that we all put the fork in the same plate.
By the way, we also wanted to tell you about another “Swedish thing” that we loved and of which we keep a nice memory: in 2016, Sweden enabled a telephone that, when you called, put you in contact with a random Swedish house (who had signed up to this initiative). We called, we asked them a lot of questions and even our colleague María Sánchez had to hum ABBA songs. Unfortunately, when the total duration of the calls reached a year (it’s outrageous, there were almost 200,000 calls answered), they decided to cut off the service. How can you tell that by phone they don’t have to offer you some potatoes and some olives.
We leave you more memes from #SwedenGate:
Meanwhile, Mediterranean mothers if their children’s friends do not eat four full plates while they are visiting home pic.twitter.com/QNunPc0esh
— Glio (@SirGalio) May 29, 2022
Nobody who has had a Spanish grandmother who went hungry in the post-war period, who ate 14 flans and fried an egg to lower them, does not believe that the Swedes are caught with the food because they went through a famine.
— Siberet (@SiberetSiberet) May 29, 2022