Culture in Corona Times # 1 : Recap

Did you miss our first event where we met internationals and Swedes online to talk about all things culture and corona? Worry not - Heenal Ghedia of Peers Bridge captures the conversation here on our blog. And don't forget to sign up for our next event on 14th July, 2020, when we talk about Swedish culture, corona and the economy.

We kicked off our series of webchats with our first event talking about ‘Trust and Recommendations’ in Sweden corona response. Sweden’s response is widely acknowledged to be rooted in cultural codes of trust in society and the government. We were joined by Swedes and Internationals and chatted about how recommendations have been interpreted and understood.

In the Swedish context, a recommendation is the highest form of advice from the government. Overall, citizens trust these recommendations and will act on these despite them not being mandatory. An example of trust in government recommendations can be seen in the country’s high rate child vaccinations. Folkhalsomyndigheten states 98% of children born in 2012 were given at least three vaccine doses, even though it is only a recommendation. Trust in the government’s recommendation also extends to trust in other members of society. A Swedish participant mentioned:

We trust people to do the right thing, I'm trusting my environment to do the same.

Internationals living in Sweden interpreted the corona recommendations based on their own personal circumstances. Inevitably, comparisons were to their countries of origin, and even neighbouring countries, in which the response to corona has been vastly different.

There were also concerns that the recommendations were not the same in both Swedish and English. An individual from Ireland, married to a Swede, gave an account of what happened when they read the corona recommendations.

[The recommendations] caused issues between me and my Swedish husband...he read it and I read it and we had two different interpretations of it. The recommendations in Swedish and English were not exactly the same, and that's an issue.

The broadness of the term ‘recommendations’ has also led to people feeling unsure about what they really mean. Participants noted they were confused about how recommendations, such as 50 people in the same space, could be regulated. Did this apply to public spaces, e.g. park or only to bars and restaurants?

In a poll of participants, everyone either agreed or was neutral about Sweden’s Corona response. This was surprising to us, as it’s not in line with the conversations that led to the creation of the ‘Culture and Corona event series’ – we expected more ‘disagree’!

Interpretations of recommendations are culturally dependent. For some, it can mean a suggestion or guidance, contrary to Swedish understandings that consider them as almost mandatory. The participants at the event did not disagree with Sweden’s response, instead, their discomfort resulted from a different understanding of the recommendations.

So where do we go from here? Accepting and complying to recommendations is highly dependent on cultural values and assumes trust in the government. These values are not universal. This becomes all the more important when Sweden’s corona response was rooted in its cultural values. The need for intercultural communication is ongoing, we all have a role to play in alleviating the concerns of individuals feeling lost or isolated. As a diverse community, we must continue exchanging ideas and talking in order to understand our cultural differences.

If you missed the event, don't worry! You can still catch the discussion on our Facebook page or by clicking here.

‘Culture in Corona Times’ is part of a series of online events, sponsored by Visionsfonden. We are providing a space for dialogue between international residents and Swedes to talk about the role of culture in Sweden's corona strategy.

Join us for our next event on 14 July at 1430 when we will be joined by Fredrik Andersson, Senior Lecturer in Economics at Lund University, to talk about Culture and Economy in Corona times. Keep an eye out on social media channels for more information!

Register for the event here -

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