Why Is Everyone Talking About #Swedengate?

"Over 100 years of Sweden being seen as such as a good place to live and a screenshot has ruined them," wrote one Twitter user

The Swedish flag, a yellow Nordic cross on a field of light blue, rippling in the wind. Why is everyone on the internet talking about #Swedengate?
Why is everyone on the internet mad at Sweden all of a sudden?

“What is the weirdest thing you had to do at someone else’s house because of their culture/religion?” the user sebastian25525 posted in the r/AskReddit subreddit on May 25. It was an innocent enough question — one that garnered thousands of responses — until one comment ignited a lively, if not moderately chaotic, debate surrounding a very particular Swedish custom.

“I remember going to my swedish friends house,” one Redditor replied. “And while we were playing in his room, his mom yelled that dinner was ready. And check this. He told me to WAIT in his room while they ate. That shit was fucking wild.”

A second user was quick to corroborate the first’s experience, adding, “I slept over at a friends house. When we woke up, he said hes going downstairs for a few minutes. After about 15 minutes I go on the stairs to see wtf is happening and they’re eating breakfast. They see me and tell me hes almost done and will be up there soon. I still think about that shit 25 years later.”

And shortly thereafter, as these things have a tendency to do, the discourse made its way to Twitter, with user @SamQari posting a screenshot of the original post, which then went viral and prompted the hashtag #Swedengate. It’s on Twitter where things began to…take a turn.

“As a Swede i can confirm this, i would say the second case with no breakfast is very weird but the first one is very normal and i would find it weird to feed someone elses kid if they just over to play. Sleepover for sure they get food,” one user responded, to which another replied, “how is feeding someones kid weird? Is it poverty mentality?”

“Omg every response from each swede in this thread makes it so much worse. You’re not taking care of anyone else’s kid, but your FUCKING GUEST,” said another. “It isn’t charity we’re talking about here. If your kid invite someone over then feed then. Or tell your kid to send them home bef dinner.”

Ultimately, the debate over whether or not to feed one’s guests (it seems like in most of the cases referenced, “guests” implies children) instigated an unpacking of the Nordic country’s history of racism and colonization.

“Finally, justice is coming to Sweden,” one person tweeted. “The Nordic nation’s troubles are hitting the timeline through #Swedengate, having long avoided criticism for its contemporary racism, and historic role in slavery and empire. Note: Sweden made a fortune from manufacturing chains for slaves.”

But others defended the Swedes, saying that it’s not so much a refusal to feed other people’s kids so much as those kids knowing when it was time to go home. Others still pointed out that several other countries, Germany among them, also observe similar social customs and that, on the contrary, the Swedes are a very generous people.

“The #Swedengate controversy is really weird to me because Sweden; has one of the largest welfare states on the planet,” another user quipped, adding that Sweden “takes in nearly as many refugees per year as the USA (a country 33x larger), and donates nearly 1% of it’s GNI as development aid (no. 3 in world).”

An entire week later, the debate continues with internet users from all over the world weighing in with their thoughts and experiences, though it bears mentioning that Sweden has long been considered one of the happiest countries on Earth for things like, per CNN, “healthy life expectancy, GDP per capita, social support in times of trouble, low corruption and high social trust, generosity in a community where people look after each other and freedom to make key life decisions.” So maybe whether or not it’s appropriate to invite one’s guests to break bread isn’t the best way to take stock of an entire country, and maybe #Swedengate is just another overblown thing on the internet and not a testament to the decency of a population north of 10 million. Just maybe.


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