Dispatch #32 – Speaking.

A bit of a dandy, a bit of a cavalier and a lot of a charmer, rogue British official The Dippylomat. Esq. investigates…


Try as one might to live in a Union Jack- draped bubble, sooner or later one will chance upon and inevitably converse with what is technically known in this overly-lauded land as ‘en Kålrot’, or as we would say ‘a Swede’.

The Swedes are, however, the dormice of the anthropological world – quiet and only really visible during the oh-so-scanty Scandinavian excuse for a Summer. But, quite how quiet the quintessential Swede is may come as a shock. The Swedes’ schtumness is, on occasion,  documented, wagless chins prompting such anti-sociable shocking headlines as:

(Click for full story)

Having now grappled with and subsequently grasped the barbaric basics of this Viking vernacular I attempted to use my newly-acquired articulation skills and make conversational contact with a native. I am a personable chap – I naively thought – but as it turns out talking to a Swede is akin to coaxing a golden retriever puppy dog from out under a bed…try as one might to use your utmost genteel tones and the friendliest of all lilts, the blighty bugger remains steadfast, gazing through a yellowy blonde/e fringe in an apparent fear that engaging your company will be the last thing it ever does – the nervous pup and the Average Swede have much in common.

How ironic it is then that the verb’to speak‘ in Swedish is ‘att prata‘ – a word morphed from the Mother Of All Tongues, English. But, whereas we use this word to describe the act of babbling on incessantly (“oh do stop prattling on, my dear”), they use it to mean ‘to speak as little as is humanly possible…and only if you have to…in an emergency…a very urgent emergency’.

Anthropologists have been noggin-scratching for eons trying to figure out why the Swedes stay speechless; why they’d rather be eaten frost-bitten toe first by a wolf than inconvenience the man just ten metres away brandishing a blunderbuss and ask for help. The conclusion seems to be that for too long in these ice capped and brutal parts, survival was given precedent over socialising – too much time making traps and not enough time making friends. One imagines the only extra head you’d have really wanted to share your dinner table with was the one of the animal you’ve just slain. This trait has become hardwired into the Swede’s psyche – now the millennia of needing to bash in brains to survive is over, they just find themselves being…bashful.

The Swedes go to great lengths to avoid engaging in anything remotely resembling a conversation with anyone outside of their extended tribe – pleases and thank yous are kept to a bare minimum and eye contact is avoided on a Medusa scale proportion.

This quirk does herald some somewhat startling statistics: Sweden boasts, if that is the right word, the most single households in Europe – some 47 per cent of Swedes live on their lonesome (the UK rate is a slightly more gregarious 29 per cent). Is this a sign of independence or just another way to avoid an awkward silence?

However, what was good news for New Wave Empire Building and bad news for the Swedes were the details listed in a Julian Assange-proofed cable newspaper which proves quite how detrimental a non-communicative and silent life can be.

Boffs are now suggesting that solitude is just as dangerous as smoking and obesity when it comes to an early grave – they’re American boffs, not proper boffs, but perhaps it is wise to err on the side of caution if you are of a Swedish ilk. (click for source)

Add to this that less chat equals less chat-up lines, less chat-up lines equals less romantic liaisons (long or short term) and less romantic liaisons will bring the birth rate crashing down, as is evident in Sweden right now.

Advice to War Cabinet:I am of mind to suggest we simply retire for tea and cucumber sandwiches and wait it out before claiming Sweden and its 100 or so residents.

Speak up Sweden, I can’t hear you.

Toodle pip,


Have you missed me terribly? Perhaps you are lonely, or just Swedish, don’t worry you can always call Jourhavande Medmänniska or The Samaritans.

About The Dippylomat, Esq.

A connoisseur, a charmer and a bit of a cad.
This entry was posted in British Empire, Culture, Ex pats, Gothenburg, history, Humour, Language, Society, Stockholm, Sweden, Travel and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

22 Responses to Dispatch #32 – Speaking.

  1. Excellent read, keep up the good work 😉

  2. Thanking you kindly, my dear, let us both face the chilling truth – we live in a country where there is no shortage of quirks to inspire a Dispatch!

  3. yogurtman1 says:

    yes, terribly

  4. The Rt. Hon YogurtMan, how is that West Country? ‘Wet’ if I am to believe the BBC World Service.

    ~The Dippylomat esq.

  5. A Dutch Savage says:

    Oh my, it’s wonderful to have you back sir!! I have missed your entertaining dispatches. By the way, those Swedes sound like a miserable bunch; living on their own and remaining peaceful and quiet. I rather like them!! Chin chin old boy, chin chin!!

  6. They’re not italians, that’s for sure…or Dutch…or Greek…or, you get the point!

    Lovely to be back Lady Savage of Qatarshire née TheNetherlandshire.

  7. thewolfonthebridge says:

    I did miss you Mister Dippy – and I can see that your online leave of absence has sharpened ( if indeed such a feat was possible?) your already-razor-sharp-shark-tooth-like wit. I also wonder, my dear, how you happen to come by such exquisite graphics? One is interested. Gallically yours, La Fr.

    • Countess Frenchie of Nanteshire,

      Thanking you kindly for your complement, I am not sure of which specific graphics you speak of, but by and large they are produced by my own fair hand, Google Image and awful lot of time-consuming Paint work!

      ~The Dippylomat esq..

  8. liz says:

    So good to read a witty post from you! I must say that I experience daily precisely what you write; and for this chatty, never-met-a-stranger southern American, it is very frustrating to live here. I just want to chat. 🙂

    Välkommen tillbaka!! Vi hörs snart. 😉

    Peaceful greetings,

  9. And how wonderful it is to converse with you on home ‘blog turf’, Lady Liz.

    Yes, it is a tad frustrating; at this very moment I am contemplating going to a local hostelry to view the grass tennis currently being played in my home stad of London on an over-sized television, but standing on a pub on my own on a Friday evening sounds like little or no fun! I don’t have a tennis-loving chum here in Sweden – CURSES!

    All the best,

    ~The Dippylomat esq.

    • Elin Bentzer says:

      As a Swede I would like to ‘defend’ and stand up for the rest of us Swedes but I can only say: you speak the truth. Maybe not in everything you just wrote, but I have to admit that some of the words I could barely understand but I really enjoy reading your posts. I lived in Sydney for 2 years and then came back to my hometown to live for a year. It drove me mad. I was the weird girl who started a conversation with random people on the bus stop, because in Sydneythat could happen. Not so much in Sweden. I talk a lot and it is nothing better then meeting New people to chat with- in Sweden it is impossible (tho if alcohol is involved you can get some serious conversations going).

  10. Ah, greetings to a genuine Native!

    Yes, it does appear to be sad truth about Sweden, but I persevere regardless, I’ll converse with a Swedish Stranger if it is the last thing I do – GODDAMMIT

    There is a reason Sydney is a more sociable place, we populated it!*

    The Dippylomat esq.

    * not all facts are historically correct on this page!

    • Elin Bentzer says:

      I wish you good luck and look forward to read a future post about it!

      Haha well, I need to spend some more time in England and see how I go. Some time in the future maybe.

      My view of life in England comes from watching endless episodes of Midsomer Murders. I did spend a weekend in London but at that age I was to obsessed with shopping to think of anything else.

  11. I think perhaps most of both the tourist and indeed the residents of dear ol’ London town are too obsessed with shopping – it truly is a beautiful place though.

  12. Len Whitney says:

    A country of people who DON’T run off at the mouth without thinking? That sounds like a bit of heaven to this resident of Hollywood, CA, USA

  13. simon7banks says:

    Seriously, I wonder if chattiness correlates with a village past. I suspect those peoples who for many generations grew up in villages are chattier than those whose past features isolated farmsteads rather than villages. The people of the Fens in England, for example, are not famously conversational or effervescent. This is not for a moment to impugn the warm, friendly atmosphere of that excellent pub (if it still exists) the “Walk the Dog” in Chatteris.

    Finns have a similar reputation. Kruschev once caused a minor diplomatic incident by telling a joke about Finns to a group of Finns. It went something like this:

    Three Finns go hunting in the winter. They cross the snowy expanse for hours in silence. Then they come on some animal tracks. “Wolf!” says one. They follow the tracks for hours. “Not wolf – fox,” says the second. They track on in silence. At the end of the day the third one says, “Not going with you two again. You talk too much.”

  14. mavismoog says:

    There are times when I wish UK was more Swedish. I cannot take the dogs for a walk without being stopped at least three times in a mile to have a conversation. People actually come out of their houses to talk with me – and this is not because I’m fabulous, it is just what folk are like here. Usually, I love it but there are days I’m in a pensive mood, or a hurry, and then I find myself crouching past certain garden walls.

    “… less chat-up lines, less chat-up lines equals less romantic liaisons (long or short term) and less romantic liaisons…” – In each case “less” should be replaced with FEWER!

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