Dinner with strangers – Stories From Sweden


I find it extremely ironic and sad that one of the hardest things about being in Sweden is meeting Swedes. To me that doesn’t make any sense! Swedes are wonderful people I would say that Swedes are very kind and loyal but there’s something about opening up and letting people into your sphere. The background to how this started was me becoming a substitute teacher at the Swedish for Immigrants language programme. A friend and I were on the blue line (subway) in Stockholm. We passed a stop called Duvbo. An older lady in the subway cart says to me with I would guess some sort of Eastern-European accent ‘Yeah, this is where all the white people get off.’ And I was like, ‘No, we´re gonna continue, we are going to Tensta.’ And she was like, ‘Ok, I just wanted to make sure that you know where you’re going.’ And I realised that the city I grew up in was a lot more segregated than I was aware of. I had my friends who didn’t know anyone out in the suburbs. And I had all my students in the suburbs who did not know anyone who lived in the city centre. So it was really this thought I came back to How can you connect people? Invitationsdepartementet is an initiative where people who are new in Sweden and people who are established here invite each other for dinners in their homes. It’s a very simple idea. I know that we are all different as people but I really like to meet strangers. I guess it’s the uncertainty part of it that has these two sides both the excitement and the nervousness. The special thing about inviting someone to your home and I think this is very true for Sweden, but in many other cultures as well is that it’s like the grand prize of social relations. If we met for a coffee at Starbucks you wouldn’t get to know anything about me. But when you come and sit in my living room you get to know so much about me. Something happens when you’re in an environment where people live. ‘Calm down, Rio!’ ’Hi! How nice to meet you!’ ‘Is this Rio?’ ‘Yes, this is Rio.’ ‘Come in!’ ‘What’s this?’ ‘I hope you like it!’ I remember getting one email from a guy saying ‘You know what? You can actually learn Swedish by watching television.’ I was like, ‘That’s true but I do think you’ll learn even better Swedish if you actually talk with a native speaker.’ He never replied to that. So I really think this initiative is so much about getting Swedes to open up to new Swedes. It’s much easier for established Swedes to include someone than it is for someone who is new in Sweden to try to break into the Swedish culture. So it’s really about seeing that influence you can have in someone’s life. And always when I have a dinner, that’s when I love this idea the most. Because it just fills your heart with so much joy. Riding the subway and then seeing young men who speak Arabic I will think of Mohammed. And I will be happy and I know that he probably loves Britney Spears and he loves soccer, and I’ll have all these different associations. There’s a lot of talk about changing the world. I think it’s more about changing yourself. The more you give, the more you get.

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Comments

  1. De e bara stads folk som göra såna grejer + dem i stan är mer pk medans förorterna bryr sig inte lika mycket o de e darför de håller sig borta från varandra

  2. Beautiful truth dear love your video in Beautiful Sweden food brings people and cultures together with Love and joy!❤ Subsitute teacher and author, minister international business major undergrad Ms.Tabatha D. Cain

  3. If we all changed ourselves or were at least open to it, that is how we can change the world. What a great initiative. Trust the Swedes xxx

  4. This was very pleasant to watch. Thank you! 🙂
    I hope every foreign resident in Sweden respect this Swedish tolerance and not to betray it by any wrong acts…

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