Brazilian student builds Ikea furniture to make friends with Swedes

5:03 min

How do you make friends in Sweden? The stereotypical Swede is reserved, afraid of intimacy and averse to spontaneity. So, if you're new in Sweden, how do you get to know people? How do you get them to invite you into their homes?

Caio Andrade, a student from Brazil, figured that the way to a Swede's heart is through Ikea. He went to the furniture store and recorded a video message for the people of Sweden.

In the video, Andrade asks viewers to add him on Facebook if they need his help putting together Ikea furniture. While the project, called the Furniture Fellowship, has massively increased Andrade's Facebook friends list, he told Radio Sweden that, in real life, he still has not got close to many Swedes.

"I moved to Sweden nearly four months ago to study digital media at Hyper Island in Stockholm. I almost live here at the school so it's hard to meet people outside of here," said Andrade.

He enlisted two of his best friends from back home to help him come up with a way to get to know Swedes.

"We figured I had to do something for them so they can be friends with me or at least open their doors to me. Then we thought, well, people really love Ikea here and they often complain about how hard it is to put the furniture together, that there's always a screw missing or something."

Having studied civil engineering for three years before studying communications, Andrade felt confident he had the patience and know-how to deal with Ikea manuals, even though the furniture store does not exist in Brazil.

"I thought I could use that knowledge to help people," said Andrade, "and if they liked me I could make new friends."

"Before I came to Sweden I thought I'd have to stand five or 10 metres away from Swedes when talking to them. I didn't know I could actually touch them, something which is very common in Brazil where we touch and hug each other a lot."

But Andrade said he was pleasantly surprised to find that Swedes hug, too, and that they are open to talking to new people.

"At the same time, it's hard to become friends with them," he added. "We can go out and have a few beers and have a long conversation but then we don't actually call each other the next day."

Andrade stressed that people he has met in Stockholm have been very friendly, but he said that, in Brazil, it is easier to get to know people because of the tradition of inviting people to your home.

"That's the first thing we do when we meet someone new," he said. "My mum, for instance, loves it when the house is full of my friends. Now, every time I talk to her she asks: 'When are you bringing the gringos here?'"

As a result of the Furniture Fellowship, Andrade was invited to a Swedish couple's home. "It was awesome," he said. "They made five or six Swedish dishes just for me and they taught me about Swedish culture and food and drink."

Andrade has also gotten to know some Swedish habits, like the custom of taking your shoes off when you go to someone's house. "In Brazil, nobody does that so now I have to wear nice socks all the time," he said.

But apart from the couple, Andrade has only met up with one other person - although many more have contacted him on Facebook.

So, how many pieces of Ikea furniture has he built?

"Zero! That's the interesting part. Nobody I spoke to actually needed any help. They just want to be friends. That surprised me because I thought I would work a lot and then not actually be friends with anyone. Instead, now I kind of have a lot of friends but I don't have any furniture to put together."

Andrade plans to stay in Sweden for another year and he is looking forward to celebrating Christmas, Midsummer's and crayfish parties with Swedish friends.

Watch Caio Andrade's video: