The Internet Is Convinced Swedish People Don’t Feed Their Houseguests and Can We All Just Chill

published Jun 2, 2022
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Swedish meatballs
Credit: The Cookie Rookie
How To Make Better-than-IKEA Swedish Meatballs

The internet is great at many things. Providing dinner inspiration and recipe ideas? Check. Churning out endless weird cat videos? Double check. Taking a casual comment out of context and turning it into an angry debate without any nuance or subtlety? Double, triple, infinity check.

The latest drama to unfold on the internet — primarily on Reddit and Twitter this time — even has its own hashtag. #Swedengate started after a Reddit user asked, “What’s the weirdest thing you had to do at someone else’s house because of their culture/religion?” Totally innocent question! Absolutely guaranteed not to cause hurt feelings or uninformed hot takes! I’m joking!

Anyway, a commenter with a questionable username responded with their experience: “I remember going to my Swedish friend’s house. 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.” There are thousands of replies to this thread, but when a Twitter user shared this one (via screenshot, with their hot take that this was not okay), the internet exploded. 

Some folks shared similar stories of being asked to sit out a meal while visiting with Swedish families. Other people expressed rage at the custom. Others just exited the thread and put on some Abba. (Oh wait, that one was me.)

Like most internetty debates, this one has more complexity than meets the eye. As the conversation evolved, some Swedes observed that this practice happened primarily among white families of privilege. A greater exploration began of racism and the displacement of Sweden’s indigenous people, the Sámi. From there, the discussion turned toward the country’s welfare programs and willingness to accept asylum seekers.

By now, you’re probably wondering where this is all going, right? Isn’t this a food website? When are we going to get to the meatballs and lingonberry jam? Alas, the dispute rages on with no end in sight. I’m not a Swede, nor have I ever experienced dinner with one. I definitely am not qualified to speak to race relations in a country I’ve never been to. But I will say this: There’s always more to any tweet than meets the eye. And when it comes to such intricate issues, perhaps social media posts with character limits aren’t the best place to hash things out. This is the sort of conversation that always seems to go better over a meal. 

Are you following #swedengate?