Swedish Guys & American Guys

I will start by saying that you won't learn anything really personal or particular about anyone that I have dated in any country with these posts. The purpose of these is not for a show and tell, or rather, a kiss and tell, I suppose. This is not that. It's some answers to a question I get asked a lot... "What do you think about Swedish guys? How are they different from American guys?" And let's clarify that by "answers", I mean my personal observations and carefully thought out ideas that have come from 3 years of interactions and experience on one side and a lifetime on the other. This is also important; by "guys", I mean the wide spectrum of men that I interact with, and most often it will hover somewhere around and just above and below my peer group, but not necessarily. My observations of guys includes anyone I or my friends and family know for any reason and in any capacity. Also note that this post is not Swedish Guys vs. American Guys, since it's not a contest.

Good. Glad we straightened that out.

I am not someone who can’t get enough of talking to strangers. Sometimes, if I don’t know someone or am unsure about what I think about them or their motives, I can be especially reserved. Therefore, when I go out, whether it’s to a restaurant, bar, club, concert or whatever, I am chiefly there to spend time with my friends and because I love doing fun things. Specifically, if I go to a club, I’ve historically placed less importance on meeting guys than what might be expected or what others do. And though I love dancing, I am not a fan of dancing with guys I don’t know… as I said, I don’t know what I think of them or their motives, so of course I don’t really want to be that close to them, especially not as a first interaction.
So, therefore, there’s a big reason why the first and only time I ever actually met someone on a dancefloor, talked to them, and went out with them was when I met a Swede quite a while ago.

It’s because I felt safe.

I didn’t realize this for a long time. But in that dancefloor context where I am often least open to interaction with strange guys (I’m way more open at a soccer game or the beach, or actually just standing at the bar itself, anything really), there was an encounter where I felt instant trust and that nothing was expected or going to be asked from me. My guard went down almost completely and instantly, and my friends shot amused glances over as we talked and spun around the floor, having almost never seen me do such a thing with a stranger.

And years later, I’ve been able to put my finger on a similar vibe I get when I meet a new Swedish guy, no matter what interest there is on either side or if it’s just in friendly or even work environments. There is something about Swedish guys that activates my trust. There are some sort of respectful and invisible boundaries of mine that almost never get pushed by them, whether they are someone I’ve known for awhile or just met, which reminds a bit of many of the guys I went to college with in Santa Barbara. To put a name to their qualities that enable this… that’s really hard. I’d be tempted to say that there is some stronger vibe of innocence and cautiousness coming from them, but that wouldn’t really give the most accurate portrait, I suppose. And I do not believe that Swedish guys (or many of my college guy friends) would like to be seen as “innocent”, per se... Swedes can be, relatively, reserved, so of course I can recognize and identify with this, and that may contribute to the trust, but it goes much beyond this. But that's the best I can do to describe what I've realized.

Can you allow me a further disclaimer? I don’t want people to think that in contrast, I don’t feel safe around Americans or anyone else for that matter. That’s not the case at all. But in trying to put something to patterns that seem to emerge, sometimes you can apply something to one culture that really seems to be prevalent, while it doesn’t mean that that quality isn’t found in another group or that everyone you've named in one group has it. If American girls (as I’ve heard, and have to say, can’t dispute) tend to throw out “I love you!!!” quite often and easily, to their friends, soccer coach, and hairdressers, it doesn’t mean that other groups aren’t found to often do the same. It just means that from this group, more do it, and that stands out.

And to me, what stands out about Swedish men is that they make me feel safe. Not in a “I will beat up that jerk who dented your car!” way... but in a humble and unassuming but fun-loving nevertheless way.

And now, although this post is already long enough, I want to point to something about American guys. This is something that developed in my mind this summer when I was talking to an Italian guy I know who'd just recently moved for a job to California from Sweden, where he'd been for a handful of years. We were standing in a bar in San Francisco when he looked around and said, "I feel like American men are so set in their ways. They aren't open to new ideas for their career or where they are going to go with their lives, there isn't as much creativity or openness to where things will take them. Swedish men were quite different in that way, not so settled and decided."

I considered this quietly for a moment. This observation did not quite ring a bell like some cultural observations do when I hear them. I thought, and then I supplied this...
"I wouldn't say so much that this is how American guys are, or that Swedes are not that way or are something else. I think it's more how they speak about things. You've probably noticed that Americans, especially men, tend to speak in a pretty self-assured and decisive tone a lot of the time. (He agreed) So, it comes naturally to speak about things in a way that sounds like you are on the right track and kicking ass at that track, more than it does to sound unsure or really open to alternatives. Americans value success and really do not value unsure-ness. I can just hear in my head so many guys I know from here saying 'Yeah so my business is doing pretty great and I know what I need to do to take it to the next level so I'll do A, B and then C and there you go, and then I'll be on my way to the next ...' So you're probably hearing that a lot with the people you interact with at work, and especially living here in the Silicon Valley. In Sweden, even if a guy feels as sure as that, he would be less likely to express it that way, since they won't want to seem overconfident or even share too much information. What do you think?"

He had been listening very carefully and he grinned and nodded slowly... "Yes," he said. "Yes, I suppose that's it. I see what you mean exactly."
I responded, "Yeah! It's not as much about their actual inner state of being fixed or open, but more how they are cultured to talk about it."

We had another drink and looked around at the bar full of American guys and then... we talked about American and Swedish girls. :)
But that's for another time to share.

And regarding the guys, there's more where all this came from...


  1. I like the way you think, it's quite alike to mine. I don't mind it when guys don't hold the doors open for me, I can do it by myself. Never thought it's rude, but that it's actually respectfull since they assume that I am an independent person. Anyway, I have started to blog myself..never thought I would, but I felt in love with Sweden & sthlm so badly (sorry, I am originally german speaking..and my english..well ;-):

  2. "to me, what stands out about Swedish men is that they make me feel safe." this is also what I felt when I'm with Swedish guy friends. I'm a open-mined Chinese girl, and used to be reserved in interaction with guys, especially with foreign guys. I thought foreign guys rather than Chinese guy in a Chinese bar would approach Chinese girls on purpose or find chances to hook Chinese chicks. However I found myself wrong after visited a Chinese bar with a group of Swedish people twice. At the first time, people did sexual harassment to me were Chinese guys instead of foreign guys, ironically a Swedish guy and a Swedish girl helped me stop Chinese guys' harassment.
    And I rarely go to bar, unless there are at least one more girl with me. But when I was invited to that Chinese bar with three Swedish guys at the third time, I agreed and surprised myself. I asked myself why I would agree then came out the same answer as yours. Indeed they're polite and respectful to me whole night as what I expected through interactions with them twice.
    Thank you for sharing, otherwise I would think it's just only me feel safe surrounded by Swedish guys or maybe my feeling about them is wrong:)

  3. I had a short relationship with a man from Germany. I know Germany is not Sweden, but I think they approach women more similarly. They demonstrate tenderness, respect and consideration. Because those displays are associated in women feeling trust; it's very attractive. I think these traits may be even more important to women who are more used to feeling objectified.


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