Nordic television at its finest

So I’ve started watching some Swedish TV shows in an attempt to learn the language more quickly. I’m only at about 5% comprehension at this point, but it can only go up from there. I did find one program, which while mostly in English, is quite interesting.

It’s called Allt för Sverige (Everything for Sweden). It’s a reality show where Americans of Swedish descent get to travel to Sweden in an effort to reconnect with their heritage. The Americans get the Authentic Swedish Experience™ through activities like chopping wood in the north and exploring Stockholm. This is interspersed with heartwarming (and heartbreaking) vignettes where each person learns about his/her own family history. And since it’s a contemporary reality-style program, naturally someone gets sent home in each episode. Apparently the country’s social safety net doesn’t extend to game show contestants.

The current contestants (this is the second season, but apparently there was an identical show in Norway before) showcase a full spectrum of American stereotypes, from the folksy middle-aged trucker lady to the charming bearded youth minister, and not one but two uncharismatic ditzy blonde women. But my favorite interchange in the episode I saw involved Thure, the slightly overweight, overly enthusiastic guy. He meets an older Swedish gentleman whom he believes shares his uncommon name. He ecstatically hugs the man, making the reserved Swede visibly uncomfortable. In the cutaway that follows, I couldn’t understand exactly what the Swede said, but I think it’s along the lines of “My name is Tore, not Thure. He didn’t understand the difference.”

But the show isn’t just about Americans making fools of themselves. As I’ve covered previously, Swedes don’t really think of their homeland as interesting to outsiders. It’s clear that one of the ideas behind the production is to show that foreigners really are interested in Swedish culture and history. A nationalistic self-esteem booster, if you will. I’d love to hear what my Swedish colleagues think of the show; I’ll report back if they have any insights.