I alway compare the Swedes with the Germans. They are the same in as many ways as they are different, really. Much as a Texan and a New Yorker may be, I suppose.
The Swedes are helpful and generally quite pleasant people. Recently when struggling with a map, a woman come over and offered some lengthly assistance with directions. When going through the self check out (bad idea to do in a foreign language, by the way), a woman came over and offered me some help. Today, coming back from a run, at the cross walk, a young guy, struck up a conversation with me about running .
Living among the Germans for nearly a year and a half, I can't remember one time when a random act of kindness was shown. I rack my brain and try to think of one instance. I can not.
I always muse when such small acts of decency are shown, that the Germans would have kicked me and pushed me out the door. Not much of an over exaggeration. It was not uncommon for them to walk up to the table where I would be eating lunch with my 3 year old daughter and put their cigarettes out in the ashtray on my table. I recall once when first arriving in the country, I did not know to weigh and label my bananas. The cashier took them, glared at me and without a word, threw them under the counter. I had a neighbor, who never, not one time glanced my way or uttered a hello. And I saw him nearly every day.
The Germans are known for their cool reserve, I suppose. A reputation rightly earned. They say it is difficult to earn a German's friendship but if you do, you have a friend for life. Probably a lot of truth to that statement. I never got that far.
The Swedes do not like confrontation and seem to avoid giving unpleasant news. The Germans revel in it. "Yes, there is no milk and there won't be any until next Thursday" they'd tell you with a glimmer in the eye. Where as the Swede may tell you the same bit of news but with a bit more optimism and a lot more empathy .