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Asians are shocked to learn of the Swedish tradition of not feeding their guests

While it's a common nicety around the globe to offer food even to unannounced guests, Swedish people have their reason to differ.

Asians are shocked to learn of the Swedish tradition of not feeding their guests
Representative Cover Image Source: Pexels | Fauxels; Reddit | u/Wowimatard

Imagine going to a friend's house and then being left out while they are having a meal. Sounds awkward and unusual doesn't it? Well, that's the case for many guests who visit a Swedish family. When this fact popped up randomly on Reddit two years ago, the internet went crazy. It all started when u/sebastian25525 posted a question on Reddit asking, "What is the weirdest thing you had to do at someone else’s house because of their culture/religion?" Replying to it, u/Wowimatard shared their weird experience at a Swedish friend's house and this response gave rise to the #Swedengate controversy online.

Representative Image Source: Pexels | Fauxels
Representative Image Source: Pexels | Fauxels

"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. That was wild," the user wrote. u/TeaRaveler responded to this comment by saying, "I slept over at a friend's house. When we woke up, he said he was going downstairs for a few minutes. After about 15 minutes, I went on the stairs to see what was happening and they were eating breakfast. They see me and tell me he's almost done and will be up there soon. I still think about that 25 years later." These comments caused a stir on Twitter, with many around the world, especially Asians freaking out over the culture.



One person from Afghanistan, @SamQari, shared the screenshot of the Reddit comments on X and wrote, "Not here to judge, but I don't understand this. How're you going to eat without inviting your friend?" This post blew up, with thousands of comments pouring in. "I think this is the first time all of Twitter has been united on an issue it's quite beautiful," they added in the thread. Another user @jaicabajar mentioned how people from the Philippines would go the extra mile to serve their guests and also ensure they don't leave home empty-handed. 


"I’ve lived about twenty years in Stockholm. Locals tend to avoid bringing outsiders into their social circle. Many non-Swedes will tell you they can only make friends here with other foreigners. Avoiding feeding the child's friend keeps him or her out of their circle of friendship," pointed out @skepsheik. "As an Indian, it's unthinkable to have a guest at dinnertime, especially a child, and not offer food. Most Indian families, irrespective of religion, are guilty of overfeeding their guests. It is not about food scarcity, rationing, or poverty. Hospitality is one of the best human qualities," commented @abhijitmajumder. When some argued that the Swedes must have a reason for doing so, people couldn't fathom the idea of leaving out guests while having a meal.


Amid this Swedengate controversy, an X post by "an amateur historian and sociologist" @WallySierk went viral. It was a picture showing the probability of receiving food as a guest at someone's house in different European countries. Guess which country was very unlikely to give you food? Sweden it is. Along with Sweden were other Nordic countries like Finland, Norway and Iceland marked in red, indicating that people there mostly do not serve guests food. "In Norse culture, hospitality (providing food, drink, lodging) was a duty of higher status individuals towards people of lower status, but the act of receiving hospitality created an obligation or debt on the part of the recipient," they mentioned in the thread.


Many Northern European people who commonly practiced not serving guests gave a massive culture shock to people around the world. Swedish singer-songwriter Zara Larsson (@zaralarsson) validated the custom on X, saying that it "only happened with kids" and that her family and many other families she knew usually served food to their guests. Hakan Jonsson, a food studies professor at Lund University in Sweden, validated this Swedish practice to The New York Times, saying, "There has been a very strong urge of independence, to not rely on others' goodwill for having a good and independent life. It was a very strong driver toward the welfare state, to create this impersonal assistance, where you did not have to rely on any other person."

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