Are Swedes terrifed at the thought of conflict?

4:40 min

Sweden has not been at war for over two centuries, but are Swedes scared of conflict, and like nothing more than peaceful consensus?

While it is true that Sweden has not been at war for 200 years and that most of our political debates lack the passionate arguing and conflict of many of the Anglo-saxon counterparts - but how well does this translate into average Swedish behaviour? Are Swedes less keen to argue with one another or to start a fight? And do Swedes really agree with each other all the time?

A perfect example of just how ingrained this stereotype is domestically was when the national broadcaster Swedish Television aired a 3 minute sketch on Swedishness when the country hosted the Eurovision Song Contest last year. The clip brought up many different Swedish stereotypes and quirks, and of course, did not fail to include Swedish people's fear of conflict.

Ethnologist Karl Olov Arnstberg says that the clip might not be as far off the mark as you may think.

Arnstberg argues that it's true that Swedes generally do try to avoid conflict, and attributes this to a well-functioning but bureaucratic system that typically solves our problems for us, thereby minimising the need for conflict.

But he also points out that while Swedes may be less inclined to start an argument over an insurance claim or if someone pushes ahead of you in a line, we are not any more afraid of conflict than other people.

Closely related to, if not intertwined with, this stereotype is the notion of the consensus-driven Swede. Being a country governed by a four party coalition government, with many companies with flat organizational structures and heavy focus on inclusion and discussion, it's easy to see why people would think that Swedes are more likely to agree with one another or more willing to make compromises.

But are we really?

Ethnologist Karl Olov Arnstberg believes that this too is true, at least to some extent.

Myths confirmed!